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Nigeria at 62 plus: A new generation of leaders needed, By Isaac N. Obasi

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The outcome of one reflection that emerged during the celebration of Nigeria at 62 on October 1, 2022, was the issue of every administration claiming with confidence that it has succeeded in laying a solid foundation for Nigeria’s future development. This habit of mind for all administrations raises the question of when will the foundation laying of building of Nigeria (for example into a united, peaceful and prosperous nation) end or be completed, so that the real commencement of building the Nigerian project will start with all seriousness? This claim of laying solid foundation for Nigeria’s future development simply shows the level to which our successive governments have failed us. 

In the last paragraph (No.47) of President Mohammadu Buhari’s speech delivered on the occasion of Nigeria’s 62nd independence anniversary celebration on Saturday 1st October, 2022, the president said I was called to serve, along with my team, I saw an opportunity to create a better Nigeria which we have done with the support of Nigerians. Almighty God and the good people of Nigeria supported us in laying a solid foundation for the Nigeria of our dreams (Emphasis added). 

As a keen reader of presidential speeches since the Babangida military regime, the idea of laying solid foundation for Nigeria’s development, has been a recurring one. It appears presidential speech writers regardless of successive administrations are addicted to this phrase of “laying a solid foundation for Nigeria’s development.” Although, this expression has been coming in various forms, but essentially it has retained its meaning. 

One may ask, does it mean that all that the successive governments have achieved was just laying the foundation for a future development of Nigeria? This can also be interpreted to mean that by their own admission, these successive governments have not been able to go beyond the foundation level of building this Nigerian project. This is equally an admission of failure on their part. 

What is baffling is that presidential speech writers across different administrations have not been able dictate the meaninglessness and counter-productiveness of this phrase. How come that no one of the regimes was able to go beyond the foundation laying stage in the building of this country over many decades ago? 

Just this week, one of the presidential candidates said that if elected, his administration would build on the foundation already laid by the current administration. The question which agitates the minds of many Nigerians, is which foundation is he going to build on if he gets elected? Is it a foundation of a more divided and disunited Nigeria? Or is it a foundation of elevation of provincialism as a directive principle of state policy in areas of appointments of heads of parastatals and agencies which are glaring for all to see? This raises another question as to whether these old generation of leaders will ever go beyond the foundation stage of building the Nigerian project. Their presence in governance has kept Nigeria’s problems in a recurring manner at the foundation level of the governance project.

This piece argues that the time has come for Nigerians to vote transformational leaders into office rather than following these old generation politicians who have been taking us for a ride. But it appears that awareness of this fact has already been created by some political parties notably by the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi. It also appears that some politicians who do not understand what this new direction means and entails, are jumping into it because they could not find accommodation in the two major political parties whose leaders have kept Nigeria and Nigerians down for over two decades of this democratic dispensation. An attempt to vote such people into office because they are in Labour Party will dilute its purity thereby ending up having “old wine in new wineskins.” What should therefore be the principles that should guide the voting of people into office with a transformational leadership in mind?

First, the presidential candidate with a vision of transformational leadership is very key for achieving a new direction with beneficial outcomes for Nigerians. That leadership cannot do it alone with all the members of his party who are there because some of them are riding on a popularity of the presidential candidate of the party. This means that voters should shine their eyes in their various constituencies by looking for transformational leaders.

The second principle derives from the first and which is, that the voters should vote new and truly transformational leaders into the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly. This means that they should vote out old generation of leaders who see politics as their only occupation for milking Nigeria dry. They make the legislative arm of government their retirement homes. Some of them are already creating dynasties for perpetuation of family dominance and by implication of perpetuation of poverty in Nigeria. Old generation of leaders should be compulsorily retired. Voters should stop encouraging former governors making the Senate their retirement homes. They should be rejected outrightly. 

The third principle logically means that in some areas, voters should vote across party lines where the new men of vision are found. If voters make the mistake of returning the old and corrupt politicians into the National Assembly, they would make it impossible for a transformational president to effect the changes that Nigerians want. For example, these old generation of leaders would resist efforts to curb corruption and drastically reduce the cost of governance in Nigeria.

The fourth principle is that voters should re-elect some (but they few) tested and patriotic serving members of the National Assembly to retain some modicum of experience needed for continuity and change at the same time. Some of these were never former governors who live on pension in their states and still collect huge salaries and allowances in the Senate. How many private jets were used to attend presidential campaign of one presidential candidate in Jos? It was reported that it was over 20 and some reported 30. Their stupendous wealth is our collective poverty. This has to stop.  

Nigeria urgently needs a new generation of leaders to be in charge in Aso Rock. This is urgently needed to be able to provide transformational leadership and new direction for Nigeria. It is in this sense that one can talk of building a new and genuine foundation for an authentic development of Nigeria. If a new government is able to banish institutionalised corruption and drastically reduce the cost of governance – the bane of Nigeria’s development – then a new and genuine solid foundation would have been laid for future development.  

Prof. Isaac N. Obasi can be reached via [email protected].

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