“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”Douglas MacArthur
In times of difficulty as experienced during different eras of human history, it is imperative for leaders to rise from the shadows and steer the people yearning to migrate into a future of possibility and hope. Leadership is not always assigned; rather it is clarified in times of trial and tribulation from the Stone Age era till date. As John Kenneth Galbraith said, leadership is the confrontation of the major anxiety of their people in their time.
These days are perhaps the greatest window for leadership many of us have seen in our lifetime. On the back-end of difficulty is the opportunity. Not exploitative opportunity, as some may attempt, but the opportunity to see sparks of courage, wisdom, innovation, and character take hold and fan into flame, fueled by a crisis and the need for steady and strong men and women to stand against the tide of incoming despair.
It’s no longer news anymore that our dear nation Nigeria is at crossroads and craves much needed pragmatic leadership at all levels to deliver economic prosperity and also unite us as a people. Even the blind can see that we are in a dire strait situation as a nation. The economic indices are there for and sundry to see, as Africa’s most populous nation and biggest economy have earned the unenviable status of the world’s poverty capital with over 100 million Nigerians (still counting) living below poverty level. In addition to this drawback are over 14 million out-of-school children, who form a budding recruitment factory for the hydra-headed monsters christened insecurity, that’s not limited to banditry, kidnapping, abductions amongst others.
The race for the number one office in the land continues to gather great momentum, political gladiators and heavyweights are on a charm offensive with consultations, alignment, realignment and nocturnal interface to secure their candidacy and even lifelong ambition in a general election scheduled to take place just under 11 months from today.
In consideration of the undesirable abyss that Nigeria has found itself, there’s no gainsaying that the scheme of things have to change for us to move forward as a nation. The next election is our last chance to get it right. It’s desirous to get a round peg in a round hole to steer the affairs and governance across the board, not only in the villa but across the 36 states of the federation.
A plethora of candidates have thrown their hats into the ring, but one name that has been a recurring decimal in the scheme of things, that person is the current president of African Development Bank (AFDB) Dr Akinwunmi Adesina. Nigerians from all walks of life are unanimous in their decision for a person of his calibre to steer and rescue Nigeria from the doldrums that she currently finds itself. Elections all over the world are a game of numbers where party chieftains horse trade and play political chess. For the naysayers and naive political watchers, the thought would be that Adesina should continue to focus on his mandate given to him by African countries to administer the continent equivalent of the European Bank, which he has successfully done with flying colours. African countries have benefited from his unique leadership that has seen AFDB finance projects ranging from agriculture, health, energy, education, transport, and other development sectors that lends exclusively to African governments from its $208 billion capital base.
With Nigeria’s external debt profile ballooning to an all-time high of a staggering N38 Trillion as at September 2021, whilst the nation’s domestic debt stock sits at N18.2 trillion. With a total debt profile of N56.2 trillion, we all can see that we are heading to a financial crisis because of our rising debt profile. In the first five months of 2021, the federal government spent a whopping 97% of the country’s revenue on debt servicing. Out of a total of N3.42 trillion generated as revenue, 97% of that amount N3.34 trillion was dedicated to debt servicing, the majority of the debt was acquired by the present administration. With the above gloomy scenario, the leadership of the country shouldn’t be left in the hands of jokers or buccaneers, 2023 is not the time for a leadership experiment. It is the time for solid, pragmatic, and purposeful leadership, not one to crown a political life journey.
Nigeria’s current economic situation can be akin to the 2008 recession that shook the world’s biggest economy to her foundation. The emergence of a dark horse in Senator Barack Obama in the running for US presidency steered the US economy back to growth with millions of jobs that were lost, where all regained and millions of jobs were further created. Nigeria needs here own Obama to take us back to economic growth, to bring out the best in us, to engineer economic policies that would galvanize Nigeria back to the path of greatness again.
Dr Akinwunmi Adesina’s groundbreaking achievements at the 57-year-old institution nestled in Abidjan, the capital of Cote d’Ivoire is all there for all to see. As a country, we have benefited immensely from his leadership at Africa’s apex development bank. The successor to Nigeria’s incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari whose second-term tenure is coasting to the finish point must be a candidate who has paid his dues in the economic sphere cum international ecosystem. Those parading themselves presently for the exalted office in the land, their credentials so far have done nothing to assuage perilous times that the country is facing. The economic situation is tilting, with inflation rising by the day, massive unemployment rate and starvation is the other of the day– and everything the AfDB fights against is overdrive in Nigeria.
