By Ismail Rotimi Lawal
At the time of submitting this article for publication, the portal of the Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) says 4 days 12 hours: 8 minutes: 10 seconds to the next election: Presidential and National Assembly, 25th February 2023.
Every 4 years, Nigerians exercise their democratic right to vote and seek elective offices in Nigeria. The 2023 presidential election has gathered momentum, as it always during the presidential elections of the most populous black nation in the world.
As the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari is coming to an end, Nigerians at home and abroad are interested to know who will lead their country for the next 4 years. In the same vein, many African nations are interested in Nigeria’s politics due to the economic influence and societal effects Nigeria makes on the African continent.
For the past 8 years, the ruling political party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), had influenced Nigerians on the mantras of “Change” in her first term and “Next Level” in her second term respectively. At the present, however, many Nigerians are asking themselves if the promises made at the campaigns are truly being manifested.
As always, politicians have since been engaging in their campaigns, doing all forms of retail politics – moving from media houses to town halls, paying visits to palaces and institutions, converging people on stadiums and promising Nigerians of an emergence of a good country, if they are voted in.
Political analysts, stakeholders, and development partners, both locally and internationally, have described the 2023 presidential election as the most contested, and have expressed great concerns regarding credible outcomes of the elections. Day by day, the pressure is getting higher and every eye is on INEC to live up to its task, through delivery of transparent, credible and fair elections. Sadly, many an INEC office have been attacked in many places in the country, especially in the eastern part where elections are being threatened by Indigenous People of Biafra/Eastern Security Network (IPOB/ESN), who are agitating for Biafra Nation. This is putting a lot of pressure on INEC and threatening the civil rights of the electorates.
Different organizations have been sensitizing Nigerians on free and fair elections, including the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Organization Nigeria (MKAN), under the leadership of Mr. Abdul Roqib Akinyemi. It has been holding different forms of events, like ‘Ride for Peace Campaign’ and ‘Stop the Crime Campaigns,’ which have been centered on the goal of ‘Attaining Peaceful Elections in 2023’.
As crucial as this election is to Nigeria, only three powerful contestants are likely to become the next president of Nigeria out of the 18 contestants, namely, the presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Peoples Democratic Party PDP; Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of the Labour Party LP.
The trio have released their manifestos: the flag bearer of APC gives “Renewed Hope 2023 – Action Plan for a Better Nigeria”; LP released “It’s POssible: Our Pact with Nigerians”; and PDP’s “Covenant With The People Of Nigeria.” These manifestos are believed to be the basis of their governance. Their plans have been analyzed by a number of analysts, who have commended some aspects and criticized others. However, they all have something in common which is to redeem Nigeria and take her to greater heights.
A question which many people are asking: is do politicians do follows their manifestos? The answer is often an emphatic “NO”. Observably, politicians often promise better living to citizens to gain their trust to win elections, but research has proven that many of these promises made in manifestos are not being fulfilled.
In the circumstance, citizens are now left with the option of choosing who among these contestants is more qualified to lead the country for the next 4 years. If politicians do not respect the promises they made in their manifestos, how can we know who to queue behind on election day?
It is easy to be hypnotized and vote for the wrong candidate during this period. There are a lot of emotional statements, untruthful speech, and noises which can becloud people’s sound reasoning to vote for the best among the trios for the job.
Fortunately, the three big heads have held political offices in modern Nigeria and their records are traceable. If the future can’t be predicted, we can take a look back at their past performance to determine who among these people is the best to be the president. In this context, let’s assess some qualities which can make a person a better president for country.
Leadership Qualities to Look Out for
Vision, Experience and Team-work
Nigeria needs a visionary leader to turn things around. Visionary leadership is necessary to run a government and improve the economy. For instance, 133 million people are living in multidimensional poverty today. Nigeria’s unemployment rate today is more than 9.79%. Insecurity is a threat to many businesses and including the general elections holding in February. Our population is increasing every year, demand for food is rising, while inflation is pushing millions of people into abject poverty. Our healthcare sector is running down, and health workers are moving in numbers to Europe, Asia, and the Americas. In the face of this reality, the citizens are really in need of a president who has the vision to robustly turn around our economy, education, healthcare, unemployment, and insecurity. One who has the drive to make our diversity and population our greatest strength, and possesses the foresight to move state administration.
