From reproach to restoration
The jury is out. By all accounts and by all parameters, the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has been weighed in the balances. And it has been found acutely wanting.
It is for our embattled country, a Tekel moment, an accursed moment reminiscent of King Belshazzar, the son of the equally haughty Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
In the course of the holy Easter, Bishop after Bishop, from the Catholic to the Anglican, and from the reticent to the voluble across the country, issued plangent cries in their homilies. They lamented how the country had failed its people under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch.
Some of the most sedate Bishops, particularly those in Kaduna, Timothy Yahaya of the Anglican Diocese and Matthew Manoso Ndagoso of the Catholic Diocese, were quick to align themselves with the call, of the previous week, for the outright resignation of the President by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF).
Others spoke in terms that agreed with the fears expressed recently by the Sultan of Sokoto and the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), namely that the country could not survive beyond 2023 and that Nigerians had lost faith in the President’s capacity to defend them against bandits and terrorists.
The coup de grace was delivered by Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, who has made a chequered career of speaking truth to power: “Our individual hearts are broken. Our family dreams are broken. Homes are broken. Churches, Mosques, infrastructure are broken. Our educational system is broken. Our children’s lives and future are broken. Our politics is broken. Our economy is broken. Our energy system is broken. Our security system is broken. Our roads and rail are broken.”
By whatever yardstick one deploys, and in whatever facet of life, Nigeria, today, under President Muhammadu Buhari, is a resounding failure: It either keeps the rear or it is at the bottom of the ladder, in all departments! This explains why the scathing homilies rendered by these eminent clerics resonate with the Nigerian people. The preachments capture, in graphic and comprehensive detail, the sordid state of affair in the country. And they underscore, lucidly, how a country, which was once the envy of its peers, has transformed, overnight, into a byword and a reproach. Not even the most frenzied, and sometimes coarse, rebuttals by the President’s quixotic enablers can wish this sad reality away.
If the country, under President Muhammadu Buhari, has become a byword and a basket case, the 2023 General Elections present us with another propitious opportunity to enthrone leaders who could salvage us from the mire in which we are bogged. At all levels, Nigerians must define for themselves, with the benefit of these seven years, which the locusts ate voraciously, what constitute their standard bearers. They must quickly set criteria and identify uplifting qualities, which prospective leaders should possess.
Perhaps, one of the ways to proceed is to root for candidates who are the very antitheses of the charlatans who have failed and betrayed us in recent times. While we distance ourselves from politicians who are content merely with feathering their own, or their ethnic group’s nest, we should prefer leaders who deliberately foster inclusion, by their words and by their deeds. This is key because a selfish leader who favours his ethnic group or race cannot function optimally in a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi religious setting such as ours. Our leaders must consciously carry everyone along and deliver good governance and infrastructure to all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
We must go for competent, hands- on leaders. Leaders who are unafraid to work with men and women of equal devotion, diligence and excellence. John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier administration stood out and shimmered because Kennedy, a man who set store by excellence, co-opted technocrats and academics such as Robert McNamara, Arthur Schlesinger Jnr., McGeorge Bundy, Dean Rusk, Clark Clifford etc. into his government. It was these men that added luster and credibility to the New Frontier.
In this digital, knowledge-driven age, we cannot afford to run a country with, and, dunderheads or persons who are keen to outsource their responsibilities because they are daunting.
True leaders are not poseurs or sly pretenders. And they are seldom overawed. They are not overwhelmed by the very reason that challenges go with the territory. They carry on, unfazed, and in the knowledge that those who came before them faced similar challenges and surmounted them. It is this sense of calm with which they carry on that imbues confidence in the citizens, galvanizes them and assures them that the country is in safe hands.
A good leader, like a genuine suitor, cannot be desperate. It is desperation for power that leads either to its misuse or the untoward pursuit of misadventures. Though we should look for the leader who has a solid pedigree and a record of practical achievement in at least a field, we must be wary of the wunderkind.
The wunderkind is the Uber achiever who did not go through the mill and is adept at cutting corners and disdaining due process or intellectual rigour. It is these failings – of desperation and the superstar syndrome – that proved the undoing of Richard Nixon. Lest I be misconstrued, I am not canvassing for the run-of-the-mill or mediocre. Far from it! But one must raise red flags on the superstar who disdains due process and the law.
As we are wary of the superstar, we must embrace the leader who is relentless and untiring in his quest to succeed. My humble prescription is Theodore Roosevelt’s high-minded, The man in the Arena: “whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”
Above all, given our parlous predicament, we must go for leaders who are determined to make the difference, who want to add tremendous value and who crave, earnestly, to etch themselves positively in our history and consciousness. They are of the calibre of which the Prophet Isaiah directed:
“You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.”
Let us vote wisely. Let us vote for credible leaders so that our reproach can be transformed to our restoration and to God’s glory.
Dazang is the immediate past Director of Media and Public Enlightenment of INEC.