In modern times, most nations have not only defined the process through which their leaders emerge, they have put structures in place to compel leadership to develop more followers in order to ensure smooth political succession. The truth, however, is that in a few less developed countries, particularly in Africa, leadership succession is often problematic. Preparatory to the 2019 general elections in Nigeria, controversies have started building up regarding President Buhari’s second term. The Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, on behalf of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors has this to say: “Do we have any other person that will challenge the President again? Whatever you call it, as far as we are concerned, we have one person and that is the ticket we will fly”.
Still on the second term controversy, Bola Tinubu, an APC national leader, says “No governor can appropriate the power of endorsement to themselves. The Buhari that I know is a believer in the rule of law. He has not excluded anybody”. Meanwhile, another APC national leader and former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, has resigned his membership of the political party. The former Vice President resigned alleging amongst other reasons, a derailment of set objectives in governance and the abandonment of the Nigerian youths.
We should not forget that the electorate voted for President Buhari because of his promise to tackle insecurity and corruption. The crux of the matter is that barely two years into President Buhari’s first term in office, rarely is any reference made to his performance in government governance by any politician in APC. Most APC politicians are not bothered if President Buhari has done well or not in office. Some APC members want him to continue in office, while others feel they should be the ones to have a taste of the presidential pudding. I think it is an excellent performance of any public office holder that should determine whether he or she is qualified for endorsement for a second term in office.
Many scholars see leadership as a complex ethical relationship that exists between leaders and followers on the basis of trust, commitment, obligation, service, development and a shared vision of the common good. Amusingly, there is no African nation at the dawn of this century without a leader or leaders superintending over its affairs. But when it comes to evaluating most African leaders’ tenure in office, it is a sorry case.
On 20 November 2017, Africa’s rough equivalent of the Nobel Prize, the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement, released its report. The Mo Ibrahim Governance Report for 2017 rated Nigeria as one of Africa’s worst governed nations, giving it an overall governance score of 48.1 lower than Africa’s average of 50.8. The 2017 Report negates the feeling of trust that our leaders will upgrade our society to a status befitting Nigerians as the world’s most populous black nation. Unfortunately, it has not been so and this reflects the weakness in government governance in Nigeria. No society can achieve economic development through poor government governance as the dynamics of the global arena change rapidly.
In Nigeria, most leaders rule with impunity as they conduct state affairs with disregard to the provisions of the statutes. Any analyst who has taken the pain to observe most of our leaders may likely see their true treasure. Their perception of success, achievement and recognition does not match realities in the nation they govern. This is why most leaders fail woefully in both good and difficult times. It is not because the challenges of Nigeria are overwhelming. The failure of leadership in Nigeria is that leaders could simply not provide exceptional leadership, which Mo Ibrahim’s award stands to acknowledge and reward.
In the last five decades, questions have always been asked about the quality of leaders emerging from Nigeria. This is because there have been a lot of crises which have assumed political, socio-economic development, environmental and humanitarian dimensions. Any political observer would want to know the problem with both leadership and followership in Nigeria because only marginal peace exists within the country in the last 50 years.
Political succession has been very difficult in Nigeria and many African countries to an extent that followers have expressed their displeasure through incessant civil unrests and uprisings. Some leaders even chose to expire in office because they believe they are the only ones who can deliver their people from hunger and poverty. Some leaders in their arrogance see themselves as liberators created by the creator to take their people to the ‘promised land’ filled with milk and honey, when indeed the nation they govern is heading towards the wilderness. This was very common when military rule was the vogue in Nigeria and most African nations. With democracy, the situation has not really changed. Nigerian politicians in elected and appointed offices should interrogate themselves by asking if they had provided security, as well as eradicated poverty and hunger since 2015 when the people entrusted the country to them to govern.
Charity, they say, begins at home. This writer proposes that Nigerian leaders should make effort to provide outstanding leadership firstly; to the citizenry, and secondly; to other African countries. The world and especially African countries are looking up to Nigeria to lead the way when it comes to political succession. Nigeria in terms of size, human and material resources, remains the hope of the black race. Nigeria’s survival is therefore crucial not only to Nigerians but more so to Africans as the race for 2019 general elections continues. Nigerians need leaders who know how to cultivate the ground of our nation for development; leaders who want to prepare our nation for technological advancement and not their own names. Nigerians need leaders who do not desire to be famous but faithful, pursuing fairness, equity and justice with boldness and uncompromising adherence to the rule of law.