by Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, last week, I raised a lot of posers about how to find that man, or woman, who can lead us to our Eldorado. I was very happy to see that many of the readers were favourably disposed to my thesis on Leadership. This week, let us continue the chronicle from where we stopped. Nothing is more important than finding the best President for our great country. The Presidency of Nigeria is too important and extremely powerful to be left in the hands of someone who does not know or understand the magnitude of the work at hand.
Nigeria is almost 50 or more years backward in infrastructural development and requires sharp vision, supreme sacrifice and total dedication of a leader prepared to work at the speed of light. A ceremonial figure is not who we need at this time when we are all hoping for a bloodless revolution on all fronts in order to catch up with the rest of the world. A feel good rocker is far from what Nigeria requires to rise up from its deep slumber.
Nigeria needs a brilliant, clear-head plus a team of our brightest brains. Most professional politicians will never be able to do it. They are too careless and reckless and fail to think outside the box. We have so much money available, as well as untapped mega-resources already in place, for a supersonic take-off whenever we are seriously ready for the liberation flight. What is lacking is that one man at the very top, a competent Captain in the cockpit, who is able to reorder our priorities from the present regime of brutal profligacy to a government of concerted frugality. Nigerian politicians have curiously continued to live in fool’s paradise while majority of the citizens live in wanton discomfort. The poverty level has reached such a dangerous level that we need to see some semblance of concern on the part of the privilegentsia.
Our presidential system has further compounded our problems. It confers too much power in the hands of one man who may be naturally tempted to see himself as God. The zoning system favoured by the ruling party, and the principle of Federal character enshrined in our laws, have also done substantial damage by promoting and institutionalising mediocrity and irrational competition for the national cake. Political appointments have become opportunities for total assault on the treasury. And whenever critics complain these days, government apologists will intervene by asking if the acts of brigandage started with the present government. As if that can ever be justification for the continuation of the mindless looting of our treasured assets. The decline in the quality of leaders is the final tragedy to befall our nation.
I wish to single out Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the greatest performing leader of Nigeria for all times. His achievements remain evergreen everywhere you look in what used to be known as the Western Region. It is difficult to find such a man of uncommon brilliance, incredible sagacity, boundless vision, humane passion, selfless discipline and unmatchable genius around today. Even those who disagree with his politics cannot but acknowledge that he has inspired many generations of upwardly mobile leaders. In death, Awolowo’s sparkling ideology remains intact. Both sides of the political divide regularly proclaim his name as mantra in order to be seen as serious political contenders. His intellectual works speak volume about a man who certainly was not an accidental leader. He was born a genuine transformational head. And he lived up to his iconic image.
A short reign made it impossible to see how much General Murtala Muhammed would have achieved. But within six months, the fiery officer was able to show signs of a visionary leader who came fully prepared for something close to a Jerry Rawlings revolution in Ghana. The first thing that endeared him to many was the stripping of himself of ostentation and returning most of his material acquisition to the State. He recognised the need for parsimony in the Government where there are several competing developmental needs. That was totally against tradition, in a country where leaders acquire what they would never need in arrears and in advance. Nigeria is in dire need of such leaders who know that the first task is atonement of sins and a total rededication to a life of humility and simplicity.
We are not likely to have perfect leaders but we can make do with a few aspiring heroes we have on ground. Therefore, let me add very quickly that the search does not preclude the incumbent President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan lest I’m accused of unbridled bias that is commonplace in our country today. His profile would have been perfect for the type of leader Nigeria needs because of his humble background and the manner he was catapulted on to the national stage. However, he seems to have been totally hijacked by the demons of power by becoming one of the most expensively flamboyant leaders in Nigerian history. The time and funds being wasted on politicking at the moment could have been judiciously spent on delivering his promises to the people and his quest for a second term would have been far easier to achieve. Unfortunately, he has chosen the same path of most of his predecessors and I seriously doubt he can obtain a better result. My main thesis is that there are Nigerian leaders who actually know the solutions to our myriad of problems but several factors impede them from doing the right things for the Nation.
Lack of confidence in their ability to do things differently is a one of the major problems. As soon as a leader attains power, the hawks that made it possible for his predecessors to fail will pounce on the new one. They will reel out a long list of dos and don’ts. They will persuade him not to tinker with the status quo and remind him about how someone like President Olusegun Obasanjo was able to consolidate power. They will assure him of their support if he can play the ethnic and religious cards. But they studiously forget to tell him the outcome and result of those who employed the same methods and methodology and how they failed woefully. This is the bane of Leadership in Nigeria.
