Nigeria is an immensely blessed country, a state aspiring towards becoming a nation. It has all it takes, especially the human and material resources, rich in their diversity, to make it one of the most developed nations in the world. It is not a potential, it is an actuality, an entity almost if not fully made to fulfill its ‘manifest destiny’ as the capital of the Black world.
It needs only the combined effort of its huge population, aware of the unique position of the country as a world power, and, especially, a selfless and visionary leadership to both ignite and fulfill the actual status of Nigeria as one of our planet’s leading nation-states. No leader or leadership can truly succeed where the followers are determined not to recognise the true worth of their country or undermine it.
But without the right leader, the country will continue to run in a circle and underachieve for God-knows-how long. Once we get the leadership question right, we are well on the way to getting other things right.
The point, therefore, is for every Nigerian to adopt an expanded definition of leadership and see themselves, and not only the politically-positioned or exposed, as leaders. No matter their position or status, let all Nigerians see themselves as leaders with the determination to see whatever they do as bearing either a positive or negative impact on the country.
We are ‘on the march again’, moving gradually towards a change of baton in the country’s leadership. The year 2023 is on the horizon and the country’s presidency, like an article in a bazaar, is again up for grabs.
The trope of a bazaar is perhaps not entirely unintended for in literal terms Nigeria’s leadership, from the presidency down to the lowest grade politician in a small town, has more or less been ceded to the highest bidders.
While it must be acknowledged that no political position, much less an American-style presidency, can be achieved without a war chest of money, money plays an overtly disproportionate role in who becomes the president in Nigeria.
In an environment in which people hardly ever walk their talk or put their money where their mouth is, the question of the best emerging as president will always be a wild dream induced by the equivalent of political malaria.
The other thing, perhaps a greater contender as a factor in who emerges as Nigeria’s president, is the ethnicity or religion of the candidate. These factors have had the combined effect of twisting the process for the emergence of the president in favour of the wrong candidates at every turn of Nigeria’s political history.
A cap must be placed on how much can be spent for electoral purposes and neither the ethnicity nor religion of the candidates standing for election should matter.
But this will only happen when Nigeria is truly a nation and Nigerians see themselves irrespective of their ethnic background, religion, and gender as one and the same.
The effort towards becoming a nation and achieving a credible political system has to be deliberate and sustained in spite of the effort being made in the opposite direction by forces deriving benefits from the present state of things.
In addition to previous efforts such as constitutional conferences and amendments, the clear-eyed recommendations of the Justice Muhammed Uwais’s panel for electoral reform have to be revisited.
This was a major contribution to the short-lived presidency of Umaru Yar’Adua. Yar’Adua, in spite of his apparent physical weakness and relative unpreparedness for the presidency, had the heart to do what is right by the people of this country.
He wanted to bequeath Nigerians an electoral system that was better than the one that produced him and made an effort to that effect.
He recognised the gross imperfection (not more imperfect, mind you, than the process that produced other presidents before him) of the process and thus the election that resulted in his emergence as president.
Let’s also not forget that this was the only president so far that has made a clear and transparent attempt at declaring his assets, something not even President Muhammadu Buhari, with so much song and dance made about his touted integrity, has been able to do convincingly.
Justice, fairness, and integrity must be watchwords of our search for the right president and other categories of leaders in the prelude to the 2023 election.
The gains made under the Muhammadu Buhari presidency in terms of the fight against corruption, these gains, however modest, must be sustained and built upon. The era of taking one step forward and 10 steps backward has to stop.
Where there have been clear failures, there can be no doubt that successes have been achieved in certain respects. The wholesale condemnation of everything Buhari or any of Nigeria’s past leaders cannot take us forward.
It is in recognising our successes that we can separate them from the failures. All of these considerations must play a part in who emerges as the next president.
The stop-gap solution of a rotating presidency can be finetuned as we march towards a more transparent system that leaves room for the best to emerge. Not in the manner recently suggested by the likes of Mamman Daura, the president’s nephew, whose definition of the best is the person most favoured by the same religion-ethnic/geopolitical factors that we can well do without. Shifting the goalpost after the ball is inside the net cannot be a transparent way to produce a leader.
After two terms of a president of Northern extraction, the unwritten rule of a presidency that rotates between the North and the South cannot be changed mid-stream. The political parties and the rest of Nigerians can work towards eliminating this turn-by-turn system while the South, preferably the South East, is allowed to produce the next president. The foolishness and unacceptability of defining our leaders in terms of primordial attributes are already too evident.
But until all sides of our regional/ethnic and religious divides have been allowed an opportunity to demonstrate their foolishness, the lesson we need to learn will not sink home. Had the South-westerners through Obasanjo not been allowed a shot at the presidency, had the minorities, represented by Goodluck Jonathan not been given their chance, we would not have seen that the Northerners do not possess the patent for bad leadership.
It is true that the level of incompetence displayed by these leaders has not been equal, some have been more incompetent and perhaps more corrupt than others; but all have displayed peculiar traits that are signs of a poorly structured political system- not their ethnic or religious origin, etc.
The South East, under a civilian structure, should be supported to produce the next president to complete and make clear the circle of idiocy.