“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet”- Theodore M. Hesburgh  
“The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership,"-Prof Chinua Achebe
Nigerians and all friends of Nigeria across the world are eagerly and anxiously waiting to see if Nigeria will get it right in the 2011 general elections- get a fairly credible electoral processes leading to the election of credible and knowledgeable personnel at all levels of governance and particularly a president that Nigeria and Nigerians deserve in this 21st century.
Nigeria has suffered terribly since independence almost 50 years ago because of bad governance caused by incompetent, inept and very corrupt Executive leaders. Like a cursed country every succeeding government performs worst than the preceding one, even when the prior ones were abysmal in performance. I believe the key to getting competent leaders in our country- the only thing lacking in the mix for transforming a potentially great country in all aspects- is credible elections where every one’s- man and woman of voting age- vote will count in determining who gets the job!

Although my call relates to every aspect and all levels of political leadership, particularly the Executive and Legislative arms of government, I shall be writing on the qualities required of the next president of the federal republic of Nigeria.  What qualities and attributes do we want from a candidate before we give him the job of chief executive of Nigeria Plc?

So much is required of a candidate who will competently manage a huge population spread across a vast geographical space with various ethno-religious interests. But the qualities required for sake of convenience of this analysis into two, namely INTEGRITY and ABILITY:
   
•    INTEGRITY:
Although ability, bold ideas and knowledge of contemporary world affairs- good education, Economics, political, legal and management or organisational skills are invaluable to stand a chance of competently managing a complex country such as Nigeria in today’s world, what is more important for me is the integrity of the person. Now more than ever before is when we need a leader who will call a “spade, by no other names, but a spade.” We must look to select someone whose antecedents have no blemish in character and in deeds! We can check their past and present records and be able to make deductions as to their moral standing and ability to deal decisively with the cancer which has eaten Nigeria to its dry bones- CORRUPTION!

The next president must be someone who understands the damage corruption has done to cripple Nigeria, stunted its growth, caused misery to 90% of its population and caused the country to be ridiculed across the world. Such man or woman should not play lip service to fighting corruption like Yar’Adua who tells you he has “zero tolerance for corruption,” but wines and dines with the Iboris and Igbinedions and hires an attorney general like Mike Aondooaka who shield corrupt public officials from the long arm of the law, nor engage in selective, witch hunting prosecution like the balogun of Owu, almighty Obasanjo did using Ribadu in EFCC. The new president must be someone who will be total and complete in hounding all corrupt persons whether or not they are his/her blood relations, tribes person or same religion. He must lead by example and no hypocrisy should be tolerated in this front.

Integrity will ensure that policies and laws of the land are implemented and obeyed to the letter; will mean there will be no sacred cows and that any identified offender sees the walls of a prison somewhere inside Nigeria and gets bitten by mosquitoes and cockroaches like they do to the petty criminals that are abandoned in Nigerian cells as “awaiting prosecution” cases.

The next president must be someone who understands the enormity of the problems facing Nigeria and must have compassion for the weakest, most vulnerable persons in Nigeria, that they do need attention as are the multi-billionaires who hang around the president and governors in power. This person cannot be selected on the basis of “rotational presidency” or some form of convoluted quota system of merry-go round “chop-I-chop” presidency!
   
•    ABILITY AND KNOWLEDGE:
The president Nigeria deserves in 2011 must be one with sound knowledge and ideas of what it takes to galvanise Nigeria into a modern prosperous state in all ramifications, instead of the current near-failed state that successive bad leadership has condemned it to. The candidate must:
    •    Have plenty of energy and vigour matched with good health and a bit of youthfulness required to transverse the nook and cranies of this vast country, not some distant president holed in Aso rock 24/7 waiting for the world to come to him with the “begging bowl,” like is currently the case. It is unlikely that anyone above 60 years of age will be able to have this energy level;

    •    have some knowledge of economics particularly macro-economics: how interest rates works rates and the link to inflation and fighting another cancer plaguing Nigerian economy- unemployment. Someone who understands that the huge salary bill and allowances of political office holders are unsustainable especially in the light of the fact that 75% of the recurrent budget is spent on paying public officials wages; and more importantly that the economy needed to be diversified away from sole dependence on volatile oil revenue and that Agriculture, where Nigeria has a comparative advantage in the comity of nations, needed to be developed both for job creation and food security;

    •    Understand the danger of unemployment and have a strategy to get back to work the 45million Nigerian youths, many with graduate degrees and more, but very idle and wasting away their prime. There are many Nigerian graduates who have been on the unemployment queue for up to 5 years, some more. The president we want must show compassion and understands the socio-economic effect of allowing this unacceptable huge levels of youth unemployment and get to work immediately to reduce this horrible statistics killing the individuals and the Nigerian economy which should have reaped massive benefits from the employment of these youths by way of increased productivity and GDP growth and a huge untapped market because of lack of income for demand of goods and services;

    •    Have some good knowledge of Information and communication Technology (ICT) particularly Internet and modern Telephone technology and other powerful tools of modern communication and information gathering. A man or woman who understands the importance of getting any information 24/7 on the move and ready to work hard to ensure that every remote part of Nigeria gets internet connectivity within one year of getting to power! Nigeria has more than enough resources to accomplish this and the immediate and future benefits far outweigh the costs;

    •    Be knowledgeable in the art and science of management and organisation of resources- materials and men, particularly the challenges of managing a huge and complex population with diverse religious and ethnic interest, orientation and culture scattered across a wide geographical space, managing all the conflicts to avoid crisis and tensions. And this is where transparency and integrity comes in to avoid suspicion by groups not currently at the seat of power;

    •    Have some knowledge of legal framework and the willingness and commitment to ensuring that all laws of the land are implemented to the letter and that the “rule of law” reigns supreme no matter whose ox is gored! Again accountability and integrity is paramount in maintaining law and order.

To be able to get this type of leadership, the current type of “carry-go” politics will need to be cleaned-up substantially. Thankfully the acting president, Goodluck Jonathan appears to be striking the right chord with the sacking of the infamous Prof Maurice Iwu as chairman of INEC. Let’s hope he continues on that track by recruiting a credible person who Nigerians can trust as the INEC chairman to supervise the 2011 elections.

Finally Nigerians must insist on one-person-one-vote; make sure that their votes count in choosing their leaders and that they choose competent, knowledgeable and high-integrity candidates to lead them in all executive and legislative positions in 2011.

Tony Ishiekwene
[email protected]

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