The typical Nigerian Leader does not believe the country deserves to develop at the pace of other nations with similar human and material resources. He believes we were born in squalor and must die in filth. His priority is to share and allocate our commonwealth among his cronies, elites and godfathers. The money he would have spent on monumental development is often wasted on a few people and pressure groups. For example, sending pilgrims to Mecca and Jerusalem in a supposed secular State has become a spectacular drain on the economy. It is that fear of rocking the boat and acute visionlessness that makes a leader to continue the tradition of waste. A good leader would have known that we can turn Nigeria to our own Mecca and Jerusalem with all the resources being frittered away on the altar of fake piety and religiousness. Those citizens who wish to go on pilgrimage are very free to do so on their own terms and according to their financial standing. There is absolutely no need for government involvement.
A good Leader would embrace minimalism in power but ours are different human beings who see power only as invitation to treat and turn government houses into a house of commotion and promotion of selfish interests. The very composition and composure of many of these leaders suggest a people without ambition or direction. To them, every day is Christmas. A serious leader must be focussed and purposeful. This is what I admire most about the office of the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola. The ambience around the Lagos State Government House clearly projects seriousness and no room for frivolity. The surrounding is designed to reflect a professional environment where philosophers are at work. The quality of work being churned out is not fortuitous but that of great thinkers and forward-looking technocrats. Most of his projects are relatively comparable to international standards. Beyond the spanking clean atmosphere, Fashola has guts. A Leader must have the strength of courage to take difficult decisions even when feathers would be ruffled.
Another Leader who has shown excellent attention to qualitative service is the fine and charismatic man of Cross River State, Mr Donald Duke. Nigeria can do with such urbane and cosmopolitan human beings. I remember, when as Governor of Cross River State, people used to accuse him of being very stingy. Indeed, he had good reason to be thrifty. He knew his State was not one of the richer States but was determined to make the best out of the limited allocations available to him. As President, a Donald Duke would have cleaned up our nation and put us on the road to true transformation and industrial revolution.
We also remember with nostalgia how Nasir El Rufai nearly turned Abuja into the Hong Kong of Africa before his hard work was truncated and the city fell into the hands of carpetbaggers. Hate him or love him, El Rufai is the epitome of the modernist approach to governance. I think the secret lies in his ability to read widely and voraciously and imbibe the spirit embedded in those voluminous books. The world has changed so much that a nation like Nigeria can no longer be governed by those who still reside in antiquity.
I must confess my special admiration for Obiageli Ezekwesili. It is a shame to think Nigeria is blessed with cerebral beings like Oby and yet we are operating such a backward system of Education. When she left Nigeria as Minister, she was promptly employed by the World Bank as Vice President, strictly on merit. She’s never carried power on her head and has maintained a dignified soberness despite her sterling qualifications and stunning accomplishments. Many of our current Leaders would become instantly unemployed and unemployable outside power, the reason most prefer to die in office. If Nigeria must make progress we need consummate technocrats like Oby in the highest positions in Nigeria.
Not every Leader combines Leadership skills with political acumen, but Godswill Akpabio, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, is in a class of his own. He is rated as one of the glowing stars of PDP, the ruling party and has mastered how to swim in the shark-infested waters of Nigeria’s political ocean. I wish he could translate what he has done at the State level to National platform but he knows better than to touch the tiger by the tail and has decided to kill any real or imaginary ambition.
They can call Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi whatever name they like but there is no doubt that the Governor of Rivers State is a man of impeccable taste and superlative drive. Even some of his most vociferous critics acknowledge the fact that it would be difficult to match the quality of projects he has started and is about to complete in Rivers State against all manner of frustration and intimidation from those who accuse him of obstinacy and arrogance. Truth is Amaechi has demystified power in a country where power is the god many worship. Amaechi’s simplicity, to more objective people, is disarming. He has courage in abundance and this is a key ingredient needed to succeed as a Leader.
I love and crave for bridge-builders like Aminu Tambuwal, the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Nigeria is too complex and complicated to be handed over to ethnic warlords and irredentists. This was the type of character that made Chief Moshood Abiola extraordinarily special. Anyone who seeks to lead Nigeria today must believe in the unity of Nigeria and work assiduously to keep the country together as one. Those seeking the destruction of Nigeria are few and far between and it is only for personal and selfish reasons. Tambuwal has demolished the artificial barriers of tribe and religion by working across boundaries. He does not carry his number four position on his head but moves about his State duties with minimal disruption to the lives and activities of fellow citizens. His plainness, grace and humility are complimented by his intelligence, astuteness and vision. He is truly a veritable Leader worthy of entrusting the affairs of our great Nation to if the opportunity presents itself.
There are many other great Nigerians on my waitlist.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Dele Momodu/Thisday