With Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan declaring his intention to contest the 2015 presidential elections under the aegis of the Peoples Democratic Party, one can safely assume who the principal combatants in the election will be; Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan versus Gen. Muhammadu Buhari [Rtd] GCFR. In this article, it is my desire to humbly present my evaluations of the two Nigerian aspirants and the premises that predicated my resultant conclusions.
First, let us begin with the realities of Nigeria’s current situation. To do this, I crave the indulgence of the readers to quote certain sections of my book “The Urgency of Now: Building a True Nigerian Nation” which will vividly show that in one hundred short years, Nigeria has successfully constituted itself into a case study for a failed state and/or nation! After the much vilified 2007 elections, Africa Report aptly summarized Nigeria’s condition in its following report:
“Africa Report N°126
30 May 2007
NIGERIA: FAILED ELECTIONS, FAILING STATE?
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Nigeria’s democracy is in crisis. The April 2007 elections were supposed to move the country to a higher rung on the democratization ladder, create a more conducive environment to resolve its many internal conflicts and strengthen its credentials as a leading peacemaker, but instead generated serious new problems that may be pushing it further towards the status of a failed state. The declared winner, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, assumed the presidency on 29 May with less legitimacy than any previously elected president and so with less capacity to moderate and resolve its violent domestic conflicts.
He must act urgently to heal wounds, redress electoral injustice and punish the most grievous voting frauds, including those by officials of the agencies directly involved in administering the elections. To salvage his government’s legitimacy, he needs to pursue policies of inclusiveness and restraint in relation to the opposition, accept the decisions of the tribunals (including the Supreme Court if need be) reviewing the petitions of defeated candidates, and embark on a vigorous electoral reform program.
The elections, in the view of Nigerians and the many international observers alike, were the most poorly organised and massively rigged in the country’s history. In a bitterly contentious environment, outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo and his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) acted with unbridled desperation to ensure sweeping, winner take-all victories, not only in the presidency and federal legislature but also in state governorships and assemblies.
Characterised as a “do or die” battle by Obasanjo, the campaigns and elections also witnessed extensive violence, including over 200 people killed. Widespread electoral malpractice and the staggering scale of falsified results were possible because of serious shortcomings within the regulatory agencies, most notably the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Vigorously manipulated by the presidency, INEC
virtually abdicated its responsibility as impartial umpire. Inefficient and non-transparent in its operations, it became an accessory to active rigging.
Similarly, the massively deployed police and other security services helped curb violence but largely turned blind eyes to, and in some cases helped in, the brazen falsification of results. INEC declared a landslide for Yar’Adua with 70 per cent of the votes, to 18 per cent for Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP). That victory is bitterly disputed by many Nigerians, however, including broad-based labour, religious and civil society groups. It has pushed the country further towards a one-party state and diminished citizen confidence in electoral institutions and processes.
Most ominously, it has undermined Nigeria’s capacity to manage its internal conflicts, deepening already violent tensions in the Niger Delta and refueling Biafran separatism in the ethnically Ibo south east. It has also badly damaged the country’s international image and Obasanjo’s legacy as a statesman, thus diminishing their credibility to serve as leading forces for peace and democracy throughout West Africa. Yar’Adua was sworn into office amid subdued protests but he faces a giant challenge to pull Nigeria back from the brink of chaos, and he begins with his reputation grievously wounded by the process
that brought him to power.”
I am here using the word “failed” with the full realisation of its use and application for describing “states” instead of nations. All we need to do is visit the definition. Robert I. Rotberg, Director, Harvard University’s Kennedy School’s Program on Intrastate Conflict and President of the World Peace Foundation offers the following definition of a failed state:
“Failure of a nation-state looms when violence cascades into all
out war, when the structure of ordinary life decays, and when the
greed of rulers overwhelms their responsibilities to better their
people and their surroundings.”
