By Dennis Alemu
Whichever way one may look at it, governing a nation is serious business. That is why in the advanced democracies, those who aspire to occupy public offices, especially at the highest levels, are subjected to the highest level of public scrutiny. They do this with the clear understanding that political power, as essential as it is for engineering development in society, is a dangerous weapon in the hand of unrefined and uncultured men, or those with a warped view that power is an end in itself rather than a means to an end.
Rightly so, leadership is conceptualized, all over the world, as the engine that powers the vehicle of the state to desired destinations. This reality is not lost on the conscience of every nation on the surface of the earth today, which had set its sights on attaining its true promise of greatness.
In fact, every good student of political science will tell you that after all said and done, leadership is the key deciding factor that determines the destiny, progress, peace and stability of a nation over time. Harvard University-groomed political scientist, Fernando Bizzarro, once asserted that no nation grows beyond and above the wavelength of vision and the intellectual capacity of her leadership.
This hypothesis, no doubt, underscores the attention often accorded leadership decisions in the public domain. In Nigeria, however, one thing the nation had never got right from the very beginning is leadership, and because leadership is inextricably tied to development and progress, the supposed Giant of Africa continues to flounder and wander like a rudderless ship in the ocean of governance. Intellectualizing on this, one of Nigeria’s first generation literary icons, Professor Chinua Achebe of blessed memory stated that the “trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.”
It must be stated without an iota of doubt that Nigeria’s idiosyncratic model of politics has over the decades have shown the intrinsic tendency to lock out “decent people” from the corridors of power, confirming the axiomatic truth in Plato’s frequently quoted statement that,”the price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”
Careful scrutiny of the controversial and protracted leadership question in the most populous black nation on earth will reveal that the problem, as complicated as it seems, is bifurcated into the structural or constitutional aspect on one hand, and the leadership selection process on the other.
Th e structural or constitutional setback relates to the operational 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended), wherein in Section 131, for example, it states unambiguously that, “A person shall be qualified for election to the office of the President if he has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent.” This same educational qualification, outlined elsewhere in the constitution, trickles down and invariably applies to the offices the of vice president, governors, deputy governors, senators, members of the House of Representatives, and those of the members of the state Houses of Assembly, and local government chairmen across the country.
Following from this, one may impugn the justification for a Nigerian firm with just 30 employees requiring an accountant or manager to hold a B.Sc. in their respective fields; while Nigeria, a country with a population that is over 150 million people, is comfortable with not prescribing a sound educational qualification for those expected to be at the helm of affairs over such a large population and economy! If truth be told, no serious-minded nation can afford this kind of complacency, because this scheme of things is nothing short of being penny wise and pound foolish for an intellectually sophisticated nation like Nigeria.
It really does not require rocket science, so to speak, to logically arrive at the inevitable, yet painful, conclusion that the failure of the nation to set high standards for its would-be public office-holders is a major source of Nigeria’s relative backwardness and the preposterously poor standard of living that is prevalent everywhere in the country. That a senior school certificate is all that is educationally required to govern this nation, even at the level of the presidency, makes a serious mockery of not only our political system but also the over 150 universities and thousands of professors the country boasts currently. How can Nigerians accept and acquiesce to the constitutional provision that a secondary school leaver is qualified to be president and then at the same time, insist on university certificates for even a computer operator’s job in a government-owned media house? This is really strange and appalling.
The call, then, for professionalizing politics in Nigeria is anchored in the thesis that all accountants are graduates of accountancy; engineers are graduates of engineering; lawyers are graduates of the law discipline as are medical doctors graduates of medicine. By the same analogy, politics should be the prerogative of graduates of political science and its related disciplines in Nigeria.
The practical solution to the long-drawn-out leadership problem of Nigeria is to professionalize politics in the country. To achieve this goal, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has to be amended in such a way that the president, governors and other top elected functionaries of government must not only be B.Sc. holders or its equivalent in political science, public administration or in other related disciplines, but must also have cognate experience in public office with a good track record of service delivery.
Secondly, the National Assembly should enact a law to stipulate a statutory retirement age for elected public servants in Nigeria from the president down to the local government councillor, just as civil servants have a retirement age to be disengaged from the Civil Service. This is not far-fetched, in as much as the Nigerian Constitution stipulates a minimum age at which a person can exercise his or her political right to be elected as president, governor, member of the National Assembly or the state House of Assembly, etc.
The second issue in this interrogation is the leadership selection process in Nigeria, which had been a major source of infamy to the country right from independence in 1960. The flawed electoral process had over the years given Nigeria a bad name in the comity of nations. As long as the rigging of election results, electoral violence and blood-letting, executive impunity and other acts of criminality, which more often than not go unpunished, define elections in Nigeria, the nation really has a long way to go. Even in this enlightened age of the 21st Century, the Nigerian political class still feasts on and makes political capital out of tribalism, nepotism, religious bigotry, ethnic divisions, marginalization and separatism, jihad-type killings, terrorism, as well as hate politics to further polarize the nation.
The only way out of this political logjam is to allow the people of Nigeria to freely elect their leaders without let or hindrance as provided for in the Nigerian Constitution. Those returning from the polls must be a true reflection of the popular will of the Nigerian electorate.
In fact, the Nigerian people must elect leaders who are eminently qualified and detribalized, and who have a true and workable agenda for the nation, that effectively captures and addresses the present-hour imperatives of the polity. The people must choose wisely leaders that have a balanced view of religion and do have the capacity to govern Nigeria, as well as the strong political will to decisively fight and defeat the centrifugal forces threatening the corporate existence and secularity of the nation.
This is why the forthcoming elections offer a unique opportunity to Nigerians to change the narrative of negative entropy that has become the very hallmark of the electoral process in the country. Suffice it to say that neither the government nor the people of Nigeria can afford to bungle the elections because the stakes are just too high to contemplate that. At least, the nation can use the elections to prove a point to the global community that Nigeria does not need to import leadership from Europe and America to get things correctly done in this clime.
Source: The Nation.