The race to the Year 2023 general elections in Nigeria has already begun and all eyes can see it. Ancient prejudices, myths and biases are gradually gathering momentum with ferocious swiftness; and it is as if those with the notion that Nigeria’s next major political battle is still centuries away have missed it. Again, while the cumulative effects of the forthcoming Edo and Ondo States’ governorship elections will be sufficient enough to foretell the shape and size of subsequent elections in the country, events, as they unfurl at jet-speed, are also suggestive of the fact that 2023 may have to be fought, won and lost, more in the streets than at the polling units. Well, let me quickly add that, since the situation of the country, presently, is not something government should feel gleeful about, President Muhammadu Buhari and his men may also have to invest hugely in loads of excuses to brighten the chances of his political party, come 2023.

In the words of John Maxwell, “leadership develops daily, not in a day.” In fairness to posterity, Nigeria is facing deep and challenging problems that raise lots of questions about how complicated we are as a people. She is bedevilled by major socio-cultural differentials in norms and value systems, and there are no feasible sociological permutations to hold the differing identities together. In order to have a sense of belonging, sectional groups in the country have a funny habit of just bringing people who have not achieved anything in life or done anything that has to do with the organization of people and human materials to run for offices, simply because it is politics. Of course, when such souls get into political offices, they end up spending valuable years learning the rope, instead of adding productive values to the standard of living of the people, and their life chances. Come to think of it: if a man cannot successfully handle his family, how do you make him a Councillor, to contribute to the management of a Local Government? How do you foist a layabout on a Constituency as ‘Honourable’ in the House of Representatives? How do you do that? But that’s exactly what we do, which is grossly unfortunate! What even makes matters worse is that, presently, politics is the only lucrative business and secured means of livelihood in this clime. Little wonder Nigeria is still at the dark pole of her beginning!

To be frank, the foundation of this society is the issue! Corruption, greed and avarice, among others, are just symptoms of a country in the valley. They are not the real problems. Our main problem is that the political and foundational arrangement of Nigeria is badly fractured and the philosophical assumptions upon which the emergence of the country is based is irredeemably faulty. Sadly enough, Nigerians have not been paying attention! This explains why people just show up from nowhere to become leaders. For example, in the past, in Yorubaland, somebody who’s not of proven integrity would never be made a ‘king’, or an ‘Oba’. But what do we have now? Gangsters, nincompoops and pugilists are being crowned as kings and our world has become the worse for it! That’s why successive governments have claimed to be fighting corruption but, all along, it has been one Humpty Dumpty fight; ‘all grunt and no bacon!’

What we are saying here is that Nigeria has passed that stage; a stage where leaders are neither accountable nor responsible. Nigerians are tired of ‘accidental democrats’ and pretenders who only talk, but never work. They end up being confounders, not founders; dealers, not leaders; and tormentors, not mentors! And, 2023 is just by the corner! Essentially therefore, the leadership must take a hard look at our leadership structure with a special searchlight on competence and character of public office holders. So, instead of talking recklessly and talking amiss, this is the time to initiate the talk that leads to the work! Whosoever is not ready to lead, whosoever doesn’t have plans for the country; whosoever wants to ascend the thoroughfare of power only to start muddling through again should never step on the stage. In a word, anybody who wants to lead must have what it takes to lead. He or she must be focused and exceptional in whatever is his or her chosen vocation; even pastime. That’s what happens in advanced democracies all over the world. Thus, rather than continue to waste valuable time, we need a clean slate, at least, for the sake of the future. That’s the truth! We don’t have to be destructive about it; and it doesn’t have to be a bloody revolution! Instead, it has to evolve a crop of people – critical people – who will have to come up with an idea of what Nigeria should look like in the next five years. For instance, there must be rail lines that link up Nigeria’s major cities and towns in five years. He who cannot do it should simply not step into the ring!

The new and expected leader should be able to say: in the next five years, Nigerians must have uninterrupted power supply – no longer wattages of lies; and it will be so! In like manner, the leader must be able to say that, in the next five years, there shall be nothing like almajiris anywhere in the country; that all our children must be in school! Of course, the question of quota system, or Federal Character, or whether we want to have a Northerner or Southerner as president is the last thing that will happen because we have all agreed that this is what we want. If the leadership fails, he or she will be collectively removed from office. After all, the process of development is no respecter of ethnicity or geographical location!

It is therefore incumbent on our leaders to “see beyond their noses, and think outside of the conventional box of yesteryears.” It’s time they stopped basing leadership on hope, luck, or affective benevolence from the gods, lest the society become hopeless, and snowball into a state of anomie! Should it get to that stage, chances are that party gimmicks will also become useless.

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!

*abiodun KOMOLAFE writes from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State.