In a 2014 paper on leadership travails in Nigeria, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah declared that all of Nigeria’s heads of state and presidents were ‘accidental presidents.’ That was because they didn’t prepare for the leadership roles thrust on them. According to the respected bishop, the main reason Nigeria became the headquarters of poverty in the world is because “the average newcomer as president of Nigeria comes totally unprepared, with no knowledge of the environment, no experience in public life, no knowledge of the bureaucracy, no knowledge of politics and power derived from some years of loyal pupilage.”
Thus, as we now begin the process of recruiting the president for 2023, it is essential that the incoming president must be versed in politicking, understand democracy, the rule of law, and federalism. The new president must be fully prepared for the job. Unlike his predecessors, the president we want must be painstakingly sincere. We should know this through his antecedents in governance and friendships. He must have workable answers to true federalism, cession brewing in the Southwest and Southeast. He must hate banditry and Boko Haram for he has to wipe them out by the force of arms for peace to reign in Nigeria.
As at the moment, 2023 is more crucial than 2015, since blights have not been resolved, Boko Haram has not been defeated, we’re still dependent on oil, and the government has not stopped subsidizing both oil and the bureaucracy. If we’re to abate the circle of raised and dashed hopes, we must start examining the aspirants now. The process of selecting the flag bearers of the parties should begin now two years before the presidential election. In the aftermath of the jailing of a professor for rigging election, a prima facie case is thereby established for the creation of electoral offences tribunal, not electoral offences commission. The government is still supporting election rigging by its establishment of the commission of the electoral offence. Like the Niger Delta Development Commission or the National Human Rights Commission, it will be ineffective. The government will be shielding its party’s election riggers through the commission.
Nigeria’s Electoral Act is flawed on the official period for campaigns. At the moment campaigns are to commence publicly, 90 days before polling day, and end 24 hours prior to that day. That short period does not give room for a thorough examination of a presidential aspirant. That is why campaigning has been by subterfuge: celebrating birthdays in far away Kano instead of Lagos; making donations to victims of disasters and hosting colloquiums around the country. With the exception of ending campaigns 24 hours to an election, there shouldn’t be any time limit as to when aspirants should start campaigns. With only three months into his first term in office, US President Joseph Biden declared publicly, his intention to run for the second term in 2024 when speculations were rife that he would be too old then since he is 78 years old at present.
On the idea of accidental presidents, it isn’t correct that presidents are performing badly because they are unprepared.
There are party manifestos to go to when short of ideas. There is the Nigerian Bar Association to borrow ideas from. The Academic Staff Union of Universities, the highest body of intellectuals is there to advise any president aspiring to be a great president. Nigeria simply lacks great people. What with other areas of human endeavor? As of my last count, the eight million people of Israel have 14 Nobel prizewinners to 205 million Nigeria’s only one. We had better examined the nutrition value of the foods we take, for nutrition determines our metabolism and the quality of our intellect. Where is our coronavirus vaccine? The good quality of Israeli homemade vaccine enabled Benjamin Netanyahu to win a fourth term as premier despite having corruption charges on his neck.
Let us diagnose Nigeria’s ailments dispassionately. With current threats to Nigeria’s unity, the police being killed in the East, police stations burned along with them, herdsmen kidnapping in the Southwest if the presidency is not zoned to the south, Nigeria might be ungovernable by 2024. Coming under the aegis of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria, staff of the state houses of assembly embarked on a strike on March 23, 2021, with the aim of enforcing the fiscal autonomy for the state assemblies. Also acting under the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria, staff of the judicial arm of government went on a strike from April 6 pressing also for fiscal autonomy for the judicial arm. The common target of these actions remains state governors, who in willful violation of the Nigerian Constitution, routinely expropriate funds meant for the other arms of government in the states. The net effect of this is the arrested development of state legislatures and judiciary. Thus, this impunity by governors doesn’t recommend governors as candidates for president. They’re used to impunity and like former presidents will not be able to deliver the Nigeria of our dreams.
The president we want is one who has the courage to create state police just as Bola Tinubu created 57 local governments in defiance of the president and going ahead to win in the Supreme Court. Nigeria needs only those with the courage to do the needful, not those with PhD who don’t understand federalism. The new president must have the courage to amend the constitution to assure true federalism and the creativity to assemble technocrats for good governance. He must have the forbearance and ability to raise leaders, even when they compete with him for president.