The struggles at most points of human development are for the improvement of quality of life. Often, people focus on access to good life indicated by the enjoyment of good water supply, health and educational services and unhindered opportunities to make money to meet daily needs. On top of these is the capacity to move around at all times without fear of hoodlums.
All these make governance a serious and tasking activity. Nigeria is on the brink of choosing who to entrust these uphill tasks. The situation on the ground has only made the choice more complicated.
The complication is in the fact that as a country we have endured weak institutions and powerful individuals for a while. The delivery of good life has depended more on the physical well-being and moral willpower of the individuals rather than the institutional rules and procedures.
Thus, a weak leader either on the grounds of human frailties or moral willpower may take us below the current precarious levels of quality of life.
In the ongoing commotion and political charades, there appears to be a lone voice in the wilderness. Babatunde Raji Fashola shot himself to limelight in the past decade. As a public-cum-political servant, and as a man of letters, Fashola should not be taken lightly. What he says concerning governance must be taken with the seriousness it deserves.
In recent time, Raji Fashola has had the chance to bare his mind on the governance of the country. To me, the utterances of this learned officer represent a struggle between his inner convictions and the outward facade of the political terrain.
Raji Fashola, erstwhile governor of Lagos State, has in clear terms stressed the need for the Nigerian electorate to install credible government with the capacity to deliver development and welfare to the people.
This is inherent in his speech at the presentation of a book by one of his ilk, Epiphany Azinge, a Professor of Law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. At the event, Fashola was said to have stressed that today’s leadership required “special skills and values as against the time past when physical strengths and vigour were all needed”.
He proceeded to urge Nigerians to choose a candidate from the presidential front liners by critically “assessing the impact of their past performances and responsibilities while in office.” This is more needed, he continued, as “all the frontline presidential candidates had, at one time, held political posts, and therefore, would be ideal for Nigerians to review what they did while in office.” Indeed, this is the heart of the matter.
Nigerians should critically evaluate all frontline political contestants to the office of President of Nigeria in relation to leadership special skills and values not as against but in conjunction with physical strengths and vigour.
Evaluating past governance performances of aspirants is the best quality assurance test but together with physical strength and rigour. How can we, exclude the issue of physical or moral infirmity in promoting effective and efficient governance?
Infirmity is the crux of the matter and the bane of Nigerian problems. The issue with elections and governance in Nigeria is that the elder statesmen and women have prevented the old order from changing; Nigerians have not been able to fulfil themselves in many ways. With the old not giving way, there is still much ado about recycling, old age and infirmity. All these undermine leadership quality
As it is said, for one to claim that the husband of one’s granddaughter cannot compete with him on the farm is an indication of extreme suffering. Why? The grandfather should have become infirm due to loss of physical strength and rigour. There is no basis for competition between the old and the young! The political grandfathers and mothers have refused to yield way for their grandchildren! Thus, those who should be directing the game from behind the scenes are out there in the field with their boots and in polo shirts. Can you see why the game is wobbling and scoring is difficult?
The old brigade is often recycled by moving from one office to the other. They first become a Senator, and “make” enough money to become a state governor or vice versa. The level of recycling is too high. The state governors that have finished the two terms, including those with records of awful performance, poor governance skills and low financial management capacities have turned the red chamber of the national parliament into a retirement benefit. This has also crept into the civil service.
These days, the fashion is for retired top civil servants to get fixed up in agencies as chief executive officers even in violation of legal provisions.
In all these, how can Nigerians get to voting and electing leaders that can perform? Human frailties including poor moral uprightness tend to overshadow whatever requisite skills and experience there may be. This is more so as the generality of the people can see that the potential political leaders are publicly harassed by old age, poor performance, low moral values, infirmity and illegality. The harassments are embarrassments to the followers, deep worries to the citizens and much fun to the mischievous.
Yes, performance antecedents must be viewed critically in electing or appointing heads of government or agencies. However, this should be together with strength and rigour, or old age and infirmity, physical or moral. The three – old age, infirmity and corruption need to guide us in the elimination of who should lead us or head our agencies. These three are injurious to our system and are impediments to the delivery of good life to citizens. Nigeria needs to firm up basic tenets of leadership. A situation, in which anything goes, is unacceptable. This is germane and urgent as politicians are cashing in on the poverty and ignorance of the majority of the electorate.
First, we must have and enforce lines of progression and termination for political and public service leaders. Individual capacities and self-perception cannot continue to guide the production of national leaders. Secondly, Nigeria must set objective criteria for those who may volunteer to lead us.
There must be boundaries for age, infirmity and scale for performance antecedents. For wider participation, there must be rules on lines of political office holding. For instance, ex-governors may gun for the presidency and not Senate while ex-Senators should only be permitted to contest for president rather than governorship. This arrangement can reduce the circus and the unending recycling. Anything short of these basic rules and standards, among others, will keep the nation in perpetual recycling with poor leadership as a major outcome. The country must not live with weak institutions and powerful individuals forever.
Yunusa is the Executive Director Socioeconomic and Environment Advocacy Centre, Zaria, firstname.lastname@example.org