Crises like Covid-19 separate real leaders from mere office holders

Wednesday April 1 2020

Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari (seated)

Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari (seated) and his Chief of Staff Abba Kyari in 2017. Kyari has tested positive for Covid-19. PHOTO | NIGERIAN STATE HOUSE | SUNDAY AGHAEZE | AFP  

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In a few short years, the Muhammadu Buhari administration in Nigeria budgeted about $14 million for the presidential villa clinic, $100 million to renovate the national assembly, $400 million on national assembly members and $500 million to revive the ancient Nigerian Television Authority.

One could ask: How many hospitals could this money have built across the country. Hospitals? Why should they think that far? At the slightest irritation they would get on their private jets and travel abroad.

Then, coronavirus disease showed up and the world became a totally different place.

Children of the powerful were as lawless as their parents. When returning to the country from their schools abroad, instead of submitting themselves to being tested, they would bribe airport health officials and would be allowed in with no testing done!

Recent news from Nigeria has it that Abba Kyari—chief of staff to President Buhari and one of the most powerful people in Nigeria, a number of senators, house members and even one governor have tested positive for the coronavirus disease. 

Were this any other time, they would be on jets out of the country. Well, these are not normal times. First, there is nowhere to go as everyone is trying to contain the virus in their different countries. Wealth and power cannot protect them against the virus.


One of the side effects of Covid-19 is that it has exposed the defects in nations. It has also revealed and separated the leaders from the office holders. In the post-Covid-19 era leaders will be judged by their performance during this period. 

They are going to be defined by how they responded to the virus and handled the myriad of complexities that came with it.

Everything is going to be evaluated—their composure under fire, their thinking, their ability to communicate, their ability to build the right partnerships, their ability to negotiate and much more. These are the same skills that many leaders shun when invited for training.

Besides the medics and scientists, it is people with the ability to effectively reach out to people and inspire hope in hopeless times, alleviate fear in the most fearful of times, show confidence even in their understanding and grasping of the real issues who will be considered as leaders when this is over.

In essence, what we are going through around the world right now, is a global reset. A new world order will emerge after this and people who were considered leaders in the pre-corona world will be dismissed in the minds of many and become irrelevant (even if they still hold offices). Similarly, this is the season when new leaders will emerge.

History is full of people whose leadership qualities were revealed during in crises. Remember, however, for something to be revealed it must already be there, only waiting for the right environment to emerge.

Everyone prepares for war in times of peace. If you wait for the war to begin to learn how to fight, it will be too late. Similarly, countries that waited for crises before learning how to deal with them (like maybe the case with coronavirus disease), will suffer the consequences.

Are you a leader or an office holder? Coronavirus disease will reveal your true self. 

Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks