Last week, i dealt with the Anambra State gubernatorial election and I was clear Chukwuma Charles Soludo was best placed of all the contestants to win; his rich antecedents made it so. Soludo’s kind is “an idea whose time has indeed come.” Nigerians are obviously very tired of mediocre leadership, they have seen men with no capacity fight their way into public offices far above their level of competence; their wrecked lives is clear evidence of what has come from what is obviously a huge misadventure. Now they earnestly desire men who are well tutored with proven record of past excellence to take over. Ndigbo who are highly relegated in national affairs want an immediate leadership paradigm shift, one that would be progressive and productive.
The allure of Biafra is strong but a far majority are beginning to think of the new Biafra in terms of a thriving race within the enclave of Nigeria. Igbo are thinking to replicate what the Bavarians in Germany have done, recreating their zone and making it the place to be. Igbo have taken great lessons from the Catolonians in Spain. Even though the area is running with secessionist idea the leaders have made it the most productive part of Spain with attendant high standard of living. Ndigbo also romanticise California in America, which if left to be a country will have an annual gross domestic product by far better than many countries the world that pass as developed nations A lot of people in the South East are beginning to give this line of thought a serious attention and that is why Soludo being throw up at this time caught on with the electorate during the polls and has remained so after.
Introduction of Soludo was a masterstroke by Governor Willie Obiano and it worked for him. It came out well because every genuine Igbo person bought into it; it was their desire to see Soludo win and win very well. This explains why they have placed the burden of high expectations on the shoulders of Soludo. Last week, I gave some advice to Soludo, which I know would help him if he decides to apply his heart to what I said. That aspect of the writeup didn’t make the page last week because of space constraints. I am pushing them out again today in an enhanced form because of a things that I know make leaders fail in power. We must get this straight: no leader goes into office having failure at the centre of his heart; they all have high hopes they will come through as stars, but before long they turn out terrible leaders, leaving the subjects to murmur and cry in the background.
Many reasons account for this. One of these is the fact most of those who eventually get elected as leaders to govern local, state or central government draw their programmes without input from anybody. There is the feeling they know all that is good for their people. The result is often to have projects that look grandiose but very wide off what could make life very meaningful for the people at that moment. A clear case would be found of leaders talking and in fact placing emphasis on construction of an international conference centre when the people know that the city expected to host international summits is a glorified village that badly needs huge doses of urban renewal efforts. The other reason has to do with bad advice by chieftains who see politics as purely business venture. Tthis group of very powerful individuals would always swoop on the new leader and all they teach him is what to do to reap personal gains; the leader has not settled down to first assignment and he is being reminded of second tenure.
Quality of cabinet is another big issue. Most of the time, if not all the time, appointments are not made based on core competence. Rather a racketeering system anchored around primitive patronage system is employed. Each chieftain wants his “strong” boys to get on board; it wouldn’t matter if they have requisite experience. One consequence is that hallowed points of leadership are straddled with persons of no vision, drive and passion, opportunists who see public service as a chance to add to number of idle rich Nigerians. A major consequence is that many “advising to gain.” They veil their inordinate desires in noble objectives. It is during implementation that the monster in them becomes manifest, they don’t care how their various acts of perfidy rub off on the regime the serve. Their boss won’t know because these guys have the gift of eloquence and sweet talk, they have this ability to hold leaders captive and to make terrible situations seem good and wanted. They misinterpret the citizens’ mood.
Soludo would have to rejig the administrative structure around Government House or the Cabinet Office generally. Interfaces with public audiences is crucial to good governance, the subjects are greatly circumscribed in current system in vogue in the South East and a few other places across the country. In most states in the North the high position of the Office of the Secretary to State Government has been retained and that is positive for many reasons. Firstly, the office should be the heartbeat of administration; it is equipped to keep records in perpetuity than the Office of the Chief of Staff. It supervises the MDAs, keeps records of their activities and more importantly pursuing timelines.
The manner South East Governors in the past diminished the functionality of the SSG while elevating the position of the Chief of Staff whose core functions are not engrained in administrative system has continued to promote power over efficiency and delivery. In the past the SSG ran the Government House with a Principal Secretary who should be a serving technocrat of the rank of Permanent Secretary. Creation of Chief of Staff who is a political appointee adds to creating more buffer zones for the leader and keeps him far away from the people. I don’t want to talk about the issue of power tussle. Effective leadership must be accessible, this is the right means to gather and wield influence which helps to build up the legitimacy base, which is vital for winning elections.
The place and functions of the secret registry is great but its location and the usual civil service bureaucratic process, accessibility and delays alienate the leader from reality. A small unit outside Government House is advocated to be led by a highly reliable, trained official, trusted by the leader to interface with the public and be the last man to see the leader before he retires. This will not facilitate contacts, but it has capacity to create a new order where people and groups get replies within 24 to 72 hours. This arrangement does not in any manner detract from core job assignments of the protocol office.
There is need to depoliticize the civil service. A civil service academy that will train and retrain the workers is not a bad idea. Nothing wrong if staff bus system, car loan, civil service hospital, owner occupier housing projects and recreation are revived. Finally, it is great to dream very big but makes political sense to start very fast on the basic needs. Citizens want to see road rehabilitation and construction marching international standards and they want quality but very affordable health care. Private sector approach is good but in the midst of poverty it has its inherent troubles. They want school building blocks remodelled and equipped; teachers should be paid too. The people also want food security.
Then there are the two key issues of Igbo Renaissance and East Central States integration. Would Soludo show the light for others to follow? Is he the messiah or shall we look for another?