By Isaac Asabor
In the last quarter of 2019, there was unanimity in various Statistics provided by various experts and bodies on Nigeria. The Statistics had it that Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa with a GDP of $398 billion compared to its closest competitor; South Africa, which had a GDP of $368 billion. In fact, the real wealth of a nation is calculated by its GDP per capita, and Nigeria ranked 140 out of 186 in GDP per capita global ranking.
Ostensibly to buttress the foregoing findings, it was gathered that Nigeria’s GDP per capita stands at $1,963 compared to South Africa’s $6,100 and Egypt’s $12,000. (Luxembourg ranks the highest in the world with GDP per capita of $144,000).
The foregoing economies captured in Statistical findings as at last year, were no doubt, the only countries on the planet where GDP per capita (an indicator of individual share of wealth) steadily plummeted over the past 20 years.
At this juncture, it is expedient to say that Nigeria’s budget for the health sector in 2018 was $938 million for a population of over 190 million people compared to South Africa’s $17.6 billion for a population of just 56 million people. This means that as an average Nigerian, the government’s health budget for a Nigerian for a whole year was just $4.5. Don’t forget the UK which set aside over $250 billion for the healthcare of its citizens in the same year (more than 10 times Nigeria’s entire 2018 budget). That means each citizen was entitled to health funds of $4,000.
Unfortunately, the wealth which Nigerian Statisticians and economic experts usually claim on papers has not in any way been reflecting on the lives of the people. Bluntly put at this juncture, a huge percentage of Nigerian population is poor, and with this, it is very glaring that most Nigerians exists largely at the mercy of fate. Little wonder there are so many churches on virtually all nooks and crannies of the 774 local government areas in the country.
Without sounding so statistical in this context, it is germane to call a spade a spade; by saying that Nigeria’s economy has for long been managed by leaders that have all kinds of academic and professional qualifications coupled with American accent with which they usually expressed to maneuver their way to the corridors of power. Incongruously, most of the leaders have for the umpteenth time publicly exhibited certain level of reprehensible behaviors that showed they are not worthy to be called leaders. Against the foregoing background, one may not be entirely wrong to guesstimate that some of them might have at one political dispensation or the other being charged with public assignments that saw them mismanaging the country’s economy due the disposition of “Short Fuse” that characterize their personality. For the sake of clarity, Merriam Webster dictionary defines “Short Fuse” as “A tendency to get angry easily: a quick temper”. In the same vein, Rick Telander defined it as a personality that “… was seen as the bad guy, the one whose short fuse was scary, destructive and uncontrollable”. If I may ask, is this the description of a leader Nigerians should be rooting for? Why would we not be having leadership problem when anyone that is considered to be “Short Fused” be appointed in a leadership position that has direct bearing on the lives of the people. It is sad that it is only in this country that we have leaders that talk down on royal fathers, journalists, street traders among other categories of Nigerians.
The question now is how does this category of leaders usually find their way to corridors of power? The answer to the foregoing question cannot be farfetched as most leaders in Nigeria today get appointments to strategic leadership position by virtue of their involvements in partisan politics through what is known as the spoils system, also known as a patronage system, which is a practice where a political party, after winning an election, gives government jobs to its supporters, friends and relatives as a reward for working toward its victory. The term was derived from the phrase “to the victor belong the spoils” by New York Senator William L. Marcy, referring to the victory of the Jackson Democrats in the election of 1828, with the term “spoils” meaning goods or benefits taken from the loser in a competition, election or military victory.
Some political leaders in the country today also found their ways to the corridors of power through the credentials needed for good leadership. It is expedient to state at this juncture that the foregoing basis of appointments is not in any way a faulty yardstick as the primal credential for appointments to top position; both in the private and public sectors of the economy is good education, such as would enable the leadership to combine “ideas and power, intellectualism and politics.
Even with the academic qualifications which some of our leaders meritoriously earned themselves through years of burning the midnight candle, the media space in these days, no doubt, is replete with news reports of widespread “expo”, certificate faking as a result of general degeneration in the standards of education in our schools and colleges. Paradoxically, primary six school leaving certificate is what is prescribed by the Constitution for those seeking elective political office. To my view, having primary six certificate as a leader is really next door to being an illiterate even if literacy means the ability to read and write.
In recent years, there have been instances where those that are looked up to in the society as leaders are seen to have conducted themselves in manners that do not portray them to be leaders in the real sense of the word. This is because they portrayed themselves as leaders that are bereft of right mental attitude and sound minds. In other climes, focus has being placed on the destructive side of leadership and how dysfunctional leaders can undermine an organization’s value. In fact, empirical research has focused on the personality characteristics of flawed leaders, and has pointed to negative personality traits as predictors of leadership derailment. There appear to be several personality traits that are related to leaders’ failure yet the three that are consistent across all studies are narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, which researchers referred to as the “Dark Triad”.
To my view, the foregoing traits which are detrimentally opposed to education which some of this category of leaders possess are what are killing our economy. The fact remains that these traits can make a leader resort to corruption and mismanagement of the economy. Without any iota of exaggeration, it can bluntly be said that apart from educational and professional qualifications and oratorical prowess which most of our leaders are known for, Nigeria needs leaders with strong character, sane mind and enviable temperament.
Finally, in this political dispensation that Nigeria’s economy is unarguably in a dire strait, the search for a good leader should go beyond looking for the man that has robust academic qualification and American accent. Moreover, Nigeria does not deserve a leader that is short fused. Imagined such a leader appointed as Nigerian Ambassador to any of the foreign countries where Narcissist, psychopaths and Machiavellian are not condoned.
Isaac Asabor is a Public Affairs Analyst.