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Desired attributes of Nigeria’s next CEO

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The 2019 elections would be significant in several respects. It would be the sixth general election since the return to civil democratic rule in 1999. Nigeria would be marking 20 years of continuouscivilian government in 2019. It is the longest stretch in which we have allowed choice,and the people have had a say in who governs.

By May 2019, new people would take office in two tiers of government, the federal and the states. They would be the drivers of what happens to most of the federating units of the country. In consequence, there is an ongoing debate about choice.

Citizens are mainly debating on a choice between the contending parties as well as that between the younger, new-breed candidates and the older established names in both the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress. It is a tough call on citizens because the lines are so blurred as not to make a difference among the parties. Many readily dismiss the chances of the new breed despite the sterling credentials of some of them on face value.

PDP gets the black brush deservedly for its failings in 16 years at the helm. The atrocious performance of the APC at the centre has equalled the PDP in infamy. APC has been an incubus on the people, sucking the energy of the citizenry overnight with its gross failure in various areas including primarily the economy, welfare, security and the unity of the country. It is scandalous how the party that spoke so eloquently about the problems with the land has itself become the problem of Nigeria.

Having tried many men and parties, I submit that the challenge before Nigeria is one of finding capable managers who would drive the process of building systems, methods and teams. Managerial competence is a catch-all phrase to capture this. The man to lead Nigeria must have some critical attributes. They apply for the men to govern the states.

Competence. We need a leader with the capacity to execute. Execution capacity is what gets things done at the top. We do not need a man who doodles, prevaricates or cannotmake decisions from the melange of ideas and suggestions that he would receive. The leader must be quick to the draw, informed and knowledgeable. More than the stock of knowledge that he brings to the table, however, is his receptivity to ideas and innovation. The educated man is not the man who knows all the answers but the one who is willing and able to seek out solutions. In the Knowledge and Information Age, we need a leader who is ready to open himself and our country to know and to drive the process.

UK’s Department for International Development has identified characteristics of good governance regimes. They include state capability —the extent to which leaders and governments can get things done; responsiveness—whether public bodies and institutions respond to the needs of citizens and uphold their rights; and accountability—the ability of citizens, civil society, and the private sector to scrutinise public institutions and governments and to hold them to account  (DfID 2006, 22).

Conviction. The leader must be a visionary with the passion for driving such an envisioned future.

Connectedness. The leader should be a pan-Nigerian networker with the willingness and ability to reach out and engage all groups for the benefit of the country.  The CEO of Nigeria Inc and States Unlimited must be team builders. The notion of the Governor or President as Superman is jaded and untrue. Unfortunately, both the constitution and years of practice during military rule have conditioned the civil service and other groups to wait on the Governor or the President. Our law gives so many powers to them. Then our culture makes them monarchs. We need to change this culture. Instead, we need CEOs who are facilitators and team leaders. They should build strong super teams. Super teams thrive because they have good leadership, share a common goal, trust and respect team members, have excellent communication, encourage and reinforce each other, are disciplined and demand balanced accountability.

Communicator. A leader able to persuade, convince and influence the majority to follow his vision and path is a significant attribute of the CEO of Nigeria Inc. Communication is a lubricant of social relations and more so in managing complex entities such as states and governance units. Communication does more.

For the government, communication ensures the buy-in and favourability with constituents that earns continued legitimacy.  Governments must win the “legitimacy of public authority” through performance and the ability to communicate that performance both as a vision and in feedback on actual results.  Government leaders must have the ability to articulate a clear vision for the country as well as the policy choices and trade-offs they have made on the public’s behalf.

Compassion. Nigeria’s leader must have a heart that cares for people. Kindness would make him feel the pain and insult that poverty throws at our people and work to drastically reduce the burden. We are running out of time in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals after failing on most scores with the MDGs.

These are the attributes I consider critical. Dear reader, what should our next leader bring to the table, in your view?

 

Chido Nwakanma

 

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