As Nigerians go to the Polls, it is Time to Choose the Best


Would You Employ This Man?

“The man you want to vote for, if he applies to be the CEO of your company, would you give him the job?”. These were the words of a lecturer in ABU Zaria sometime in 2014 as then candidate Muhammadu Buhari gathered momentum to challenge the then incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan at the polls. Today, this question has more than answered itself with a mounting debt portfolio, wrong application of scarce resources in projects such as the railway to Maradi over more economically viable routes and the precarious state of the country President Muhammadu Buhari is about to bequeath his successor on May 29, 2023.

On 28 March 2015, Nigerians elected a man who no one remembers his campaign promises. A man who went to Germany and referred to a united Germany as Western Germany, a country that ceased to exist in 1990. A man who in the presence of the most powerful person in Germany, a woman, Angela Merkel told his stunned host that his wife belongs to the kitchen and the “oza” room.

The sentiments that drove the country to embrace Muhammadu Buhari still exist, but Nigerians must shun its biases in the desire for progress. The United Kingdom paid a heavy price with its economy for briefly tinkering with ethnic bias in electing its leadership instead of the time-tested meritocracy when it elected Liz Truss ahead of the apparently more prepared Rishi Sunak. It reversed itself in weeks after a disastrous 45-day period. Nigerians have been on this practice of choosing ethnic leaders masquerading as national leaders and has paid dearly for its choices, yet its citizens don’t seem to get the hint. As a country that is plagued by amnesia, may we not vote from the illness of suffering and forgetting.

On Saturday, 25 February 2023, Nigerians will be electing a president that will lead them to a future of which each of the candidates have described either eloquently or not necessarily so. The critical issues in this election are not so different from the issues in 2015. It ranges from insecurity, a burgeoning N77 trillion debt profile, $800b infrastructure deficit, 20 million housing deficit, 20 million out of school children, 33% unemployment rate, 21.8% inflation and a nation divided across many fault lines. While the issues may seem so familiar from years past, the leadership skills, capacity, and strategies needed to deliver impactful results have evolved.


*The Leader for The Emerging Times*

Times have changed. Technology has created a new world and we are in the era of the Gen Zs and Gen Alpha. They will be here in the next 50 years when the rest of us are gone. A new kind of leader is therefore required to deliver a roadmap for these young Nigerians. The old economy is gone and is never coming back. The young Nigerians will compete with others all over the world for ideas, funds, and opportunities. They must be prepared. So, what are the leadership characteristics that voters should be looking for when they go to elect their leaders?

Let’s examine some core leadership virtues.

Character and Integrity: The Roman statesman, scholar and philosopher Marcus Cicero suggests that leaders should be of exceptional character and integrity. “Exceptional” is the key word. Cambridge dictionary describes it as uncommon, extraordinary. Dear Nigerians, do not compromise the character of your leader. If you find that leader with uncommon character and integrity, vote for him.

Good Communicator: Simply put, a good leader must be a good communicator. The ability to communicate clearly keeps citizens on the side of the leader and motivates the citizens. Nigerians want to hear directly from the leaders they elected and not through spokespersons. When a leader speaks, there should be no second guessing on what he said he will do and how he intends to do it. Dear Nigerians, if you have identified the leader who willingly speaks and speaks clearly to you, vote for him.

Vision and Purpose: The leader Nigeria needs must have a clear intent and vision, and clearly communicate that desired future. He must communicate what he wants to do, how he intends to do it and why he chose that path.

An Intelligent Leader: The job of the president is mentally demanding. It requires someone who is strong, mentally alert and with the ability to objectively interrogate issues. Cicero suggests that citizens should choose their best and brightest in the land to govern them. Leaders must have a in-depth knowledge of a wide range of subjects. They must have enough intelligence to ask critical questions. We must move away from excuses such as: the president was deceived or not aware.

