Nigeria Needs Leaders, Not Politicians

By Jude Chukwuemeka

Democracy is in trouble in Nigeria. If you do not agree, take another look at what is happening in the country. Nigerians have clamoured for a democratic president for years before their wish was granted in 1999. However, today, some dissident group or groups up north are trying hard to destroy the good that democracy can do for Nigerians. Apart from the north, business entities, policy makers, commentators and others are constantly warning the public that the present administration has fallen short of its promises.

Perhaps, the trouble is not about the subjects but the so-called leaders. Do election campaigns choose leaders? No. Election campaigns are processes whereby the masses demonstrate their reliance on an individual to take up the mantle of leadership. Even under the garment of constitutionality and rule of law, many nefarious activities penetrate the heart of political elections in Nigeria.

Arguably, there is something wrong with the process of electing leaders in this country. When a president mounts the cabinet, does it mean that the masses made the wisest decision in electing him? Does it mean he is the most capable brain to do the job? Who elected him, and how qualified is the electorate to pick a certain individual as their leader?
If we ponder over what has been happening in Nigeria since 1960, most of us will agree that there must be a better way in which Nigerians can choose leaders. Why does the country continue under-performing socially and economically? There has never been a time when Nigerians do not complain about their choice of leaders. Some were of the opinion that corruption denies the right candidate from taking up the presidency of a nation.

What should Nigerians say about the case of President Goodluck Jonathan? There was much fanfare when he was elected and there was a unanimous clarification that he was rightfully elected –the people’s choice—yet, the hope of the masses was dashed as Boko Haram perpetrated terrorist attacks in various parts of the north and socio-economic progress crippled. In this vein, it appears that Nigerians have lost confidence in their own choice. What a sad occurrence!

The Leader that Nigeria Needs
Do good leaders really exist in Nigeria? The answer is yes. William L. Anderson, an American commentator stated that “We recognize good leaders because of characteristics that they own which draw others to them and cause them to be influential in encouraging others to do certain things.” But how can we tell that a certain leader will always encourage his followers to do positive things? Have we not heard about university professors and tutors who either covertly or overtly encourage students to participate in violence or other disturbing social activities?

In the context of Anderson’s words, good leaders are expected to do positive things at all times and to be exemplary to their subjects. It is not hard to tell whether a good leader would harvest a crop of enemies during his time in political office. There will always be the opposing parties, different interests, issues which make up the fabric of modern civilization. A good leader will earn both the respect and admiration of his subjects. They may not always be elected as presidents or governors. However, they do exist in our society.

Furthermore, it is equally disturbing when a president commits an impeachable crime and is still allowed to run his full term in office. It only shows that good leadership qualities may be absent in the chain of command of that political dispensation. There is a big challenge when the electoral system fails to elect people who are truly knowledgeable about issues of concern; people who are unable to bring about the needed change the country deserves.

For the Nigerian politician, there are so many pressures to perform these days. The pressure to perform optimally shoots to the rooftops. The Nigerian politician traverses highly challenging issues during these polarizing and partisan times. A good leader will not become discouraged and lose sight of the reasons he ran for office when in constant pressure from a wide variety of interests. He should be focused mainly on one thing: to achieve his short term and long term goals during his stay in office.

Nigerians are tired of electing empty suits into office. Nigerians are tired of corrupt leaders who portray themselves as messiahs, yet fall short of glory in a land desperately in need of insightful leaders. Most of these leaders would have had more successful private lives, supposed they were denied the ticket into the political arena. Yet, it has been observed that most individuals in the political echelon of which Nigeria suffers are simply opportunists.

Every country in this world has one or more problems to deal with when it comes to leadership. There have only been few individuals who truly reach the level of true leadership. They were not just present where the opportunity presented itself. They worked very hard to earn the affection of the masses. They did not have control on a mechanism that enabled them to gain coercive power over others while proclaiming themselves as messiahs.

It appears that Nigeria has run out on decent candidates from the ruling class and the opposition parties. Beyond any political party, Nigeria needs a leader. Nigeria needs another Obafemi Awolowo, Nigeria needs a Fidel Castro, a Jerry Rawlings; leaders who showed themselves capable of making long term positive decisions on their country.

A Turnaround
In some parts of the world, there is a serious consideration for setting up special centres for training politicians. Both local leaders in Japan and even political parties scramble to open schools meant for grooming new political leaders. They hope this may help bring about the leaders that the country needs; leaders who are capable of bringing positive change, leaders who shares the concerns of the electorate and want to alleviate their suffering.

In Japan, prospective political candidates attend lectures given by experts on politics and economics. Some of the ropes they learn include how to build constituencies, make heart-stirring speeches, raise funds and solve other political challenges. Yet, some say that the setting up of political training centres would not work, for one reason, it ignores the need for students to become policymakers.

In Nigeria, things may improve if voters put aside the resentment they often sustain for other parties. What wonderful thing it will be if voters look beyond party interests or affiliation and choose candidates based on the platform the candidates are and their achievement. This is well balanced and could be the best thing that ever happened in the world of politics where narrow interests and supercilious affiliations often result in strife between political parties.

If voters refrain from using physical features such as strength, social rank, or financial status but look at the former performance ratings for a political candidate, things could look better. To conclude, Nigerians must be on the lookout for fresh perspectives when it comes to electing leaders into political offices across the nation.