Last week, we metaphorically likened presidential aspirants to masquerades stepping out for the proverbial election dance come 2023. We tried to articulate the qualities and competencies candidates must have to gain the attention and trust of the electorate. We further, argued that this is the best time for us to start examining the candidates and demanding that they inform us about their vision for Nigeria and what they are bringing to the table in terms of skills, experiences, dedication, and knowledge that will benefit Nigeria when they are elected President. Today, we are yielding the column to my erudite friend and bother Dr Gift Worlu to expatiate on some of the issues raised in the last column and pontificate, in his unique, peculiar manner, on the “Moses, that will lead Nigeria out of Egypt“. I profoundly thank Dr Gift Worlu for adding value to this discourse.
2023: Beware ye masquerade watchers
By Gift Worlu PhD.
I am a regular reader of my friend Dr Dakuku Adol Peterside’s weekly column. His interesting offering of January 17, 2022 titled “2023: Where are the masquerades” took me down memory lane to my childhood days when I wore and decorated masquerades in my Choba village as it then was, in the company of now entertainment icon Julius D’Genius Agwu and other young men. Dr Peterside, in straightforward language, discussed the socio-cultural importance of masquerades and shared his general knowledge of ‘masquerades’ as an Opobo-Ijaw man, and likened politicians to ‘masquerades’, vide: “As the drumbeat of the 2023 election dance started, we have seen big “political masquerades “coming out to declare their interest in the struggle for power and relevance. Across party lines, powerful politicians likened to big masquerades, and their cohorts are showcasing introductory and essential aspects of their election dance and using both old and novel gimmicks to make known their interest in the presidency of Nigeria.”
This piece lends a voice to the pungent views of Dr Peterside on the qualities masquerade watchers (voters) should look out for in masquerades (politicians) before giving them gifts (votes) and deciding on the best masquerade (the President). Masquerades are useless without people watching them, and they enjoy their displays, cheer them up and present gifts, and choose the best masquerade for the season. And this is where this whole masquerade analogy makes much sense. As we watch the masquerades display on behalf of themselves and those that decorated them, we must critically assess them, cheer up those with skilled dance steps and then make up our minds on those that will get our votes. What follows are essential qualities that should guide our choice and why.
President Buhari would have led or ruled Nigeria for eight years by next year. Opinion about his stewardship is dichotomously split into binary opposites. Some say he did well, but many, including yours faithfully, believe he failed so disappointingly and woefully. I feel Nigerians are more divided, hungrier, angrier, and hopeless today than in 2015 when he took the reins of power from a “clueless” President Jonathan.
In a recent TV interview, the President admitted that he failed the nation, blaming his age and health. There is no doubt that the suffering of Nigerians worsened and continues under Buhari’s watch. Thus, Nigerians do not want excuses or blame games ever again. All they want is a good and trustworthy leader who, like Moses, will lead the children of Israel out of Egypt into the promised land of peace, justice, unity, and prosperity. They want to eat the fruit of the labour of their hero’s past – a land that is bound in freedom, peace, and harmony. The Nigeria of our dreams is possible if only we understand that “the fault is not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings-”
2022 is the best time for candidates to begin indicating their interest in running for the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and convincing the people of their capacity to deliver if given the job. Besides, it provides Nigerians ample time to ask questions and examine the candidates, dig deep into their personality traits, leadership experience, track records of achievement, and an unflinching desire to serve Nigerians for the good of all.
I share the views of Dr Peterside that to lead Nigeria today, you must be a visionary who can guide Nigerians to articulate a national vision. Vision is everything, and it gives direction and ignites thinking about reaching the desired destination. With a vision, you can see the end from the beginning and everything in-between. The issue is, where do we want Nigeria to be in, say, the next 5, 10, 50 years, and how do we intend to get there? What challenges and opportunities lie ahead, and what decisions/actions must we take to get there? What will happen should we fail to redirect our path away from the dangerous road we have been traveling since independence?
We urgently need a strong enough vision to permanently scare away men and women of little learning and questionable characters that ubiquitously dominate Nigeria’s political firmament. I mean men and women that know nothing but how to use the money to get power and then use power to get more money. Take or loathe it, the violence and indiscipline we see in Nigeria today is a direct consequence of the violence, indiscipline and all the shenanigans that successive governments reward, wittingly or unwittingly .
