Retooling Leadership Recruitment Kit in Nigeria By Adekunle Animashaun

Retooling Leadership Recruitment Kit in Nigeria By Adekunle Animashaun
The 2023 presidential election, the seventh since the restoration of constitutional democracy to Africa’s most populous nation in 1999, goes down in history as the most competitive in the history of post-colonial Nigeria. The election is significant not only for the egregious negative campaigning that dominated the pre-election period; but equally for the drama, tension and animosity that were generated in the aftermath of the election including the legal challenge to the  outcome of the election instituted by the first and second runners up in the election.
In all constitutional democracies, election is basically organized to enthrone democratic leadership or to democratically effect a change of leadership. The 2023 presidential vote was no exception to this universal truth. Through the election, Nigeria sought to transit from one democratic regime to another as stipulated in the 1999 constitution, as amended, which provides for a two-term presidential limit and regular elections at specified periods.
Leadership is critical to every human society. As a practice, leadership is as old as humanity while every human society has its own culturally-determined system of leadership selection. In the traditional Nigerian society, traditional rulers were the political authorities of their respective communities.  There was a laid down pattern of leadership selection and succession in all traditional societies in Nigeria and this pattern was well respected and abided by the people. For example, in the Yoruba traditional society, Ifa Oracle was the source of selecting a traditional ruler among the royal families. Anyone who did not belong to a royal family could not aspire to be a traditional ruler and no attempts were made by individuals or groups to corrupt the process of royal selection.
The late colonial and post-colonial periods in Nigeria saw the emergence of representative democracy of the Westminster type. During these periods, election became the only legally recognized instrument of enthroning and dethroning political leadership. Although the country suffered democratic recession in 1966, six years after national independence with the incursion of the military into political governance, civil politics was restored in 1979 with the country changing its regime type from the Westminster model to the presidentialist regime in what became the country’s second democratic experimentation. A series of coups and palace coups led to the collapse of both the second and third republics ultimately subjecting the country to a prolonged authoritarian rule which eventually terminated on May 29, 1999 with the inauguration of Nigeria’s fourth democratic republic.
Since 1999, little attention has been paid to the scrutiny of politicians seeking political leadership positions beyond their routine clearance by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). One of the consequences of this collective negligence was the unleashment of the Salisu Buhari and Evan (s) Enwerem conundrum on our leadership space. While Salisu Buhari, then Speaker of the lower chamber of the national parliament, was alleged to have used forged academic credentials to prosecute his election, critics of Evan (s) Enwerem accused him of dubious identity. Salisu Buhari resigned as Speaker of the House of Representatives after confessing to have faked his academic certificates while Enwerem was impeached from office as Senate President on 18 November, 1999.
While the two cases cited above headlined political scandals of the early post-transition period, there were probably other, even more damaging, scandals that escaped public attention.
The lingering controversy over the true identity and academic credentials of President Bola Tinubu regenerated identity and certificate scandals in the current dispensation. Shortly after securing the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress in a bitterly-fought party nomination, allegations of identity theft were raised against the former Lagos state governor. The thrust of the allegations was that Tinubu’s real name is Amuda Ogunlere. His critics also swore that Tinubu was convicted for drug offence in the United States.
As the dust was yet to settle on the Tinubu controversy, allegations of multiple identities against Alhaji Atiku Abubakar surfaced on the conventional and social media. The plank of the allegations is that the former Vice President has different names in his educational records starting from his primary education. In the reaction of Atiku Abubakar through his media aides, the PDP presidential candidate accused President Tinubu and the ruling APC of orchestrating the allegations. Atiku’s media office insisted that the name change of Atiku Abubakar was formally documented in a court affidavit.
It was Abayomi Arabambi, spokesperson to the Lamidi Apapa faction of the Labour Party that raised allegations about Peter Obi’s multiple identities claiming that there were apparent discrepancies in the names on the academic certificates of the LP presidential candidate and that on his National Youth Service Corps discharge certificate. However, in his reaction to Arabambi’s allegations, the publicity secretary of the Julius Abure faction of the Labour Party, Mr. Obiora Ifoh, rejected the allegations stating that no discrepancies were noticed in all Peter Obi’s academic and identity records.
Adekunle Animashaun
It was declaration from two foreign entities, Chicago State University (CSU) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that somewhat changed the perception of some Nigerians on the Tinubu controversy. The pertinent questions at this juncture are: do we need to rely on foreign entities to give a clean bill of health to our elective office seekers? Why can’t we as a people equip or strengthen our national institutions to perform these important integrity tasks?
The unending controversies over the identities and academic documents of the three top politicians have in a rather unprecedented manner brought to the fore the imperative of ethical political leadership in Nigeria. The apparent incapacity of INEC to do a thorough background check on electoral candidates seeking elective office supports this leadership renewal initiative. What is ethical leadership?
Ethical leadership is a variety of leadership that is rooted in strong ethical beliefs and strict adherence to values of trust, honesty and integrity. A key defining element of ethical leadership is that the leadership must demonstrate integrity, moral uprightness and trustworthiness.
Ethical leaders represent an invaluable asset to a nation helping to gain and sustain citizen loyalty, civic enthusiasm and mobilization for national goals and ideals. Ethically-based leadership is critical both for regime stability and societal advancement. Anthony Ogbuigwe contends that a chief reason for the pervasive underdevelopment in the poor regions of the world is the absence of ethical leadership in these areas.
Social exchange theorists have argued that the character of a leader generates a reciprocatory impact on the citizens. Thus, to the extent that political leadership in a civil polity influences and motivates citizen action, there must be a value consensus within the polity about the legitimacy of the ruling regime and the integrity of its functionaries. Of the five principles of ethical leadership that are advanced in the literature, one of the five, namely honesty, is the most relevant to the focus of this piece. Within the context of political leadership, honesty could variously mean openness, integrity and transparency.
Given what has been witnessed in Nigeria since the return of democratic politics in 1999, there is no contesting the fact that ethical leadership is lacking in Africa’s largest electoral democracy.
The controversies over President Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi have caused Nigeria and Nigerians untold international embarrassment and national disgrace. These contestations throw Nigerians up as a people who do not know their leaders too well. Only God knows how many political leaders have occupied, and are still occupying, political offices with forged/fake academic credentials and dubious identity.
There is an urgent need to re-examine our leadership recruitment process with conscious efforts to infuse more gate-keeping mechanisms into the selection process. There is a need to institute an independent Integrity Assurance and Promotion Committee charged with the task of scrutinizing the family, academic and professional records of prospective elective office seekers in the country. The task of this committee should precede political party nomination so as to prevent aspirants with questionable records from contesting primary elections of political parties. This committee should be composed of eminent personalities drawn from retired judges, retired diplomats, retired personnel of security services, respected clerics and credible civil society activists. For effective institutional oversight, this committee can be put under the supervisory authority of the National Judicial Council.
The setting up of an integrity committee could be an integral part of new efforts at electoral reform in Nigeria. The way and manner the Tinubu presidency drives this initiative will go a long way in demonstrating its genuine commitment or otherwise to the credibility of elections and strengthening of democratic rule in Nigeria. The time to rejig our leadership recruitment process is NOW.
Adekunle Animashaun
 Department of Political Science
 Fountain University, Osogbo, Nigeria.
                      adekunleanimashaun39@gmail.com
                      Tel: 08039695722

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