Unsettled by abysmal leadership currently on offer by the political class, Nigerians earnestly look forward to a rescue mission at the 2023 general polls.
Statesmen, groups, and even politicians are not left out of the anticipation, with some interesting permutations in the jostle for the next Presidential candidate.
But beyond primitive sentiments of ethnicity, religion, and age cap, the primacy of noble character, commitment cum capacity to building a country that is as rich as its diversity should not be an afterthought. In reality, turning a broken nation into a hopeful one will require more committed leadership and citizens’ engagement than Nigeria has ever had.
Nigerians in early 2015 rallied behind the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its change mantra to elect President Muhammadu Buhari as a rebuke of the maladministration of the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and his People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It was the first time a party in power and a sitting president had failed at the polls and expectations were high on the incoming. But six years down the line, even Buhari’s loyalists are scandalised by the enormity of ineptitude on parade, worsened by unparalleled nepotism and sectarianism.
Clearly, the country is vastly divided along its fault lines with the drumbeat of secession rolling faster and harder among ethnic groups. By sheer complicity or negligence of police and armed forces, banditry, kidnappings, terrorism and other shades of criminality are wider than ever before. Economic woes and soaring inflation have also worsened endemic poverty as more Nigerians dropped below the poverty line in the last six years. It is indeed a country worse than that repudiated by electorates heading into 2015.
It is therefore not a surprise that the 2023 election and the next presidency are already on the front burner mid-way into the second term of the current administration. In anticipation, the Southern Governors Forum had declared support for rotation and zoning of the Presidency to the South in 2023. As if to counter, members of the PDP in Katsina State have called on their embattled national chairman to zone its presidential ticket to the North-central region. A military junta, Ibrahim Babangida, lately said Nigeria’s next president should be in his 60s, ruling out gerontocracy and its ward of dominant aspirants. However, it is not the age of an idea nor its geo-location that matters, but the idea of the age and those equipped with it to solve problems.
Nigeria, in an age of turmoil and existential doom, needs to look beyond the problem and the tragic purveyors of the decadence itself. Obviously, the two dominant political parties have failed the country woefully and are undeserving of patronage. The gale of defections and internal wrangling further affirmed that the difference between the two parties is only in appellation. Both are characterised by nil ideology and zero principles. The statesmen are also not better than the selfish political officeholders that are only preoccupied with the next election, not collective well-being or survival till 2023.
So, where is the hope for Nigeria? Beyond disastrous leadership across the board, Nigeria needs a breath of fresh air. It needs leadership that knows, shows, and can go the whole hog with the Nigerian masses. To know is to have an understanding of purposeful and result-oriented leadership. That is a new set of leaders that understand the problems, are clear-headed, and resolute on solving them. Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, and sectarian violence, for instance, are blights on national development and they should not continue ad-infinitum. Oil dependency amid zero per cent refining capability is a misnomer and an albatross on economic sustainability. Similarly, a new crop of leadership that understands that sustainable growth and security are impossible where tiers of government are handicapped and dependent on the Federal Government for monthly allocations, as against true federalism that empowers states and local councils to control their resources and competitively develop at their own pace. Only those, and a lot more in modern leadership, are good enough.
Such paradigm shifts, a grand reform, to say the least, are trademarks of respectable personalities that have sound character traits – credible, trustworthy, and consistent – to be acceptable to the majority. Credibility is the hallmark of leadership, and trust is only earned. In the build-up of 1993 General Elections, the business mogul, Moshood Abiola, lived up to that standard and had requisite credibility that earned him the patronage and support of all ethnic groups. The question is: where are such personalities that can be acceptable to most Nigerians, irrespective of age-long biases? Where are those Nigerians that are enamored with indelible principles and integrity? Nigeria and beleaguered Nigerians need them more as replacements for those that only mouth integrity but never live up to any standard. Lest we forget, it is not a profile in credible leadership or integrity to deny your doctors their dues and render the health system of over 200 million people dysfunctional, yet fly to the United Kingdom at State’s expense for medical check-up. That is not a promising Nigeria, nor the one Buhari promised.
For affliction not to strike twice, Nigeria, surely, needs hands-on leadership that will show the way and leads from the fore in building a country that will last. The Premier of the Old Western Region, Obafemi Awolowo, was exemplary in that regard when he made free primary and secondary school education compulsory for the region. It was a massive success in the South-west that benefitted several of the current crops of the political class today. An absconditus or absentee president cannot deliver that, but a real leadership that radiates empathy and compassion for nationhood; elevating humanity through human capacity development and welfare services. Nigeria of today needs such intrinsically good men of value and altruism more dearly to forge ahead.
Without a doubt, the road to the 2023 general election and presidency that Nigeria needs will be daunting. However, it is incumbent on Nigerian masses, in their numbers, to be resolute in active participation and citizens’ engagement with the political process. As a germane subject matter, it is never too early to have an eye on credible personalities that can lead a new Nigeria and rally support for them. The general public must keep in mind that Nigeria needs a leader that recognises that the country is not working, on the brink, and in need of urgent rescue. Indeed, a leader that can mend fences, restructure the country to function as a true federation, rebuild from the rubbles and upturn despondency. That is the president Nigeria needs in 2023.