As we begin the election year 2022, there is no better time to introspect on our political journey so far and what we urgently and desperately need to do to reposition this country on the part of irreversible progress. Amongst other items on the menu list, what should rank first in the minds of well-meaning Nigerians is the quality of candidates that should be on the ballot in 2023.
The quality of candidates for the 2023 election should be such that whichever way the election goes, Nigeria will have the benefit of having a President that will place the country on the part of irreversible progress. To achieve this however, we have to begin a massive sensitization and national awareness of the sort of candidates that must not be seen on the ballot.
Considering all that the country has witnessed in the last years, the age and health of anyone angling to become President must be placed under very strict scrutiny. Nigeria needs a leader who will both act as a generational bridge builder and who is healthy enough to carry out the enormous demands of the office of the President. The country is at the point where we need a leadership that can connect to the most disgruntled, disillusioned, and often excluded youth population. We need a President that will be engaging enough to harness the enormous potentials in our youths. Beyond the worn-out cliché that the youths are the future of tomorrow, we need a President that will indeed, translate this cliché into a realizable vision supported by concrete plans. A younger president will find it easier to bridge this gap.
The health status of the next president must not only come under scrutiny, whoever intends to become President must be ready to come clean with Nigerians on their health status. The President in a country like Nigeria is already burdened with the almost intractable challenges bedeviling the country. Therefore, to be able to deliver on the mandate of repositioning this country, we need a president that is healthy and physically fit for the office. Nigeria has had her fair share of Presidents with challenged health. At every time this issue comes up, the unity and stability of the country is challenged, owing to the type of politics we play in this part of the world. To save ourselves these needless distractions, anyone with a chronic health condition should stay clear of the office of the president. The damage a sick president does to the country and the office is unimaginable and unquantifiable. Decisions are delayed, international engagements are stalled, the country is on the edge, and tension is raised among ethnic groups that if not properly managed, could snowball into something disastrous. Again, to spare ourselves this, we need a verifiably healthy president. A comprehensive medical report from a reputable hospital both at home and abroad would suffice.
We need a president that is mentally fecund enough to engage frequently and robustly with the citizens. A President that is comfortable with the populace, and who is willing and ready to engage at any time is what the country needs this period. In today’s world, leadership is largely a function of constant engagement with the citizens. The people want to see and hear directly from their leader and not through proxies or unelected spokesmen and women. The next president must pass this litmus test. It is easier to manage citizens when the leader is engaging enough. It is easier to get the buy-in of citizens on any project or policy once they see that they are carried along the decision-making process. Communication should be a key factor in choosing the next president.
In our recent history, many elected leaders have had to go to courts to defend the educational qualifications they are parading. This has a way of eroding confidence in the leader. How can a leader whose educational qualification is under scrutiny have the moral muscle to preach integrity and demand rightful conduct from the people? These things matter! The next president must come with a clean slate regarding his or her educational qualifications. Schools attended must not be in doubt and certificates obtained must neither be questionable nor subject of unnecessary litigation. Nigeria has gone beyond such mundane issues. Rather, we should have the choice of choosing from an array of brilliant and intellectually sagacious citizens that abound across the country.
Finally, we must be careful of the corruption profile, public and private conduct, and domestic and international perception of our next president. Nigeria needs a president who does not have the baggage of criminal allegations hanging around his neck. We need a president who does not have a history of questionable activities and relationships both at home and abroad. We need a president who has demonstrated sufficient integrity in his or her public conduct over the years. We need a president who can boldly address the issues of corruption because his hands are clean.
While this list is in no way exhaustive, we can use this as a template as we go into the election year. As political parties commence discussions on who to choose as their flagbearer, these issues must be pushed to the front burner so that we don’t choose the next leader on the basis of emotions. The next president of Nigeria must be subjected to the proper scrutiny used globally in choosing leaders. We can begin from here.
As citizens and critical stakeholders, political parties must listen to the voices of the people they intend to lead. The critical issues as we go into the 2023 election are as clear as day. We need a leader that has the capacity of uniting this country across religious, ethnic, and political lines. We need a president who has Nigeria at heart. We need a president whose constituency is the Federal Republic of Nigeria!