COMMUNICATION AND LEADERSHIP: President Buhari As a Case Study

An Analysis Of President Buhari’s Speech At The Commonwealth Forum Of 2018 And A Wake-up Call For All African Political Leaders


Let me begin by saying—this is not a political post. This post is meant to address communication and the effect it can have in the leadership process. Therefore, a few political concepts may be analyzed but the focus remains on communication as it affects leadership.

0n 18th April at the Commonwealth Forum, the Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari made a speech that caused a lot of negative reactions from Nigerians, a speech that may very likely cost his presidency come the 2019 presidential election. Some Nigerians are already saying, “let’s make him (Buhari) jobless by voting him out.” While others are angrily expressing how disappointed they are with what the speech insinuates.


Here is what he said:

“We have a very young population; our population is estimated conservatively to be 180 million. More than 60 percent of the population is below the age of 30. A lot of them have not been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria has been an oil producing country, therefore they should sit and do nothing and get housing, healthcare, and education free.”

Watch the video on YouTube– Click Here.


A few facts we cannot deny:

  • The president’s speech did not call “all Nigerians” lazy youths – and we cannot deny that some Nigerians are lazy, just like we can find in many other countries of the world. When looked at objectively, this speech alone is not as bad as many people have made it to sound.

I’m sure you will agree that ‘a lot of them’ is not ‘all’ of them.

A lot of them… are claiming that Nigeria has been an oil producing country, therefore they should sit and do nothing and get housing, healthcare, and education free…”

  • The president’s speech is based on fact—that over 60% of Nigerians are youths is a FACT.

Bloomberg acknowledges this fact—

“Nigeria’s population reached 182 million this year with more than half its people under 30 years of age…” Click Here to Read.

Even the idea that some Nigerians are clamoring for oil money is also a fact. But who are these people clamoring for oil money? Probably not the Southerners or the Easterners. It sounds like the president was referring to all Nigerians in this instance but we know that’s not the case. He’s probably referring to a sect of people in the country… if he had mentioned the particular people that were clamoring for oil money that would have taken the war out of the fight. So at least we know who we are talking to.


  • Apparently, President Buhari has a reputation (a bad one for that matter) of making “unguarded utterances” that further spoils instead of sells the already damaged image of Nigeria to investors. And other countries of the world.

He once said of his wife in public, “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.”

Now that’s one very embarrassing and gender humiliating statement to make as a leader in the 21st century. If that had come from one of the sun-stricken illiterate shoemakers somewhere in Onitsha, we would never have bothered ourselves or taken it seriously… But when it comes from the president of a country… It’s a different ball game, right?

There are at least four other scenarios where the president is believed to have de-marketed Nigeria especially to the outside world who are believed to be potential investors. You can read about some of that here.


I am not so sure but it looks like Mr. President may have little knowledge of how much impact his words have on the populace as the leader of the country. This is a typical case of lack of emotional intelligence.


Sarah Fletcher while discussing why emotional intelligence is critical for leaders said:

“Leaders with emotional intelligence are well tuned to the emotions of others and are able to pick up on what is going on around them. They are able to sympathize with others by putting themselves in the employee’s shoes and giving helpful feedback. This is a critical skill for leaders, who work closely to inspire and motivate a team. If the leader is unable to empathize with their employees, he or she will surely find it difficult to obtain respect or loyalty.”

Read About that here.


We are at a time when Nigerians need some inspiration and encouragement to endure the aftermath of recession which has befallen us just recently. According to National Bureau of Statistics, 3.67 million Nigerians became jobless in one year. The number of unemployed Nigerians rose from 7.51 million at the beginning of October 2015 to 11.19 million at the end of September 2016. (find out more here.)

With all of this, you should know that the citizens are not happy.

Obviously, many of our political leaders are not sensitive to the emotional atmosphere in the country at the moment. But what do you expect, a country where the senators earn about N13.5 million every month.


Oh, that’s not my opinion, I saw that in an interview with Mr. Shehu Sani, the Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly. The Senator said,

“I think what we can say is that the running cost of a senator is N13.5 million every month…”

(Read the news here.)  

That means, assuming you’re earning the minimum wage which is N18500, it would take you roughly 60 years to earn what one senator earns in one month.

Truth is:

NIGERIANS are tired.

Tired of politics without leadership.

Tired of religion without character.

Tired of schooling without relevant education.

Tired of empty words that are merely crafted to get something from them but never to empower them.


Tired that good people in the country are losing jobs and opportunities because the country’s image is so terrible.

Nigeria today is like a time bomb… waiting to explode. There is as you may have noticed a heightened aggression among citizens, distrust of anything called a ‘system’, people are becoming more insecure and very skeptic about anything that says it is going to help anyone become anything. And yes, there are heightened comic reliefs too. People now find solace in turning every event into a comedy for the purpose of living to see another day.

So the real issue here is not about THE ACTUAL THING the president said or the provable FACTS behind his claims; the real problem is that….


a man whom Nigerians voted against all warnings because they desperately wanted positive change,

a man who was entrusted with the responsibility of tackling our failures,

a man who promised us heaven on earth,

a man who some Nigerians believe to be the savior they’ve been hoping for has…

FAILED miserably in that task… and the worst part is that HE KEEPS BLAMING EVERY OTHER PERSON for his failures instead of taking responsibilities.

And while the Nigerian people were trying to recover from the damages his administration brought on them, he had the Brazilian audacity to insinuate that anyone is lazy.


This is the pure case of not wanting constructive criticism from a man who has not constructed anything.

Like Eric Thomas, Nigerians are saying,

“I (we) do not take constructive criticism from people who have never constructed anything.”




1.     First, empathize with and acknowledge that Nigerians are hard-working and that they’ve just had a rough time during recession.

2.     State that ‘just like every other country’ Nigeria has its own unique challenges. Try to explain the particular region where many of these challenges are predominant.

3.     Express faith in Nigeria and Nigerians and talk about how other countries can be of help to Nigeria just as Nigeria also provides help to other countries.

4.     Most importantly, remember that what happened has little to do with the speech as much as it has to do with the growing hatred against the leader. He needs to step up his game and win the confidence of his people over. That is the surest way to deal with this.


Your turn!

  • Leave a comment so I can see your perspective on this matter.
  • Do you have any experience or story of a leader’s communication skill ruining his or her leadership skills or building it up? Share with me.
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