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A Nigerian, not an ethnic president

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Leadership. Photo; FORBES

Nigeria, like the rest of the world, in varying degrees, is in deep crisis. However, unlike most countries, we have not been able to identify or agree on what indeed are the issues threatening the very existence of our nation.  In the 60 years of Nigeria’s independence, it could be argued that aside from the rejection of military rule which Nigerians regardless of ethnicity, religion and tongue collectively agreed on, every other issue on the state of the nation has been viewed within the biased prism of ethnic, religious and other divisive primordial colorations.

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As the ship of the Nigeria state glides almost rudderlessly towards the cliff, it is important to remind ourselves that we are all in the same boat and must therefore find solutions to our problems; not ‘challenges’ in the now often abused cliché. Our destiny is placed squarely in our hands. While I concede to others who advocate and attribute other causes such as restructuring and the constitution to our present situation, I feel strongly persuaded that our problem is that of leadership: Leadership that would galvanize our people into a nation; Leadership of a new age; of a completely new era. The question that I have often pondered is whether there are, indeed, no Nigerians that will fit into the mould of some celebrated world leaders; that placed their country and people above personal, ethnic, religious and other primordial interests?

As I think of the next Nigerian leader; the next Nigerian President, I am not thinking of an ethnic leader. It does not matter where he comes from. He does not need to be an Akwa-Ibomite, a Yoruba, an Urhobo, a Gwari, an Igarra, an Igala, an Efik, a Fulani, an Ijaw, a Hausa, a Tera or a Birom leader. Certainly, not necessarily an Aniocha or Igbo leader. He does not need to be a professional politician, a political party card bearer, a known household name, or a typical leader. Obviously, he cannot be a man from another country. He must be a Nigerian; not a foreigner.

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I have often wondered who this person of destiny would be: a Nigerian divinely thrust on us to heal the pains of the past, bind our wounds, our grievances, unite our people, and resuscitate, not in words but in deed the true spirit of ‘no conqueror no vanquished’ with justice to all.

Is it really so difficult to find in this country with its vast human resource endowment a leader with unassuming virtue; a man who does not belong to politics or to any existing political party in the country. He is not a household name across the broad national spectrum. Yet, to those who know him, a man of great integrity, an educated and learned mind, forth right and honest man, and above all, a man of courage and wisdom. He is, certainly not a saint. He is a man with the normal human disciplined instincts, impulses and blemishes.

I strongly recommend that our search for the Nigerian leader of our dream and manifest destiny should, this time, be expansive. We should not hesitate to beam our search light into institutions hitherto, understandably and with good reason insulated from politics and see who within these institutions fit the bill of the Nigerian leader who will galvanize our people into a nation with common vision, purpose and dream. It is time, in my view, to extend our search for the next Nigerian leader to include the traditional institutions, where a lot of eminent Nigerians with proven integrity now retire into. Such tested and trusted rulers should be given a chance to explore and use their God-given talent and gifts for the benefit of the Nigerian people.

As I ruminate on the search for the next Nigerian leader, a name is constantly on my mind. However, I will leave it out of this article for now, to allow for a dispassionate and unbiased conversation on this all important concept. It seems a disservice to the nation that such a talented and distinguished person would be excluded by the dictates of culture and tradition from offering Nigeria the services he has so far generously given world-wide and at home, but has hardly been in the limelight or publicized, and definitely non-controversial.

The most difficult assignment I foresee will be to convince such an unusually gifted man to agree to present himself for the office of President of Nigeria. Were he and people like himself to be confronted with this proposal, their immediate reaction would probably be that of reluctant self-abnegating shock. However, the positive reaction of a few individuals I mentioned this to, suggests to me that a person that fits this bill would undoubtedly bring dignity, knowledge and integrity very much needed to steer the ship of the Nigerian state. It will be a rescue mission.

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I have come to the conclusion that politics as practiced, played and conducted in Nigeria of today, is too serious an affair to be left to the political class alone. I have further come to the conclusion that a renowned traditional ruler as set forth above, can indeed lead us to a new dawn, a new era, building on the efforts of past leaders who have undoubtedly tried to give of their best. This nation needs someone who can coalesce the attributes and virtues of firm, knowledgeable, brilliant, articulate, wise, energetic and respected leadership in whom Nigerians will be proud.

Let us for the first time experiment in genuinely involving our enlightened traditional rulers in elective democratic offices; and stop the hypocritical mockery of only receiving their ‘blessing’ during election periods as ‘Fathers’ of the Nation. Let us, for once, truly demonstrate that they are, indeed, Fathers of the Nation. I believe and hope that many Nigerians would feel comfortable with such a radical proposition.

In our desperate circumstances of today, I am confident that under such a proposed leadership, serious, burning, contemporary and constitutional issues now plaguing the nation will be thrown up and decisively addressed calmly, honestly, competently and with abiding patriotism. Let us give serious thought to bringing forward a clean man with a clean heart. Let us on an all inclusive multi-party platform do so, if only as an emergency measure to reset the nation before it is too late.

Ambassador Olisemeka (CON), is former Foreign Minister of Nigeria.

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