Character, capacity, and competence are other qualities we require from the candidates. Nigeria is richly blessed with good people. Unfortunately, very few are in our dirty and deadly politics. Whereas politics is a fine art and democracy is one of humanity’s greatest inventions, Nigerian politicians have failed to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people. To lead complex Nigeria, we need a leader who can generate higher internal complexity to take advantage of the opportunities in an ever dynamic and uncertain world. Ross Ashby’s law of requisite variety states that as variety proliferates, “only variety can absorb variety.” “Eneke the bird, according to Chinua Achebe, says, since men have learnt to shoot without missing, it has learnt to fly without perching.”
Nigeria faces many problems that pose an existential threat to our corporate unity and progress. So we need a leader who has the requisite tools, knowledge and skills. This period is no time for trial and error, as 2023 is a make-or-mar for Nigeria. We need a leader with the capacity to change the cultural landscape. Before we talk about infrastructure, economy, and insecurity, we need to address the issue of our culture and values. Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike see and describe the country with such derogatory words as a shithole, zoo, poverty capital, irredeemable, hopeless, useless, unhappiness capital, jungle, failed, ghetto, rogue state.
Many Nigerians do not trust their leaders. This mental programming must change before anything else. Nigeria needs a Cultural Revolution- akin to what Chairman Mao Zedong did in China from 1949 when he became President of the People’s Republic. The leader must also love Nigeria, be mentally strong and emotionally stable, be ready to deny self and die for Nigeria.
Nigeria’s next President needs courage and empathy for the people. These are unique qualities that only very few persons
have. Principalities and powers in high and low places have long existed in Nigeria. We hear of cabals, cartels and untouchables that appear more powerful than government at all levels – not to mention drug barons, human traffickers, oil bunkers, kidnappers, armed and pen robbers, “yahoo yahoo”, separatists, economic saboteurs, militants, “agberos”, and bandits. They are in and outside government and literarily hold government and official’s hostage. President Jonathan said after leaving office that he was “caged.” Segun Adeniyi and Reuben Abati wrote about “spirits” in Aso Villa that turn “good men” into bad. Nigeria needs a courageous and audaciously bold leader to step on toes (big and small) and be able to rescue Nigeria from these principalities and powers. The president must connect with the people and empathise with their feeling and conditions in the country.
It is time Nigeria elected a president with the requisite experience and education. Anyone who aspires to lead Nigeria needs real experience and proper education, up to at least first degree or its equivalent. I state this opinion without prejudicing the Not-too-young-to-run Act 2018 (that allows anyone that has reached 35 years of age to vie for the office of President and governor in Nigeria). And Chapter VI, Part I, Section 131 of the constitution (which states that a person may be qualified for election into the office of the President if educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent).
Education at the School Certificate level cannot give the knowledge and skills needed to function effectively in the most critical office in the country today. Experience also matters. By experience, I mean performance in, not tenure of office. In Nigerian politics, we reward bad performance with higher office.
To make the much-needed progress in Nigerian politics, we must kill the excessive ego, greed, insensitivity, deceit, and ignorance that afflict leaders and the led’s ignorance, indifference, helplessness, and gullibility. Leadership is central to the success or failure of Nigeria. Leaders provide direction, make, and execute decisions, and inspire the people to reach their full potential. They do so through their thoughts, words, and actions. Leaders think about the past but worry more about the present and future. According to management guru Peter Drucker, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Put differently, “you may not be able to predict the future, but you can create it.” We cannot do anything about our past, but we can create the future we want with determination and faith in ourselves.
I have two major worries about 2023 and Nigeria. First, Nigeria is a multi-party democracy, and one must belong to a political party to aspire for political leadership. Sadly, our parties are not wired to field people because they have the vision and capacity to solve problems but because they can win an election. I pray that our two major political parties do not leave us with the devil’s alternative – where neither candidate has leadership qualities, but we must choose a lesser devil because our choices are limited. Second, our electoral processes are still susceptible to manipulations and money’s influence. That assumes that the people will not vote based on primordial sentiments like ethnicity, religion, sex, and age.
We must not change failed leaders without changing the conditions that made them fail. Replacing one incompetent person with another equals what the late Afrobeat maestro Fela Kuti calls “perambulation”- moving but remaining in the same place. The good news is, the Nigeria of our dreams is possible. It only calls for Nigerians, especially the youth, to stop complaining and start acting right- join political parties and cause changes in their modus operandi by insisting on internal democracy and issue-based politics—enough of empty political rhetoric and demagoguery. We have the power in our PVCs, and let’s use it wisely.
Dr Gift Worlu teaches at the University of Port Harcourt .