By Amin Buba Dibal
The 2023 elections in Nigeria are a very significant opportunity that we should not afford to mismanage in the face of dark scenarios in all aspects of our national life. Of the many presidential aspirants we have across party lines, the candidacy of ObiDatti presents the most credible and competent of them based on multiple criteria of leadership qualities our nation needs.
This is as the greatest problem of the Nigeria development challenge has to do with character, capacity, and demonstrable track record of accountability and transparency of leadership rather than so-called experience, manifestoes, and promises by those who have no track record of keeping to their words nor have utilized the opportunities they got benevolently and in service to the nation.
To buttress the point about character, capacity, and track record of accountability and transparency being the most significant variables to inform our choices at the polls is to ask the question, what has the so-called experience, manifestoes, promises, and titles contributed to resolving our national development problems thus far? Rather, Nigeria has cataclysmically been declining to the rubbishes of underdevelopment in all respects, as seen and when measured on scales of resources, and opportunities vis-à-vis utilization.
The presidential candidacy of the Labour Party presents the most credible of options we have as demonstrated by their track record and the content of their campaign discourse. Just speak to some fundamental issues which however underpin the potential for broader leadership quality scarce in our political clime but desperately needed in this present chaos, are character, capacity, and benevolent tendencies which characterize the sterling leadership qualities of Obi and Datti.
In the recent political history of Nigeria, there is no state Governor that could imaginably leave 75 billion Naira as he leaves office after securing an award of service in key service delivery sectors and infrastructure (except Yar Adua who left 6 billion Naira for Katsina State in 2007) as Obi did, never did borrow throughout his tenure, did not sign any pension law for himself, rejected all land allocations and turned down numerous inflated contracts and have them delivered by a quarter of the inflated amounts.
His Vice, Datti, declined house allocation by the government as a legislature because its terms were not sincere, vehemently opposed the third term despite offers of millions of naira in the inducement, sponsored the prohibition of inflated government contract bill of 2004 with the aim of fighting corruption in public institutions (60% of corruption in Nigeria is procurement-related, ICPC, 2016) and withdrew from the monetized PDP gubernatorial primaries of Kaduna State for the 2023 elections despite having the resources for that.
The key discourse of the duo also speaks on the fundamental source of our national challenges – corruption in procurements across MDAs and spectacularly the oil sector, fraudulent public budget deficits, and inability to deliver services to the people. These are some of their key discussion points and promises to revamp the extremely corrupt Nigeria procurement system and disband the subsidy scam against the Nigerian people. None of the key contenders have genuinely discussed these fundamental challenges nor have the moral authority to speak about them thoroughly. The two are not just erudite but accompanied by genuine ethical consciousness and have demonstrated such capacity in the pathways of their opportunities and experiences in public life, as their slogan of achievement and accountability goes, “go and check”. This is extremely rare in our political system.
A large chunk of political leaders in Nigeria is in many respects far from the “ideal” set of leaders the country desperately needs especially as we head to the presidential polls on 25th February 2023.
The qualities and proclivity of an average Nigerian politician at many levels are largely a longing for primitive accumulation, ego-trip, dominance, avarice, absence of an ideological framework for governance, absence of vision, character, and noble value system, non-understanding of the agency element of leadership or denial of all it means and lack of altruistic motivation for the common good for all. The NDLEA recently added to the list, of drug abuse, as the agency wants every politician tested for drugs ahead of the 2023 polls.
It is against this background that Nigerian politicians have largely failed and it has vividly manifested in all aspects of our national life. Some of the key examples are the October 2019 Chatham House’s statement that an estimated US$582bn has been stolen from Nigeria since it won independence in 1960; and 11, 886 federal government projects alone are abandoned in the past 40 years across the country, worth N18 trillion according to the Projects Audit Commission Report 2011.
Thus, Nigerians provide water for themselves, construct access roads and streets to their homes, form and pay for local vigilante security services, indulge in self-medication, witnessed the collapse of public schools, and largely provide electricity for themselves as the country can barely generate and distribute a maximum of 5,000 megawatts for 200 million people. To cap it all, 130 million (variables of lack of money for livelihood, opportunities, and basic public services) Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor according to an NBS report in October 2022.
In a recent discussion I had with an Austrian development evaluator who was visiting Nigeria for the first time, I asked her what is her perception of Nigeria’s corruption based on information she had and the reality she sees. Her answer was diplomatic but very insightful as she mentions, “there is corruption globally but at varying degrees, but what seems disturbing for her is that Nigeria’s leadership has failed to provide the basics of needs and services to its people despite abundant revenue to government”.
We are still talking about the basics of security, water, roads, food, etc after 60 years of the nation’s “adulthood”. These are things that an illiterate in power but with character, political will and compassion can instruct to happen in a short span everywhere.
The ratings for Nigeria are gruesome based on select indexes as follows: Nigeria is rated 161 out of 189 countries and territories in terms of HDI, 2019; the 2021 Global Peace Index (GPI) has ranked Nigeria 146 among 163 independent nations and territories, according to its level of peacefulness. The Chandler Good Governance Index 2021 ranked Nigeria as “the third worst-led jurisdiction, ahead only of Zimbabwe and Venezuela”, using the following variables of measurement – “leadership and foresight, robust laws and policies, strong institutions, financial stewardship, attractive marketplace, global influence and reputation as well as helping people rise” variables.
Though the multiplicity of factors constitutes the rationale for a given reality, the pathetic state of failure in all aspects of development in Nigeria is to the greatest degree caused by the failure of leadership over time.
Throughout history, societies have progressed and developed as led by few that have vision amongst them, grounded in ideology, a defined model for progress, and who understand the structure of experience that has kept their society underdeveloped, thus determined to lead in a progressive path. Because our society largely lacks visionary leaders, must are largely at the ebb of a dampened consciousness about the ethical requirements of their positions and when accused of lack of vision they proudly retort to abysmal cliches of abdication of responsibility like “we are the product of the society”, in a manner that demonstrates barbarism, irrationality, and absence of any rhythm that appeals to conscience”.
Leaders should be agents of change and not join the bandwagon to chaos. Of many such individuals in our leadership clime, they lack the moral right to call themselves leaders.
The lack of vision manifests in detest for a framework of development and needed commitment to the course of implementation, abhorrence for procedures, and disregard of any mechanism which seeks accountability. Thus, because leaders largely do not have any vision for a greater society, the discourse of politics is very empty with large chants of “uniting the country, giving a fair share, carrying everybody along”, with less dialogue about issues that underpins the progress of society such as – social justice, transparency, accountability, public trust, honesty, social cohesion and the prudent management of scarce resources which have rather formed the vocabulary of the Labour Party presidential and vice presidential candidates.
As a Nigerian, I am appealing to the conscience of our people, beyond regional and religious lines for the good of the country to take this opportunity of the 25th February polls to make an ethical choice for the progress of our nation and to the benefit of all Nigerians. The trajectory Nigeria is moving is very dangerous at many levels and if not stemmed by credible, honest, and compassionate leaders like Obi and Datti, it could negatively consume all of us. God forbids!
Fellow compatriots, if you hope for a better country, mobilize members in the sphere of your influence to ensure they vote for the ObiDatti candidacy come 25th February 2023.
Once again, Character, Capacity, and Track Record of Selfless Service are the path to a better future.
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.