2015: As They Battle for the Soul of Our Nation By Ogunjimi James Taiwo
“Nigeria today doesn’t need a ‘gentle’ president, we need a ruthless one; not ruthless against law-abiding citizens, but ruthless with those who don’t want to co-exist peacefully with others. Nigeria needs a leader who is unafraid to challenge the status quo. Nigeria needs a leader who will not harbour criminals in his government. Nigeria needs a leader who will not protect terrorists at the cost of peace-loving citizens. Nigeria needs a president who will not continue to sacrifice innocent Nigerians at the altar of incompetence. Nigeria needs a leader who will not be afraid to step on toes even at the cost of his re-election. Nigeria needs a leader who will not mind sacking all his aides if that’s what it’ll take to bring culprits to book.” – Ogunjimi James Taiwo, August 2012
Being an arduous and unrelenting campaigner for change and an unrepentant believer in the need to upset the balance of power, I’ve kept on turning in my mind the kind of leadership that Nigeria should have as the race for the soul of the nation heats up towards 2015.
In my last article, I tried to highlight some of the qualities that a leader that will supposedly take Nigerians to the ‘promised land’ must possess:
“he/she must have a past that isn’t tainted with corruption, he/she must be seen to have identified with the plight of the common man prior to electioneering period, he/she must be one who cannot be faulted with trampling on the rights of the common man in the past, he/she must not just be a lover of democracy and freedom, he/she must have played an active role in enthroning democracy, he/she must be willing to do a lot of explanation on proposed actions and highlight workable plans to put them in place.”
As the race for 2015 heats up, Nigerians must be careful not to fall into pits that have swallowed us up in times past. We must let go of that thought that we have to choose between two evils and that we’ll choose a lesser evil; that belief itself has plunged us deeper into the abyss of corruption and misrule more times than we can remember.
Nigerian youths must be conscious of the fact that we aren’t spectators in this entity called Nigeria; we are meant to be active participants. We aren’t meant to just sit on the sidelines while we look on and clap for the older generation; we are meant to stand on the race tracks and be prepared to either peacefully accept the baton from the older generation or wrest it from them.
Like someone once said that: “there is something fundamentally wrong with you if you are a Nigerian in your 20s, 30s, or 40s and you insist that a septuagenarian is the singular and the only answer to your problem.” It saddens the heart when you see able-bodied Nigerians stand at road-sides arguing on crises within the ruling class, eulogising the major players in the politics of the nation and debating on who will defeat who, while actually refusing to lend their voice to the ‘progressive’ debates going on about how to change things. We must perish the thought that our chances are limited or that we have to choose from a group of old men and women who will probably not be around long enough to clean up the mess they’ll create. We are not spectators; we are active members of this society with equal stakes.
As the race heats up, Nigerians must not make the mistake of taking any leader at face-value; we must call them out. Once again, we must not make the mistake of treading the path of choosing based on party names, tribal sentiments or religious orientation. So, if an APC decides to make an enemy of democracy their flag-bearer, must we gullibly accept? If a PDP decides to make the front-runners in the fight against democracy their flag-bearer, must we foolishly go along? If the South-west decide to field a sworn enemy of the masses, should we sheepishly ‘support’ him? If the North decide to produce a bloodthirsty warlord, should we follow? Or if CAN or the Muslim Society decide to ‘annoint’ a candidate whose precedence reeks of illegality, must we follow? No, we must divest ourselves of all those sentimental ballyhoo that has kept us enmeshed in the murky waters of misrule.
Those who want to pilot the affairs of this nation must be thoroughly evaluated. They must be sound in all aspects. They must not just be sleek talkers that can capture and hold the crowd’s attention; they must not be people that merely have a knowledge of our languages, they must not be people that merely invent cock-and-bull stories to appeal to the sense of belonging of the masses; they must be vast and must have clear-cut ways to profer solutions to the problems bedevilling the nation. They must have a well-developed connection to the grassroots.
A leader that wants to lead this nation must not just come with tales of ‘I won’t promise anything’, in fact, he must be able to promise Nigerians something. He must be able to promise jobs for our children. He/she must be able to promise affordable education. He/she must be able to promise us good roads and a good health care plan. But most especially, he/she must be able to back up those promises with a workable plan of action that must be workable enough to be believed by even the ‘starkest’ illiterate in Nigeria. Like someone said: “Nigeria needs a leader who will give Nigerians a sense of pride in their Nigerianness, and show them that Yes, tomorrow will be better than today.”
A leader who will successfully lead Nigerians to the ‘promised land’ must be willing to tell us if he’s going to depart from the current method of governance (neoliberalism) that the ruling class has embraced over time which has consistently enmeshed Nigerians in poverty and servitude right in their own land. Such leader must be prepared to tell us what his economic blueprints will be; will he still continue with the economic model introduced by agent of the world bank and IMF, Breton Woods Institutions in 2005 that has pushed more than 70% of the citizens below poverty level or is there going to be a more masses-favourable economic plan? Nigerians must not just clap for political oratory; they must listen. Nigerians must listen to what is being said, we must watch the actions of these aspiring leaders and see if it tallies with their words.
The onus lies on us to get it right. We just cannot afford to choose based on a congo of rice and N500 naira and sacrifice our future on the altar of pecuniary gains. We deserve a new Nigeria, our children deserve a new Nigeria, we owe it to the unborn generation to prepare for them a Nigeria void of corrupt practices, judicial manipulations, executive high-handedness, impunity and bloodshed.
God bless Nigerians!
Ogunjimi James Taiwo
Ogun State, Nigeria
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