Foreign Policy, a U.S. think-tank that specialises in state failure studies defines a failed state more succinctly as one with:
“rampant corruption, predatory elites who have long monopolized
power, an absence of the rule of law, and severe ethnic or religious
One would be in some stupefied denial to arrive at any conclusion other than this is an appropriate description of the Nigerian nation today. As former eminent Senator and scholar Prof. ‘Banji Akintoye observed in his paper “Repositioning the Yoruba Nation in the Light of Emerging Realities in Nigeria”:
“What briefly, very briefly are the obvious realities in Nigeria
today? First, the political life of Nigeria is almost perpetually
unstable. The subliminal and open conflicts between the cultures
of many nations that are members of Nigeria make stability
virtually impossible to attain. In the outcome, a very virulent
culture of corruption has taken over the management of Nigerian
affairs. Between blatantly rigged elections, violent attempts to
prevent elections being rigged, and efforts to seek justice after the
fact, the ordinary management of government is almost regularly
disrupted throughout Nigeria. The usual institutions of stability
in every political system—namely the civil service, the judiciary,
the police, and the military—have all, in Nigeria, lost their focus
and professionalism by reveling in the spoils and corruption of
politics. For the political elite, participation in public life has
become entirely a means of building personal wealth. In the
process, while Nigeria regularly produces billionaires among
political elite, poverty has grown exponentially among the masses
of Nigerian citizens. Basic modern supports of economic and civil
life—namely durable roads, electricity, potable water—remain
beyond the reach of increasing millions of Nigerians. In the midst
of this growing poverty, violent crimes grow exponentially also;
lives are increasingly violently terminated; neighborhood residents
in many cities must erect barricades in their streets and employ
armies of vigilantes for protection; and violent highway robberies
make traveling on most roads a very hazardous enterprise.”
Faced with the realities of the Nigerian situation as epitomized by these appropriately described symptoms, what then are the problems confronting Nigeria? Afterall these are the issues that Nigerians would like the president to address with fervor and urgency upon assumption of office. Please note that, for Nigeria, matters have gone from bad to worse since these eminent personalities spoke!
For our purposes here, I posit two critical problems, which, if removed, will permanently terminate these symptoms and open up Nigeria for the kind of progress and development Nigerians desire; corruption and leadership.
These cankerworms have eaten deeply into the fabric and framework of the country such that Nigeria has lapsed into a deep coma. The country requires intensive care and the best of surgeons for a life-saving operation.
The question now is which of the candidates who have offered themselves for this service can REALLY do the job? Who can deliver for Nigeria? Who can get the results?
As noted earlier, it appears the two juggernauts that will match up at the election are incumbent President Jonathan and former incumbent Gen. Buhari. Fortunately, they both have occupied the post; one in a democratic dispensation and the other in a military regime. So, there are results and areas for comparison for which I will rely on the collective memories and experiences of Nigerians. So, permit me to proceed to my article with that knowledge.
In the matter of choosing presidents, it is my opinion that there are three foundational qualities of a good and effective president namely; character, mission and vision and relationship-building expertise.
Subjected to the tests identified above; who can tackle the critical issues confronting this country? What did each do as incumbents of the office? Who possesses the essential qualities of a president?
One does not need to be a rocket scientist to provide an answer to each of the three posed questions; Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. For the purposes of the remaining portion of this article, let me offer some discussion of these foundational qualities of president and why Gen. Buhari is Nigeria’s only choice..
This is the defining quality of a good president. Character compels the holding of values and principles that would not be violated however uncomfortable the imminent situation might be. Having character involves making trade-offs between personal and national interest. For example, what president with character will declare his personal interest in running for a second-term of office on the same day and while school children, victims of a dastardly bomb attack were being buried and the whole country was in a somber mood? Remember that the country is still suffering from the Chibok experience which has now become a debacle.
Successful presidents make decisions and engage in activities based on their inner convictions not the mathematics of expediency. The absence of character ensures that a president cannot “walk the talk.” Neither can he “talk the walk” so that the options left to him are those that satisfy self-serving desires. Consequently, integrity and decency belong to the dogs!
Character also determines how a president will engage in the work of leadership. Presidents with character are noble and they handle issues with equanimity, grace and tact, while those with base character will resort to such tactics as manipulation, power plays, over-control, emotional outbursts and tirades that tear down anyone who provokes their ire. Remember the now infamous quote, “I don’t give a damn.” A president’s character gives a country the direction which a president intends it to follow; a guiding map for action.
Finally, any and all behavior and all goals are not acceptable and the end does not justify the means. When presidents with highly developed characters are in power, they do not compartmentalize their lives, activities and utterances in other to act one way at home or in one situation and another way in the work place or outside. Real character permeates and influences the president’s entire life. Consistency and accountability are the watchwords. Score one for Gen. General Buhari.
MISSION AND VISION
A president has the responsibility for defining a country’s strategic mission and for the successful implementation of the mission as well as ensuring the implementation of the strategic vision. Before accepting responsibilities for the success of the mission, a president must have the capacity for envisioning future possibilities. Visionary presidents provide a compelling direction and focus. This ability to see the future is characterized by insights about future trends, needs, opportunities, and barriers. The visionary president sees the future [live and in living colour], develops a mission and strategy for getting to that future, and establishes a plan for articulating and selling that vision to others.
