By Ikechukwu Amaechi
‘ELECTIONS have consequences.” Those three words, first uttered by former US president, Barack Obama, during a meeting with congressional Republicans just three days into his first presidential term in January 2009, should be the catchphrase of the current political times in Nigeria.
If Nigerians are serious about redeeming the fading promise of their beloved country and securing the future of their children, then who wins the 2023 presidential election should matter. There can hardly be any room for mistakes, particularly the type that was made in 2015 with the election of President Muhammadu Buhari. And here, the electorate matter because as another US president, John F. Kennedy, once said: “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.”
I doubt if there is any Nigerian who will argue the fact that we are in a hole. The situation is parlous. Seven years of the Buhari presidency has pushed the country to the edge of a cliff. And as the first law of holes, a time-tested adage, states: “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” The reason is simple. Digging a hole makes it deeper and, therefore, harder to get out of. It is a metaphor which supposes that when one is in an untenable position, it is best to stop making the situation worse. As it is for individuals, so it is for collectives aggregated into nations.
Nigerians that are right now in a deep hole will continue digging if they decide to replace President Buhari with another Buhari in next year’s election. They don’t need to go for someone worse than Buhari because there is hardly anyone who fits that mould.
To stop digging will entail electing someone far better than what we have right now. That is why the 2023 elections will be consequential. Of course, in a country of over 200 million people, there are many who have the requisite skill sets to extricate this country from the dungeon of poverty and utter hopelessness. Nigerians must diligently seek out those people and empower them. It is not a perfunctory task.
For too long, the people have handled elections as inconsequential affair. Never again. The electorate must consciously evaluate everyone who is offering himself or herself for service. Fortunately many aspirants are beginning to raise their hands to be counted. While some are serious, others want to be recognised as former presidential aspirants. We love titles and it is always the case after every election cycle that some letterheads will be redesigned with Nigeria’s Coat-of-Arms and such ridiculous and nebulous titles as: “Former Presidential Aspirant”. Such people have a right to their fantasy.
But those who are serious must be tested. Nigerians must be able to ask those who are applying to be hired as the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of this huge enterprise called Nigeria, which needs a turnaround manager, what they are bringing to the leadership table. If corporate organisations take issues of recruitment of their CEOs seriously, why shouldn’t nations? A president ideally is the CEO of a country. He makes the authoritative allocation of the people’s collective values.
There is no Nigerian entrepreneur in need of a turnaround manager that would have made the same mistake the country made in 2015 in its leadership recruitment gambit. So, why were the same people known to be so deficient in leadership skills hired to superintend over the affairs of the country?
Where was the due diligence that would have otherwise ensued in such an all-important recruitment process? What did Buhari promise Nigerians in 2015 and what was the yardstick for evaluating his capacity to deliver on those promises? Truth be told, there was none. The campaigns were mere shindigs. But if we must stop digging this national hole of embarrassment, the time of going for jamborees in the name of political rallies where candidates mount the rostrum and entertain delirious crowds for five minutes with new dance steps without uttering a word must stop.
As the elections get closer, Nigerians must insist on interrogating those applying for the job of the country’s CEO. There must be conscious effort to separate the pretenders from the contenders. Last week, TheNiche started the “Presidential Aspirants Interview Series”. Two questions will be thrown at anyone who features on the platform: Why do you want to be Nigeria’s President? How do you intend going about it? Nigerians have a right to know the thinking of the man they are hiring as the CEO of their country on the economy, wealth creation, insecurity, corruption, foreign policy, among other things. And it shouldn’t end at knowing their perspectives on the issues but how to go about solving the problems. If Nigerians are defrauded again in 2023 as they were in 2015, it can only be because they have allowed themselves to be fooled a second time.
Fortunately, those who have indicated interest so far – career politicians and technocrats – are all known quantities whose abilities and characteristics are well known. Their track records in public and private offices are also well known. When it comes to the presidency or the chief executive of a state, no one should be granted the luxury of learning on the job. In the course of TheNiche Presidential Aspirants Interview Series, I have spoken to at least two aspirants who, in addition to the answers they supplied to the questions posed to them, gave me books which they have written addressing those issues.
Last week, Professor Kingsley Moghalu boasted, even at the risk of being labelled immodest, that: “I am an economic thinker. I have written books on economic transformation with ideas about how economies like that of Nigeria and other African countries can actually create prosperity. So, I have done it at the practical level, I have done it at the conceptual level and I have been a professor of international business and economic policy at one of the world’s most prestigious institutions of international affairs – the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts.”
That is the way to go. Granted, everyone aspiring to be president must not be an Ivy-league scholar but time when the only credential those who lay claim to leadership in Nigeria flaunt is that they fought in the Abagana or Nsukka sector during the civil war must be in the past. Nigerians no longer need dinosaurs and relics of our failed past as today’s leaders. The country definitely needs a 21st century president who, according to Ann Masterson, a senior lecturer and programme director in leadership development at Dublin Business School, must be authentic, self-aware, passionate, have the ability to think critically and strategically, courageous and confident, positive, emotionally intelligent, dare to be different, proactive and above all must have clear and succinct communications skills.
Because modern times call for a special set of leadership skills, the leader Nigeria needs next year must be creative, empathetic and inclusive in governance. Such a person must have an inspiring vision for the future. The leader who will stop digging the harrowing hole where inept leadership has pushed Nigeria and start the onerous process of climbing out must be one who is able to speak the language of multiple generations, who understands how ever-changing technologies are shaping society and who is prepared to embrace diversity in all its forms.
It is only Nigerians that can make that choice. And that is the beauty of democracy. Every four years, it affords a people the opportunity to make a new beginning. So, rather than running into economic exile, Nigerians should avail themselves the opportunity of electing a leader who will change the dire fortunes of their country for good. While we cannot stop anyone from aspiring, we have the inalienable right to reject those who have over the years made Nigeria a laughing stock in the comity of nations. We can decide to leapfrog Nigeria into a First World orbit or continue to plumb the depths of misery.
That is why elections have consequences. And the consequences of the 2023 elections are momentous.