A disappointing leader is not always a dictator that seizes power and imposes himself like Idi Amin Dada, Charles Taylor or General Abacha. Bad leaders are also products of democracy who were elected by popular votes.
For every generation that elected a bad leader, they did so out of anger, frustration and disillusionment. You know a generation that is about to elect a disappointing leader when you find people who should be critical thinkers create a kind of cult and blind followership of an individual. They refuse to interrogate their mentor or put his agenda to scrutiny. They rationalize and justify every action of the leader even where it is evident that the actions were wrong. To them their leader is infallible and to question him is a sacrilege.
Recall Adolph Hitler? He didn’t seize power or cause a revolution like Mobutu Sese Seko, but was popularly elected by frustrated Germans who fell for his demagoguery and rhetoric. Those that created a cult-like followership around him felt he was a prayer answered, but he ended up being a curse to modern Germany.
I believe from hindsight, those that voted Hitler as the Chancellor of Germany will be turning in their graves at the mention of his name because he became all that a leader should not be. Hitler was a horror to humanity.
The current Nigeria President is also a product of popular democracy. He won overwhelmingly and was voted for by Nigerians who wanted a quick fix to the myriads of problems facing the country. I recall then in 2015 how the media made us hate President Jonathan and to love the current President. He was popular with the masses hence his victory was greatly celebrated. But who is celebrating his leadership now?
Most Nigerians are justifiably angry. We are not sure whether we still have a country as every part of the country is unsafe, including the Federal Capital Territory. Nearly all the institutions of government have collapsed. Nigerians are anxiously waiting for his final exit. No one I know will want to have another of his kind. The good thing is that even he is anxious to retire back to his native Daura.
The core of Nigeria’s issues is a civilizational one. Contrary to predictions that the 2023 presidential election will be fundamentally different from previous ones, primal emotions, cult-following, and niche-carving may likely determine who Nigeria’s next leader will be. The presidential election of 2023 is coming up, and while it will undoubtedly be strange in some ways, it will also be very similar in many other ways. There are both international and local instances that demonstrate how important cult following and niche carving are to winning a presidential election. Global examples include Donald Trump of the United States and French President Emmanuel Macron, who was unexpectedly elected in May 2017. President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria is an equally typical example of a leader who gained power by cult-like following and niche-carving in our region.
These are presidents who, typically to the astonishment of bettors and experts, relied on the niches they had developed over time and used such to win elections. Let’s examine a couple of these instances in more detail. A good illustration of the influence of cult followings and niche-carving on election outcomes is the Donald Trump phenomenon. The 58th quadrennial presidential election took place in the United States in 2016. In what is regarded as one of the biggest upsets in American history, the Republican ticket of billionaire Donald Trump and Indiana governor Mike Pence defeated the Democratic ticket of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Virginia senator Tim Kaine.
Trump is still the current front-runner for the Republican candidacy and has about half of Republican support, despite the fact that he failed his bid for reelection in 2020, partly due to his inept and careless management of the COVID-19 outbreak. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were once seen as the two front-runners in the general election of 2023. However, with many disgruntled millennials gravitating to Labour Party and Mr. Peter Obi emerging as the party’s flag-bearer the equation is shifting, and the party is now becoming a force to be reckoned with.
One problem I find with the Obi-dient family is that they are willing to justify anything and everything attributed to their leader. They are fanatical, which is something frightening and should be a concern to every discerning democrat. In democracy people should be allowed the freedom of thoughts and choice.
Back home, Muhammadu Buhari is a political engineering and marksmanship case study; he sought absolute power as a goal in and of itself. Based on the niche-carving and cult-like following of the poor masses of the North, the Talakawas, Buhari had gathered a sizable vote total in the last five consecutive presidential elections in this administration. This was especially true in the Northern section of the country. Another illustration is Atiku Abubakar, who has been a recurrent decimal in the country’s political equation ever since his debut in 1992. He has used a variety of strategies to build and use his cult following and niche audience. He purposefully and methodically established connections across the country while retaining positive ties to his Muslim and northern roots. He has offspring from brides who belong to the main ethnic groups. The bridge, which he constructed over many years, spans the majority of Nigeria’s social classes, including those between Islam and Christianity, the north and the south, elites and Talakawas, and so forth.
The Peter Obi example, which is like a bolt from the blues, is thus reshaping the established frontiers by intensifying the need for change among the disillusioned Nigerian young, particularly in Southern Nigeria and the North Central. Obi is consistently eroding the support bases of the APC and PDP. Undoubtedly, he has carved out and maintained a place for himself, which contributes to his growing prominence. Obi has amassed a massive and cult following to support his presidential aspirations, whether on purpose or accidentally. Peter Obi’s emerging prominence has all the hallmarks of a dark horse and should not be disregarded at one’s peril.
What can be said especially about Tinubu in terms of niche-carving and cult following after citing the examples of Trump, Buhari, Kwankwaso, and Peter Obi? The South West, particularly Lagos, is where Tinubu’s niche and cult following are most evident; if he can spread this to the other regions of the nation, it will increase his chances of winning in 2023.
Unfortunately, primitive emotions will continue to dominate. The politicians are already emphasizing their ethnicity and religion in an effort to segregate their bases. Candidates typically have safe havens where they can be anticipated to win come rain or shine in all climes. Atiku, Obi, and Tinubu, the three front-runners, are predictably dominating in their home regions. Peter Obi is in the South East and expanding into the South-South, South West, and Central, while Tinubu is in the South West and attempting to advance into the core north with the aid of the APC governors.
Due to the lack of a front-runner in the race, North Central will be a swing region. Primordial emotions, local strategic interest, and steadfast party connections and fidelity will all influence how people vote. The prediction does not offer any of the front-runners an instant advantage or lead, but unless something unexpected occurs, they are likely to split the six states in the zone evenly.
The murky situation will become clearer by January’s end. None of the contenders have already achieved victory. My prayers is that we do not end up electing another disappointing leader out of frustration and anger. Let’s be clear in the choice we make. The future leader must not be one to experiment with us but one with experience , tenacity and courage. We don’t need a leader that will pretend to know it all but a leader with capacity to hunt for the best of talents