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IBORI: A MAN OF THE PEOPLE, BY LEROY EDOZIEN

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At the funeral Mass of Professor Chike Edozien CFR, Asagba of Asaba, a priest introduced a selection of dignitaries who were present, and this was done in order of precedence as dictated by established protocol.

When it got to the turn of Chief James Onanefe Ibori, past Governor of Delta State, the congregation erupted spontaneuosly in loud applause. Further down in his presentation, the priest had cause to again mention the name of Chief Ibori, and again there was a fervid applause in a hitherto quiet church. It was like we were at a political meeting or a celebrity party, not a Catholic church. But these were not party loyalists or political acolytes, or tribesmen; they were ordinary people who had come to their king’s funeral.

How come Chief Ibori received such a fervid and spontaneous reception (in church!) while the introduction of other top dignitaries met with silence? And this occuring 17 years after he left office? And despite adverse publicity that had trailed him for some time.

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The answer is not far from fetch. As Governor, Chief Ibori worked his way into the hearts of the governed, across social strata. He was a man of the people.

I recognise two domains in political leadership: ‘soft’ and ‘hard’. These two are distinct but they synergise and reinforce each other.

The ‘soft’ domain is about relationships, about hearts and minds. A good leader reaches out to all, feels the pulse of the people, builds bridges, wins hearts and minds.
The ‘hard’ domain is the tangible performance of the leader, as in the building of infrastructure, creation of jobs, management of the economy and sọ on.

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The message for leaders in all spheres – politics, sports, places of worship, schools, trade unions, community associations, etc – is that it is not enough to just aim for the ‘hard’ output, you should also aim to win hearts and minds. Indeed, the latter facilitates the former.

James Ibori secured an emotional connection with the people of Delta State. That is why, 17 years on, he is a man of the people.

Leroy C Edozien
Ubili Ka Nkwu Ahaba

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