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At the altar of quick wins: Nigeria and her visionaries

At the altar of quick wins: Nigeria and her visionaries
May 24
11:54 2024

BY AUGUSTA NNEKA

If you read through the biographies of 100 Nigerian politicians, 97% will contain the description “visionary leader”. This phrase, so watered down, has completely lost its meaning. Just as we have come to expect a news headline informing us of the national grid collapse every two market days, we now equate political success with visionaries.

Maybe some part of us cannot believe that our political class can win elections without a concrete vision or plan to actually lead.

How else were we convinced to trust such leaders with our very lives when there was actually no vision?

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Wasn’t it “the vision” that made us come out and vote?

Surely, it could not have been the buzzwords like “economic development,” “strong institutions,” “nation building,” or “youth empowerment” that motivated us to take to our keypads and fight opposition until our chosen leader becomes the one the majority said aye to.

Of course, there was a vision. We did not hear it. We could not see it. But most definitely, there had to have been a vision. Nothing else makes sense.

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So why then is our perceived harbinger of change suddenly doing just enough ‘quick win’ projects to list out at the next election year? Just enough for the opposition to rethink using the word “incompetent” in their weekly hot takes on Twitter Spaces? Working just enough so that a scorecard can be presented to the electorate with the campaign: “I didn’t have enough time to actually fulfill my promise to you; HOWEVER, I did more than my predecessor.”

Our visionary leader has become one who does “just enough”.

During a virtual Boqer School of Government class organised via Zoom by Africa’s Morning Center for Policy and Good Governance, a question was asked: “How do you define good governance?” As expected, there were various answers ranging from idealistic, like “good governance is when the leader cares about the welfare of the people and makes human-centric policies,” to plain delusional, like “good governance prioritises the happiness of the electorate”.

For me, I thought good governance had little to do with the whims of the people and more to do with a leader confident enough to take hard decisions, build lasting institutions, and make often considered rash decisions without sacrificing the future for quick wins, even if the cost is the immediate gratification of the people.

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My argument was simple: governance at all times must take into account improving the quality of life of the people, but must never be at their whims. A government focused on accommodating the impulses of the electorate will spend eternity chasing after the elusive dream of making humans happy. This is simply not possible nor is it the responsibility of the government, as the demands of humans are ever-changing and never-ending.

Of course, there were quite a lot of disagreements when I presented this standpoint.

I did not argue. I simply explained that when you have a clear vision, every distraction becomes a mere annoyance. Apparently, this was an uncommon thought. But how do you hop through life without a clear vision in your mind’s eye? Not your ambition. Not those lofty ideas you strive to achieve to gain the validation you crave from society. A vision so clear you can gist it to your friend as if it has already come to pass.

A vision is tangible. Like the air after the first rain, you can taste it. It instigates that same craziness Martin Luther King Jr. had when he made his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech. His vision was so palpable it not only outlived the author but also became a beacon for change that engulfed the world.

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A visionary leader is not content to feature on Arise News, reiterating all the theories already established by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson to the amazement of an unread audience.

Vision, when seen clearly, sparks confident actions. It bulldozes through obstacles regardless of the consequences until that which has been seen materializes. Such vision creates a burning passion and clarity usually incomprehensible to the majority, making such a leader unpopular. But if the vision is clear enough, the opinion articles from opposing camps on the urgent need for the country to study and integrate the policies pursued by Japan, the US, and France become the first alarm on Monday morning, early snoozed.

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Now the question is: are we ready to truly accept a leader focused squarely on transforming what we know as public service, where “carrying people along” becomes the 98th priority?

Can our electoral process accommodate the perceived madness of a visionary unwilling to bend over for the gods of politics?

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What happens when four years are dedicated to the complete reformation of current political institutions over attending to our national cry of “show workings”?

When will we finally admit that we have gathered and sacrificed the Nigeria we want on the altar of “quick wins”?

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In 2011, former President Goodluck Jonathan proposed changing the tenure of the presidency to a single term of 6/7 years. This was vehemently opposed. In our wisdom, we pointed fingers because God forbid someone exposes the scam that a two-term tenure of four years actually is.

Let me break it down.

When a politician wins the first term for a tenured position, all efforts are geared towards re-election. Everything is about what to use for the list of achievements electorates like to gobble up.

By the third year, the only focus is on re-election. Thus, you have only two years of “quick win” projects, one year of “tightening the belt” for re-election, and the last year to campaign.

Then comes the second term: you complete your “continuity” project which you sold as the major reason you had to be voted back in, as your opposition would surely abandon said project.

You also begin your “legacy” projects, most times situated in your village and big enough to accommodate your ego because how else will anyone know you once occupied office?

What eventually happens is that a “good” politician works for only 4-5 years within a supposed eight-year tenure.

Will this change anytime soon? Not with the current political landscape, because that is actually the politicking the political class and electorate have reached a consensus on.

Unless a true visionary survives and ushers in a new reality, the cycle will continue.

I have a dream that one day, Nigeria will get the visionary leader we have so often invoked but never worked for. That such a leader will brave the muddiness of politics and politicking and, against all odds, rise to the helm of affairs in this country.

I have a dream that one day Nigerians will wake up and understand the place of the electorate and the power we wield. That such power will not be channelled towards unnecessary demonstrations because someone gave a speech on accountability and transparency without teaching about the necessity of trust as a currency in the social contract.

I have a dream that one day Nigeria will expunge the notion of quick wins and play the long-term game, putting in the blood, sweat, and tears for the glory of a Nigeria that once was.


Augusta Nneka, a political enthusiast and socio-political commentator, writes from Awka, Anambra state. She can be reached via [email protected] and on Twitter: @Nneka_Augusta



Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

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