A great example of a visionary leader is the Holy Prophet of Islam (saw). The Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) is known as a visionary leader whose guidance and foresightedness continue to guide millions of Muslims today. His strategic vision was apparent during the treaty of Hudaiybiyah when he framed an agreement with the Maccans (Quraish) which appears to favour the Meccans. One of the agreements was that a Quraysh who goes to Medina must be returned to the Meccans but if a Muslim goes to Mecca he will not be returned to Muslim. This sounded in favour of the Meccans and the Holy Prophet (saw) accepted the agreement, which in the long term, give the Muslim more victories.
The Holy Prophet (saw) was patient and not hasty to establish the religion of Allah or result to fight to enter his fatherland. His agreement to the treaty was a transformation for the Meccans. The Quraysh felt victories with this agreement and recognized the Holy Prophet as an equal partner rather than an opponent who want to force his religion upon them. It was reported that many pagans were impressed by the simple, straightforward, and humanistic Islamic values displayed by Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw).
Upon the return of the Maccan commander, and other Makkans who visited the Hudaibiyah camp, they narrated about the discipline, spirit, and unity displayed by thousand of Muslims making the pagans look at Islam with a new perspective. The strategic vision and political wisdom of the Holy Prophet Muhammed (saw) began to pay off which then strengthen the Muslims and pave the way for their victories.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) had a keen understanding of the future. He not only created a comprehensive framework for the Muslims, but also a vibrant and prosperous society. He set an example for others to follow and encouraged his followers to develop their capabilities and use their knowledge and resources for the benefit of their families and communities. Prophet Muhammad (saw) was a brilliant strategist who had the foresight to envision long-term plans for building Islamic societies and establishing the Islam religion.
In this era, another good example of a visionary leader is Nelson Mandela. He suffered greatly in the struggle for the liberation of his countrymen. He stood trials four times and spend 27 years in prison. He has the vision to end Apartheid, he stood firm and delivered the black majority from more than three centuries of white domination.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. has a vision of abolishing slavery and ensuring the liberation of African-American from the shackles of racial bondage and he was resolute in achieving his aims which in modern politics in America paved the way for Barack Obama, an African-American to become the president of the United States.
We need to elect a leader who only thinks about solutions. A leader who will communicate his visions very clearly without fear, and is committed to ensuring that he achieves his goals, regardless of all challenges he might face. A leader who will not be distracted by his responsibilities.
We need an experienced leader who has traceable records of creating a system of culture that will make his dreams and ideas comes to life. Who Among these candidates can point to a system they created while in government that will continue to serve people till tomorrow?
No one can achieve his vision alone without the support of a qualified team. Nigerians should look at a leader who can attract skillful hands into his team, possess the attribute of instilling his dreams, and visions, and be able to empower others to be a driving force in actualizing his goals.
Effective communication is a skill that makes a leader outstanding. Anyone aspiring to be a president should be able to express his thoughts, vision, and ideas, in writing and orally.
A president should be able to speak to people with a word that they can comprehend; his word should be free of ambiguity and be able to communicate with listeners to their level of mental capacity, status, and circumstances.
The importance of communication skills cannot be underestimated, as a president will need to communicate from time to time with his people, team, parastatals, and local and international development partners.
A president should be conversant with the latest means of communication, understand the pace at which information travels, and should be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any world leader during the bilateral and multilateral discussions.
With the help of technology, the mode of communication is changing and easing the process of communication. Many world leaders now use social media like Twitter and Facebook to regularly inform their citizens. While there have been questions if some leaders are truly behind their social accounts, a president should be able to communicate to citizens through press conferences where he will be able to address the country about state affairs and entertain questions.
There will be a time when a president will be needed to come out and address the people. There are times of uncertainty, fear, and grief and the President will need to offer hope, and confidence during difficult situations.
Nigerians should look out for the candidate who gives audiences to his constituents to hear about their pains, and worries and share concerns. A few of the candidates have been seen in local and international media houses, Nigerians should diagnose their speech to fetch if their words truly reflect reality. Does their speech have any relevance to today’s needs? How factual is the information they shared? How truthful are their words, and what is the correlation between their actions and words? The trios have held government offices, do they perform on their promises? What do people say about their communication skills during their time as governors and vice president?
John D Eidelburg, Sheriff of Lake County was among guests who commented on the Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad’s inaugural address at Fath-e-Azeem mosque in Zion, USA. He said:
“It was a pleasure to be here to see the Imam and listen to all these great leaders and also to have a word with the leader. It was very impressive. I’m very honoured to be here. I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to share this precious moment with your community”.
