Nigeria is in dire need of leadership. It is generally believed that Nigeria’s greatest need is the enthronement of good leadership. The lack of it has continued to make this giant of Africa unable to take her place in the comity of great nations of the world. It has left millions of her citizens to wallow in abject poverty and squalor despite the nation’s endowment with virtually all the natural resources nature has to offer.
And as we continue our quest to build a truly great nation, especially in the light of our present socio-economic challenges and indeed leadership failure, it is wise to begin a gradual assessment of the choices we have before us in the area of leadership in order to avoid the pitfalls of the past.
One error Nigerians must not make in choosing our next president is to gloss over the track record of the aspirants. It is time to begin to assess the suitability of candidates for political office, based on certain clear-cut leadership qualities exhibited by them in their personal and public lives. For if lack of good leadership is our bane as a nation, no effort should be spared in ensuring that we get it right next time around.
Some of the leadership virtues we must demand from aspirants to the office of the president include a track-record of foresightedness, of being good democrats, having proven economic management skills, honesty, courage and acceptability to the religious and ethnic divides that make up Nigeria. Known ethnic and religious bigots must no longer be allowed to come to power to disunite us.
Among those we know to be interested in running for the presidency and indeed those who have already occupied the office, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, the Waziri Adamawa, possesses these critical leadership virtues in the largest measure.
In business, politics or education, Atiku’s foresight is legendary. He started making waves in farming when others were shunning the sector and rose to become a prominent maize farmer before branching into animal feeds, which, interestingly, has now become the only sustainable solution to the nationwide deadly clashes between farmers and herdsmen over grazing land.
His passion for and understanding of qualitative education, as the most important need of our youths to ensure a great future for our nation led him to found the American University of Nigeria (AUN), located in Yola, Adamawa State. One of Nigeria’s earliest private universities, AUN is listed among the best universities in Africa.
As a democrat, Atiku’s credentials are without parallel. Since his entry into politics in 1989 till he left office in 2007 after two successful terms, as Nigeria’s vice president, Nigerians have come to know Atiku, as the politician, who plays by the rule and is always on the side of truth and the constitution, hence the large followership he enjoys across all ethnic, religious and social divides in Nigeria.
In honouring Atiku with the prestigious Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award in 2011, at the 50th anniversary celebration of the U.S Peace Corps, the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) said of Atiku: “No private businessman in Africa has worked harder for democracy or contributed more to the progress of higher education than Atiku Abubakar.”
Atiku’s economic management dexterity has seen him founding and sitting atop some of the most successfully managed companies in Nigeria and overseas, which cut across several sectors, including education, agriculture, oil and gas, media, hospitality, maritime and beverages, among others.
A famously detribalised man, the Waziri Adamawa has over the decades positively impacted on the lives of millions of Nigerians, regardless of their religion, tribe, gender or social status. He is adept at creating opportunities for others and genuinely wants to help people to succeed in life.
None of those angling to become the president of Nigeria has Atiku’s job creation and economic management credentials; attributes critically necessary to be possessed by any aspirant to that office, especially in the light of our present sorry pass.
The most dangerous threat to our collective march towards nationhood is the increasing disunity among the constituent ethnic and religious divides that make up the country. Agitations have become bloody, contributing significantly to erosion of economic growth. Confidence in the unity of Nigeria has fallen to an all-time low as some groups threaten secession while yet others hand out quit notice and counter quit notices, thereby heating up the polity.
Analysts point to over-centralisation of power, as the cause of the increasing agitations and opine that only the restructuring of Nigeria to make it a truly federal state can guarantee sustainable peace, unity and progress of Nigeria. Restructuring Nigeria is the only panacea for the unity, peace and progress of Nigeria. This is what the times we are in demand. Interestingly, the leading advocate for the restructuring of Nigeria is Atiku Abubakar, a clear evidence of his foresightedness and statesmanship.
Throughout history, events and circumstances have served to throw up leaders whose qualities galvanise their nations from disunity to unity, from poverty to prosperity and from failure to success. Such leaders may have been lurking in the background, but a series of events that task the welfare and safety of citizens help to thrust these leaders forward. These are leaders made for the times. Leaders thrown up by circumstances, who rise to the occasion to re-set their nations on the path of prosperity and great nationhood. In Britain we had Winston Churchill; in the United States were Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt; in China there was Chairman Mao Zedong and in Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew.
Nigeria is now in dire need of a leader in this mould. A leader who is foresighted enough to read the future, fair and courageous enough to do the needful and a leader who is at the same time compassionate and acceptable across the length and breadth of Nigeria’s ethnic and religious divides.
Considering the former vice president’s pedigree, Nigerians should begin to look the way of Atiku now. For in the light of our present socio-economic and constitutional challenges, the man has all it takes to re-set this nation on the path of prosperity and great nationhood. If truth must be told and sentiments set aside, surely Atiku Abubakar is the leader Nigeria needs for these challenging times.
•Udenna Orji, writer, political analyst and businessman, writes from Abuja and can be reached via 08033603119 or [email protected]