Abeokuta, Ogun State capital, was the venue when eminent speakers from different parts of the country gathered to deliberate on the issue of leadership in Nigeria. The talk-shop came under the aegis of the Youth Governance Dialogue set up by the Youth Development Centre of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, OOPL, which is an engagement platform to annually discuss the need for youths to be actively involved in governance in Nigeria. The speakers, drawn from diverse professions and generations, at the end of the lecture hosted by former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo came to a consensus that there was indeed a leadership crisis in Nigeria that needed affirmative, though non-violent, action.
Obviously speaking against the backdrop of the wind of change that has ushered in a new political order in France and some other countries, the Lead Speaker at the one-day conference, Chief Osita Chidoka, who is also the immediate past Minister of Aviation and former Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, stated that there was need for a national renaissance that would produce vibrant leaders who would lead the country without the encumbrances of tribe and other sentiments.
Chidoka spoke on the topic: “Towards a Guiding Political Philosophy for a Democratic Nigeria”. The former minister, in his presentation, said there was need for older politicians to strive to bequeath the next generation with national philosophy and ideology which transcends sentiments.
“Our national aspirations should inspire the next generation and provide them with the existential meaning of Nigeria; a meaning that transcends geography, natural resources and ethnicity. To grow Nigeria, we must build a society that harnesses human resources, provides equal opportunities and develops capacity for innovation,” he said.
According to Chidoka, a gubernatorial aspirant in Anambra State, the leadership question remains a key issue in the search for answers to Nigeria’s political problems.
“Many have argued that the trouble with Nigeria is leadership… Some insist that the absence of ideology is at the root of our political crisis. In all the views, the constant is the agreement that there is trouble with Nigeria. The leadership question is key,” he stated.
He also encouraged the youths to take a stand on critical national issues such as fiscal federalism, revenue derivation and sharing, size of government and its role in the economy.
“Do not let any political party or aspirant deceive you with promises of building bridges where there is no river. Insist that the existential questions confronting our nation must be answered by those who seek to lead us,” he admonished.
The former minister also observed what he described as the absence of national philosophy within the polity and emphasised the need for leaders to pass on the right values to successive generations.
Discussions at the event centered on equipping the next generation with the right values for leadership. Political analysts believe that youths are effective drivers of change in any society. Therefore, engaging them to peacefully participate in governance is a first step to innovation in governance.
In his speech Obasanjo, who was in his early 30s when he became Nigeria’s military Head of State, agreed Nigeria needed vibrant and youthful leaders for it to move forward.
He said any country that ignores its youth population was sitting on a volcano that could erupt at any time.
“We will not transform if we ignore the youths. If we have youth explosion or anger because of lack of opportunity, it will consume all of us. We are all witnesses to the activities of Boko Haram, MASSOB and IPOB,” he warned.
The former president said he believed in the potential of the Nigerian youth and urged them to stay focused on their dreams in order to be successful.
In his comment, the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, harped on the need for greater involvement of youths in governance as this could bring about a positive change in the country.
Tambuwal, who spoke on the topic ‘’Preparing Successor Generation for Effective Participation in Governance”, said: “We cannot keep calling them the leaders of tomorrow without ensuring that we put in place deliberate measures that will aid their quest for public service”.
Tambuwal urged the older generation to provide mentorship to younger ones and prepare them for leadership positions.
In his contribution, Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Onofiok Luke, rooted for political mentorship as opposed to godfatherism.
He said while mentorship guides the aspiring youth in decision making, godfatherism intrusively interferes with the decision making process and makes the youth do the bidding of the godfather, often reluctantly.
Other speakers at the event also noted that Nigeria’s political reality underscores the need for young and vibrant leaders at every level of government, adding that sadly, there are few of them.
They however, acknowledged that some young leaders such as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; the Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello and Osita Chidoka have demonstrated the capacity of youths to lead and successfully too.
For instance, Chidoka, who is credited with possessing significant experience in public service, was particularly praised for his initiative which led to the transformation in the FRSC that is still evident till date.
He is said to have transformed the FRSC from a docile brick and mortar agency to a functional lead agency in road traffic administration and safety management driven by information and communication technology.
The introduction of ICT to enhance patrol operations, the establishment of modern communication centers, the deployment of phones to capture offenders as well as capacity building for the men and personnel of the corps so as to attain globally acceptable standards, made him outstanding.
The belief is that Chidoka, who had a short but fruitful stint as the Minster of Aviation where he set new standards in aviation safety in the country, would bring the benefit of his experience to bear in governing Anambra State if given the mandate in the coming elections in November this year.
On his ambition he said: “I am ready to serve the people in any capacity even as a councillor because no position is too small or big for me as long as it is service to the people. Since my youth service years, I have been involved in volunteer service; so the driving motive for this ambition is to serve the people of the state”.
From left: Onofiok Luke, Chidoka and Obasanjo at the event.