Pigs Can’t Fly; We Need Young Eagles, By Muyiwa Gbadegesin
Nigerian political parties must begin to carefully select an elite leadership cadre to man the ship of state. While elections are often a popularity contest, the nature of our national emergency is not amenable to mob rule.
This article is for every Nigerian who has ever dreamed of giving back to their country by serving in elective office. It’s also for those who stand in their way. It’s the fourth part of a series, ‘March to Freedom’, which examines practical steps we can take to fix Nigeria, by hacking our political system.
Each article expands on different aspects of the Roadmap to Fixing Nigeria, a theoretical framework I developed, in terms of: 1. ideology-based politics; 2. internal party democracy; 3. campaign finance reform; 4. autonomy of the local government; and 5. open government.
Pigs Can’t Fly
Our founding fathers dreamed of ‘life more abundant’ for the people of Nigeria. Life more abundant is the reasonable expectation of all Nigerians who find themselves, by accident of birth, trapped within the confines of this ‘mere geographical expression’. Life more abundant, and the freedom to pursue happiness, are basic human rights. We currently do not enjoy this freedom in Nigeria.
We do not enjoy this freedom because we have been ruled almost exclusively by bad leaders who do not rise to the standard required to take a backwards, poor country to the league of advanced nations. We have been ruled by brutes, bullies, serial killers, flimflam men and gangsters. This is clearly evident in the tragic history of our young nation. It’s high time we begin to recruit the best (young) minds for the task of building a nation where we can all pursue life more abundant. Simply put, pigs can’t fly: we need young eagles.
Every Nigerian should insist on only the best leadership. Anything less than the best is no longer good enough. Our problems have become so greivous that we are at the brink of becoming a failed society. This means that any plausible sequence of unfortunate events (for example a contested election, assassination of a president, or another attempt at secession), could lead to the breakdown of law and order, civil war, genocide and millions of refugees fleeing to neighbouring African countries and beyond.
We can prevent disaster by recognising our dire circumstances and coming together in a national village square to identify and ostracise the criminals masquerading as leaders among us. Leaders of the political parties must begin to put nation above self and actively seek and recruit selfless Nigerians imbued with vigour and integrity. These candidates for leadership positions must be young, healthy and strong in order to withstand the enormous rigours of office. We can’t easily determine integrity beforehand. Like it’s often said, you never really know a man or woman until you give him or her either power or money. But candidates for leadership must have a verifiable track record of accomplishments and no obvious disqualifying blemishes. Most importantly, they must be willing to subject themselves to DAILY SCRUTINY to ensure they do not derail. This means they must be willing to live inside a fishbowl. If it means we have to follow them around with cameras like in a 24-hour reality show, then so be it. We must know who they meet with, who they talk to on the phone, what they talked about, where they go, why they went there, how much they spent while there and so on. Anyone not willing to open up their lives should not come anywhere near leadership positions in a new Nigeria.
Selecting good, young candidates will make it easier for the younger generation to rise up quickly and take up the mantle of leadership for a brave, bold, new Nigeria. The elders, by force of nature, must begin to take a back seat. Nigeria is a young nation largely made up of a young population.
Why Candidate Selection is Critical to National Development
This should be obvious, but sometimes it’s important to re-state the obvious. Despite the far-reaching implications, our politics is often reduced to a horse race – a spectator sport. It’s all about the candidate’s personal ‘ambition’, and not about the people’s ambitions for the future of the nation.
We often default to supporting candidates purely because they have high name recognition, because they have a lot of money, or because we think they are ‘tough’ enough to ‘rule’ Nigeria. This is a dangerous attitude. Most of the potential presidential candidates who fit these criteria can never take us to the Promised Land. Everyone knows this, and yet we continue to play Russian roulette. One could be forgiven for thinking that Nigeria is suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome on a national scale. We are in love with our oppressors!
Here are some reasons why a careful selection of political candidates is critical to national development:
One: Selecting exceptional candidates is the only way to ensure that the stated ideals of a political party will translate into reality once that candidate gets into office.
Two: Selecting good candidates is the first step in fighting the corruption that has destroyed the fabric of our nation. A good candidate will be an avatar for national renewal.
Three: Selecting good, young candidates will make it easier for the younger generation to rise up quickly and take up the mantle of leadership for a brave, bold, new Nigeria. The elders, by force of nature, must begin to take a back seat. Nigeria is a young nation largely made up of a young population. The elders must lead from the rear.
Four: Selecting good candidates with exposure and international perspective will automatically make us more competitive on the international stage. The world’s largest economies are driven by youth, vision and integrity, not by corrupt, wily, tricksters imbued with native intelligence. Global domination is by innovation and not by dirty tricks.
Political parties should select candidates for office the same way one would select candidates for the leadership of elite institutions like multinationals, universities, armed forces or intelligence services – it should be based on merit.
How Do We Select Good Candidates?
So how should APC, PDP or any Nigerian political party go about the task of selecting these exceptional candidates for political office? Political parties should select candidates for office the same way one would select candidates for the leadership of elite institutions like multinationals, universities, armed forces or intelligence services – it should be based on merit.
1. Examine their profiles and conduct rigorous background investigations;
2. Subject them to (publicly televised) interviews;
3. Subject them to written examinations;
4. Subject them to psychological tests (many have suggested this and there’s no reason why we can’t do this. A good profiler will immediately spot and exclude psychopaths, sociopaths, liars and other dangerous deviants);
5. Subject them to a rigorous schedule of public debates.
To summarise, Nigerian political parties must begin to carefully select an elite leadership cadre to man the ship of state. While elections are often a popularity contest, the nature of our national emergency is not amenable to mob rule. To avoid catastrophe, we must careful select serious minded, hard working, psychologically stable and healthy candidates to stand for political offices at all levels. Enough of the ‘trailer jam’.
Do you have any ideas on projects that could help to identify and empower a new generation of visionary leaders? Let’s talk about it in the comments section and also follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Let’s talk!
Muyiwa Gbadegesin, a Neuroscientist studying the political brain, writes from Ibadan.