I remember a Daily Times newspaper photograph of a young Lieutenant Buhari manning an armoured tank in the jungles of Awka during the Civil War on which was written “To keep Nigeria One is a Task that Must be Done.” It is the one and only mission for every Nigerian, even today.
A president’s ability and need to understand the circumstances of his people is determined by his ability to simultaneously assess all the aspects of the environment after which a good dosage of intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, resilience, commitment and consistency are applied to what has been discerned. The resulting picture of the purpose or the desired end-state leads to the goals that support and lead to the fulfillment of the purpose. If the vision is appropriate, then it leads to the greater good of the community and not just for a select few.
Gen. Buhari’s strategic mission and vision are evident in his often quoted statement which I will paraphrase as “one united and prosperous Nigeria where all can attain the heights of their desires.” He has not changed this focus. These are simple enough and give focus of direction for Nigeria. The staccato “transformation agenda” of President Jonathan, on the other hand, is all hoopla. It is an agenda that offers no sense of direction and is more in line with Josef Goebbels dictum of “a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”
Effective presidents present missions and vision statements that inspire the hopes and actions of their people; yesterday, today and in the future by tying it to national purpose and strategic direction. Score another one for Gen. Buhari.
RELATIONSHIP BUILDING EXPERTISE
Some would prefer to call this “building bridges” that span a nation’s divide; critical quality when diversity is an important ingredient in the life of a country. Relationship building expertise refers to how presidents work with the diverse segments of their societies [employees, associates, team members, clients, suppliers, partners, communities, parliaments, senators, royalty, and countless others] to get the job done. As indicated earlier, good presidents know how to inspire and motivate others to participate in implementing the mission and the vision.
When a young President John F. Kennedy challenged Americans in his inaugural speech to “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” millions of Americans were inspired into action. They created or joined organisations that gave back to the country or the world; the Peace Corps, among many. This is what relationship building expertise is made of; the ability to galvanize people into purposeful action.
Using relationship building expertise to inspire others implies the ability to create environments that provide resources that give the people the incentive to bring and do their best to the fore. A president that has this quality is able to capitalize on his people’s strengths and talents while improving and strengthening areas that need development. The ensuing culture must be hospitable and accommodating to all.
In a country like Nigeria where diversity abounds in all its ramifications, the value of divergent thoughts, ideas and perspectives cannot be over-emphasized. These perspectives sharpen a country’s strategic mission and vision and increase the country’s ability to effectively participate in the world comity of nations. Consequently, a good president must possess good relationship building expertise so that inclusive environments where all members are valued, respected and fully utilized are in existence.
Against all odds and the prognostications of political pundits, Gen. Buhari has galvanized a group of progressives into an effective political opposition in Nigeria that he hopes to lead into election victory in 2015. Newspaper reports confirm the challenges and difficulties of the venture; but the mission and vision continue to guide his efforts via relationship building.
On the other hand, newspaper reports continue to show that President Jonathan has not been able to harness his PDP party because it is an assemblage of “homogeneous” people [in the image of the President] who cannot challenge themselves into new heights as a result of which, both president and party members have the same blind spots. They are not comfortable with
diversity of thoughts, ideas, and/or people. An inordinate of amount of time is spent criticizing people, highlighting their faults, focusing on failures, and engaging in acts that demoralize people leaving a lot of talent uncultivated or lost to better opportunities.
The PDP governor that “delivered” was hounded out of the party and out of any body that gives him relevance. The Speaker of the House of Representatives has just defected from the party and intrigues, manipulations and sinister efforts are being fashioned against him starting with the removal of his security detail.
Good presidents cannot afford to lose high quality talent unnecessarily. They must find and cultivate ways to encourage, dialogue, collaborate and enhance performance. Keeping a positive focus on listening to, including, and developing others is essential. Score another one for Gen. Buhari.
My dear readers, from the fore-going discussions, the choice for Nigeria in the 2015 Presidential elections is apparent; Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. He is the only choice. He encapsulates the three foundational qualities of a good president. As the Yoruba will say, “aaro meta ki i da obe nu.” [A three-pronged stove never spills the soup]. Nigerians cannot afford to miss the opportunity for a clear and purposeful decision in 2015. The hoopla and vendetta must stop.
Personally, I feel convinced that were the Jonathan administration to be given the opportunity to manage the Atlantic Ocean, in a matter of months, we will have no ocean to speak about. A worse problem is that no one will be able to explain to the world where the waters all went! Such has been the trend and Nigeria can no longer afford it!
Angelicus-M. B. Onasanya lives in Ijebu-Ode.