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Nigeria’s Presidency and 2011 elections

LESS than five months to the 2011 general election, none of the more than 50 political parties in Nigeria has come up with its presidential candidate for the election. Indeed except in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where a couple of aspirants had indicated their interest to run for the presidency, activities suggesting preparations for the election in other political parties have been curiously low.

Even among the seemingly vibrant opposition parties no notable aspirants have made their intentions known.  This development is worrying because it would appear that the other political parties have resigned to fate that the next president of Nigeria will necessarily come from the ruling party. Or worst still that Nigerians  will come out willy-nilly to vote for any hurriedly packaged presidential candidate whose pedigree and competence they would not have enough time to verify and analyse. The two assumptions above must not hold true as they are mistaken and unhealthy.

NIGERIA is at a critical stage of its political history and the search for the next Chief Executive Officer of the country should be carried out painstakingly and with the inputs of the majority of the eligible voters.

Voters can only make an informed choice, and they must do so this time round, if they know in good time the candidates on offer, their pedigree, track records and agenda or planned stewardship.

The point being made is that, in a country whose population is about 140 million with about 70 million eligible voters and a geographical size of 923,770 square kilometres, the presidential candidates of serious political parties should have started  criss-crossing the length and breadth of the country  selling their candidature to the electorate, at least six months ago.

The aspirants will still have to face internal democratic process in their respective parties where such exists and triumph before they become candidates of their parties. This process takes time, even in a situation where it is conducted seamlessly and the outcome is not disputed.

IN a few days the Nigerian state would clock half a century as an independent sovereignty. At such a milestone, the usual platitudes of the country’s colonial history and military interventions in governance can no longer be sufficient to explain away the appalling levels of physical, political and economic underdevelopment that constitute the reality on the ground.

The desirable leader at this juncture is therefore, the one that has all it takes to jump-start the economy, especially in the areas of social and economic infrastructure.

IN essence, the country needs a Chief Executive Officer who appreciates the enormity of the challenges at hand and possesses the skills and competence to proffer solutions on how to surmount them so that Nigeria can take its rightful place in the comity of developed nations. The nation’s resources,  both in terms of material and human capital, would, by any standard, ordinarily put it in the class of developed countries of the world. The only missing link is leadership that has proven incapable over time to single heartedly galvanise internal resources and patriotically manage them in ways that could engender rapid development in the critical sectors of the economy.

IN the past, different shades of leaders had emerged at the centre stage ranging from outright naïve and incompetent rulers to otherwise intelligent, competent but selfish and unpatriotic ones.

These leaders, who ruled one after the other, either deliberately or ignorantly steered the ship of the state off the course of sustainable development and progress. Nigerians do not need this variant of leaders now.

The next president of Nigeria should be intelligent, competent, broad-minded and capable of achieving results with a team of Nigerians with diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. He should be passionate about the unity and progress of Nigeria based on fairness and equity and not sentiments.

He should have a good understanding of developmental issues locally and internationally and should be politically savvy enough to request and get fair treatment for Nigeria and other African countries from the leaders of world’s developed economies.

CONSEQUENTLY, one would have expected that the issues that should be featuring prominently in public discourse are those that are germane to the problems to be fixed and the qualities of the candidate for the job.

But what they have brought to the public domain for debates are the mutually exclusive issues of zoning of the presidency to the North and the need for continuity in governance both of which carry unwarranted caveat of threats by their protagonists.

SOME politicians of northern extraction want one of their own as the next president of Nigeria in tandem with a special political arrangement in the PDP. There is nothing wrong with this call, except that it should not be the only criterion for the emergence of a president from that section of the country or foreclose competition for the exalted and tasking position by other sections of the country. The broad range of participants in the informal debate which is ordinarily a PDP affair, and the threat of political disintegration of the Nigerian state should the zoning arrangement be jettisoned, puts a  question mark over the sincerity of some stakeholders’ quest  for a leader that will lift the country from the labyrinth of hopelessness.

WHAT those who aspire to lead the country should be telling Nigerians are what they intend to do,  with definite  time line, about the  parlous state of social infrastructure in the country,  seemingly insurmountable problem of irregular  power supply, growing insecurity in the land,  intractable menace of official corruption,  bloated and intolerable cost of governance, persistent budget deficit and timeline for achieving a  balanced budget, curbing excessive recurrent expenditure vis a vis capital budget, hefty domestic and burgeoning foreign debts, and   seemingly politically expedient state creation in the face of economic  non-viability of many of the existing ones, diversification of the economy, foreign policy thrusts etc.

The potential leaders must have lucid and unambiguous stand and views on these and many other relevant issues with granular details of what, how and when on these issues in their political manifestoes.

THESE developmental issues are what should be discussed, in specific terms, in town hall meetings and at political rallies where the presidential candidates interface with the electorate.

The candidate who has the most pragmatic approach to solving these developmental issues in timely and accountable manner should be voted irrespective of the political party he/she emerges from.