“People have told me about how impressive he is as a speaker. I was just so overwhelmed by the words that he said about friendship and working together with your community. That made me proud to be in his presence, to hear him speak. It was very illuminating.”
In addition, Tracy Johnson, a resident of Zion, said the following about the Caliph’s address:
“I like the way His Holiness made his speech; the contrast between the right and the wrong. I mean, he hit everything on the point and I liked the way he spoke in a gentle tone.”
A leader should be able to communicate clearly with everyone and his use of language should emit hope, peace and confidence. People should be able to listen and visualize the words in actions.
A large number of Nigerians had expressed strong disbelief with the current president’s body language when it comes to speaking to the country. In the aftermath of the controversial event that took place at Lekki Toll Gate on 20th October 2020, many Nigerians were scared especially those living in Lagos. Many police stations were on fire, and several Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) buses were set ablaze, the palace of Oba of Lagos was invaded, public officers were targeted by hoodlums, and a TV station was razed. Nigerians were yearning for their president to speak to the youth in the heat of the moment until 2 days after the event when the president eventually addressed the nation and of course, his speech calm the chaos to some levels.
Similarly, great attention should be paid to their use of words, and tone of language. A President should be vocal and empathetic. He should be firm and possess a good understanding.
Jesus said it this way — a couple of times: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34)
In another place, we read in the Bible,
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45, ESV)
A man will say what his heart is. Do they sound like a dictator, someone who will disobey the law of the land, rigid towards the other arms of government, or sound like a leader who is committed to working with every arm of the government to implement his ideas and policies?
‘The Gettysburg Address’ of Abraham Lincoln has been known as one of the most historically significant speeches in American history. The Battle of Gettysburg left over 8000 men dead. At just 272 words and three minutes in length, Lincoln managed to memorialize the fallen soldiers at Gettysburg and transform the whole view and meaning of the Civil War. This speech led to the eventual end of the war and the abolition movement in the United States.
We need a leader that will be ready to speak to Nigerians and shows that he is fully in charge to gain the trust of the people in government.
Integrity and Piety (Fear of God)
According to the Cambridge dictionary, integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change.
This is a prerequisite for anyone who aspires to lead a group of people should have. However, integrity is a scarce virtue among mankind today. It then becomes more wishful thinking to consider if any of the top leading presidential candidates have any element of integrity in them. All of them have been accused of many grievous offences that if they are truly guilty of these accusations, they are not trusted to even be field for any leadership positions.
A famous billionaire, Warren Buffet once mentioned what he looks at when hiring people;
“We look for three things when we hire people. We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don’t have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you’re going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb.”
Someone that has integrity will be proactive and avoid any behaviour that may compromise his virtue.
One main opposite of integrity is hypocrisy – insincerity by virtue of pretending to have qualities or beliefs that you do not really have.
Abu Huraira narrated that the Holy Prophet (saw) said:
“The signs of a hypocrite are three: Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie; and whenever he promises, he breaks his promise; and whenever he is entrusted, he betrays (proves to be dishonest)“.
We don’t need a hypocritical president who we cannot trust with the affairs of the country. We should diagnose the aspirants on the bases of integrity; first before we hand over the country to a liar. The Holy Qur’an declares:
“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to the East or the West, but truly righteous is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Book and the Prophets, and spends his money for love of Him, on the kindred and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and those who ask for charity, and for ransoming the captives; and who observes Prayer and pays the Zakat; and those who fulfil their promise when they have made one, and the patient in poverty and afflictions and the steadfast in time of war; it is these who have proved truthful and it is these who are the God-fearing,” (Quran 2:178).
A leader with piety will be conscious of his action, sensitive to others’ needs, and knows that he will account for all his deeds before the Creator.
A leader that will be leading a multi-religious and diverse nation like Nigeria should be able to operate with justice, fairness, and equity for the establishment of true federalism. There are tons of problems facing Nigeria today and it can only take a man with piety to surmount them and unite the country. Again, the Holy Qur’an enjoins:
“O ye who believe! be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of what you do,” (Qur’an 5:9).
Nigerians should aspire to look into the aspirant that will act with justice. Nigerians are divided on the bases of religion and ethnicity. Therefore, we need a leader who will build the gaps and fasten the bonds between all Nigerian, regardless of where they came from and their personal beliefs. Great attention should be paid to a leader who has a track record of peaceful coexistence with people of different ideologies and roots. We don’t need a bigot or someone who will increase the flames of division in the country. Nigeria needs a doer, a just leader, and a truthful president.
