A ONE time American president, Richard Nixon, once wrote that: power is not for everyone because it takes a unique kind of man to win the struggle for power. It takes qualities like courage, perseverance, self-confidence, and especially, the belief in one’s ability to change the course of history to win the struggle for power. Interestingly, these traits are very similar to those required for good leadership.
A major problem of Nigeria politics is that the oligarchy that has, for long, run this country, repeatedly, foisted, as presidents/prime ministers, on Nigeria men that lack what it takes to win the struggle for power, and thus, are also devoid of the characteristics of great leaders. For a change, Nigerians elected Mohammadu Buhari, a man with demonstrable qualities to win the struggle for power, and can, thus, effectively, lead Nigeria.
Following the 1959 general election, it was Ahmadu Bello, as the leader of the Northern People’s Congress, NPC, the political party that won the highest number of seats in the federal House of Parliament and formed a coalition government with the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons, NCNC, that was to be the Nigerian Prime Minister. Ahmadu Bello had distinguished himself as a political leader; his political dexterity was a major factor in the political ascendancy of the NPC. Instead, he remained the premier of Northern Nigeria, and appointed his deputy, Abubakar Tafawa Belewa, the Nigerian Prime Minister.
In his book, “Awoism”, Akin Omoboriowo wrote that Tafawa Belewa was a fine man but did not understand, and was not ready to understand, the dynamics of national politics and the intricacies of international economics and politics. Naturally, the Belewa government wobbled under its own weight of ineptitude, dense and cluelessness. It collapsed when Nzogwu and his band of sophomoric revolutionaries, driven by their ill-digested dosage of socialist doctrine, struck.
Fourteen years later, another civilian, Shehu Shagari, became the president of Nigeria. Shagari’s political ambition was limited to being a senator. But, the grasping hawks within his party, National Party of Nigeria, NPN, needed, for their presidential candidate, a man, not wealthy, not too ambitions, not strong willed: just compliant and controllable; they chose him. Inherently incapable of winning the slug for power, and totally, unprepared to be president, Shagari set the country on a retrograde movement. Four years of his lackluster leadership, coupled with the emptying of the national coffers by a bunch of kleptomanias masquerading as politicians, left Nigeria tottering perilously at the brinks of an economic collapse.
Jailed, tortured and earmarked for death, Olusegun Obasanjo emerged from prison totally broken. With no ambition of being the next Nigerian president, he desired to convalesce from his physical and psychological wounds in the serenity of his Ota Farm. But the People Democratic Party, PDP, power brokers sought him out, spruced him up and finagled him on the country. Rendered giddy by this unimaginable change of fortune, he wielded presidential powers like a medieval emperor.
He rode roughshod over Nigerians. He acted as though he was not just above the law, but that the law was an irksome encumbrance that needed to be trampled. He schemed to remain president beyond the two terms allowed by the constitution. He failed, and then, cobbled together the Yar’Adua/Jonathan presidential ticket and imposed it on Nigerians through the most fraudulent (2007) election in the history of Nigeria.
Yar’Adua, the governor of Katsina State, was gravely ill and not thrilled about being the president. According to some sources, he had planned to return, at the end of his term as governor, to teach Chemistry at the Ahmadu Bello University. Goodluck Jonathan was an obscure and supple politician that rose to be the governor of his home state of Beyelsa, after the impeachment of Governor Alamesiegha. Obasanjo is a consummate baba: autocratic and paternalistic, and the two men were essentially baba’s boys.
Evidently, Obasanjo planned the emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as president for it was obvious that the seriously ill Yar’Adua would not survive the mental and physical demands of the office of the president. Goodluck Jonathan proved to be the worst Nigerian president. Not only did he fail to fulfill any of his electoral promises, his presidency worsened most of our socio-economic problems, accentuated our societal vices and heightened ethnic and religious tensions. Exasperated by his unparalleled bad governance, Nigerians voted him out.
The election of Mohammadu Buhari is a watershed: a decisive turning point in Nigerian politics, both because of the nature of the man and the method of his emergence as president. He has proven qualities (pluck, strong will, perseverance and unwavering resolve to redirect the Nigerian society and politics) to win the struggle for power and effectively lead Nigeria.
He was once a military president. While the controversy over his time as military president continues to rage, both his detractors and supporters do agree that his presidency was marked by vision, courage and political will directed at making Nigeria a less corrupt, and a more law abiding, livable and patriotic country. Unlike earlier Nigerian presidents, he earnestly desired, labored, and is undoubtedly prepared, to be president.
And he was not chosen and positioned by political godfathers, and thus, is not predisposed to serve their rapacious interests. Independent-minded, resolute and purposeful, and unencumbered by voracious political masters, Buhari, can fight corruption, uphold the rule of law, bring about a more principled distribution of the national wealth and direct the resources of the country to the betterment of the generality of Nigerians. In order words, with his election as president, something is new and things must change.
Mr. Ezukanma, a public affairs commentator, writes from Lagos