Nigeria has witnessed the inauguration of a new tenure for President Muhammadu Buhari which will run for four years in the event the challenge to his election at the presidential election petitions tribunal fails. The country is facing challenges in every aspect of our national life, from security, national unity, education, agriculture, power supply, health, etc. It will be no exaggeration to state that the unity of the country is threatened and the economic and social life is in a state of decay. Thus, Nigerians are yearning for a change of leadership style.
President Muhammadu Buhari is the head of the executive arm of government and is portrayed as a superman. With the exception of the Vice President, who is elected on the same ticket with him, every other key member of the executive is an appointee of the President. However, a President is as good as the men and women that make us his cabinet as ministers, special advisers, assistants and key public servants. We can say with some level of certainty that Nigerians now understand the capabilities, competences and limitations of our President. This informs the need to be extremely careful and objective in the selection of his ministers, advisers and aides. But what are the qualities that should recommend a person to be appointed to hold a ministerial, adviser or assistant’s position at the federal level? This discourse seeks to analyse a few of the qualities in recognition of the dire challenges facing the nation.
The first quality is competence which is further defined in the dictionaries to mean and include the ability to do something successfully or efficiently; capability, ability, competency, capacity, proficiency, accomplishment, adeptness, adroitness, knowledge, expertise, expertness, skill, skillfulness, prowess, mastery, resources, faculties, facilities, talent, bent, aptitude, artistry, virtuosity. The first term of President Buhari has shown the fallacy in thinking that appointees can give what they do not have; that learning on the job is the way to go and that no special competence or capacity is needed for assuming the role of a minister or presidential adviser. Nigeria is blessed with abundant human resources in virtually all fields and some of these men and women can be described as experts, technocrats, etc. in the respective fields. They have mastered the field and can proffer solutions to the myriads of challenges facing the specific sector. They could have become generals in the sector either through education, training or practice and are accomplished and recognisable names in the sector. Thus, the idea of bringing a journalist to head the ministry of education; bringing a lawyer who had never shown any interest in the power sector to run that overtly important sector is fundamentally flawed.
The second quality is creativity. We need ministers and advisers who do not just think out of the box but on assumption of duty, refuse to stay inside the box and come out of the box, so that their antennas for problem solving can be free enough to pick all the relevant and necessary signals needed for sectoral development. We need inventiveness, imagination, originality and men who are not afraid to dare. We need leaders who can adapt international best practices to good and fit practices in consideration of our special circumstances and challenges. A part of this creativity is a “can do” spirit and individuals who never believe in failure and will keep trying until solutions are found for daunting challenges. This will also involve being able to recognise available resources and how to use them to fix challenges. Such appointee with this quality is not just one laidback fellow who only understands what he was taught in school so many years ago but should be someone, ready to blend yesterday’s and today’s knowledge for the task at hand.
We also need communicators and persons with the charm and charisma to lead others. The dictionaries have defined this quality as the ability to attract, charm and influence others, inspire devotion and following. It is not about the cult of personality but about brand new and inspiring ideas which build hope, trust and following. We are recommending ministers and advisers who will lead the President to make bold declarations, which will challenge and bring out the best in our men and women of creativity, science and technology to meet national targets in food production and processing, build and mass-produce Nigerian vehicle brands, mass produce renewable and fossil energy machines and parts for the target of giving every Nigerian access to electricity, etc.
Allied to the last quality is for the President to look out for men and women who are ready to lead by example and this is the best way to attract following. Ministers and advisers must let their action speak more than their words. They would not be ministers and advisers whose children will not patronise Nigerian schools and hospitals whilst they are in charge of the ministries of education and health. Rather than launch a Made-in-Nigeria policy, their dresses, vehicles and other consumables will be distinctively Nigerian, not for official functions, but in their public and private life. Thus, when they eventually come out to launch the patronise Made-in-Nigeria products campaign, everyone will see the sincerity of their actions and words. Leadership is not about “change beginning with the electorate”. It is about “change beginning with the leader”, the change master and protagonist.
The next quality is that of the patriots and nationalists who are not local or ethnic champions, who have not come to occupy a position on behalf of an imagined sub group of Nigerians, which now turns them blind to the national question and interest of all other Nigerians. We need ministers who will see the entire Nigeria as their constituency and who will see something good in every part of Nigeria. This will lead to treating all like cases alike, inspire patriotism and loyalty to the nation among the generality of citizens.
We need men and women of integrity which is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, uprightness, probity, rectitude, honour, good character, principle(s), ethics, morals, righteousness, morality, nobility, high-mindedness, right-mindedness, noble-mindedness, virtue, decency, fairness, sincerity, trustworthiness, etc. This should not be mistaken for fake integrity credentials of men and women who practise double standards. They have one standard (which is the standard of the scoundrel) for members of their party and political family and another standard (the demand for the highest ethics) for political opponents. A man of integrity treats everyone that comes across their way with the same standards of justice and gives everyone their due. They are not the author or implementer of 97%/5% dichotomy.
These are few qualities that readily come to mind as there is a surfeit of leadership qualities needed to take Nigeria to the next level. But President Buhari may do Nigerians some good by starting with these basics while we aspire and work for the others.