Qual­i­ties for pres­i­dent

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

Po­lit­i­cal pun­dits and me­dia com­men­ta­tors who in re­cent weeks have been short-list­ing can­di­dates for pres­i­dent in next year’s elec­tions in this coun­try might have put the cart way be­fore the horse. For an old teacher like me, this is not un­like mark­ing the exam scripts be­fore draw­ing up the mark­ing scheme. There is no short­age of people who are angling to be Pres­i­dent of Nigeria. Any­one is wel­come to as­sess them but we should first draw up a mark­ing scheme.

What are the qual­i­ties re­quired in a man who wishes to be the Pres­i­dent of Nigeria? They are many; no one can have all or per­haps even most of them but the more of them a can­di­date has, the higher his marks should be when we sit down to award marks. Let me list 17 qual­i­ties but not nec­es­sar­ily in that or­der.

Po­lit­i­cal stature. For starters, an as­pi­rant should al­ready be a house­hold name in Nigeria. If he is not, then he needs a ref­er­ees’ re­port [in pol­i­tics it is called en­dorse­ment] from bet­ter known politi­cians. Even a Nige­rian school will not ad­mit you and an em­ployer of labour may not em­ploy you un­less you pro­duce a good ref­eree’s re­port, so it can­not be dif­fer­ent where power is con­cerned.

Po­lit­i­cal and ad­min­is­tra­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. A man wants to head the Federal Govern­ment of Nigeria; at least we want to know what he ran be­fore in his life. As this coun­try’s demo­cratic sys­tem ma­tures, it will be dif­fi­cult for any­one who has not been a state gover­nor, a min­is­ter, a prom­i­nent se­na­tor, the head of a large state agency or busi­ness cor­po­ra­tion to se­ri­ously vie for the pres­i­dency. But there could be ex­cep­tions.

Per­for­mance record. Many a Nige­rian as­pi­rant thinks he de­serves a higher po­lit­i­cal of­fice sim­ply be­cause he held a high one. It does mat­ter if he ac­quit­ted him­self well in that pre­vi­ous of­fice. It is not ev­ery gover­nor or min­is­ter that is pres­i­den­tial ma­te­rial, for in­stance.

In­tel­lec­tual ap­ti­tude. Nigeria has greatly trans­formed from a sim­ple people with much at­tach­ment to an­cient value sys­tems. A mod­ern-day Nige­rian pres­i­dent will be in the midst of a push-and-pull by smooth-talk­ing politi­cians, clever civil ser­vants, data-bam­boo­zling pro­fes­sion­als, con­sul­tants of great mar­ket­ing savvy, de­cep­tively earnest busi­ness­men, elo­quent union ag­i­ta­tors, se­cu­rity-sec­tor Dooms­day­ists, cun­ning colum­nists as well as prac­tised for­eign ma­nip­u­la­tors. He needs above aver­age in­tel­lec­tual ap­ti­tude to sift the chaff from the grain.

Knowl­edge of Nigeria. Cer­tain sto­ries that are told of some Nige­rian

lead­ers’ poor grasp of the coun­try’s his­tory and ge­og­ra­phy leaves one numb. A se­ri­ous can­di­date for pres­i­dent should have a good idea about each of the 36 states; the kind of people that live there, some­thing about their lan­guages, his­tory, econ­omy and cul­tural out­look, and some­thing about their prob­lems and as­pi­ra­tions. A back­ground in cer­tain pro­fes­sions ac­cel­er­ates knowl­edge of the coun­try; I mean those trades that en­tail reg­u­lar post­ing or travel to all parts of the coun­try.

Charisma. It is dif­fi­cult to de­fine charisma, even more dif­fi­cult to pin­point a charis­matic per­son. A charis­matic per­son ex­cites a place when he en­ters; he turns heads around; he com­mands at­ten­tion and he gen­er­ates re­spect even when you do not agree with what he is say­ing. It is a very big plus in pol­i­tics be­cause few people have it.

Cross-re­gional ap­peal. To stand any chance of win­ning the pres­i­dency, a man must have cross-re­gional ap­peal. There are few people in Nigeria these days that com­mand such an ap­peal on their own power. One can how­ever achieve cross­re­gional ap­peal by mar­shalling the forces of re­gional power bro­kers. In 1992 when we asked Gen­eral Shehu Yar’adua if he would ac­cept Al­haji La­teef Jakande’s in­vi­ta­tion to do a pop­u­lar­ity test on La­gos streets, Yar’adua said, “LKJ should do that test with Dapo Sarumi and Yomi Edu. The La­gos vot­ers that voted for me in the SDP pri­maries did so be­cause of Sarumi and Edu.”

