By Ken Ugbechie
Before you make your choice of president in the February 2019 presidential election, there are critical factors you must consider. Nigeria has been managed by tough men, real toughies like Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari both at separate and disparate dispensations. On both occasions, the country failed to gain the expected traction both socially and economically. It has also been managed by persons adjudged to be gentle, even weak. Goodluck Jonathan, Abdulsalami Abubakar come to mind. Then came the liberalist, Ibrahim Babangida. His liberal economic policy of privatization was good but he and his team lacked the discipline to effectively implement the nuggets of his deregulation policy. Don’t forget that it was Babangida that liberalized telecom, broadcasting, aviation, among others. Give this man some credit.
But none of these men came close to setting the nation on the path of real development. It simply means that Nigeria does not need strong men or liberalists to make her well again. With an economy in stasis, a polity atrophied by division and unrestrained wave of social discontent, Nigeria no longer needs any of these qualities for her leaders. Nigeria requires managers, pragmatic entrepreneurs to unbundle her enormous talents.
Liberalism is good in a democracy but it must have a tinge of shrewdness and discipline on the part of the leadership. Lee Kuan Yew is a reminder here. In re-inventing Singapore from the ruins of war, he first purged himself of wholesale liberalism. He inclined himself on the plane of self-discipline. In his own account, he saw Singapore as an enterprise that needed a turnaround.
Every modern day leader of a nation must see that nation as an enterprise. Leading a nation out of the woods, especially a nation with so great potential, requires a bent of entrepreneurial acumen from the leader. It is beyond hosting delegations and visitors in state houses; it is far beyond mouthing policies that the leader barely understands.
At this time, Nigeria needs a manager-leader; not a pretentious moral purist. The Nigerian Presidency is not a church, a mosque or a shrine. It is a place for a truly secular-minded person. It is not a house of prayer where the leader appeals to the moral suasion of the followers. No. It is a place to take tough, critical decisions.
The nation’s economy is tottering to the precipice of yet another collapse. The minders are busy minding politics. The watchers are consumed in partisanship. The opposition who should provide alternative compass out of the bind are too busy fighting for their own survival than for the survival of the economy itself.
If in doubt, take a look at the latest Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG). It ranked African nations in the order of their ability to provide sustainable economic opportunity for their citizens. Sustainable economic opportunity is said to happen when a nation pursues economic development that births pleasure and happiness for its citizens balancing it with reserving its natural resources for future generations. A development that keeps its eyes on now and the future. It does look simple but Nigeria floundered; not because she does not have the requisite quantum of natural resources or the men endowed with cognitive capacity to manage these resources but because the nation lacked leaders that are truly prepared and ready to lead.
The study covered 2007 to 2018 and within this period, the nation’s economic fortune continued inexorably on the downward slide. It was the era of the late Umaru Yar’adua, Goodluck Jonathan and the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari. Rewind a little bit to 1999 when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was president. The situation under Obasanjo was fairer. The economy grew, external debt shrank (at least the nation got debt reprieve). External reserve grew, prices of goods and services remained stable. A very critical sector of the economy was kindled. Information communication technology (ICT), the chief enabler of any economy, grew rapidly. The deregulation of the telecom sector started by Babangida found fruition under Obasanjo. With the telecom revolution came a bouquet of economies of scale. The e-thing sprouted in unlikely places. E-learning, e-agriculture, e-banking, e-commerce and others. In the main, only the Obasanjo government, in spite of the man himself, understood what leadership and governance is. But he merely scratched at the surface.
Back to the IIAG report. Nigeria ranked a shameful 29th position on the continent, squatting at the lower half of the log which has smaller and less endowed nations like Cape Verde and Seychelles ahead of the giant of Africa. Further breakdown of the report shows that whereas Nigeria with GDP of $375.7 billion achieved a growth of 0.82 percent in 2017, Seychelles with GDP of $1.48 billion recorded a growth rate of 4.2 percent. It doesn’t get any worse for a country whose human capital are all over the world achieving feats in all aspects of human endeavour.
The reason Nigeria drags is down to leadership. The incompetence of previous governments has been accentuated by the grand incompetence of the Buhari government. It is made worse by the high-level subterfuge of the Buhari regime where every actor takes no responsibility but blames all their failures on past regimes. Leadership fails when the leader takes no responsibility. Buhari and his actors are adept at this.
This is at the core of the choice Nigerians would be making in 2019. They must wean themselves of emotion and medieval sentiments of religion and ethnicity. They must choose between ability and lack of capacity, between readiness and unpreparedness. Nigeria, like any other nation in the 21st century is an enterprise and must be so run for profitability and sustainability. Any person who has never managed a business or enterprise successfully should not be allowed to take up tenancy in Aso Rock.
The nation is at a tipping point. The restiveness of the youths and the prevailing social discontent ought to jar the people from their self-inflicted slump to stupor. When a people debate a minimum wage of N30,000 ($83) per month in a country that has men and women endowed with super brains amid a minefield of natural resources, there is truly a problem.
Next year, Nigerians must deliberately transcend the frontiers of banal considerations to elect a leader that can at least interpret the nation’s balance sheet or one that has the cognitive capacity to understand it when his lieutenants explain it to him. They must elect a leader who is both physically and mentally fit to take charge and take responsibility for his actions and inactions. Trotting out fight against corruption by any candidate in the next election is in itself a fraudulent act. Not even the Buhari government can claim any badge of honour in the fight against corruption. The cash-and-carry congresses of the ruling APC, the primitive looting in the states and the sweet dalliance of Presidency staff and appointees of the President with corruption renders the Buhari anti-corruption claim a nullity, at the very least. In 2019, Nigerians should elect a President not a priest or Imam. Enough said for these moral pretenders.
By Ken Ugbechie