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  As Africa’s most populous country and the world’s most populous Black nation, Nigeria, set to elect its President on the 18th of February 2023, many have asked what is the ideal leader that can suit the mixed peculiarities and frameworks of the nation. To start with, Nigeria is a country of about 180 million people, blessed with both human and natural resources, a potpourri of over 500 ethnic groups, and the continent’s leading economic powerhouse. However, these blessings have become her curse. Dubbed as the poverty capital of the world with over 80 million people living below the poverty line and living on $1 daily, she suffers so many socio-political and economic instabilities. 
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The nation in its northern region battles with terrorist groups – Boko Haram and Bandits – and is well fraught with centuries-old farmers-herders conflict. On the east of the country, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), a militant group is hellbent on seceding the country to form its own independent country called Biafra, something borne out of perceived marginalization and socio-political injustices that stem from the civil war (1967-1970). Towards the south, disparate militant groups and burglars are illegally engaged in oil bunkering and are in constant combat with security operatives. The west itself is not spared from secessionists elements too who feel aggrieved over perceived injustices. On the economic front, several industries and businesses have either been grounded or have completely shut down due to rising oil prices and strangulating and misfitting economic policies. What’s more? The country more than ever before, has been divided along ethnic and religious lines, a machination of the present administration. These quagmires boil down to leadership. Like Chinua Achebe rightly said, “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else.” Therefore, as Nigerians go to the polls in 2023, the quality of the leader must be topmost on their minds. Nigeria is a nation with complex peculiarities and it definitely needs an ideal leader who swerves through these peculiarities and charts the nation on the right course – and certainly, Nigeria is blessed with numerous talents who fit in the mould. In this article, I outline what that ideal leader should look like. First, the next president must have zero tolerance for nepotism, tribalism, and religious fundamentalism. The next president must not be another ethno-religious bigot with no sense of understanding of how religiously and ethnically complex the nation is, yet too fragile to disintegrate for the same reason. Muhammadu Buhari’s administration led a policy of exclusion and marginalisation, which triggered the rise and popularization in the  Southeast. Therefore, Nigerians must be very critical and wary of candidates who are ethnically and religiously narrow-minded, and derive the legitimacy of their election as a religious or ethnic ambition fulfilled or an opportunity for sectarianism. The next leader must be a Nigerian first before anything else. He must appreciate the diversity of the country and draw strength from it. Secondly, the next president must have a knack for problem identification, early preparation, on-ground structural organization, and quick response capabilities. The next president’s cabinets, ranging from ministers, heads of agencies and parastatals and other government and military officials must be on the ground to kick off immediately after swearing-in, or at most a week after.
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A classical case of my argument is this: After Buhari’s swearing-in in 2015, the country was grounded for another six months over ministerial appointment palaver. This appointment’s controversial delay implied that the president selected the worst misfitting cabinet members since the return of democracy in 1999. Furthermore, Buhari and the APC government spent the first tenure blaming the previous administration over insecurity and economic woes, rather than doing what they were elected to do – fix problems. The next president must know the nation’s problems, especially the constitutional, economic and security malfunctionalities, have the right team and structures that can address them, and do so quickly.  Thirdly, the next president must have a lot of youthful advantages on his or her side. Nigeria cannot afford a backward thinking, past-residing, analogue-bound president, especially in this fast-moving digital time. Also, the nation cannot afford to be grounded for another ninety days because the head of state and government is hospitalised, treating some old age diseases as we saw with Buhari. The truth is that Nigeria is not yet built around strong and organised institutions and structures that are easily automated and networked as we have seen in the West, thus the nation needs an individual who is forward-thinking, innovative, on the ground and running, sure-footed, and self-aware as president. Accordingly, those who say age is not a serious matter when electing the next president should perish that thought. On this note, the next president must not be above the age of 65 years. Fourth, the next president must be a thorough democrat, who understands the place of free speech, fundamental human rights, and encourages a strong media ecosystem, which is fundamental to growing a successful democracy. Unlike President Buhari who thrives in silence and coldness towards the media and spaces that call for robust discussion, communication and accountability and indulge in taciturn and reclusive behaviour in national matters begging for answers, the next president must be an individual who would engage in regular media interviews to address pressing issues rather than appointing mouthpieces who can only but speculate, misinterpret or poorly convey the true intentions of the president. Finally, recognising the nation’s diversity in terms of languages, religions, ethnicities, etc, the next president must appreciate the fact that nation-building will require all hands from every region to be on deck, thus, he or she must have the wisdom to spot and employ the finest and most brilliant minds from every nook and cranny of the country, and not just members of his family and village.  Featured Image Source: Businessday.NG
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This article was first published on 2nd April 2022


Nnaemeka is an academic scholar with a degree in History and International Studies from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is also a creative writer, content creator, storyteller, and social analyst.

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