Leadership Recruitment: The Missing Anchor In Our National Development – By Attahiru Jega


*Jega *

  • Chairman’s Opening Remarks By Attahiru M. Jega, OFR Professor, Department of political Science, Bayero University, Kano, Presented at the University of Lagos Muslim Alumni Association (UMA) Annual Pre-Ramadan Lecture, J. F. Ade Ajayi Auditorium, University of Lagos, Akoka, March 27th, 2022.

I wish to express my appreciation to UMA for inviting me and giving me the honour to Chair today’s Lecture. I also commend them for sustaining the Annual Lecture over the years. You have gathered such a distinguished team of speakers for this year’s event.


Jazakumullah khairan – May Allah reward you with his merciful bounties. University of Lagos Muslim Alumni Association (UMA) have gained respect due to its focus on issues of national importance and careful selection of lecturers and discussants who do justice to the issues through dispassionate discourses and proffering viable solutions for national progress and development. 

I have no doubt that this year’s lecture is in keeping with that tradition of contributing to the quest for effective solutions to our most burning national challenges to socio-economic and democratic development.

The topic for discussion today, is well chosen, as the issue of leadership recruitment at all levels of governance in our country, is central to our current national predicament; and getting it right is key to the resolution of our poor governance and development processes.

We evidently have been recruiting and appointing / electing inappropriate leaders, quite often, round pegs in square holes, and undermining, rather than, strengthening our governance, democratic and development processes.

It can be said that, in general, every citizen needs to be concerned about the development of his/her country. Whether their country develops or not, whether they leave in peace or in pieces, and whether their needs and aspirations are satisfied or not, may to a large extent depend on the type of leaders they have; in other words, it depends on how the leaders unite or divide citizens, how they inspire or demoralize and demobilize citizens; and how they harness and utilize national assets and resources to develop the country or how they destroy the country’s potential by reckless pursuit of self-serving objectives. 

If leaders lack vision, are narrow minded and short sighted, or are quarrelsome and self-serving, they would only constrain the country’s development; they won’t be able to unite and inspire citizens; they would rather divide citizens on ethno-religious or other primordial identities; they would wreck, vandalize, privatize or steal national assets and resources; and they would certainly be unable to address the fundamental needs and aspirations of citizens, with regards to human security, peace and contentment.

Nigerian citizens belong to the category of unfortunate citizens of the world in whose country leadership, though in the context of a civil democratic dispensation, leaves much to be desired, in terms of a sustainable vision for our country’s development, selflessness in elective public leadership positions, competence and capacity to lead a country in the 21st century, and in terms of having an enlightened self-interest to galvanize and forge elite consensus on how to reposition, stabilize and develop the country on a sustainable basis.

There is an African saying that: “a wise cat that cares about tomorrow does not eat a pregnant mouse”! In Nigeria, our already very fat cats strive to eat all the mice without discrimination or regard for tomorrow! This is a very senseless act that cares neither for the human dignity of the citizens nor for the survival and sustainability of the country!!

What all these suggest, is that Nigeria has had a profound crisis of leadership, which is crying for urgent resolution. And key to addressing this crisis, is improving upon the leadership recruitment processes and getting leadership selection / election right. And this needs to be done, at the latest, by the 2023 general elections.

While the eminent speakers are the ones expected to lead the discussion, I crave your indulgence to say a few things in these opening remarks, hopefully to set the tone of the discussion to follow.

First, it seems to me that the opportunity that representative democracy provides through the electoral processes, for the careful selection / election by citizens of those who would truly represent and take care of their collective interests and aspirations, is either not properly understood by our so-called politicians and citizens as voters, or are wilfully ignored, or worse, deliberately undermined.

 With the terrible result that the electoral processes spew up and recycle most people in elected public offices who either bought, or fraudulently and often violently stole, the votes which put them into ‘elected’ public leadership positions.

