By Folabi Ogunleye
Although it may seem like the case given my recent expressions, I truly do not begrudge others of their alternate preferences for a successor to Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari.
On the contrary, I truly believe that everybody has a right to his preferences, good or bad as such preference may be.
In fact, on a good day, on any day, I will defend the other person’s right to his choice(s), much in the same way that I expect that conscientous persons will defend mine.
Unfortunately, life is no bed of roses: People will not simply leave you to your choices but spend the better part of their time coming in your face about your choice, and then expect that you won’t hit back at them over their choices or lack of thereof.
It has been over four years since I took a frank personal assessment of what I call the ‘Nigerian Reality’ and decided that I needed to quit my pattern of haboring idealistic expectations as it relates to politics, only to cry ‘premium tears’ in the aftermath when my expected idealist outcomes do not materialize.
Much in the same way that I have learned to temper my expectations of persons and issues out of my personal control, as well as manage my expectations of my abilities within the space of the larger human existence, I have expanded on this orientation in my approach to politics, governance and development in my Nigerian homeland.
There will never be a rapid outcome where all the conflagrations in the Nigerian polity will be put out summarily by any one leader, no matter how powerful, no matter how brilliant, no matter how saintly such leader may be.
This is especially true of a country like Nigeria, where so much has gone to the dogs after its political and academic intellectuals were relegated to the back or tainted by the fantastically corrupt, while the violent, the crude and the unsophisticated held sway for so many years.
After such experience, any turn-around will naturally come at a painfully slow pace.
Heck it might indeed seem like things will worsen before they begin to show signs of progress.
This is akin to the case of a patient who experienced system failure as his body functions shut down to the point where he is on life-support machines.
The recovery of such patient, even under the most expert or dedicated care, will come in ebbs and flows where he comes in and out of conscious state before he BEGINS to stabilize.
And then comes managing the stabilization process so that he does not experience a relapse.
It is MY view that, after 16 years of capital profligacy and all manner of management catastrophes in its 4th Republic, Nigeria has been on life-support for the past seven-and-half years.
As Patient Nigeria lay comatose, attended to by those who are desperate to see her survive, battles raged viciously around Patient Nigeria.
It really is a story of torturous struggle.
Shortly after Nigeria was brought in to the Emergency Ward, its life-support power source was interrupted: Crude oil prices took a deep-dive not seen in recent memory.
And then, like that was not enough, a new disease, in the form of a deadly pandemic, swept upon Nigeria and the world around Nigeria, ravaging friends and enemies alike, and undermining the efforts to save Patient Nigeria.
It was like rolling from frying pan into fire!
Nigeria has only just began to recover from all of these unforseen challenges.
That Nigeria survived the challenges at all is a testament not just to the resilient spirit of its peoples across its length and breadth, but also the result of the imperfect creativity of those who have managed the challenges through the worst of these most recent experiences.
Other countries to which Nigeria was unfavorably compared are currenting experiencing brutal economic challenges that make Nigeria’s experience look like what Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka described as ‘Child Play.’
Of course, as the Yorùbá might say, ‘Nigeria rí ara gbàá si ni.’ That is, Nigeria has only been blessed to be big and resilient enough to absorb the pains of its experiences so far.
This has enabled the country to defy the worst predictions of its future.
While others look at the Nigerian Experience under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari with disappointment, disgust or despair [and I empathize with such perception because many are struggling], I look at the same leadership with quiet respect for its effort amid a truly turbulent period.
That is me being realistic in my assessment.
The first step towards my realist purview is to refuse to submit to any of the largely unsubstantiated conspiracy theories or rumors about the Fulani man we have for president.
Most of those who believe those stories about Buhari’s alleged ‘Fulani Agenda’ never gave the man a chance to prove himself, and simply saw him as some illiterate with a sinister agenda. As such, they could not see or appreciate the few gains Nigeria made under the man’s watch.
As fragile as things remain in Nigeria, a good number of solid foundations for better days ahead have been laid by the Buhari Administration.
The next responsible leader will be so lucky to take the gains of foundations laid under the present government to build majestically upon it.
The question now is, what type of leader is best suited for that purpose?
Right off the bat, I would say, I don’t want a leader who is not battle-tested.
I mean, I don’t want, as we say in Nigeria, ‘a goodie-two-shoes’ leader whose favorite selling point is that his hands are clean.
Muhammadu Buhari’s hands have been clean enough for the past seven years, and it has served the purpose of coming in to clean the proverbial Augean Stable.
We Nigerians are an incurably restless population. Next to our restless nature is our cunning ways, which is as much curse as it is a blessing that nurtures our creative spirit as peoples of diverse cultures and traditions.
We are fiercely competitive among ourselves, and this particular trait fuels our drive to succeed against all odds.
The leader to SUCCESSFULLY manage all of this with THE LEAST RANCOR must have IMMENSE NATIONAL INFLUENCE.
Such leader cannot habor [or be percieved in any Nigerian quarter to habor] any separatist ideology or sentiments, or sympathies for that matter.
Furthermore, the political party from which such leader comes must exhibit better unity of purpose and be strongly anchored, with tap-roots and complex roots to withstand all manner of political headwinds from within or without.
The leader Nigeria needs to succeed Muhammadu Buhari himself must be as cunning as a fox and wily as a coyote – a dexterous mọdafọ́ká that is experienced in the art of social engagement and political warfare.
This is especially given our aforementioned general nature as a melting pot of restless nations of energetic and cunning peoples.
Going forward, we cannot afford simplicities.
Governance is complex. It is not for simple personalities with one shoe and one watch, who go about telling aimple stories to impress gullible minds young and old.
To lead a regional superpower like Nigeria, you need ‘many watches’ to watch Moscow on your way to Beijing while changing to another comfortable pair of shoes on the way to Washington DC.
To lead Nigeria, you need to have jaw-jawed with confidence [and established proven intellect and exposure] with international business leaders.
To lead Nigeria, you need to COMMAND HARD-EARNED RESPECT with relative ease, not just with limited pools of support in the street but within the vastly diverse leadership class that will help your leadership to keep a stable regime over Nigeria’s complex affairs.
This is the reality of leadership in Nigeria.
You cannot just squirrel your way around to becoming president of a country like Nigeria with platitudinous virtue-signaling, nor with laughable promises of uniting a Nigeria of restless ethnic nationalities even as your party is ripped apart by divisions of babel proportions.
Nigeria needs a leader like my preference, who has all of the strengths and attributes [and more] that I have so far described here.
Today’s Nigeria needs a true aṣíwájú.
Today’s Nigeria needs a sophisticat ‘City Boy.’
Today’s Nigeria Bola Ahmed Tinubu!
° Ogunleye, a public affairs analyst wrote in from the United States