A Leader Who governs with Justice, Fairness, and Equity: The Muhammadu Buhari administration created a tensed society. Nigeria needs a leader who governs with justice, equity and fairness. A leader who treats all ethnic nationalities as equals, with the same rights and privileges. A president who will act based on what is right for a nation, and not only his ethnic nationality.

Health and Wellbeing: The health of the president though not a moral virtue is a very critical consideration in the choice of a leader. A leader’s health and stability affect decision making, could be the difference between a stable and thriving economy and a country at the brink. It has political, social, and economic consequences. It is wisdom to avoid choosing a captain that will leave the ship rudderless. Nigerians must avoid the amnesia of a nation and fully consider the nation’s experience in the Yar Adua and Buhari’s times of illness in its choice of leadership. Olusegun Adeniyi’s book, Power, Politics and Death, captures how Nigeria fiddled with a sick leader, and Jerrod Post and Robert Robins book, When Illness Strikes the Leader, paints the vivid challenges of a nation run by an incapacitated leader.

The virtues of leadership are inexhaustible but there are foundational principles. Nigerians choose your leaders on principles. You will get it right.


*Why Not the Best for Nigeria?*

The best represents us in every other aspects of our lives.

On the international political and economic stage, we gave the world Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iwella at the World Trade Organization and Dr. Akinwumi Adesina at the African Development Bank. They debated, contested against the best in the world and came out triumphant. They are the best.

In music, Tems won a Grammy and featured in the movie, Wakanda. Davido, Burna boy and Whizkid are exports we are so proud of. These guys walk into the studios of the best producers, from Jay Z to Puff Daddy and strout their stuff. We harbour no fears that they will let the nation down. They always deliver.

In sports, Nigeria has a gallery of its best bestroding the world. Osihmen, Iheanacho, Oshoala, Akide. We harbour no fears that they will fail us when they engage the best from other countries. In the movie industry, from Genevieve’s braveheart to Omotola’s Alter Ego on Netflix. We have proudly sold Nigeria’s brilliance to the rest of the world and these actresses stand shoulder to shoulder with the world’s best.

However, we have failed to transfer our ability to select the best in other fields of endeavour to political leadership, which ironically is the most important aspect of our lives. We have repeatedly failed to put our best forward to lead us. The political leader determines everything. His actions and inactions determine if the country will produce more Adesinas and Iwealas. He determines if investors will take flight or embrace us. We have to give the world a leader who represents our ideals. We must put our best forward. Whoever we choose, we are inadvertently telling the world to see and deal with the rest of us by that person’s standards. You can’t be better than your best. In our local parlance, how you dress is how you will be addressed. We will regain our respect if we elect a competent leader. It is not rocket science.


*The Final Analysis*

Nigeria is plagued by dire social and economic troubles, and every four years, our democratic process gives us an opportunity for a new beginning. The stakes are high. We need prudent leadership to dig us out of our debt hole and rebuild the nation.

The normal order of nature is that species are led by their best. Animals are usually led by their strongest and brightest. They put the best forward. We must emulate the animals and elect a leader who will represent us on the world stage, stating our case to investors to choose Nigeria ahead of other countries. It is his ability to make sound arguments that will create jobs and attract the necessary assistance to fix insecurity.

Dear Nigerians, we have a chance to be on the right side of history; to choose right and vote the best. In 2015, we made the unfortunate decision to ask a man who didn’t show any evidence of advancing his personal life, his business nor his leisure to lead us. And today the country has paid a huge price for that indiscretion as all indices of human development have nosedived under his watch.

We cannot give the world Dr Okonjo-Iweala and Dr Adesina and then give ourselves someone less qualified. In paraphrasing the question asked by the ABU Zaria lecturer in 2015, I ask you, the man you want to vote for in 2023, does he possess the virtues and qualities you want in yourself and do you want the world to judge you by his standards?

If 2015 was out of ignorance and 2019 out of emasculation, 2023 is a choice. Choose your best.

Nigerians, why not the best for Nigeria?

Richard “Richie Rich” Silas can be reached on [email protected]


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