There has never been a time in the history of her fragile burgeoning democracy when Nigeria has needed true leadership more than she does right now. As a potpourri of aspirants vie for the coveted seat, a few factors have become critical in the design of the metrics that determine who will shine through as the new leader.
First of these is age. Age…or more specifically the soundness of mind and body associated with youthfullness, has become a determining factor in measuring the anticipated capacity of a would be President. Nigerians have seen first hand how this has played a significant role in the current administration. The incumbent is believed to have spent an accumulation of 350 days abroad out of the 740 days that have passed since his swearing in, treating one undisclosed ailment or the other, this is an unfortunate precedent that may critically influence the perception of any aspirant in the region of 60 years and above.
A clear understanding of the economic dynamics of Nigeria is second. The days of having leaders seeking aid instead of trade abroad are long gone. The exposure of the choice candidate to global politics will play a major role. Nigeria is in a vulnerable state after years of devastation and out dated policies. She can not afford to be de-marketed again as done in the junketing days of the incumbent and his economic team who have earned the misfortune of being regarded as harbingers of recession.
The people have awakened to a reality in which they want to feel the impact of the chosen leader’s actions as matching the articulation of his (or her!) priorities, plans, programs, policies and promises. Rather than the pontificating of GDP figures, they demand to know how Salaries, Spending and Savings can be improved upon. Nigerians simply want to be put to work for Growth in real terms from the bottom up.
For many Nigerians, it has been a painful experience of 3 years under the ‘Change Regime’ which demonstrated that a clamp down on the free market elicited the removal of money from the economy as a result of panic and a lack of circulation. This in turn led to businesses shutting down, cut off the essence of innovation and venture capitalism and truncated demand. The rich don’t create jobs, consumers do.
Basic health care, housing needs, infrastructure improvement and job creation through the unlocking of potential in soft skills and technological innovation are low hanging fruits that can be an advantage if indeed the huge 80million plus youth hub can be dutifully engaged. These demands however unwritten are evidenced by the demeanor of the populace and their determination to give the election year in 2019 their undivided attention by making revolutionary history.
The incumbent however comfortable in their identity politics of hate (populism), know the existential threat amidst the constellation of aspirants. They know those who their propaganda machinery would bury in a matter of days with a pre-determined agenda and they know the critical bone of contention that will give them a run for all the tricks in their playbook.
So who appear to be the front runners?
The 56 year old Senate President (since 2015) Dr Abubakar Olubukola Saraki, is a formidable politician from Kwara State, and erstwhile Governor of Kwara state (under People’s Democratic Party-PDP) from. 2003 -2011 and was first elected to the senate in April 2011 (Kwara central senatorial district) after which he was re-elected in March 2015 under the All Progressives Congress (APC). His tenure under in the 8th Assembly recorded many historic feats in critical bills and interventions that showcases his leadership prowess and unifying expertise.
An intimidating profile as well as a dogged and focused strategic position place Saraki as a major contender even ahead of his party primaries. He has proven his ability to see beyond his current situation, demonstrably elicit support from unprecedented places… thus making him a potential unifier. He has a highly developed degree of sophistication via diligence and exposure, he is authentic, void of ethnic and religious bigotry and commands a towering significance in the sociopolitical space globally.
This may explain the panicked tantrums in the media space on matters relating to the soaring prominence of the Senate President notably from some quarters of the incumbent administration.
There are many records to set straight with the Saraki chronicles in the media cum the speculation of the public on the outlook of his cabinet when eventually successful as an elect. He is also no doubt a middle-beltan considered tangential to the established logic of the turn by turn politics of ethnic extraction, deemed a sociopolitical norm in the North/South Political ideology of Nigeria.
A deeper look shows that this factor may be his strongest point against the incumbent who most may not be able to beat in the core north (due to his fundamentalism) this necessitating a candidate that can at the least obtain 30% of from the north and the north central where Buhari never won until the 2015 election. Such candidate must also possess an overwhelming appeal in the south West, South East and South South.
There are however others with as much significance notably; the 71 year old former vice president, HE Atiku Abubakar, who is a reoccurring decimal at the presidential race since 1999, through three different political parties one of which found him losing the bid to Buhari in the primaries of the current ruling party APC. Atiku advocates fervently for regional autonomy earning him support in the south, and also the advocate against the system of multiple exchange rates. His voice has also been recorded on increasing spending on education and preparing Nigeria for life. beyond the dependency on oil. He is not however without his obstacles. He is facing resistance within the opposition, with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo who swore never to support his former deputy.
He stands tall in overall assessment based on his formidable political machinery of grassroot support across Nigeria but his age and sworn political enemies cum public perception and reservations stemming from corruption allegations may be limiting factors.
