Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje calls for support for goal-oriented and open-minded leadership

· “Each time a man stands for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, he sends a small wave of hope…that can sweep away the most powerful walls of oppression and resistance.” –Robert F. Kennedy


As the build-up to the 2023 general election intensifies, we must interrogate ethnocentric and parochial leadership selection patterns from the treacherous political class and the usual game of empty promises.

This article aims to provoke an understanding of the contemporary ecosystem of disruptive leadership thought and to reflect on the critical stages of emancipatory and normative citizen consensus for democratic reform and national cohesion. Citizen engagement is necessary for republican recovery, where fairness and justice are a common denominator for nation building.

Undeniably, the political geography of chaos and leadership inadequacy already dominates newspaper headlines and TV shows today – whether it’s the dreadful APC, the pleasant opposition party ( the PDP), or the irrational and treacherous Ninth National Assembly (vis-à-vis the enigma of the 2021 electoral bill). These are without counting the challenges of insecurity, the quagmire of fuel subsidies, the Igbo presidency, which are further evidence of the symptoms of the fragility of the Nigerian state.

· A real citizen consensus is relevant; the same goes for the disruptive thinking of leadership, which not only determines whether a new set of goal-driven leaders will emerge, but is also intentional about enduring paradigm and mindset shift. A challenger leadership attitude is needed to recalibrate the capture of power and resources by the state for meaningful development and progress. Disruptive leadership thinking begins with a strong, emancipatory, national dialogue project that seeks to challenge and reclaim the Nigerian state from the ridicule of unrepentant political jobbers and their collaborators.

Remarkably, the set of leadership qualities of character, skill and ability can guarantee the best results for the 2023 general election. More importantly, we need to move away from the overriding turn-based layout that we deprived as a people of true representation and genuine dialogue for nation building.

· The framework for citizen consensus and mindset change must interrogate past actions and current aspirations of political leaders across ethnic, religious and political party lines and statements of intent. The debate must begin with the forensic audit of sources of wealth and campaign finance. What are the presidential candidates proposing? What does each candidate’s national development strategy and manifesto look like? What do they understand? Are the strategies evidence-based? Does each candidate have a strategy? What are the indicators of project deliverables, activities, milestones and means of verification of each year outside of bureaucratic channels? What are the interconnections between the government’s revenue and expenditure framework? What are the candidates’ credentials in terms of global political engineering and international diplomacy?

The spotlight and citizen questions on agenda setting for the 2023 General Elections should be based on strong leadership, knowledge of stakeholder engagement, strong people and management experience, and technical skills on public and digital diplomacy with various ethnic nationalities, civil society, media, local and state governments, private sector and other genuine stakeholders in the Nigerian project. In addition, making debates the key to the election campaign and ensuring that parties reorient candidate selection and recruitment processes helps preserve democracy and social justice.

· Therefore, presidential candidates must have an independent and clear mindset. This is necessary to manage diversity and shape national agendas for transformation, ensure national mechanisms for healing and forgiveness based on best practices of international governance.

· As citizens, it is imperative that we seek and support a presidential candidate who can ensure openness, listen to business, invest in education and skills, import ideas and talent, and learn from other jurisdictions progressives, particularly the East Asian experience, to move beyond development and governance. It is instructive to note that East Asian countries had, like ours, trajectories of natural resource endowment, ethnic disunity, fragile institutions, weak democracy, subsistence agriculture and negative legacy of merchant and colonial exploitation, but they managed to overcome the challenges of building a virile nation.

Overall, the most important approach that should shape citizens’ conversations for the 2023 general election is a strategy of clear guiding principles, emphasizing truth for the country’s reconciliation.

· The Citizen’s Office has steadily become dominant in the disruptive ecosystem of leadership thought and is the path to a sustainable social contract, transparency and accountability. Moreover, the seriousness of a national agenda and a change of mind rests on the fact that citizens should make social justice a key pillar of their engagements with presidential candidates and act as as responsible partners in the governance process while the President is in office.

· While paid publicists and other media strategists sell their candidates through the media (traditional and social), the relevance of the press in the emergence of a credible leader cannot be overstated. The media must assume the obligation of self-censorship, social responsibility and accountability to the people. They must act as strategic gatekeepers by vetting those running for president. Journalists and media managers must remain independent from political interference. Finding the balance between generating revenue from politicians while adhering to well-established journalistic standards and maintaining editorial independence has become imperative for credible leadership recruitment for the general election.

Unfortunately, the media sweep and content analysis of those for and against some of the candidates over the past few weeks is extremely disturbing. The power of media owners and editorial leanings must also be interrogated to determine what is factual in this age of fake news and misinformation.

· Politicians must respect the rule of law and the electoral process. The President must quickly approve the Election Amendment Bill for the sake of the common good.

· As citizens, we must join hands to exchange ideas on the current political climate in the run-up to the 2023 general election, and help promote free, fair and credible elections by prioritizing disruptive thought leadership to put the country back on the path to progress. Let a new era dawn!


Orovwuje is the founder of Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons, Lagos

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