For the first time in its modern democratic political history, Nigeria is experiencing a presidential candidacy that is supremely equipped to furnish the country with a transformational leadership. Since its independence in 1960, Nigeria has been described as having enormous potential, but the potential has remained largely unrealized due to poor leadership. If Nigeria makes the best political leadership choice right now—the effect on the country’s socio-economic profile would be transformational. It would set the country on the path to finally realizing its potential. Many Nigerians, especially the youth and countless other citizens who are tired of remaining in the mud pit that the country is stuck in due to poor leadership, have intuitively sensed the great possibilities implicit in this transformative presidential candidacy—and have become passionately engaged in the political process to achieve a transformative democratic political outcome in the presidential election of February 2023. These people have, by becoming fully engaged, brought about the first crowd-funded and open-sourced presidential campaign in the history of Nigeria.
This presidential candidate is unerringly hitting the right notes, signaling that if he is elected as president of Nigeria, the leadership he would provide would finally propel Nigeria to take off, economically, socially, politically.
He—this presidential candidate—is campaigning on the issues and the issues alone. He is deftly utilizing empirical data to demonstrate how far behind Nigeria is—and how it can recover and then thrive, through the application of intelligent, knowledgeable, purposeful, energetic, bold, compassionate, and honest leadership. He is using comparative data analytics to offer several policy options for the economic takeoff of Nigeria. He is offering the country an opportunity—perhaps a final opportunity—for rational decision-making in public governance for the benefit of the people of Nigeria.
He communicates hope, optimism, empathy, humility, courage, and pragmatism in a language that ordinary Nigerians can easily understand. His earnestness is visible. His inclination to listen and learn is discernible. His humility is touching. He conveys the aura of an everyday ordinary person, despite his successful business and political career, recalling US President Franklin Roosevelt, who despite being from the upper class, connected with the ordinary people of the United States of America in the desperate times of the 1930s. His discarding of the old and failed politics of ethnicity, religion, ignorance, anti-knowledge, brigandage, and corruption (“no shi-shi!”) is refreshing and has captivated the people of the country. He is telling Nigerians a new story of themselves—a story of possibilities, of greatness, of upliftment, confidence, and a great future. For the first time, Nigerians have gotten a glimpse of what true leadership is—as opposed to the shameless and wicked pretenders and notorious incompetents who have collectively and callously dragged the country into a mud pit.
As a result, the connection he has made with the Nigerian people has inspired a vibrant, passionate, widespread, and growing movement of Obi-dient masses. And this indicates a future presidential administration that will be closely connected with the people—a true servant-leadership, a leadership infused with profound love for the people that will inform deliberate public-policy strategies to urgently transform the lives of the people.
Political scientist Justin Gest of George Mason University, in his 2022 book Majority Minority, writes that leaders should use “connectedness as a criterion of governance.” Gest further asserts that policy makers should be guided by three questions, in their policy making: Will the policy decision “reinforce or break down social boundaries between people?” Can the policy decision “be adjusted to strengthen the sense of connection between people?” Will the policy decision cause people to “trust this institution more and participate in its efforts?” Gest argues that if policy makers are guided accordingly by these questions, this would produce policy decisions that enable different groups in society to live in peace with each other and become more thoroughly engaged in the political process. Gest advises that political leaders should also “construct unifying narratives about the nation and its identity.”
It is abundantly clear that this presidential candidate will use connectedness as a criterion of governance. He has abundantly demonstrated this in his campaign already. His only focus has been the people—and targeted policies that would transform their lives while achieving robust economic growth and development for the country. He talks about the crime against humanity of having 20 million children out of school in Nigeria. (As early as 1890 in Japan, 80% of school-age children were enrolled, as economic historian J. Bradford Delong of the University of California, Berkeley, points out in his 2022 book Slouching Towards Utopia — An Economic History of the Twentieth Century. Delong further points out that in 1868, there were over 600(!) bookshops in Tokyo. Is it surprising that today Japan is the 3rd largest economy in the world?) He talks about the linkage between human capital development and economic takeoff. He talks about the tragedy of 100 million Nigerians who are unemployed or underemployed or struggling to survive on less than US$2 per day. He talks about formulating and implementing public policies that would change their desperate situation; that would move Nigeria “from consumption to production.”
This presidential candidate talks about how all Nigerians are connected in their collective suffering while stuck in a mud pit of an economy and a massive security hole. (“Is bread cheaper in the north? Is any part of Nigeria secure? Does any part of Nigeria have superb infrastructure?”—he constantly asks.) He insists that the Nigerian people themselves are running for president through him; that they should record his electoral promises and hold him accountable; that the fundamental issue in the presidential election is trust—and who the people can trust to deliver on their campaign promises, based on their antecedents. The most important, the highest office in the land is the office of citizen—as the activist Aisha Yesufu always reminds us. This presidential candidate insists he would run a citizen-focused and citizen-led administration. (“Go and verify” from his record as a former state governor!)
He constantly offers unifying narratives about the nation and its identity—and this has proved very uplifting to the people: “Ethnic divisions are a political elite conspiracy to keep the people apart to enable the political rulers continue their stealing of the nation’s wealth; don’t fall for it.” He argues that the new oil is the vast uncultivated land in the northern part of the country—which he would put to good agricultural use, unlocking vast riches for the nation while ensuring food security, increased exports, larger foreign currency inflows, strengthening and stabilizing the Naira, reducing poverty, and eliminating physical insecurity by providing economic security for the mass of unemployed, vulnerable, exploited, angry, and forgotten youths. For the first time in its modern political history, Nigeria is experiencing a presidential candidate who is within striking distance of attaining power and who fully understands economics and public policy and is knowledgeable about the interconnections amongst several policy inputs and how to methodically apply and calibrate them for optimal policy outcomes.
The experience of India, with the technocratic and purposeful prime-ministership of Manmohan Singh from 2004-2014 is what helped to catapult India to finally take off economically, as political economist Pat Utomi always reminds us. This type of knowledgeable and purposeful leadership experience is critical— Nigerians have seen the horrendously damaging impact of utterly clueless, talk less of uncaring, leadership.
Can this presidential candidate win?—some ask. Will practitioners of the old and failed politics allow him to win?—others ask. If he wins, can he govern against the backdrop of politicians from the old, wicked order working overtime to frustrate his efforts to pull the country out of the miry clay?—yet others ask. The answer to all these questions rests with Nigerians—the people themselves. If the people get it right in their political choice in February 2023, then he will win. If the people expand and deepen their participation in the political process, he will win over the machinations of the practitioners of the old politics. If he wins, he will govern—if the people remain completely engaged in the political process, and constantly hold all politicians accountable, as he himself demands. For the first time—the time of the people of Nigeria has come: if they can confidently and courageously seize this historical moment and politically and economically liberate themselves forever.
If the verdict of history (only so far) is that Nigeria and Nigerians are stuck in a mud pit because of poor leadership, the historian Timothy Snyder of Columbia University timely reminds us in his essay, “Ukraine Holds the Future — The War Between Democracy and Nihilism” published in the September/October 2022 edition of Foreign Affairs, “… that democracy is not about accepting the apparent verdict of history. It is about making history; striving toward human values despite the weight of empire, oligarchy, and propaganda; and, in so doing, revealing previously unseen possibilities.” In February 2023 Nigeria and Nigerians will (have an opportunity to) make history. They will strive toward history despite the stockpiled weight of oligarchy and propaganda and domestic imperialism. They will thus reveal previously unseen possibilities. Possibilities for the 20 million out-of-school children. For the 100 million unemployed, underemployed, and deprived people.
Possibilities for a great future for Nigeria and Nigerians.