How Tinubu can become a transformational leader
The 2023 General Elections have come and gone. In a fiercely contested election, BAT emerged victorious after he was declared duly-elected by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In my reasoned view, BAT’s victory was made inevitable by the splintering of key voting blocs of the opposition PDP into the Obi emergent, populist wave and the Atiku flank. But that is a debate for another day. The rest is now history, pending the outcome of an all too often predictable presidential election petition at the Supreme Court.
It is only a matter of days before the president-elect and new generations of political leaders get sworn in. This piece examines the inexorable policy expedients that the president-elect must adopt in order to move the country to the next frontier, and as well become a transformational leader. To do so, and unlock the much-awaited Nigerian exceptionalism, BAT must compel liberty to rain and become a new oasis that guides our overall national conduct. He must unleash a quantum leap on economic development. And, he must will himself by summoning his better angels to rise above petty, primordial sentiments and usher in visionary leadership.
In a lecture where he attempted to analyse the strength of American exceptionalism, erudite jurist, the late Judge Learned Hand, espoused the spirit of liberty – which lies in the heart of men and women – this way: “The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interest alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to the earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned but never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.”
I am unafraid to assert that the spirit of liberty is the spirit of love. And the cardinal hallmark of love is to love thy neighbor as thyself so as to be able to do unto others as we would ourselves. A leader is only able to act if he can feel the pain and pulse of the governed. This is the starting point of good governance. So, BAT must allow the spirit of liberty and love to guide him and by doing so he will have empathy for the least of Nigerians who have no access to Aso Rock. Empathy will open his eyes and heart to the myriad of problems Nigerians face daily – insecurity, joblessness, poverty, lack of medical care, bad roads, poor infrastructure among so many others.
It has been suggested that corruption is the oxygen that has enabled failure of leadership and our inability to live up to our National potential. The spirit of liberty and love will purge every heart of corruption because it is impossible to imbibe that spirit and still allow corruption to thrive.
By wearing a new garment of liberty for instance, the president-elect will be able to weigh the interest of all parts of this very diverse country and rise to the challenge of meeting the hopes and aspirations of all without regard to their religion, tribe, and political persuasion or affiliation. The Madiba, Nelson Mandela of blessed memory was a functional example. He came out of prison, had the courage to forgive those that unjustly imprisoned him, and allowed the spirit of liberty and love to transform him into a legendary leader for South Africa.
There is no doubt that we need economic rebirth in this country considering where we are currently. For the first time, we are practically bankrupt – borrowing more than we generate as revenue – and our currency is almost at base level. The sum total of all our problems has an economic solution and the president-elect must rise to the moment and meet the challenge. Thus, the spirit of liberty and love are also veritable tools for economic development because they enable a leader to see Nigeria as that kingdom where economic development enables the least and the great to mutually thrive.
Indeed, at the core of our economic problems is our failure to industrialise. I have consistently opined that we were on our path to industrialisation post-independence, then we found oil in the late fifties and lost our collective national soul. This has been and remains our economic Achilles’ heel. President BAT must, therefore, understand that we can no longer continue to grope in the dark with insufficient and sometimes non-existent electricity.
Electricity is the bedrock of economic development. A transformational leader must find a means to supply more than the current 4000 MW of electricity for a country of over two hundred million people. This he must do by direct investment in a super grid transmission system that has a guarantee of invulnerability to frequent collapse. By providing sufficient power, we can unleash the Nigerian spirit of innovation, mechanise our agricultural sector, and set in motion a pent-up Nigerian, nay African industrial revolution.
Nigeria is the biggest market in Africa and getting it right here means that Africa and the entire black race will begin to live up to her potential. And by so doing, BAT will in the words of Aeschylus start the process “to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world” for the children of Nigeria and Africa. The alternative is tokenism and piecemeal social handouts to little social circles. These do not work!
There was a video that went viral during the campaign where BAT was caught on tape suggesting that the Yoruba should not vote for Peter Obi because he has a plan to open up seaports in the East, that this would send Igbos back home to the detriment of Lagos and the West. To be sure, this is not the thought process of a transformational leader. It is beneath vision to sit on and stall the development of more seaports in other parts of the country because we think it confers undue advantage on Lagos and the West for everyone to domicile in Lagos. This is insanity on steroids considering that Lagos is becoming unlivable from the impact of unabated rural-urban migration. A transformational leader is a visionary leader with the ability to see tomorrow today.
For instance, laying pipelines from the Niger Delta to the North is a winning economic strategy that can substantially mechanise and scale the production of beans, groundnut, tomatoes, and sundry cash crops in the North by firing agro-based processing and packaging industries with sustainable supply of clean burning gas fuel.
It was visionary leadership that built the western hemisphere into a first world. Visionary leadership transformed an arid desert land into the United Arab Emirates. Singapore broke away from Malaysia with little or nothing and yet visionary leadership has built a modern, industrialised economy that is a haven for investors. The genius of America and other industrialised economies is even the development of constituent parts of their respective countries exploring underlying economies of scale. President BAT must become visionary by immediately seeing the entire country as one constituency.
Visionary leadership straddled by the spirit of liberty and love makes a leader to understand and appreciate our human mortality. Mortality compels a visionary leader and all humans to think of things bigger than themselves. It helps a visionary leader stay in check while eschewing feudalistic avarice and brigandage. Nigeria is in dire need of a visionary leader and BAT can write his name in gold if he chooses to.
John F Kennedy was right when he submitted that “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s future and we are all mortal.” BAT needs to come to this realisation to summon the inner strength to transform Nigeria into that kingdom for her over two hundred million citizens; and in so doing he would become a transformational leader. We are at breaking point and failure is no longer an option.
Hon. Igwe, Esq. is a member of Abia State House of Assembly
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.