The controversy around zoning the presidency of Nigeria will become redundant following implementation of this model. Frankly, Nigerians do not need North or South, Christian or Moslem to lead the nation. Nigeria needs a patriotic and competent “NIGERIAN” to lead and deliver it from its 50 year old shameful predicament. With the “X-Factor” model in place, candidates (North/South) will think many times over before putting their names forward for consideration. Political parties will no longer rely on the principle of “highest bidder” for their leadership nomination. Political assassinations and unhealthy rivalry will disappear since eliminating opponents will neither guarantee selection at stage 1 or success in the poll at stage 2. Consequently, genuine and divinely appointed politicians will emerge, North and South, to lead the country to the land of promise.
..To re-engineer the new Nigeria we desperately crave for, active participants in the struggle must have clean hands and live by example; for he who calls for equity must have clean hands.
This proposed system constitutes a quiet and effective revolution, miles apart from the “Arab Revolution”; no guns fired, no blood spilled, no calls for politicians to be hanged, and no disruption to the daily life of the nation”. Our country will emerge more united, prosperous, and progressive.
Israel Nonyerem Davidson
CULTURE & ALIEN CONCEPTS
Africans have suffered greatly from being forced or coerced into becoming what they are not, or to conform to political systems that appear great on paper but meaningless on the ground due to culture clash and lack of information /education. Overnight, one cannot change the way of life of others with an alien concept or system, no matter how well meaning and beneficial. For example, before the emergence of European and American civilizations we already exist as Africans with clearly defined ways of life and governance. We have values and perceptions handed down generations. Therefore we cannot suddenly become African, outside, and European/American, inside, by way of Westminster or Presidential systems of governance or for reason of democracy by ballot box. Agreed, there are beneficial aspects of European and American political and other systems. There are equally great things about African values and customs handed down generations. Africans must therefore study European and American models (social, political and technological), select aspects not in conflict with their values and well-being, and introduce them objectively and logically. Approved and beneficial change can only work as desired if introduced at the right pace and with matching expenditure on information, education and training. Writing constitution and going through “democratic elections”, do not guarantee Western style democracy and success. Attitudes have to be changed to value the conditions, and protect the benefits that constitute democracy. This accounts for the leadership nightmare and the spectacle in practice in Africa today, called democracy. This explains why corrupt politicians shamelessly and boldly parade titles such as “His Excellency”, “Honorable”, “Senator” etc., while lacking understanding and appreciation of what such titles symbolise. These are highly valued European and American titles that communicate achievement, dignity, respect for rule of law, patriotism, accountability, beyond reproach, outstanding diplomacy, and worthy representative of a people or nation. However, in Africa these titles are alien and culturally meaningless and worthless; hence a corrupt and non-value adding politician can wear them publicly and shamelessly. Come to think of it – how could a civil servant, publicly known to be corrupt and non-value adding, wear titles such as “Honourable” and “His Excellency”, publicly, if indeed he/she appreciates their meaning and value? Culture is a stubborn thing. What it fails to value, it dishonours in public without fear, regret or shame.
“X-FACTOR” APPROACH TO LEADERSHIP SELECTION & ELECTION
Absent leadership “X-Factor” has cost Nigeria and the people dearly. For example, Nigerian Universities, once the pride of Africa and at par in ratings with major world universities, are now lagging behind in teaching and research quality, library facilities and reputation. Thousands of Nigerian Einsteins, North and South, have been starved of opportunity to harness their talents for the benefit of Nigeria. For example, many indigenes of the South, recognised as far back as the 1960s for their love of education and excellence in mathematics and science, have been setback many years and reduced to hawking, robbery and semi-literacy. The spirit and hunger for education, hard-work and excellence are gradually being crippled in the South; it could take decades to regain the momentum lost. As at today, youths, who by African tradition are the financial security of aging parents, have enormous difficulty discharging that responsibility, though holding university degrees and diplomas. Though an oil producing state, Nigerian road networks and other infrastructure are worse than those of many poor and natural resource deprived countries. Meanwhile, our democratic institutions and election systems have delivered multimillionaire and billionaire politicians in the likes of James Ibori, and hundreds of Nigerian “Little Emperors” in mansions and expensive colleges and universities across Europe and America.
For example, as at 1991, James Ibori was a normal staff in a hardware store in London. In 1992 he was convicted of possessing and spending from a stolen credit card. He was also caught aiding his wife to walk through cash till without paying for the goods in her possession, and was again convicted by a court of law. He returned to Nigeria and by 1999 he secured the mandate to govern the oil rich Delta State, thanks to his network of friends and connections spanning from General Abacha, Ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, President Obasanjo to President Umaru Yar’Adua. By 2005, Ibori was wealthy and invisible enough to place an order for a private jet costing $20 million and was steadily closing in on emerging the next president of Nigeria. In 2010, the Nigerian EFCC declared James Ibori wanted over N44 billion fraud. He was arrested in Dubai in May 2010 at the request of British police and extradited to London. On Monday 27th February, 2012, he “pleaded guilty in a UK court to 10 counts of money-laundering and conspiracy to defraud” (BBC).
