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Leadership qualities Nigeria needs in 2023

By Guardian Nigeria
22 March 2022   |   4:12 am
As the drumbeat of 2023 general elections gets louder, various characters are throwing their hats into the ring and moving deftly to the rhythm. Even members of the political class and statesmen couldn’t but be shocked by the quality of aspirants ...

As the drumbeat of 2023 general elections gets louder, various characters are throwing their hats into the ring and moving deftly to the rhythm. Even members of the political class and statesmen couldn’t but be shocked by the quality of aspirants shoving for the driver’s seat. But beyond blind ambition and primitive sentiments of party politics, the primacy of leadership qualities, stellar antecedents, commitment and capacity to turn the corner, should not be lost on any Nigerian. In reality, the country is in dire straits across the board. Therefore, Africa’s most populous country needs competent aspirants that a good leadership recruitment process should produce.
 
About seven years ago, Nigerians rallied behind the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its change mantra to elect President Muhammadu Buhari as a rebuke of the maladministration of the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and his People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It was the first time a party in power and a sitting president had failed at the polls and expectations were high on the incoming. But seven years down the line, even Buhari’s loyalists are scandalised by the rampaging ineptitude on parade, worsened by unparalleled nepotism and sectarianism.

By sheer negligence of the police and armed forces, banditry, kidnappings, terrorism and other shades of criminality are wider than ever before. Economic woes and soaring inflation have also worsened endemic poverty as more Nigerians dropped below the poverty line in the last seven years. It is indeed a country worse than that repudiated by the electorate heading into 2015. And given a National Assembly that could not be bothered, Nigerians are looking forward to a fresh start in 2023.

Also warming up for 2023 are members of the political class. Curiously, among them are chips of the old block that have by their actions or inactions ruined the country. Jostling to be state governors and president are scoundrels with a baggage of criminal antecedents. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo puts it bluntly when he said the other day that “many of the 2023 aspirants should be in jail.” The octogenarian, at a symposium to mark his 85th birthday, said the aspiring politicians and their supporters “should have been arrested, tried and jailed for corrupt practices, if the anti-graft agencies had done their jobs diligently with the support of the judiciary.” He further warned that the electorate should be more discerning in choosing their leaders, to save the country from collapse.     

Indeed, a country in an age of turmoil and existential doom needs to look beyond the tragic purveyors of its decadence. Clearly, the two dominant political parties and several of their aspirants have failed the country woefully and are undeserving of patronage. The gale of defections, attendant boldfaces, and uncouth internal wrangling further affirmed that the difference between the two parties is only in appellation. Both are characterised by nil ideology and zero principles. So, several candidates are loose cannons of selfish political officeholders that are only preoccupied with private agenda, not collective well-being or survival till and beyond 2023.

While it is the right of all Nigerians of age to vie for public office and be voted for, the country needs a breath of fresh air across the board. It needs leadership that knows, shows, and can go the whole hog with the Nigerian masses. To know is to have an understanding of purposeful and result-oriented leadership. That is, a new set of leaders that understand the problems, clear-headed and resolute at solving them. Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, and sectarian violence, for instance, are blights on national development and they should not continue ad-infinitum.

Oil dependency amid zero per cent refining capability is a misnomer and an albatross on economic sustainability. Erratic power supply and industries running on generating sets are not viable, and the power problem should not elude a credible administration. Similarly, a new crop of leadership that understands that sustainable growth and security are impossible where tiers of government are handicapped and dependent on the federal government for monthly allocations, as against true federalism that empowers states and local councils to control their resources and competitively develop at their own pace. Only those, and a lot more in modern leadership, are good enough.

Such paradigm shifts, to say the least, are trademarks of respectable personalities that have sound character traits – credible, trustworthy, and consistent – to be acceptable to the majority. Credibility is the hallmark of leadership, and trust is only earned. In the build-up to 1993 General Elections, the business mogul, Moshood Abiola, lived up to that standard and had requisite credibility that earned him the patronage and support of all ethnic groups. The question is: where are such personalities that can be acceptable to most Nigerians, irrespective of age-long biases? Where are those Nigerians that are enamored with sound principles and integrity? Nigeria needs them more as replacements for those that only mouth integrity but never live up to any standard.
  
For affliction not to strike twice, Nigeria needs hands-on leadership that will show the way and lead from the fore in building a country that will last. The Premier of the Old Western Region, Obafemi Awolowo, was exemplary in that regard when he made free primary and secondary school education compulsory for the region. It was a massive success in the South-west that benefitted most of the current crops of the political class today. And it was that legacy that leaders of thoughts relished recently at his posthumous 113th birthday, some 35 years after he died. An absconditus president or absentee governor that permanently lives in Abuja or Dubai cannot replicate that, but a real leadership that radiates empathy and compassion for nationhood; elevating humanity through human capacity development and welfare services. Nigeria of today dearly needs such intrinsically good men of value and altruism to forge ahead.
  
Without a doubt, the road to the 2023 general elections will be daunting. However, it is incumbent on Nigerian masses to pay keen attention to the leadership recruitment process and stay vigilant. Nigerians, in their numbers, should be resolute in active participation and citizens’ engagement with the political process. It is never too early to have an eye on credible personalities that can lead a new Nigeria and rally behind them. The general public must keep in mind that Nigeria needs leaders that recognise that the country is at the moment, on the brink, and in need of urgent rescue. Nigeria cannot afford the mistakes of 2015. Therefore, it urgently needs leaders that can mend fences, restructure the country to function as a true federation, rebuild broken walls from the rubble and upturn despondency into hope.

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