2023: Who will the cap fit?

Who would I prefer to lead Nigeria as President from May 29, 2023.

Well, I am a Yoruba man, but I honestly am not interested in having a President who will favour the Yorubas to the detriment of everyone else. I want a national leader. A detribalised leader. I want a president during whose tenure every Nigerian is made to feel like a first-class citizen and because of this, tribal politics is henceforth banished from our polity forever. I want a leader who evokes in everybody a sense of ownership in the Nigerian project, so the tribe of future contenders becomes a non issue.

A wise man once said, “What you own, you treat better.” I’m convinced that’s true. We need someone who the average Northerner, Easterner, Westerner or member of the smaller ethnic groups will vote in for a second term, irrespective of his tribe or faith. Someone who opens his eyes to the fact “one of their own” really means a Nigerian who in governance puts them and all Nigerians first. No more voting for one of your own just because he looks and speaks like you. Perhaps, he appears to be like one of your own in name, religion and language but in his actions and the things that actually matter, he rarely is.

Thankfully, none of the three main contenders has, to the best of my knowledge, proved himself to be a tribalistic leader in his political sojourn so far.

So, who do we need as President in 2023? We need a President who will encourage both local and foreign investment; portfolio and foreign direct investment. We need someone who will with all sincerity fight corruption and reverse this dangerous trend of impunity. A leader who engages only in cosmetic anti-corruption crusades without strengthening the institutions created to fight it is being clever by half. I compare such an individual to a farmer who decides to erect a gate where there is no fence.

A leader who engages only in cosmetic anti-corruption crusades without strengthening the institutions created to fight it is being clever by half

A futile exercise. It’s not as if corruption has ever totally discouraged foreigners from investing in any country though, but visible reduction of corruption will certainly improve the quality of investors who decide to come. Equally, important issues to deal with in order to attract investment are concerns such as upholding the rule of law; strengthening the nation’s institutions as mentioned before, so when there are disputes, the parties will have the confidence to approach the courts, with the belief that there will be fair and timely hearing and judgment.

A situation, where a strongman influences the verdict or where a legal case remains in court for 10 to 15 years, will not encourage any potential investor. They must have the confidence that they will get redress where they deserve it. Neither does it look good where law enforcement agencies raid people’s homes in the middle of the night just because they have fallen out of favour with the powers that be. No matter how appealing the potential return on investment in any country is, the primary concern of most foreign investors is an environment where they and their investment will be safe and secure. A further requirement is to be able to repatriate profit to their home countries whenever the need arises.

Who do I want in 2023? I want us to have an entrepreneurial leader who will, by his policies, encourage commerce and enterprise. By entrepreneur, I mean someone who fulfills the definition of an entrepreneur given by the French economist Jean-Baptiste Say, who’s credited with coining the term around 1800. By his definition, “the entrepreneur shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield.”

Here, our next president can start by applying the human capital available to him appropriately; by putting round pegs in round holes. Appointing the right people into public office so they can produce optimum yield for the people of Nigeria. We need the right policies that don’t take away with the left hand what they appear to give with the right. We don’t need policy flip-flops or populist policies that don’t make sense. Look no further than the six weeks Prime Minister of Britain, Liz Truss!

Lee Kuan Yew once made an observation, which I believe buttresses this point. He said, “After several years in government, I realised that the more talented people I had as ministers, administrators and professionals, the more effective my policies were and the better the results.”

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Who do we need at the helm of government by May, 2023? We yearn for a strategic leader. “Being strategic” according to David Osborne and Peter Plastrik’s definition in their fantastic book, Banishing Bureaucracy, “means using the levers available to you to change the underlying dynamics in a system, in a way that changes everyone’s behaviour.” And where better to begin this transformation agenda but in the educational sector. We need someone who will place education on the front burner. Education, the world over, has always been regarded as the ultimate leveller, so no matter how disadvantaged your socio-economic background, with a sound education, there is no limit to the height you can attain.

Unfortunately, like in any society, you will find some who will fight tooth and nail to make sure there is never a level playing field. It seems like it is for this reason James Baldwin once remarked, “when you’re entitled to privilege, equality seems like oppression.” This is why I hope the 2023 presidential election will produce a government that will intentionally set out to provide an enabling environment which allows all deserving citizens of Nigeria to live their best life. Really, it’s not too much to ask. To our new president in a few months time, please restore the hope and pride of Nigerians to what it once was.

I want a leader who establishes a culture of rewarding deserving Nigerians who have made meaningful contributions to the Nigerian project, replacing what appears to be the warped criteria of rewarding those who are merely fortunate enough to have been appointed into lofty positions but who can hardly point to anything positive they used that position to do. Many of them want to be “Your Excellency” without being excellent and called “Honourable” without deserving to be honoured. Above all, we need a leader who values every Nigerian life, no matter the position in life, clan or religion.

It pains me to end with this quote from Lee Kuan Yew, the enigmatic founder of modern day Singapore but having studied the trajectory thus far, I feel constrained to do so. This prescient statement sounds more like a sad commentary on modern day Nigerian politics.

“A precondition for an honest government is that candidates must not need large sums of money to get elected or it must trigger off the cycle of corruption. The bane of most countries in Asia has been the high cost of elections. Having spent a lot to get elected, winners must recover their costs and also accumulate funds for the next election. The system is self-perpetuating.” – LKY

Now, who will this cap fit come February 25, 2023, the day of the presidential election? It’s up to you to decide. However, as we march towards these elections in a few months time I want you to know this. We all need to do our bit if we want to make Nigeria great. In this instance there are some who may consider bystanders as cowards or worse, traitors. Please, do not put yourself in a position where you might be called either.

Changing the nation…one mind at a time.