In my career, I have headed organisations and one of my most difficult periods is during recruitment. One is inundated by applications and the ambient feeling is that everyone has decided to apply irrespective of whether they are qualified for the job advertised or not. Very few people appear to read the qualifications required for the job and simply apply and pray. They also seek out “powerful” people from their state or zone to lobby Oga for the job. When sifting through the applications, my first step is to see whether the application has mentioned the job they are applying for and secondly whether they state why they think they are qualified for that particular job. My experience is that 90% of applications do not and they simply rule themselves out of consideration. The normal opening line for applicants is that – I hereby apply for the job you advertised and my qualifications are as follows. Very few seek to relate their qualifications to the cognate experience required for the job advertised.
This memory is awakened by the hordes of applicants paying for the right to apply for the position of President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, which has been advertised. A big crowd of governors and former governors, Ministers and a few Senators are sending in their applications but they are not telling the selection committee – party delegates and the shareholders, Nigerian citizens of voting age, why they are applying for this specific job. Apparently, they are relying on the two normal stratagems – prayers and lobbying, and don’t ask a political scientist like me what lobbying means, I suspect it does not have the same meaning with what I learnt at school.
One candidate, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has explained his qualification, Nigeria, he said, needs a madman like him to turn things around. Again, my mind meandered off to when I was recruiting. What would I have thought of an applicant to work for my organisation who says they are qualified because they are mad? My readers can reflect on what their attitude should be. I recall that when Bola Tinubu visited President Buhari to tell his of his intention to contest for the vacancy, he told Nigerians that he is applying because he has always wanted to have the job. I don’t know, but maybe, Wike and Tinubu are the honest ones.
What I hear from the others is that ordinary people from the country have put money together to buy them nomination forms to increase the pressure on them to contest and they are obliged to accept this gesture of goodwill. One of the parties, the APC, requires 100 million naira and I wonder how ordinary people can raise that type of money. The APC however is not wondering, their sale of forms was to have ended today, 6th May, but due to popular demand, they have decided to extend it for four more days. Thisday lead story of yesterday estimates that the party has so far made 30 billion naira from the sale of forms so it might not be surprising that they want to make more.
We the shareholders of the Nigeria Project, ordinary citizens, need to interrogate the political class on this matter. We know nobody is paying for their forms, they are paying from their pockets and because they think we are stupid, making the claims that ordinary people are buying the forms for them. The question is where did they get the money from? As governors or ministers, none of them earned 100 million naira as legitimate income. We are forced to make the only possible conclusion that they most have stolen these monies from government coffers. If this is the case, they have disqualified themselves from the contest for their criminal activities. A democracy cannot survive when those in power steal from the treasury and use that money to continue in power, this time occupying even greater offices. The reason most politicians go for the executive offices of president and governor is that the positions make it possible for them to access and use public resources without accountability.
These players are in the political arena to seek our votes, not for the public good, but to continue to divide and ruin Nigeria for their self-aggrandisement. As I have always argued however, the quality and ethical standards of our political class is very poor because we as citizens cannot continue to accept it as a given that our leaders lack integrity and competence and yet we allow them to govern. By so doing, we are as guilty as the politicians in creating the ideological basis for excusing the political class from responsibilities for what they say, promise and do, or rather, do not do. As we all know, in representative democracy, the political class is by definition supposed to be composed of people with character and integrity who keep their word and do exactly what they promise to do.
I have always argued that the pathway to deepening democracy is to get ordinary members takeover control of their parties and if they are blocked, to move en masse to other parties that might be ready to play the democratic game. Nigerian political parties need members not patrons and their clients. The attachment of citizens should be to political parties not to patrons or godfathers who pay for their engagement in the political process. The mode of participation in political party activities, which is currently mediated by political bosses to whom people owe allegiance, must change.
In my column of 25th March 2022, yours truly argued that we must develop an overwhelming consensus that political leadership cannot remain the only job for which no qualification appears necessary except to have a lot of money, usually, stolen money. It is clear that for as long as the current pattern of leadership recruitment continues, our troubles will continue. It is for this reason that we must find a way to bring relevant criteria to bear on the selection of leadership. We have got to find a way of making character, competence and capacity to determine who leads.
I therefore argued that only people of proven integrity should be considered for leadership. People know who are the persons of good character in their communities and the proposal is that before primaries, widespread discussions are held to identify people with integrity to be considered for positions. Many such people may not propose themselves for public office knowing the high level of monetisation of our politics and might therefore rule themselves out for consideration. The benefit of community involvement in the process is that resources could be raised collectively to support their candidature. People who have been known, formally or informally, to have been involved in corruption must be ruled out of consideration at the outset. Truthfulness is another important criterion for consideration.
Leadership requires people with a vision of what they want to achieve for Nigeria. Of course, those who want to present themselves can get good consultants to write up a vision and programme for them. It is therefore important to define competence on the basis of track record of proposed candidates – professional background and accomplishments, community engagement and service, views expressed on political, economic and social issues. There has to be minimum education standard, degree or higher national diploma. Finally, age and good health are key factors in leadership and Nigerians know a lot about this issue. People over seventy years should be encouraged to stay out of politics because they are unlikely to have the energy for the enormous work involved in running a country as large and complex as Nigeria.