|The author, book, Dr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator and guests, during the book launch in Lagos. Pic: c/o Simeon Mpamugoh.|
By Simeon Mpamugoh
GIVEN the fact that leadership quality is best measured during crisis, many leaders failed that test as seen in the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. But Pope Francis was a leader who distinguished himself during the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic by creating a model for leadership in times of crisis in the sovereign of the Vatican City State. Pope Francis is the first Pope to be a member of the Society of Jesus (SJ).
His sterling leadership during COVID-19 pandemic has been documented in a book entitled: "The Pope And the Pandemic: Lessons in Leadership in Times of Crises." The book, written by Dr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, president, Jesuit Conference of Africa-Madagasca was recently launched at Federal Palace Hotel, Victoria Island Lagos with Jesuits Priests from North-West Africa and other parts of the world in attendance.
Chairman of the occasion, Omooba Adesina Buraimoh-Ademuyewo, who bemoaned the kind of leadership we have in Africa, noted that there was a leadership deficit in Africa. He blamed it on lack of preparation. "It is only Obafemi Awolowo that looked prepared to govern Nigeria. He showed quality leadership in South West region and wanted to replicate it at the national level, but unfortunately like everything Nigeria, anything one says is always seen from tribal perspective. It is obvious that the kind of leadership we have in Nigeria is one that sacrifices its people for itself and we can see that in scores of people being killed on daily basis.
"What we need is a leader that sacrifices for its people. And the solution to our leadership problem is preparation. People must be genuinely willing to serve. One of those leaders in Africa who sacrificed himself for his people is Dr Nelson Mandela and Pope Francis as recorded in this book. We shouldn't expect any miracle with the kind of leaders we have today. Some of them are after their own pocket."
The author shared his inspiration writing the book. "The inspiration came from the crisis of the Coronavirus pandemic, and seeing the example that Pope Francis gave of leadership, I feel that example is needed to be widely shared and made available to our leaders, who themselves were thirsting for a way to respond to the crisis that is hurtful to the people who were affected by it."
The way our leaders handled it is also mirrored in the book. "They essentially failed in their responsibility of handling the crises. If you look at the example of Pope Francis, it is the opposite. His approach was to focus on people and be close to them empathetically and also in solidarity with the people. And that is what is needed of a leader in a time of crisis and not to look good. A leader should focus on the needs of the people and try to protect them and their livelihoods in such a way that they feel empowered in the crisis rather than feel completely demoralized as we saw.
"The reality is that this pandemic revealed other pandemics: pandemic of poverty, complete collapse of socio-economic infrastructure, and dysfunctionality of politics. These are other kinds of pandemics that make it difficult for people to actually respond in a time of crisis. And in the case of Nigeria, there seems to be general lack of empathy. The health infrastructure was certainly dysfunctional and inadequate to the crisis, and that should be a situation that a leader should never allow to happen in his/her country, when they are fight back crisis.
"The book is a general interest one not only for leaders. Anywhere you are, you are leading all the time, in your family, institution, and organization, we are all leaders leading all the time."
Archbishop of the Metropolitan See of Lagos Alfred Adewale Martins who described the title as interesting, recalled that when the pandemic broke out, it hit a lot of people badly but Pope Francis appeared so many times with an emotional outbursts. He noted that a book of this nature was coming at the right time adding that whenever there's a conversation about leadership, it shouldn't be about those on leadership radar only as everybody is a leader, from a driver in an organization to the chief executive.
Represented by Monsignor Anthony Obanla, Chancellor of Archdioceses, Martins said. "We are all leaders within our own space. Leadership is all about providing service to the people, beaming the torchlight for people to see and fulfill destinies. So, the publication is all about good leadership in times of crises. Good and bad times, hard and peace times, a good leader would always be in control and we have seen that especially of Pope Francis as documented by Orobator who put this into writing for us."
Reviewing the book, Prof. Chris Ugbechie, Dean, Lagos Business School described the book which was published by Orbis books, New York, United States of America, as exciting and interesting.
He said that leadership was a topical issue in this turbulent time. He said. "Amazingly, the author is a catholic priest and the protagonist is the leader of the Catholic Church. His leadership style during the pandemic is being x-rayed in this book. I find it more interesting because the pandemic which led to health, social and economic crisis exposed a number of leadership crisis we faced in 2020.
The countries that were mostly hit by the pandemic had one thing in common, which is bad leadership. Interestingly, the female leaders performed better than their male counterparts. It is a signal for women to vie for the position of female president come 2023.
"The global leadership vacuum was adequately filled by Pope Francis. The author set out to use the words and actions of Pope Francis to show us in words and actions his leadership style during the COVID-19 global crisis and his key lessons that could be of benefits to leaders in all spheres of society.
Orobator also delved into scriptures to butress some of his thoughts, conclusions and actions of Pope Francis. The book which is divided into six chapter no doubt is a product of painstaking, extensive and intensive research," Ugbechie revealed.
As a business teacher, he also shared the synopsis of each of the chapters to help the reader understand and appreciate the lessons of the book. In chapter one entitled 'Office of Consolation', it focuses on how Pope Francis consoled, and remained closed to all the suffering people of the world during COVID-19 pandemic.This is because people who had suffered emotional trauma arising from loss of loved ones, or some form of suffering needs consolation. This stride is seen by all Christians as a minister of consolation per excellence which signifies leadership of a new dimension in a time of crisis.
"The chapter reminds us that COVID-19 caused and intensified the suffering of people across the world, leaving in its wake interminable toll of illness, and death. But Pope Francis was there to show solidarity to frontline healthcare workers and give comfort and strength to the suffering people of the world, he tried to be close to, and pray for those who were sick of the virus. Office of Consolation has two distinctive components: compassion and mercy. He showed a lot of empathy, compassion and solidarity with pain and sufferings of all others in different places. He demonstrateed that mercy is a way of life and action oriented. He tried to give direction, and reassurance to people in different parts of the world." Meanwhile the Provincial of the North-west Africa Province, Society of Jesus (SJ) Rev Fr. Chukwuyenum Afiawari (SJ) said. "We know that leadership is a crucial thing in our world today, and good leadership is in scarce supply. So, the book coming at this time is appropriate and timely. And I hope that every leader who has the opportunity to read it, would be able to apply some of the lessons in the book to serve our people by providing them good leadership. It is very clear from what the Pope and the author has narrated that we need selflessness leadership, a leadership that is purposeful and focused on the good of the people and for the common good of Nigeria."
He said that Nigeria has fared well in harnessing the resources at her disposal for the good of our people. He "However in this same area, we can improve much better because the human resource is one of the greatest resource that any group has and I think we still have far more ways to go in this country in order to put together the huge human and capital resources that we have for the good of our people."
A panel was set up to bring more perspectives to the book. And one of the panelists is Rev. Fr. Maduabuchi Leo Muoneme SJ who described Pope Francis as a good man who encouraged the women because during the pandemic most of them poured out their hearts to save victims.