Eminent Nigerians including Oby Ezekwesili, Pat Utomi and Frank Nweke Jnr on Monday canvassed a paradigm shift toward better leadership in Nigeria if the country must overcome its woes.
The political leaders said that democracy had failed in Nigeria because of the dearth of morally and upright leaders, while faulting the nation’s current political system which conferred powers on few individuals who perpetually monopolise the nation’s political system to their advantage.
The leaders stated this at a conference titled ‘#fix Politics, changing politics structurally for Africa’s prosperity’.
The two-day conference is an initiative of Ezekwesili and the Robert Bosch Academy and was held at the Federal Palace Hotel in Vitoria Island, Lagos.
In his keynote address, Johann Lambsdorff, who is professor of Economic Theory at the University of Passau, Germany, said it was imperative that citizens take more active roles, interest in the emergence of political leadership.
Lambsdorff added that it was crucial that in tackling graft and sanitising the political system citizens must put trust in their leaders rather than institutions which could be manipulated and compromised.
In her research presentation, Ezekwesili, a candidate in the 2019 presidential election, said the 1914 amalgamation of the country was responsible for part of the nation’s woes, stressing that the amalgamation was purely for administrative convenience of the colonial leaders and was not for the interest of the country or Nigerians.
Ezekwesili further said the long years of military incursion in politics which truncated the democratic process in the country in several occasions stunted democratic practice, growth and culture from taking its root in Nigeria.
According to her, “The Amalgamation of 2014 was for mere administrative convenience, colonial Britain merged the three district geographical areas into one country.
“There was no common identifying point of reference beyond the colonial power’s administrative convenience.
“As Europe got mired in its own internal rivalry and war among the key countries and began paying less attention to its colonies in Africa, the fervor of nationalistic self determination grew on the continent”.
Speaking further, she identified the failure of the nation’s post independence leaders for inability to agree on a common template as part of the problem which held the nation back.
“The failure of the independence nationalists to at the end of colonial governance, discuss and peacefully agree their self-negotiated terms for shared values and unified vision of Nationhood.
“The absence of prevented emergence of an agreed framework of a minimum Common Identity as a ‘New Nation’ of multi-ethnic, multi-religious multi-cultural and multi-lingual diversity of people who have negotiated the basis for Unity. These failures and gaps haunt the country and its people up until today,” she added.
The former Minister said part of the reasons for leadership failure and stagnation which the country had faced over the years was the inherent monopoly in the political system by few individuals and groups, while canvassing active participation of the citizenry in the electoral process for a change.
“Nigeria’s monopoly democracy has no incentive to yield the distortionary damage it does to Governance.
“In the absence of an effective regulatory system to reduce the powers of the monopoly, a few citizens can step up and take responsibility for correcting the distortion in the political system,” she further said.
Also speaking at the event, a former Minister of Information and Culture, Frank Nweke charged the electorate to rise above primordial sentiment in choosing their leaders, stressing that the electorate must share part of the blame for failed leadership in the country in recent time.
In his address, Pat Utomi advocated for paradigm shift in the manner politics was being practised in the country.
He, however, said the current political system in Nigeria does not make leaders responsive nor guarantee good governance to the electorates, while canvassing more citizen participation in the political process.
The two-day event is being attended by political leaders, political parties, members of the academic community and professionals from across the country.