The most significant of the paradigm shift engineered by the Purdue University, Indiana, M.Sc and PhD degree holder was the bold strategy to transform the lives of Africans through the High 5s strategy. First, to light up and power Africa. Second, to feed the people. Third, to integrate the continent; fourth, to industrialise Africa. Then lastly, to improve the quality of life of Africans. The High 5s have already impacted the lives of 335 million Africans – more than the population of Nigeria and South Africa put together. These values fit the bill of what’s demanded in Nigeria’s economy that is yearning for massive economic development.
Adesina’s stellar performance has been characterized by efforts that shine like the constant northern star, as he launched the Africa Investment Forum (AIF) in 2018 to attract global capital to support Africa’s accelerated development. The unique investment forum has become the premier investment marketplace for Africa, and it attracted $38.1 billion of investment in 2018 and $40 billion in 2019. In October that year, the AfDB president further led the Bank to achieve its highest capital increase since the Bank’s establishment in 1964, when shareholders raised the general capital of the Bank by 125 per cent. This increased the Bank’s capital by $115 billion, from $93 billion to $208 billion, a historic achievement for Africa, It could only draw the ire of enemies of change. This is the calibre of leadership that Nigeria needs with big-ticket transactions to move millions out of the poverty bracket.
Further to this, the world-renowned development economist in Dr Adesina has never been shy to demand credible leadership, even at the risk of barefaced criticism of the government. Adesina, who was the guest speaker at the Mid-Term Ministerial Performance Review Retreat, Abuja, recently, said Nigeria has a vulnerable economy that warrants a decisive review of its debt and structural challenges. He shone like a million stars with his presentation that wowed the elite cream of the leadership of Nigeria’s MDA’s, executive and legislature at the Presidential Villa.
Does one need to say more? Adesina is the elephant in the room that can be seen and felt across the board. He fits the characterization of the kind of leader that Nigeria needs at this critical juncture. For me, I do not envy Nigeria’s next president, as the books are red like cherries waiting to be harvested. The said leader must roll his sleeves (No pun intended to the feminist class, as only a few of them have thrown their hats into the ring). He must murder slumber to unite a divided nation yearning for an economy that grows by double-digit indices, promotes STEM education, innovation, engineer a foreign policy that puts Nigeria as a force to be reckoned with in the comity of nations and a body language that exudes enabling environment, as his posture is what drives investor’s confidence at all times.
The first hurdle will be securing the much-cherished ticket via the existing political platforms or the newly formed third force. It will be a delight to see foot soldiers selling and evangelizing his candidacy amongst the political class who determines who gets the big prize at the end of the day. These deep trenches are where the political trojans will come in handy. It’s such a tough job, but someone must do it to save our dear Nation that’s on the precipice. One does not need a soothsayer to paint the current situation of affairs that permeates the socio-cultural fabric of the political contraption christened Nigeria that’s on the brink of her 62nd birthday on October 1st, 2022. It portends a good omen so far, as President Buhari has appended his signature on the Amended Electoral Bill and the electoral umpire INEC has set the ball rolling with the announcement that all political parties must sort out their candidates for the number one office in the land between April and June 3, 2022. It’s game, set, match in lawn tennis parlance, as contending forces try to outwit and outsmart each other for the number one prize.
In a nutshell, there would be political landmines that would militate against this novel initiative to engineer the emergence of this first-class technocrat to aspire for the leadership of Nigeria. Poisoned darts in the shape of usual suspects will throw posers such as: Does he possess a political structure? The financial wherewithal to execute a pan Nigeria political campaign? Can he swim in the shark-infested political waters of Nigeria? One day is a long day in politics, as all and sundry agree without equivocation that our dear Nation Nigeria needs to be rescued from the throes of drawbacks that bedevil the economy. The time is now or never for Nigeria to get its acts together and 2023 presents an ideal opportunity to put the jigsaw puzzle together. Osa Umweni is an entrepreneur and public analyst based in Lagos, Nigeria