A strong po­lit­i­cal plat­form. Re­al­is­ti­cally speak­ing, the only par­ties with a chance to win the pres­i­dency in next year’s elec­tion are PDP and APC. No mat­ter how pop­u­lar a can­di­date is per­son­ally, he needs party work­ers in all parts of the coun­try to turn out the vote and to po­lice polling sta­tions and col­la­tion cen­tres. Other­wise he can­not even lay his hands on the ev­i­dence to prove mal­prac­tice should he head for the courts.

Good health and vigour. Con­sid­er­ing that two Nige­rian rulers fell sick and died in of­fice in the last 16 years, many a voter will be look­ing for ro­bust health in a prospec­tive pres­i­dent. Nige­rian pres­i­dents in­spire con­fi­dence when they are seen to en­er­get­i­cally move around. Pro­vided they re­main within the coun­try; jun­ket­ing abroad is a po­lit­i­cal mi­nus here.

The right age. In African so­ci­eties, age is usu­ally thought of as di­rectly pro­por­tional to wis­dom. [Not in all cases; I know some fool­ish old men]. The flip side of it is that age is in­versely pro­por­tional to good health and vigour, hence the com­plaint that some people are

too old to seek the pres­i­dency.

Se­cu­rity ex­pe­ri­ence. For the in­creas­ing num­ber of Nige­ri­ans who feel that in­se­cu­rity has over­taken cor­rup­tion as Nigeria’s num­ber one prob­lem, a record of ser­vice in the mil­i­tary or po­lice, un­til re­cently frowned at, is fast be­com­ing an as­set in pol­i­tics.

Eco­nomic lit­er­acy. If it is true as re­cently al­leged that Nigeria’s econ­omy is the largest in Africa, then eco­nomic lit­er­acy will be a very use­ful qual­ity to look for in the choice of pres­i­dent. This qual­ity is quite rare in Nige­rian pol­i­tics be­cause such per­sons pre­fer to be run­ning busi­ness cor­po­ra­tions. But it is sorely needed to trans­form the econ­omy from be­ing the largest to be­ing the most de­vel­oped econ­omy in Africa.

Ide­ol­ogy. Un­like what many Nige­ri­ans think, so­cial­ism and com­mu­nism are not the only po­lit­i­cal ide­olo­gies in the world. Suf­fice it to say that a man with­out co­her­ent ide­o­log­i­cal thought can hardly pro­vide a co­her­ent pro­gram of rule.

In­tegrity. Un­til re­cently when in­se­cu­rity shot to the top in many people’s minds, Nige­ri­ans thought of cor­rup­tion as the coun­try’s sin­gle big­gest prob­lem. It is no small credit in Nige­rian pol­i­tics if a man has a rep­u­ta­tion for in­tegrity. The prob­lem with in­tegrity is that while the gen­eral voter sees it as a big plus, the work­ing politi­cian se­cretly sees it as a big mi­nus. People who com­mit them­selves to work for you in the po­lit­i­cal trenches do so for ex­pected per­sonal re­ward, not so that you will come and clean up the Augean sta­bles. Some­times how­ever, po­lit­i­cal power bro­kers agree to present a can­di­date who is an eas­ier sell with the gen­eral vot­ers. Some­times.

Lack of bag­gage is an ex­ten­sion of

in­tegrity. The prob­lem with this qual­ity is that it is of­ten in­versely pro­por­tional to po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. The more pub­lic of­fices a man holds and the longer the pe­riod he holds them, the more likely that he was in­volved in some scan­dal. Or even, the more likely that he stepped on some pow­er­ful toes.

Wis­dom. An im­por­tant ques­tion to pon­der when choos­ing the pres­i­dent is, to what ex­tent is good per­for­mance as a gover­nor or a min­is­ter a good pre­dic­tor that one can be a good pres­i­dent? The virtues of knowl­edge, ex­pe­ri­ence, com­mon sense, in­sight, pa­tience and fair­ness which to­gether con­sti­tute wis­dom are im­por­tant at ev­ery level of rule. Sir Ber­trand Rus­sell said the cen­tral el­e­ment of wis­dom is to have a sense of pro­por­tion. It ap­pears to me that while a state could get by with an im­pa­tient or in­tol­er­ant gover­nor who how­ever has tech­no­cratic abil­i­ties, wis­dom is a much more in­dis­pens­able qual­ity in the pres­i­dency. If the pres­i­dent ex­hibits much in­tol­er­ance and im­pa­tience he could wreck the coun­try. A good record of build­ing roads and bridges can­not com­pen­sate for that.

Which brings us to the last fac­tor I want to men­tion, which is money. Con­sid­er­ing all the worth­while qual­i­ties men­tioned above, why is it that when most Nige­ri­ans hear that a man is gun­ning for the pres­i­dency their first ques­tion is, “Does he have enough money?”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.