After several years of reclusive living behind the walls of the Aso Presidential villa, Mamman Daura, popular as MD, showed his face publicly and sought to be counted in the process towards the change of Nigeria’s leadership in 2023. Before now, he was linked to everything about the Muhammadu Buhari government, good and bad. He has severally been pointed at as the architect of the government’s leadership philosophy of north first. Some of those who walk the corridors of the Villa, point at him as the unseen hand behind the throne while Abba Kyari, now late, was the executioner. Even the President’s wife, Hajiya Aisha Buhari, had in several outbursts, pointed at him as the twine that had effectively tied her husband’s hand and stopped him from fulfilling his numerous promises to Nigerians. But all that now pales to nothing as the government runs its course and 2023 comes into focus.
Daura hit the right chord when he told us that competence has to be the focal issue towards 2023 presidential election. Of course, everyone, even the blind, the deaf and the dumb, now know that Nigeria urgently needs competent hands to manage its affairs and save it from total collapse. That was the argument pre-2015 though some believed that only someone who had adorned the military khaki in the past was competent enough to lead. Of course, it was believed that with an ex-soldier, the security challenges which made a thoroughbred civilian seem incompetent, would become history. Nigerians now know that it takes much more than being an ex-soldier to achieve certain results. For a carpenter, the solution to every problem lies in hammer, nails and chisel. For a technocrat, the solutions go beyond those traditional tools. That seems to be what the country has lacked in its search for meaning and comfort.
That is why I thank MD profusely for reminding us that incompetent hands, and minds, confound the problem. Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew said: “You vote in jokers, cranks, weak men, charlatans with some gift of the gab, you run a very serious risk of losing everything you have.” That is exactly what Nigeria has been through. And that is why MD is absolutely right. We now need competent hands, and minds, who can think; persons who are capable of working not for personal privileges but for the common good by ensuring stability of the country and grow its economy. The focus therefore must be on competent minds that have overcome want and are ready to sacrifice their comfort for the good of all. Yes, that is what competent people do. They rarely sit back to be served. They want to serve and lead from the front because positive results give them orgasm and push them to do more. Competence is not about building railway lines, roads and bridges. It is about working the governmental system in such a way that investors are encouraged to put in their money. That is the best way to stimulate the economy, create jobs, improve earnings, take people out of the poverty bracket and grow household economies. This is not what government achieves by operating volunteer job schemes like N-Power and the recent Festus Keyamo’s 774,000 menial jobs (we shall talk about that someday) which is a clear demonstration of the need for a department of thinking in the government.
While it is great that architects of Nigeria’s current slide are now talking of competence, it is also trite to situate this search for competent brains in the Southeast geopolitical zone. That zone also has many competent brains, and minds, who have demonstrated their capabilities in both public and private enterprise. The zone is blessed with competent minds who can work the Nigerian economic system into a new era of development and wealth creation. For me, it is already a demonstrated competence. We need no debate on this. The only debate necessary is a debate to achieve the buy-in of other ethnic stakeholders in deploying this demonstrated competence to rebuild enterprise Nigeriana and make it serve the interest of the majority of the population. I say majority because it is not possible to serve the interest of all citizens. This debate is where the issue lies.
According to Lee Kuan Yew, the message is: “Your future really depends on what you make of it. The government can give you that framework, can give expression to the will of the people, but the people must have the will. If you don’t have it, there is nothing the government can do”. This expression tells us that the decision is more with the people than it is with government. The few people, who run affairs of the state, do not necessarily determine the fate of the citizens. It is the citizens that permit them to determine their fate by allowing certain behaviours and actions. Therefore, a determined people will make the change that they want. However, it begins with conscietization. This is where the task is.
The Southeast must not make the mistake of thinking that achieving 2023 is as easy as making pronouncements and threats. No, it won’t come that way. It will however be possible with the bridges that southeast leaders build across the country. This involves strategic engagement of all shades of southeast leadership, including political, business, religious, traditional leaders, leadership of professional bodies and even herbalists, with those of the other five geopolitical zones. For me, it is a game that must be played. So, it is now immaterial that Mamman Daura spoke for the north or for the presidency or for the cabal or for himself. What is most material here is that he has already laid out the template which the people must fill. His view is now an open book which Nigerians must write on and the most appropriate word to write into that open book, at this time, is southeast. Nothing more!
So, I thank MD profusely again for letting us know, and in good time too, that the template for 2023 is not going to be ethnic or religion or previous military service. This template has proven to be a failure in the task of addressing insecurity including those by terrorist groups like Boko Haram, ISWAP and the marauding bandits assisted by kidnappers, rapists, child traffickers, armed robbers and hired killers. The template has also failed to achieve a regeneration of the economy as much as it has failed to up the ante in direct investment inflows. That is why MD’s prescription needs to excite all of us. It tells us that somehow those who believed that it can only be leadership by a sainthood-seeking-hermit, have come to terms with the reality that the present world, built on the foundations of fast-paced ICT and, propelled by investors who seek to put their money where the ROI makes sense, can no longer be run on mindsets that are locked in the 1960s and 1970s when the focus was huge groundnut pyramids and gigantic oil refineries. The world has moved on and cannot wait for those afraid to change their leadership templates and catch up with reality.
Lee Kuan Yew’s final message stares us in the face: Singaporeans must develop the will to move forward. That message should actually be for Nigerians. Developing the will to move forward means rising above ethnicity and religion and, focusing on competence which is not the exclusive of any geopolitical zone.