Nigeria recently had its presidential elections which was won by General Muhammadu Buhari, who beat the incumbent Head of State, Goodluck Jonathan. This is the first time that a Nigerian ruling party has lost the presidential election in the country’s democratic history. There was a fear that the country would descend into chaos if the electoral outcome didn’t favour the ruling party. A number of wealthy Nigerians took short vacations outside the country during the election period to be out of harm’s way. Thankfully, worst case violent scenarios didn’t materialise and the ruling party accepted defeat.
There was a clamour for a change of leadership after 5 mediocre years of Goodluck’s rule. High unemployment figures, rampant Boko Haram terrorist attacks and publicised cases of corruption contributed to his downfall. He promised to do better if given another 4 years but Nigerians wisely decided against this.
Would Buhari be better than the outgoing Goodluck? A lot of Nigerians are hoping so and there is a sense that he can’t be any worse than Goodluck.
Nigeria has a history of recycling its leaders. This would be Buhari’s second stint in charge of the country; he ruled Nigeria in the 80s as a military Head of State. The country is currently on its longest stretch of democratic rule in its history – 16 years and counting – without the interruption of military coups. Olusegun Obasanjo who kick-started this democratic journey in 1999 also happened to be another ex-military Head of State in the late 70’s.
Buhari is 72 and Obasanjo was 61 when he became Head of State for the second time. Umaru Yar’Adua who was elected into power after Obasanjo was 56 and Goodluck who succeeded him was 53 when he took over.
The downside of these old men taking power as has been demonstrated in the last 16 years is that they are usually past their best and out of fresh ideas to lead the country.
There is a resistance to a change in the status quo in Nigeria because it has been a beneficial system for the power brokers and any attempt to disrupt the status quo will be opposed at all costs. All the three Nigerian Presidents before Buhari have maintained the status quo.
Would Buhari be any different? Hmmm, at 72, it is hard to say. Can old dogs learn new tricks? It is possible. If he is going to be different from his predecessors then he has to be bold and creative.
Bold enough to hire young, dynamic, innovative and strong leaders to work with him in developing and delivering visionary ideas for the country. Bold enough to be willing to step out of his comfort zone as he tackles the messes he created as an ex-Military leader and inherited from previous governments.
Creative enough to embrace the challenges of leading a country in an uncertain 21st century. Creative enough to sell painful changes to the population and the power brokers who are invested in maintaining the status quo.
Nigeria needs Buhari to be a game changer not a status quo manager.
I wish him and his team all the best because it isn’t easy to be a game changer. It is much easier and comfortable to make some cosmetic changes while maintaining the status quo.