James Ibori’s prosecution is of little comfort to Nigeria if judgement is not passed on the system of leadership selection and election that mandated him to govern the Nigerian people of Delta State. It offered him and hundreds of his like, the opportunity to practice what they know best (i.e. fraud/corruption) and to offer nothing in return to the Nigerian people. Desperate times call for desperate actions. The solution to this current humiliating and costly election process and its associated cancer, is to consider the following proposed “X-Factor” Model (see Diagram 1). It is designed to function as follows:
Diagram 1. X-Factor Model of Election Process for Nigeria
1. Screen down election candidates (Stage 1)
Make use of Nigerians in diaspora, academic members of the higher education institutions in Nigeria, and practicing professionals (medicine, law, accounting, engineering, consultancy, journalists, etc.) in Nigeria, to screen presidential and gubernatorial candidates. Screening should be down to 3 for presidential and 2 (per state) for gubernatorial posts. Then informed Nigerian people choose who leads the nation and states. Elected leaders should be supported with constant training and development, and mentoring by credible /accomplished personalities like President Obama and President Mandela.
Why Nigerians in diaspora? You may wish to ask. The reasons are as follows: (a) Both Presidential and Westminster political systems are alien to Nigerian/African way of administering families and communities – a reflection of our cultures and values. To operate it as effectively as possible, Nigeria needs the support of citizens who have experienced and understood the systems. Nigerians in diaspora are familiar with how the presidential and Westminster systems of government operate. They are aware of, and have experienced the qualities both political systems demand for operational efficiency and effectiveness; (b) many are eager to see Nigeria restore to its glory, and anxious to identify a true leader willing to deliver this vision and make history; (c) many are accomplished professionals, well educated, have access to information and may not be easily bought over by Nigerian corrupt politicians; (c) Some are nearing retirement or already retired and looking forward to a stable and progressive Nigeria to return to, share their wealth of knowledge/experience, and spend the rest of their years in peace and prosperity; (d) a distance away from some devilish and vindictive contestants provides security assurance for many to vote their conscience; (e) having lived away for so long from the troubles and squabbles of Nigeria, many have overcome tribal and religious sentiments. Consequently, they are more likely to recommend candidates based on value adding credentials; and (f) Nigerians in diaspora have sustained the Nigerian economy through contributions into the country’s invisible earnings. Billions of dollars have been remitted to relations in Nigeria over the years and constitute a high percentage of Nigeria’s invisible earnings. Lives have been saved, businessmen and women have had access to foreign currency, school fees and other essentials of life have been financed, and hope/patience in the future of Nigeria has been sustained. An important group such as this has huge stake to protect in Nigeria and willing to do so if mandated.
However, not every Nigerian in diaspora should be eligible to have a say in the screening process; only those legally resident abroad (students, professionals and their families). One, who breaks the immigration laws of a foreign country, has the potential to commit even greater offence in own home country. The honesty and impartiality of such persons are questionable and therefore not trustworthy enough for participating in such important experiment as the “X-Factor” model. To re-engineer the new Nigeria we desperately crave for, active participants in the struggle must have clean hands and live by example; for he who calls for equity must have clean hands. Another group that should be barred from participation are Nigerians, sponsored by the state and federal governments on scholarships but failed to return on completion of their studies. They lack the patriotism and degree of honesty and trustworthiness to make decisions on behalf of the Nigerian people. This position, may not earn support for we often frown at any proposal that infringes selfish interests, though justified of national importance.
The academic and professional practice communities in Nigeria have important roles to play in such screening. They have first-hand experience of what inefficient and ineffective leadership have turned Nigeria into. As professionals, they possess trained and capable minds to deliver informed judgements. Many have complained for years and gone on strikes (academics) over various issues ranging from pay conditions to infrastructural decay in Nigeria. A screening system, placed in their hands, is a power and opportunity to trigger the change they crave for. If they act professionally and impartially in collaboration with Nigerians in diaspora, it will deliver a shock wave to the Nigerian political system. As a matter of fact, over 90% of current politicians may not survive the kind of earth quake the “X-Factor” model is capable of unleashing. In effect, it hands Nigeria an opportunity to wipe the political slate/landscape clean, and make a fresh and hopeful start in the interest of current and future generations.
