Nigerian Leadership: How did we get here and whom should we have next by Oluwole Daramola and Abubakar Shuaibu.
Given the exceptional promise and the prospects of Nigeria as an anticipated leading light of the black and African world back in the day, many are at a loss as to how low the nation has sunk presently.
On the other hand, there is also the glaring challenge of who we should have next in the very critical leadership saddle in the country to anchor the process of rightsizing the currently lumbering ship of state. On its best day, Nigeria is a complex jigsaw for any leader or set of leaders to navigate, glide through and lead.
The Brish explorers and colonialists, in search of glory, fame and fortune, had lumped together many disparate communities, nations and peoples in the new country of their somewhat haphazard construction and held it together by a combination of force of arms and willful and controversial political engineering. With the Brish at the apex during the colonial era, the most complex expressions of discord and discontent in the country were either boiled up in anticipation of their eventual exit or contained and pacified by them on the occasions that they boiled over to the surface.
However, their departure in 1960 reopened the door for the intra-national companion for authoritarian control of the country among the contending interests and divisions of that me and the poor management of the tensions that emerged led to the collapse of the First Republic and the introduction of military rule and a very costly civil war. For three decades after that, the military chiefly held sway in the land, and in a manner not too dissimilar from what the colonial authorities had done before, elected to contain disagreements where they could and shut up agitations and agitators where they felt that was the right thing to do in the circumstance.
The return to democracy in 1999 came with its promise for a more negation-driven socio-political arena where the practice of democracy and adherence to the rule of law would be the core basis for driving the nation-building project and advancing the interests of the mass the people. But it is also clear from the evidence before us that not much has been achieved since then.
As we write, Nigeria is beset by problems of a diverse nature. From crippling insecurity to escalating unemployment, searing poverty, to soaring debt levels, it is clear that as the nation navigates the critical bend offered by the 2023 polls, something most remarkable must give. We cannot go on in this shape and frame for much longer.
At the centre of this understanding for us and as a crucial peg for resolving the challenges faced by the people of Nigeria is the primary need to recognise that this is indeed a country of young people. That is what the demographic distribution records, and that exactly is what it is.
What this then means is that development planning, and indeed national governance has to invariably at this me be youth-led and youth-driven. And this certainly is quite some bonus position that even the more developed economies of the world are indeed envious of. We have been handed by nature and circumstance a critical beachhead around which we can build the rest of the rejuvenation package for our country: cultivating positive youth power for all that it can offer.
Indeed, an in-depth review of our demographic imperatives and current socio-economic standing will immediately throw up the fact that one of the core imperatives that we must trigger is the inauguration of a more productive workforce; one with a solid skills base that is tech-savvy and highly motivated to give and drive practical value. And in this, quite appropriately, the youth come in quite handy. To do otherwise would invariably be akin to shooting ourselves in the foot.
Today’s world is in a most competitive sphere where nations bring the best endowments – natural, physical, intellectual – to the negotiations tables. To not project our best is, therefore, akin to preparing to receive less in return. We must do better than this.
A place for experience
There is also the issue of background political experience and the ability to work the system as critical variables that those who would lead us at the highest levels at a time like this should necessarily possess. While it may be easy to say candidly, as some do, that we need outsiders to come into the system to clean it up, the fact of the matter is that it is not exactly everyone in the system that is tainted.
Also, bringing in complete outsiders will equally expose us to the challenge of wanton experimentation, which may not be precisely salutary as we stand the possible risk of ‘moving from frying pan to fire.’ So our safe vote would be to elect someone already embedded within the system but who has also not been excessively tainted by its past and continuing failings. It is a question of making the best of both worlds in the overall national interest.
There are also other desirable skill-sets, qualities and imperatives that will serve us well at this me and which we should be on the lookout for. As we write, for example, the world is caught up in a vortex of change and transition, and we, therefore, need to ensure that we are led not only by one who is quite abreast with the unfolding dynamics and their implications but also one who continually keeps the future in view. When nations begin to switch off their fossil fuels products taps, where would we be? Would we have taken the steps we needed to take before D-day, or would we be crying murder are the fact? On the human and social relations plane, we need a leader in the unfolding dispensation, a consensus builder and team player, accommodating, focused and balanced, and who can juggle the imperative skill sets required to be both hands-on and hands-under as the need arises.
The leader of our contemplation should equally be a team builder and team worker, committed to justice and inclusion and who is at the same me, knowledgeable, visionary and charismatic. Almost without saying it, he should be healthy, strong and hard-working; must not be dumb; at home with the big picture and personally hungry for achievement and legacy.
Complex leadership negotiations
We are engaged in complex negotiations for the soul of our country. We need to do with all of the levelheadedness that we can bring to the table.
It is akin in a sense to a Fortune 500 company going out there to seek a CEO, a turnaround expert from and around whom fresh initiatives for overcoming past failings would be drawn and built. It is not a task for rookies, nor is it one for deadweights. Yes, passion is excellent, but circumspection is also essential. The job of running a country as large, complex, diverse and variegated as Nigeria requires the extremely best-fit leader that we can find.