The President Nigeria needs in 2019 is a man who reads and enjoys reading in search of knowledge and solutions to economic, cultural and political problems.
“Which one should look after the affairs of men: but one who is of sound mind, abundant knowledge, and little conceit, great zeal and strong without weakness; generous but not a squanderer bearing no blame of any person. A leader should … have mildness, kindness, care and mercy, which makes him fear to kill a bird without justice … must endeavour to ward off every cause of corruption and harm from befalling the people … And to protect and defend them against anyone who would wage war to cause them any harm.” – Othman Danfodio
As the storm gathers for the presidential primaries of the various political parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), the above quotation from the great Islamic scholar’s thoughts on leadership should be a mantra of assessment for two reasons. First, what Nigeria needs at this point in time is a leader, not a politician. Second, because most of the candidates are from the Muslim North, there is no better model of leadership to appeal to their conscience than Danfodio.
Given the dismal performance of current political leadership, one may ask: from who do they draw inspiration? Or, whose example do they follow? Despite their loud noise about religiosity and despite their fanaticism and fundamentalism, which God do they really serve? The attitude of the average Nigerian politician to public office, from local government through states to the federal, confirms a common philosophy: Meism. That is, me first! It is not typical of any tribe, religion or region. It is nationwide. And that explains why, from state houses to the National Assembly, no one is bothered by what bothers the common man. That explains the absence of road, health, education and other infrastructure, despite decades of oil boom. That provides a clue as to why an APC chieftain who, after 16 years as Speaker and governor, before he was nominated as minister, told the Senate: “I don’t like money.” However, he has dumped former known governorship candidates and anointed the neophyte millionaire scion of a member of “Nigeria incorporated” as choice aspirant for his oil-rich Niger Delta state.
Still on values of leadership, the right man for the job should take the admonition of First Republic minister, Dr. Kingsley Ozumba Mbadiwe, who posited: “The leader shall in return hold power in trust for the greater good of all Nigerians. No one should aspire to leadership or be entrusted with power unless he is qualified to hold it; unless he has something worthwhile for the people. He must have the traits of leadership, namely: Knowledge, humanity, public spiritedness, approachability, sincerity, selflessness and patriotism.”
Talking about patriotism, think of a president that calculated votes cast into 97 per cent and five per cent, for distribution of offices and social amenities!
In a political milieu devoid of ideology and charged with allegations and counter-allegations of corruption, ineptitude and self-centeredness, one value that recurs in the two quotations and which needs to be stressed is knowledge. And this goes beyond paper qualification, although it cannot be completely ruled out. Despite the constitutional provision for basic educational qualification, knowledge has played little role in both governance and management of public affairs, because of the primordial sentiments and selfishness that govern our politics. This is often clothed in the garb of religion and ethnicism, shrouded in geopolitical zoning of offices. Perhaps, this also explains why Nigerian industries have been operating at a subsistence level since 1969 when Prof. Peter F. Drucker propounded the theory of the knowledge worker, which morphed into the knowledge society that created the information technology revolution and transformed several third world countries to hi-tech economies. But Nigerians identify with this global revolution to the extent that Nigeria remains an absolute consuming nation, which tasks Customs officers on collection of tariffs on imported goods, rather than think of generating revenue from excise duty from local manufacturers, which was the norm up to the mid-80s, before Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) sounded the death knell of local production.
To date, not much has changed. Instead, there have been reverses from the achievements of the renowned economist, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Minister of Finance under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. For example, who is the Chief Economist of this rudderless administration? It is not difficult to explain why Nigeria’s economy has remained in the doldrums and will continue to recede, according to reliable global predictions, if nothing drastic is done to change the direction in which the country is headed. Although a German proverb says that fish starts rotting from the head, every right-thinking Nigerian today knows that our core problem is corrupt leadership. Other vices are secondary. So, the PDP, whose 16-year failure led to the emergence of the current APC administration, has a duty to rescue Nigerians from the pit of poor performance, parochialism and forlornness of the President Muhammadu Buhari regime. Without sentiment, only opportunists and inebriated victims of the high-decibel propaganda are still expecting anything different from the incumbent administration.
Mr. Jamila Abubakar raised a very important question in the Daily Trust of July 27, 2018. He asked: “Already in his 70s, Buhari is pretty much settled in his ways. And these do not include pronounced traits for charting new courses, living outside the past or designing radically new options. If he has another four years, will he run a more effective and inclusive administration?” Perhaps, his interrogation could be answered with the question: Can a leopard change its colour?
In conclusion, the President Nigeria needs in 2019 is a man who reads and enjoys reading in search of knowledge and solutions to economic, cultural and political problems. Way back in 1945, the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, affirmed: “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” A reading President will respect the Rule of Law. He will also detest bloodletting and further impoverishment of Nigerians. Nevertheless, whatever criteria former President Obasanjo specifies count, given his unusual understanding of Nigeria’s ethno-cultural dialectics.