The 49 year old articulate Dr Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed is yet another intriguing prospects, running under the PDP for President, from Kaduna state. The Pro-Chancellor Of Baze University is enigmatic, fearless and blunt on issues of security, education and bad governance. He relates seamlessly with all generations, a typical intermediary cum middle ground between the old and new era. A pride of the new generation with the credentials of two master’s degrees, a PhD, alumnus of London Business School, Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School, in addition to being an honorable representative and a distinguished senator.
He is no doubt different, detribalized and positioned to deliver as a builder and believer in Nigeria. What limits him however across the social political space may be his elitist outlook and dearth of popularity amongst locals across Nigeria who may not have felt his impact or know his name. He is however free of any allegations or charges of corruption and misgovernance having served in various capacities creditably with honor and dignity. Yet one wonders if the political undercurrents within the PDP will choke new entrants with a presidential bid like him, within their murky waters.
The 61 year old Rabiu Kwakwanso was an elected APC senator in 2015 after his stint as a defense minister cum a two term governor of north western Kano state under the PDP. He recently defected from the APC in July 2018 for the PDP. He has built a reputable base for himself with his Kwankawsiyya movement in the populous State of Kano and poses a major threat to Buhari’s political fortune in that region. He may however, be a tough sell in the southern part of the country.
The 70 year Old Former foreign Minister from 1999 to 2003 and former governor of Jigawa State (2007) Alhaji Sule Lamido under the PDP is yet another strong force to reckon with for his staunch fidelity to the party, bravery, and atticism void of ethic and religious bigotry. He is one of the most respected leaders of the PDP and has ran successful campaigns in his political career with equally huge following. The bane of his consideration even as a critical vote splitter in the north will be his position as an easy target for the current regime based on his corruption charges as well as the skewed public perception on other allegations against his person.
The 52 year old former governor of Sokoto in 2015 under the APC, Aminu Tambuwal is another formidable force to reckon with ahead of the PDP primaries. He was the speaker of the House of Representatives from 2011–2015 and one of the three APC governors that defected to the PDP in July. Aminu Tambuwal’s influence In Sokoto which is home to Sultan Abubakar III of Sokoto, the spiritual leader of the country’s Muslims, positions him as a major splitter of votes for the incumbent especially with the continued detention of former national security adviser Sambo Dasuki, a member of the royal family, on corruption allegations in defiance of several court orders to free him on bail. It is known that former military ranking officers are highly suspicious and hardly forgive, thus this might cost the incumbent greatly in the coming election.
A cursory look at the Aspirants in the People’s Democratic Party (major legacy opposition party PDP) shows a majority with apparent better potential than the incumbent already. That being said, the total package of age, messaging, track record, skills, competence and exposure (a strong ideological image that attracts foreign investment to Nigeria thus projecting a renewed image of a new Nigeria under credible leadership) all seem to slant towards Dr Abubakar Olubukola Saraki, a youthful outlier and urbane engager in tune with the vibrations on the streets of Nigeria, as the best choice of the PDP if the primaries indeed allow such transparency and accountability that genuinely gives power to the people to decide.
There is a spectrum of descriptions for the term Leadership, a shade of which is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work. Unfortunately, in our clime, it is a neurotic arrangement where we stampede to power the worst for the job just to preserve our conditioning to failure. In its true form, leadership is progressive and progress entails movement, fruitfulness and manifestation of the citizenry across sectors of our national economy. Suffice to say that we must end measuring our economy by how well those annexed to the power circle are doing but on how equitably prosperous the populace are without prejudice.
Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence. It is never about advancing the self but the advancement of the team towards the achievement of the bigger picture. The point of note here is that the team in reference is not just a constellation of talents and competencies that merely work together but one that trust each other and work harmoniously towards a set common goal.
The decision is however clear in an ideal situation in all ramifications as to who the country needs to heal the land and create an enabling environment for all to thrive equitably before the law, if Nigeria must progress as a republic. I rest my views with the insightful thought of Dwight D. Eisenhower in his speech on March 6, 1956: “If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.”
Segun Awosanya (SEGA) is a Realtor (landlaw focused) Civil Rights & Institutional Reforms Advocate (UIRAF), futuristic Brand, Media, Tech, Research, Business & Strategic Consultant, who is also deeply involved in social engineering and Nation building via his numerous advocacies that has helped Nigerians find succor. He enlightens young Nigerians daily from his @segalink Twitter handle towards political awareness, socio-economic development, political literacy and National integration. He is the Convener of the globally acclaimed universal institutional reforms advocacy geared towards strengthening Institutions in Nigeria.