The 21st Century Leader Nigeria Needs – By Lawrence Nwobu



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.

Lawrence Nwobu




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