Sunday 23rd July, 2017
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The 21st century leader Nigeria needs

The 21st century leader Nigeria needs

Nigeria has had a turbu­lent history and con­tinuing crisis. Marked by upheavals, ethno-religious riots, pogroms, a civil war or ethnic war as many more apt­ly prefer to call it and terror­ism—all of which has left the nation dripping in blood. Some have suggested Nige­ria’s green white green flag should be replaced with red in recognition of the blood that has and continues to be shed on account of her existence. More blood still is spilled on a daily basis on account of dec­ades of bad governance, mis­rule, human rights violations and looting which has result­ed in accidents and all forms of carnages on our roads owing to bad roads, avoidable deaths from treatable and or manage­able diseases owing to dysfunc­tional hospitals, extra judicial executions by the army/police and poverty owing to the ab­sence of social security.

Many more die through per­ilous trips; dangerous sea and desert crossings in their bid to escape the anarchy at home and seek greener pastures abroad where those who are barely able to survive the haz­ardous trip in one piece are sometimes trapped in very difficult situations in hos­tile lands, more often end­ing up in prison or dying un­timely deaths. Nigeria is thus for a great majority of its sup­posed citizens a land of injus­tice and death whose very ex­istence has been a nightmare. A nation state is supposed at the very minimum to provide for the security and welfare of its citizenry; that is after all the fundamental basis for which a state exists. But Nigeria has since independence failed in fulfilling the basic responsi­bilities of a state vis-à-vis the citizenry. It is no surprise then that many voices increasing­ly loud and radical are asking if Nigeria is worth the blood­shed that has kept it afloat at the expense of the supposed citizenry.

But as I had previously stat­ed in another piece, no na­tion fails by accident, just as no nation succeeds by acci­dent. The success or failure of a nation is driven by the choices its leaders make and to a lesser extent the inherent values within the society. Ni­geria has thus not failed by ac­cident but because successive leaders chose to make Nigeria fail by the choices they made. These choices have bordered on the five cantankerous vices of tribalism, corruption, reli­gious fundamentalism, human rights violations and misrule/bad leadership that has incre­mentally ruined the nation. From the earliest leadership in the first republic Nigeria had predominantly divisive leaders that thrived in exploiting and furthering ethnic divisions rather than investing in nation building. These leaders mani­fested and emphasised ethnic hatreds/divisions which over­time afflicted the larger society.

Corruption also crept up quite early in the nation’s his­tory as the leaders proved to be willing to engage in electoral fraud, census fraud, 10 percent kickbacks and all forms of at­tendant corruption. Ethnic ri­ots and later day religious fun­damentalism and terrorism particularly in the North was likewise tolerated and in most cases sponsored by the lead­ers themselves. Successive Ni­gerian leaders have continued on the same train of tribalism, corruption and religious fun­damentalism leading to the ethnic jungle, monumental­ly corrupt, dysfunctional and terrorised nation Nigeria has progressively become. With the 2015 elections, persecu­tion and marginalisation or the 97percent versus 5per­cent demarcation on account of which regions voted for the president and which did not has become a new, disabling, undemocratic and unconstitu­tional vice that has joined the long list of existing vices that has all but arrested the nation’s development.

As the 21st century pro­gresses, Nigerians must opt for a leader who understand the modern nuances of democra­cy and governance. A leader who understands that democ­racy fundamentally vests citi­zens with the right and choice to freely vote for whom they choose without fear of retri­bution. An unshackled and detribalised leader who will assume citizenship of all sec­tions of the country and run the most inclusive, nation building administration in the nation’s history. A leader who will depart from the decadent tribalism of the past and for the first time make nation building the most fundamental element of government policy in his or her administration, in recogni­tion of the fact that the nation simply cannot prosper except there is harmony, peace and collective action.

A leader who respects the fundamental rights of all and promotes unity by consent on the basis of justice and equal­ity rather than unity by force premised on injustice, mar­ginalization and hate. A de­velopmental leader who un­derstands the urgent necessity of creating a progressive de­velopmental state that mirrors the trajectory of others such as China, South Korea, Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia and other 21st century success stories. A leader who is resolute in his ab­horrence of corruption. An ar­dent reformer who will under­take critical structural reforms and return the nation to pro­gressive federalism. A leader who finally harnesses the la­tent potentials of the nation, and places her on a deserved pedestal amongst the comity of nations. This is the 21st centu­ry leader Nigeria needs.

It’s an indictment of the pre­sent generation; I included that of over a 150 million people, we have not yet succeeded in producing a leader who meets these ideals. More often than not, we have remained stuck with the older generation and those that played the ignoble roles that led to the tribalism, bloodshed, corruption and human rights violations that truncated the nation’s noble aspirations. Those that thrived on and made a career out of the nation’s divisions. Those that supported Sharia in violation of the nation’s secular consti­tution even as thousands were being slaughtered in Sharia ri­ots. Those that supported and politicised Boko Haram as thousands of Nigerians were being slaughtered by the nihil­istic terrorist group. Those that promoted sectionalism, hate, exclusion and disregarded the nation’s diversity. Our genera­tion has missed the plot by not being able to produce a lead­er untainted by the evils of the past that can offer a new path to a rejuvenated nation.

Yet the future is always more promising than the past. Frantz Fanon once declared that “each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it in relative opacity.” Our gener­ation therefore stands at the crossroads of history; between a decadent past and a glorious future. Between a leader that represents the dark ills of the past and a 21st century leader that meets the challenges and responsibilities of our time. And as Fanon submitted, it’s a mission that must either be be­trayed or fulfilled.