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Nigeria needs a leader, not a saint

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By Tochukwu Ezukanma

PRIOR to the 2015 presidential election, a lady on a radio programme, summed up the frustration of many Nigerians with the Goodluck Jonathan administration when she said, “even if Buhari presents a NEPA bill as his certificate, I will still vote for him”.

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In our certificate-conscious society, for many to choose to vote for a man with a questionable West African School Certificate over an incumbent president with a doctorate degree was momentous. Nigerians desired a change from what they considered Jonathan’s spineless and directionless governance. Moreover, they were sold on Buhari’s lickerish electoral promises, and his much vaunted incorruptibility and integrity.

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Nigerians thought that these much hyped qualities, of his, will translate to responsible leadership and that he will make good on his electoral promises. And thus, lead the country out of the morass of official corruption, economic decline, insecurity and unprincipled distribution of the national wealth. More than three years of Mohammadu Buhari’s presidency has proven him a terrible president. He has failed to make good on any of his electoral promises and is literally running the country aground. The Nigerian economy continues to deteriorate.

A reality made evident in the more than hundred percent depreciation of the naira in relation to the dollar, and the dramatic increase in extreme poverty in Nigeria. Not surprisingly, Nigeria now has the highest concentration of extreme poverty in the world.

Secondly, Buhari failed to deliver on his promise to secure the country from Boko Haram insurgency. Boko Haram remains a formidable terrorist group; it continues to strike with impunity on both military and civilian targets within Nigeria. And compounding the problems of insecurity in Nigeria is the murderous menace of Fulani herdsmen. Fulani herdsmen armed with automatic rifles rampage through farming communities in the Middle Belt raping women, killing hapless men, women and children and burning down villages. Due to its sentimental attachment to Fulani hegemonic and expansionist designs, the Buhari administration has refused to either protect these communities or punish the herdsmen and their sponsors.

In addition, his war on corruption has failed. Devoid of personal charisma, oratorical flair and intellectual depth, President Buhari failed to connect with Nigerians emotionally in his war against corruption. As such, his anti-corruption message failed to strike a responsive chord in Nigerian  minds. His war on corruption is also hampered by the nepotism and partiality that attended it. While the war targets and hounds political opponents of the Buhari administration, the president remains very tolerant of corrupt activities within his entourage and amongst his cronies and loyalists.

Mohammadu Buhari’s incorruptibility and integrity, and other aspects of his purported sainthood have not translated to good leadership. It has therefore crystallised to Nigerians that it takes more than enticing electoral promises and the flaunting of a squeaky-clean image to lead a country, especially, a complex and multifarious  country like Nigeria. To successfully lead Nigeria demands other qualities that are  conspicuously lacking in Buhari. These qualities include knowledge (or, at the least, the willingness to learn), open-mindedness (as opposed to nepotism, ethnic chauvinism and religious bigotry), vision, etc. Nigeria needs a new president that will lead her out of the ravages of Buhari misrule: economic decline and hitherto unknown levels of severe poverty, insecurity, and the willful mass-murder of the innocent by Fulani herdsmen. That new president does not have to be a saint.

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There is no dearth of theories and postulations on the attributes and temperaments of good leaders. Some of them focus on the moral character of leaders. Borrowing from Socrates maxim, “Let him that would move the world first move himself”, they postulate that good leaders must be men of high moral fiber because he that should rule others must first rule himself. But, paradoxically, many outstanding leaders have moral and character flaws.

For example, Mahatma Gandhi was “exquisitely vindictive, curtly cold to family and others close to him, with an insatiable love for power and implacability in its pursuit”. However, he was one of the greatest political and spiritual leaders of the 20th century. In summing up Ghandi’s greatness, Albert Einstein said, “generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood”. Martin Luther King Jr., in addition to crusading against racial injustice in America, preached against womanising, smoking and other aspects of the hedonism of American life, but was himself a reckless womaniser and smoked in private. Yet, he broke entrenched and seemingly intractable racial barriers with the power of the spoken word, and got America attempting to live up to her creed, “we hold this fact self-evident that all men are created equal”.

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, has what it takes to lead Nigeria. Interestingly, he is not beguiling Nigerian with pretensions to faultlessness. He is experienced in government, business and politics; and has an understanding of the complexity and diversity of the Nigerian society. He is also enlightened, broadminded, tolerant of alternate views and receptive to new ideas. He has demonstrated leadership capabilities; and can lead Nigeria out of its present quagmire of economic chaos and deepening poverty, Boko Haram insurgency and murderous rampage of Fulani herdsmen.

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