 They invariably achieve this, because the special purpose vehicle for getting into elections, namely the political parties, are captured by so-called ‘money bags’, ‘godfathers’ and powerful patrons, and they operate undemocratically to install clients and otherwise very unprepared and untrustworthy people into elective positions, which require thorough preparation, competence and trustworthiness.

Second, in view of this, we need to enlighten, awaken and mobilize our citizens as voters, to understand the value of using the electoral process for the protection, defence and advancement of their human dignity, and then put it to good use, to elect into public governance and leadership positions tested and trusted people, known good people, who have requisite honesty, integrity, competence and selflessness and vision for actualization of collective aspirations for progress and development. 

In this regard, we need to mobilize all citizens who are qualified, to register to vote, to know how to vote, without wasting their ballot, to vote wisely for people of good character who would represent / lead them well through good, democratic governance processes.

Third, every citizen has a role to play to bring about responsible and responsive leadership and good democratic governance, through an electoral process that has integrity. We must all endeavour to take this responsibility with the seriousness that it deserves, and contribute to the integrity of our country’s elections.

 There should be no “Siddon look” while bad people are having a field day in politics and messing it up, and messing us all up! Politics is not inherently bad; it is only as bad as we all allow it to be! When we allow bad people to populate politics, it become bad, very bad!! Therefore, religious leaders, community leaders, civil society organizations and community-based associations, all enlightened, patriotic and well-meaning Nigerians, need to engage positively with the current political and electoral processes, contribute to improving the leadership recruitment process and help nurture a better future for our country in terms of democratic governance and socio-economic development (see Jega 2022 a-c).

Finally, no doubt, one can say that good leadership recruitment has been the missing anchor in our national development; we must look for it and find it, as soon as possible, before 2023 elections, before it is too late, before the reckless disposition of the band of bad people who dominate and control our political and governance processes runs the country totally aground, beyond redemption or salvation.

 It is not too late now to do so; we must pick up the gauntlet, as we are truly running out of time. We must contribute to the development of a criteria to be used to mobilize citizens for good leadership recruitment for the 2023 general elections and beyond. This is a task that must be done.

I fully agree with Jibrin Ibrahim, that:
We must develop an overwhelming consensus that political leadership cannot remain the only job for which no qualification appears necessary except to have a lot of money, usually, stolen money. It is clear that for as long as the current pattern of leadership recruitment continues, our troubles will continue.

 It is for this reason that we must find a way to bring relevant criteria to bear on the selection of leadership. We have got to find a way of making character, competence and capacity to determine who leads (March 25, 2022, Daily Trust, back page).

To my mind, this should be made the main item on the agenda of all patriotic citizens ad organized civil society and community – based groups for active participation in the political and electoral processes of our country leading to the 2023 general elections. If, or when, we have good people in leadership positions, in governance, the resolution of many of our national challenges would become much easier, from restructuring, to reposition the economy and addressing the needs and aspirations of Nigerian citizens.

Thank you.

References Ibrahim, J. 2022. “Developing Criteria for Good leadership Selection in Nigeria”. Friday March 25 Column, Daily Trust, Back Page.

Jega, A. M. 2022 (a). “Towards Building a Citizens’ Consensus” Roundtable Convened by the Nigerian Working Group on Peacebuilding and Governance, Thursday, 17th February, NAFConference Centre, Abuja.

Jega, A. M. 2022 (b). Chairman’s Opening Remarks at the Workers Conference on the theme: “Commitment to National Emancipation and Development Through Effective Political Engagement by Nigerian Workers”, Organized by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), NAFConference Centre, Jabi, Abuja, March 2.

Jega, A, M. 2022 (c). Chairman’s Opening Remarks at the Trade UnionCongress (TUC) Political Round Table 2022 on the theme: “The Role of Organized Labour in Promoting Participatory Development and Good Governance: Perspectives on 2023 General Elections”, Held at the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre, Thursday, March 10.


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