Since we are faced with complex climate crises, regional wars and sovereign existential challenges in many countries around the world, it is only natural to start this conversation with my condolences to the victims of flood, insecurity and other crises in Nigeria and other parts of the world, particularly in Seoul, Ukraine and Somalia. In the entire history of the world, the world has never existed without challenges. At every phase of human history, leadership is required to change the world: authentic, visionary, assertive, creative, transformative, sincere and disruptive leaders are required to fix and forge their societies forward. At the peak of public leadership is presidential leadership, either a prime minister, a president, or a monarch, every nation looks up to the head of state to provide hope, optimism and shared-social possibilities. To lead a country in a time of chaos and complex crisis, the head of a state requires more than just the desire to lead. It requires the trusted ability to simplify complex conversations; take tough decisions; embody firm convictions of patriotism and act decisively in national interest; showcase the wisdom of insights, the audacity of foresights and creative commitment to bold visions.
From 1960, Nigeria has had eleven general elections in search of leaders to lead her out of the crisis of underdevelopment and a chain of bad governance, and is constitutionally expected to hold ten general elections from 2023 to 2060 when Nigeria will be 100 years as a sovereign country. As Nigeria holds her seventh general election in 2023 since the advent of the fourth republic in 1999, the presidential candidates owe themselves a duty to understand that with every stroke of a president’s pen, every word of a president and every action or inaction of a president, a life is at stake, either to be bettered or marred. To perform the premium duties and demands of the presidency, the disciplined leadership of the Commander-in-Chief is required to uphold and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in engendering national security, galvanise our diverse peculiarities for nation-building, build a productive economy and go for a foreign policy that advances our national interest.
With Nigeria’s fiscal crisis, debt profile, high unemployment level, insecurity, climate crisis, among other core challenges, certain questions will resonate at every point of the ongoing presidential campaign in Nigeria but the questioners owe the electorate a duty to firmly question the candidates on how they will diversify Nigeria’s economic and boost revenue earnings, reduce corruption, secure Nigeria, develop critical socio-economic infrastructures, strengthen institutions, build local productivity capacity (including local refinery) and end fuel subsidy and oil theft. To fix Nigeria’s current crisis will not be easy nor will it emanate from the barrel of cheap political proposals that presidential candidates are firing at the moment. Nigeria’s next president must be assertive in the best interest of Nigeria by taking tough decisions and ensure conclusive policy implementation in all sectors of the state.
Nigeria’s next president has the plethora of presidential leadership precedents to follow and there is nothing wrong in borrowing such good case studies of good governance from other political climes in order to advance our systems. To pivot focus in our time of national uncertainty, our next president must mould a mental model for shared state productivity and prosperity, clearly communicate national policy agenda for transformation and situate sustainable systems of good governance for enduring development legacies. At a point in the history of Singapore, it appeared change was impossible until Lee Kwan Yew exercised presidential leadership to do the art of possibilities. He transformed Singapore from one of the poorest countries in the world in the 1960s to a global economic giant. He forged Singapore as a highly effective, anti-graft government and efficient civil service. Like Nigeria, Singapore faced severe unemployment and other socio-economic crises, with the challenge of Bukit Ho Swee fire, when Lee Kwan Yew’s government embarked on a modernisation programme that focused on establishing Singapore as a manufacturing hub, investing in public infrastructures, ensured political stability, transparent public institutions and low level of corruption. Lee Kwan Yew led his country out of compelling and complex sovereign crisis.
Given that countries undergo transformative development either through evolutionary or revolutionary trajectories, transformational presidential leadership is not achieved in a vacuum; it is usually anchored on known presidential leadership practices and realities. All the stages of development of any country: development as interaction, as action and as a process, can only be achieved when a constitutional democracy elects a president who has the mindset to run a development, productive and people-centered state. No president, no matter how cultured can create a functional country without efficient institutions, active citizens and committed civil society sector that play complementary roles in nation-building. Unfortunately, campaign for Nigeria’s 2023 general election is already beclouded with populism, sentiments and misinformation. Should these factors be the deciding factors for influencing the outcome of the 2023 presidential election, the tendencies are high that Nigeria’s developmental and existential crisis will continue unresolved for decades. For development delayed in a generation is development denied of the generation.
Nigeria’s next president must be grounded in the ongoing life of the people, as well as the realities of the society. It is criminally irresponsible for our president to live in the luxury of State House for the pleasure of power and to maintain the interests of vested power brokers at the expenses of the people’s well-being. Nigeria’s next president cannot afford to continue medical tourism and other shameful obsession for foreign luxury. It is time to invest, build and secure Nigeria’s greatness and shared prosperity. The next president of Nigeria must prioritise and focus his or her development agenda on specific sectors – security, power sector, industrialisation and manufacturing, education, health care, anti-corruption and public infrastructure. Such policy and development agenda will be measured on the president’s success in physical infrastructure, social well-being and accountability. More importantly, the next presidency must search for enduring solutions through the provisions of Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution and the proposals of the 2014 National Conference among other different policy documents and Committee Reports. The next president should be optimistic, confident and self-assured that Nigeria is capable of changing and it can change within a given period of time. There is sufficient legal framework that must guide such a revolutionary president, including the PIA, Startup Act, among others, local content development, transparency and productivity laws. A new Nigeria is possible if our next president understands the politics of this possibility.
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