Possession of Good Track-records
Nigeria should look at the track records of the contestants, scrutinize their words and body language, diagnose their behaviours and choose a leader who abides by an agreement he makes with his subordinates. A man who keeps his promises to his people and pays everyone their rights fully. A leader who will not manipulate his way through. A pious president will listen to all disputed parties before he makes his judgments. He will claim responsibility for his errors. He will keep secrets and will be worried about the people’s suffering. He will make sacrifices for the country, and put the right people into the right positions. A leader who doesn’t become angry at every matter, who responds to issues maturely and swiftly. A pious president will be patient in making decisions, consult experienced individuals and choose negotiations over force in the interest of the country.
Ability to Manage Government Affairs
Managing a government is not a day plan. Becoming a Nigerian President requires a lot of experience. No one should be appointed as president without a traceable track record of achievements at this period. The country is begging for an experienced manager to rescue her from poor management.
To ensure that government is properly managed, we need to get it right by electing a candidate who will appoint experienced individuals, technocrats, experts, and professionals to offices and not merely friends, nor reward associates with posts.
A President who understands the importance of being surrounded by smart people, courageous individuals who will look at the president, challenge the system, the status quo, and decisions and says this is wrong, Mr President; and won’t be afraid to walk away if they don’t longer believe in the government.
It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Dharr who said: I said to the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him): Messenger of Allah, will you not appoint me to a public office? He stroke my shoulder with his hand and said: Abu Dharr, thou art weak, and authority is a trust. and on the Day of judgment, it is a cause of humiliation and repentance except for one who fulfills its obligations and (properly) discharges the duties attendant thereon.
The Holy Prophet knows the weakness of Aby Dharr (Rh) and was ready to tell him that he won’t be able to function to his maximum capacity in public office.
Screen the Presidential candidates and examine their exposure, the people surrounded with, and their team because many of these people will be appointed to manage some key government position.
The president as the head of the executive arm of government and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, who is also responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws enacted by the National Assembly should have experience in managing government affairs by appointing talented individuals into the federal agencies, including the Cabinet.
James Earl Carter Jr., the 39th President of the United States of America was considered a failed president on the account of his lack of experience in state administration and his weaknesses in showing the direction of the U.S. government at the time.
Carter served as Georgia state Senator and Georgia state governor before he was voted for president in 1977. He seems overwhelmed by some of the complex issues he faced as a result of his lack of political experience, and less practical experience in executive leadership and the operations of the national government. Carter lost his re-election in 1980.
Our next president should have the ability to manage government affairs, the ability to delegate, supervise, and implement policies and maintain law and order.
The road to Aso Rock is in the hands of every registered voter. The politicians rely on every Nigerian at this critical period of our nation. Politicians will say so many things to win the hearts of every Nigerian, they will promise what they have in their hearts.
It is now left on every Nigerian’s shoulder to sincerely put all these candidates on a scale of vision, integrity and piety, communication and ability to manage government affairs, among others.
The decision of who you should queue behind is for all Nigerians to make, as everyone has equal votes. This decision should be made with sincerity, trust and hope for a better Nigeria.
We should also need to seek guidance from God to help us make the right decision. Deciding who should be the president of a country should not be taken with levity. This opportunity only comes in 4 years. We shall reap what we sow, hence we have to ensure that we sow the seed that will breed goodness for our country.
Muslims have been encouraged to perform Istikhara when making a decision. Making a decision is not an easy task. The choice of a President is very hard to make. The fact that humans have very limited knowledge of the future makes making decisions more difficult. We don’t have knowledge about the future, and secondly, we don’t know the opportunity cost of each decision. We have very few choices to make. We have seen their manifestos, watched their brilliance and intriguing plans for Nigeria in the areas of education, economy, security, and agriculture. However, we don’t know their hearts. Hence, we also need God’s assistance in enabling us make informed decision.
What Is it about Government that Americans Dislike? edited by John R. Hibbing, Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, James H. Kuklinski
Administrative Decentralization and Political Power (Herbert Kaufman)
Universal and Moral Values, Politics and World Peace by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IV(rh)
About the writer: Ismail Rotimi Lawal is a graduate of Pharmaceutics. He works as an Operations Manager in the pharmaceutical industry. He’s a keen writer and Secretary of Media & Publications of Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Organization, Nigeria. He is also a member of the Muslim Writers’ Guild of Nigeria and the Programs Manager of Health Volunteers Naija, a Non-Governmental Organization – committed to enhanced community health in Nigeria.