The criteria for screening leadership contestants should be clear, simple, verifiable, and a key attribute for effective leadership. They include (a) track record of verifiable accomplishments. A man or woman without evidence of genuine and traceable accomplishments has nothing to offer Nigeria; (b) the source or justification of a contestant’s wealth: this ties in well with (a). A candidate, unable to verifiably account for his/her source of wealth, is unlikely to respect the principles of accountability and integrity in leadership. Such person cannot provide the leadership that Nigeria needs or present him/herself a role model for the nation; (c) public office held in the past / accomplishments in the post; (d) Vision for Nigeria and the manifesto to drive/deliver that vision; (e) a declaration of sources of funding for his/her campaign; (f) demonstration of political, leadership and organisational skills, coupled with emotional, social and spiritual intelligence; (g) well researched and published intelligence (candidates) on media outlets like Openmind Foundation, Sahara, etc.; (h) outcome of television debates and interviews; and (i) public declaration of audited assets.
A system such as this has immense benefits. The wasteful and non-value adding electoral expenditure of the current system will be halved. The controversy around zoning the presidency of Nigeria will become redundant following implementation of this model. Frankly, Nigerians do not need North or South, Christian or Moslem to lead the nation. In the past 50 years Nigerians have voted or rigged in a tribe to lead the nation (Hausa, Yoruba, etc.); they have also tried leaders with religious credentials (Alhaji and Born Again). Change has remained elusive. Poverty, corruption, economic meltdown, infrastructural decay, and tribal, religious and economic tensions have persisted. The message is simple. Religious paraphernalia and tribal credentials are not enough in themselves to deliver economic and technological advancements or prosperity. Progressive nations and races will instantly axe any such standards if confronted with the Nigerian situation. The fact that these abnormal bases of leadership nomination and election have remained part of our political culture is a major bottleneck to our advancement. Like cancer, they will kill the dream and country called Nigeria, if left to rule.
Nigeria needs patriotic and competent “NIGERIAN CITIZENS” to lead and deliver it from its 50 year old shameful predicament. With the “X-Factor” model in place, candidates (North/South) will think many times over before putting their names forward for consideration. Political parties will no longer rely on the principle of “highest bidder” for their leadership nominations. Political assassinations and unhealthy rivalry will disappear since eliminating opponents will neither guarantee selection at stage 1 or success in the poll at stage 2. Consequently, genuine and divinely appointed politicians with the leadership “X-Factor” will emerge, North and South, to lead the country to the land of promise.
2. General Election (Stage 2)
The stage 2 of the leadership election process crowns leaders with the “X-Factor”. As pointed out in part I of this article; illiteracy, poverty, lack of information, and intimidating tactics employed by politicians and their hired thugs, have more often than not, influenced election results in Africa. To ensure that leaders are elected based on informed judgement and all available information about their candidacy, only well informed Nigerians should be allowed to vote. That means excluding illiterates, uninformed and poor citizens from the electoral process. While this suggestion may sound undemocratic, let’s not forget that in times of poor leadership, these same groups are the worst affected. Usually, until the next election when their uninformed votes are canvassed, they hardly feature on the radar of corrupt politicians. It is in the interest of these groups that competent, patriotic and productive leaders are voted in through a more effective process. Therefore, under this proposed model, those eligible to vote include students in higher education and informed members of the upper and middle class. Students are paying a heavy price both in half-baked education, constantly interrupted academic sessions, and joblessness. Given adequate information, they will make informed judgement, particularly as they understand the implications for their future. The members of middle /upper class understand clearly the impact of leadership on the economy and overall well-being of the nation. They have better access to information and are more likely to vote their conscience. This may not sit well with the idea of democracy by the West. It doesn’t and shouldn’t matter at all. Our national interest should come first.
If only Nigerians can think through this proposal and force it on the politicians, the country will heal faster than anyone could imagine. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Our politicians, after reading and digesting this article, may feel threatened by the proposed system. They needn’t be, if indeed patriotic citizens. They have ruled Nigeria with impunity for so long and the time has come to remind them that they are civil servants. This proposed system constitutes a quiet and effective revolution, miles apart from the “Arab Revolution”; no guns fired, no blood spilled, no calls for politicians to be hanged, and no disruption to the daily life of the nation. Our country will emerge more united, prosperous, and progressive.
This proposal is now in your hands. Do something with it and create opportunity for the will of God, concerning Nigeria, to prevail. Discuss it with your family, friends and neighbours. Float it at churches, mosques, universities and community centres. It may sound autocratic – who cares? Do we have Western democracy in Nigeria today? It’s time we define and construct a concept of democracy that works for the benefit of our nation. We perfect it as we climb the ladder of progress.