2019 and the imperative of dynamic leadership
One is compelled by Nigerian history and circumstances to speak out on the critical issue of national leadership before we get into 2019 elections frenzy.The painful but true absence of an acceptable national leadership has been Nigeria’s greatest obstacle to political stability, sustainable economic development or socio-cultural harmony. The irony is that at every stage in Nigerian history, the past always looked better than the present and the future has been a subject of doubt, anxiety and intense debates.
As one of our late Statesman Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule said “Nigeria Should settle the past to secure the Future.”Today, as he stated, the question should not be who is wrong but what is wrong. To live together he concluded we must tell ourselves the truth.Consequently I submit that the principal factors that have made Nigeria’s present into a nation of controversy on all front and the nation’s future uncertain and a nightmare is the long series of failures of national political leadership – on the issue of justice, equity and fairness.
As in the past, the Buhari Administration theory of “Hate Speech” is a new attempt to solve the perennial address of national collective insecurity, lack of political stability, unity or lack of kindership among Nigerians.However, they too, are not helping in bringing any meaningful solutions by exacerbating the root causes of incessant national problems of conflicts since the amalgamation.Hence, “hate speech” emphasis is another distraction or diversion from the roots causes of national threats of disintegration which is becoming present and imminent by the day.
Indeed no “hate speech” is worse than injustice, governance by ignorance and arrogance, impunity and impudence to which recently the Igbos in particular and other Nigerians in general have been subjected to since the end of the Civil War (1967-1970). And today the general perception of governance in Nigerian has never been this remarkable in political insensitivity, unmitigated nepotism regional and religious bigotism, tribalism and regional prejudice. It is therefore imperative that before the 2019, presidential and general elections Nigerians should seriously reflect on “where Nigeria is going and why Nigeria is going?”
It is my belief that confused regional, ethno-religious champions, and politically biased and myopic leaders have and continue to lead Nigeria incrementally towards the path of a synchronised national crises and disintegration. In fact, some of those leadership types have propensity, and attitudes that promote crises and divisions along Nigerian fault lines of ethnicity, region and religion. The result is intense political elite rivalry, hostility of positions, mutual intolerance and high level of insatiable group and personal insecurity.
None of the above is a recipe for political stability peace or security of the country.Indeed, the Nigerian national tragedy does not lie only in the ignorance or lack of general knowledge of the country’s endemic and perennial problems. Actually what we have is a deliberate and calculated politics and governments deep in the promotion of nepotism and conspicuous absence of justice, fairness and equity. Nigeria is a critical example of the adage, that power without statesmanship will not gain peace. In a complex or plural societies, there exist certain objective conditions over which no leader has right to take a unilateral action with impunity and impudence.
Hence, all Nigerian statesmen must condemn non-challance and partial distribution of sensitive national posts or offices. In fact, in such societies as in Nigeria such a situation can result in a traumatic experience on a sizeable number of citizens due to a feeling of relative alienations, marginalisation and frustration. To be a good Nigerian national leader one must not give room for suspicion or perception of a serious partiality, connivance, contrivance or conspiracy against any part of the country, on matters of critical national importance, such as security and appointments to high national offices. To ignore this reality by any leader of Nigeria is an invitation to national conflicts, crises and controversies.
On the other hand, we have reached a stage in this country when qualifications and ability should be a condition for aspiring to certain posts and positions in Nigeria.And better still, when shall we graduate to the point when the posts or offices must seek the candidates and not the candidates seeking the office through irregular nepotic and clandestine means. We must end the practice of promoting a culture of arrogance and ignorance that dominates high office holding in Nigeria’s critical political, security and economic sectors. It is time to base high office posts on what you know and not on who you know and where you come from. As Panti Nehru said, “evil unchecked grows and evil tolerated poisons the whole system.” Hence, the question is Nigeria dying?
The greatest fear for Nigeria today is that injustice is spreading across the country like a wide fire. And the danger lies in the historic fact as Aristotle noted, that “Common fears can unite even the bitterest enemies.” Today, Nigeria is facing the challenge of national survival.Hence there is no need pretending that all is well with Nigeria, thus the political leadership has the burden to quickly heal the nation and fast for that matter. Nigeria today has learnt the terrible lesson of history that “nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character give him power.”
More and more Nigerians are losing the dream of a united Nigeria and the present leadership must take cognizance of the present mood of the citizens, and their perception of the government, away from orchestrated slogan, and better analyze the national and international image and honest verdict on this administration so far.The present government and the political leaders should not be apologetic or ignore the federal character principle in the Nigerian Constitution unless they are part of its abuse. Federal character goes a long way to guarantee political stability, national unity, justice and fairness, but above all, it emphasizes inclusiveness and sense of belonging to all the citizens.
It is however, true that our national tragedy started early and would not have surprised the nation’s objective national and international observers.
But to complicate the matter was the reality that since independence power, authority, and political leadership in Nigeria were surrendered early by men of ideas and competence to political pretenders, imposters and nationalist impersonators across the country. The rest is history and we are all victims of misplaced national priorities, ideas and ideals.
No issue is receiving more political attention today in Nigeria than the issue of restructuring Nigeria. The best case for this important national agenda was made by the 2014 National Conference. And to ignore this critical national agenda is to exacerbate national crises as well as threat to National Unity.We must constantly be reminded that the British designed Nigeria for the purpose of securing British interests and not those of Nigerians. And equally important, all the subsequent regimes since independence have done some measures of restructuring from creation of states out of the regions to local governments or constitutional amendments. Hence, Nigeria is a project in progress and not an accomplished fact, an aspiration and not yet an achievement. A call for restructuring is a call for justice, and as one sage said, “Justice is the greatest concern of man on earth and resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”
Indeed, throughout history, those denied justice have had no interest in Peace. Those who clamour for restructuring are not selfish but good and political active citizens who are aware and conscious of how to manage plural societies and federal systems of government. If 2019 Presidential and general elections would come and go and we still have Nigeria intact the present administration should earnestly make hest in political healing of the nation.This administration must recognise that to control the myriads of dicey problems besetting the country today from security, economic, political to religious and avoid the nation going from disaster to calamity, there must be political compromises and concessions.
Prof. Obiozor, former Nigerian Ambassador to United States of America, Israel and Republic of Cyprus, and former Director General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA).