Nigeria is not in short supply of true leaders. The country’s diversity and generous human resources offer a limitless pool of talents, skills, abilities and character. Nigeria is blessed with all that a nation needs to be a lodestar in the galaxy of nations. But why do misfits end up in the cockpit here? The recruitment process has a bias for ethnic and religious emotionalism. The enlistment process is the snag — fundamentally.
The political recruitment process at the party level is fatally flawed. Candidates for election are selected not on the content of their character, antecedents, abilities, and verifiable records but on the basis of where they represent, where they worship and how much they have to bribe party officials and delegates – in the case of indirect selection.
Our recruitment process at the party level rarely throws up people with discipline and competence for election. In fact, people with some semblance of capacity are rather planted as running mates of very defective standard bearers. Our politics de-emphasises ability, competence, qualifications, integrity, expansiveness, temperance and compassion as primary values for leadership – but accents the geography and religious identity of power instead.
We have to make a bold departure from this path. Nigeria needs healing. 2023 should be for national healing; closing the chasm and forging new bonds. As I said in ‘Nigeria needs a Nigerian president in 2023 – not Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba’, the country needs a doctor to heal the country in 2023, and it needs a carpenter. It also needs a builder and an architect to build the country back better. It needs an all-in-one president. Yes, Nigeria needs healing from six years of hate-slinging, recriminations and animosity.
We have to get it right in 2023, lest we embark on another tortuous journey through the capricious wilderness.
So, I have made my own list of five Nigerians I think can steer Nigeria away from the tempest. These individuals are notable for their integrity, leadership excellence and brilliance. This list is by no means definitive, but it throws up possibilities of what could be and should be if we must make it out of the doldrums. Enough of the predatory politics and recycling of the same political class.
Adesina is the president of the African Development of Bank (AfDB). He was first elected as the Bank’s president in 2015 and re-elected in 2020. He is an astounding economist. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree (first class) in agricultural economics from the University of Ife in 1981. He went on to earn a PhD in agricultural economics from Purdue University in the US. He has won many awards, and received global recognition and appointments. He also has sterling records on integrity and leadership. He came into the reckoning of most Nigerians when he was appointed as the minister of agriculture in 2011 by former President Goodluck Jonathan. He was named Forbes ‘African Man of the Year’ for his reforms in the agricultural sector. He is widely regarded as one of the best agriculture ministers Nigeria has ever had. No other agriculture minister after him comes close on the performance-meter. I have checked frantically for any dirt on Adesina, but found none. He has no corruption case in Nigeria or anywhere.
Adesina is not a politician. The odds may be against him because he is not in the mould of the wheeler-dealer politician. But it is comforting that his excellence has not gone unnoticed. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is reported to be ‘’drumming support’’ for Adesina to enter the 2023 presidential race. Adesina is 61 years old, and by 2023 he will be 63 — still within a good age bracket.
Mohammed is the deputy secretary-general of the United Nations. She was appointed minister of environment by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 – but she left the position to take up the UN job. Mohammed is one of Nigeria’s lodestars. If Nigerians are desirous of a break from the quotidian, then Mohammed will be that elixir that will spring life into the nation. She’s notable in international circles and has received global acclaim for her work on the environment, education, gender inclusion and the SDGs. She has no corruption case and her leadership style is said to be 21st century compliant. She is 60 years old and will be 62 in 2023. Although coming from a conservative and patriarchal society, the odds are stacked against her; she has the refinement and character to lead Nigeria in this age. Can we give women a chance in 2023?
Okonjo-Iweala is perhaps the most decorated economist out of Nigeria. Her accomplishments are unmatched by any Nigerian finance minister before and after her. She is the first woman and first African to lead the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as director-general. She became the DG of the WTO after a very competitive process. Leadership at the global level is chaotic with a barrage of interests at war. I believe Okonjo-Iweala can manage Nigeria with all its complexities going by her antecedents. She was once the coordinating minister of the economy, and it is obvious with the current parlous state of the economy her time was a golden era. Nigeria needs a good manager of the economy. Okonjo-Iweala is 67 years old and will be 69 in 2023. Although in Nigeria’s very murky politics, the likes of Okonjo-Iweala do not thrive, we can always chart a different path. After all is 2023 not about breaking the cycle and breaking away from the old order?
MOHAMMED BUBA MARWA
Buba Marwa, chairman of the NDLEA and retired army general, is an accomplished administrator. He has a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard. As governor of old Borno state, he introduced the first joint-military patrol in the country, codenamed ‘Operation Zaki’ to tackle banditry and other forms of criminality in the north. Other states soon followed his novel example. As governor of Lagos, he tackled insecurity with ‘Operation Sweep’, set up a bitumen factory in the state; rehabilitated area boys by setting up skill centres and giving them grants to start bakeries, furniture work, tailoring and other businesses. He was also able to manage the ethnic divergences in Lagos very well. His stewardship in Lagos remains stuff of legends and tales pass down from generation to generation. Marwa is a politician and member of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Even though from the north, I believe Marwa can manage Nigeria’s diversity and effectively tackle insecurity.
Osinbajo is a fine gentlemen; a refined politician. He is cerebral, competent, temperate, and disciplined. He is an example of what the avant-garde Nigerian politician should be. But an albatross hangs on Osinbajo’s neck. He shares in the failures of the current administration and has taken a good lashing in the public for them. He is named in areas where the administration is faltering, but not where it is succeeding. Being the brains at the presidency, Nigerians expected much of him. Osinbajo will have to work at dismantling the web around his persona. But I believe he will be a president, with gravitas and character, for Nigeria.
By Fredrick Nwabufo; Nwabufo is a journalist and writer