As the Nigerian 2023 election is closing in on the electorates, it is central to the current leadership debate over the most qualified, tested, component, and experienced candidate fit for the job to stand on winning qualities. Essentially, all leaders must have verifiable leadership skills to deliver the dividends of democracy to most Nigerians. Across the Federal Republic, the argument should turn drastically to who is the best among the candidates and widely accepted in solving Nigerian’s problems. Nigeria’s democracy has been evolving since 1990, and leadership also changed hands a couple of electoral seasons; the debate for assertively exemplary leadership remains. The situation calls to mind that when it comes to leading, the Country and its citizens must keep developing.
There are many essential inputs to the leadership equation of Nigeria undoubtedly. When you factor in some main inputs to formulate exemplary leadership for Nigerians in a digital and globally uncertain world, you begin to see the urgent needs for a president to be a superior culture maker and equaliser of opportunities, among other winning qualities. Nigeria is a unique Country with a massive diversity of over two hundred fifty ethnic groups. The populous and politically influential ethnicity cut across the seven ethnicity of Hausa-Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, Tiv 2.5%, according to the CIFORB Country Profile. With such statistics, and a president expected to emerge again, the leadership requisites must embody the best culture maker and equaliser of opportunities among all the candidates. Due to space constraints, please let me silk this piece on culture maker and consider the others as the opportunity comes.
The leadership emphasises keep developing to provide an unassailable opportunity for the citizens’ demand for leaders who want inclusion and diversity to equally progress in the nation and democratic building for the utmost benefit of all the citizens, irrespective of ethnicity and the associated leadership and political influences. Leaders must know that inclusion and diversity start from them. For example, when the PDP blindfolded themselves to zone the next presidency to the South of Nigeria, the need to ask questions about the party’s vision for ethnicity inclusion and diversity growth plan should keep on keeping on, and the outcome could easily cast doubt on the capacity of their candidate to lead on matters of restructuring. I consider restructuring quickly as a leadership matter for Nigeria, mainly to desire inclusion and diversity progress within the ethnicity efficacy.
There are two examples: firstly, in 2014, when Satya Nadella became the chief executive of software giant Microsoft, he determined to strengthen the global outfit with a learning culture, particularly in the areas of inclusion and innovation. Permit me to quote him; he said, “Always keep learning. You stop doing useful things if you don’t learn.” Under Asiwaju’s stewardship in Lagos State, he nurtured leadership as a profession, helping leaders deliberately and consistently develop their skills throughout their careers, so they are prepared for the next level to lead as their leadership duties grow, irrespective of their ethnicity. Within Asiwaju’s great mind for inclusion and diversity, on 9th February 2000, just a year to his stewardship in Lagos, he presented cheques to the officials of assigned Banks to pay the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (WAEC) for all public-school students in Lagos state. Asiwaju will never play politics with his inclusion and diversity blueprints through the learning culture he exemplifies across the board of followers and creating a globally embraced learning environment for all learners, irrespective of ethnicity. For Asiwaju, a gradual and consistent learning culture is a way to reinvent the citizen’s interest in inclusion and innovation.
Asiwaju does not limit inclusion and diversity to his political associates and or human resource of the institutions within the state agencies but also place inclusion and diversity within the spheres of innovation and strategic growth across every unit of governance platforms. He takes ownership of inclusion and diversity, which helps him to see the real and tangible progress in all he touches. Asiwaju is unarguably the best accepted and an expert culture maker who is a cosmopolitan, sophisticated, charismatic politician, who has built massive bridges across the country. He has cultivated love, acceptance and widespread constituency across the Country such that he is more acceptable nationwide than many top politicians in Nigeria today. With his inclusion and diverse mind, Asiwaju is one of the country’s most detribalised, selfless and patriotic leaders. He is blind to ethnic and religious sentiments, and he demonstrated this in his broad approach to governing Lagos and the policies he developed in Lagos, which favoured every Nigerian. This is the Southerner the North could trust to offer pan-Nigerian governance of the country and give every Nigerian a stake in the country, no matter where one comes from.
With Asiwaju, he takes the reputational, financial and personal risks of homogeneity, groupthink and exclusion seriously. He also anticipates more deeply what individuals can bring on board of leadership to promote business opportunities with the robustness of inclusion and diversity lens. In other words, intelligent leaders see opportunity with a unique lens of inclusion and diversity to set the tone for the citizens to follow. Asiwaju as an authentic leader always creates a more inclusive opportunity to make the governance space a winning context for all. You can draw inferences from his achievements in Lagos and the support for his party, that culminates to his success on elections as a Senator, Lagos State Governor and currently the Presidential candidate of the ruling party. For instance, the margin and the spread of the winning run between Asiwaju and other presidential primary candidates testify to the assertion that indeed Asiwaju is an expert culture maker, who easily create a more inclusive democratic businesses for topmost outcomes for all the citizens.
Take an example of how created a more inclusive business with the power section of Lagos State. Asiwaju on election as Lagos governor, saw a grand vision of breaking the vicious power crisis that riddled the activities of the state power section. He came up with the idea of fixing power generation and distribution. He brought Enron, a United States power company, to kick start privatising power generation and distribution. The PDP federal government stood in the way and frustrated the Enron project while claiming that power was the sole responsibility of the federal government. With this, Nigeria lost the considerable opportunity of having private participation in the power sector, thus leaving the state power company unscathed in its hegemony over the power sector. With the loss of this Tinubu initiative, power has consistently degenerated, and the state power company has no answer to this consistent decline. There is little doubt that if the Enron project had been allowed to thrive, Nigeria would have by now solved its intractable power problem. Also, Asiwaju’s vision is within his great mind about understanding the future of work. Nigerians can use this and others as signals, a timeline to trust that Asiwaju will indeed deal with the issue of poor power supply if he is elected president, thus solving a problem that has defied a solution over a long period.
The notion of empathy in leadership becomes a more authentic quality of an intelligent leader. At Microsoft, let me take the example of what Nadella emphasised. He accentuated emotional intelligence and active listening as empathy agencies for an authentic leader. These two qualities could easily be linked to the associated values of effective leadership to create competitive advantages. Leaders who are culture makers use empathy to strengthen their leadership strategy by having to put themselves wearing the same shoes as the citizens. In a developing democracy, leaders have to identify with the people, especially in bringing lessons in empathy at home, to translate into a governance approach to prioritise the needs of the citizenry. Nadella, at his time as the chief executive before becoming Microsoft chairman in 2021, got his sense of empathy strengthened by having a son with the motor disability cerebral palsy. He advocates and ensures that empathy make such a difference in his leadership style.
It is easier for a culture maker to speak out in support of the populace’s needs irrespective of their ethnicity, gender, or religious affiliations and remain accountable in their governance approach. As leaders, it is how you make yourself accountable to people that will determine how smart and authentic you are. When you model culture around inclusiveness and remain Influential in reinventing your approaches innovatively, you will become open and strengthen the entire leadership institution with equal opportunity; then, you are leading an organisation and or governance structure that will exponentially grow even more than twice as fast as those of the global north nations.
Leaders should be responsible for setting an inclusive example that other leaders can follow. Other leaders shall remain willing to follow your model when you demonstrate all-inclusive evidence of governance that remains verifiable. When you take a positive note of Asiwaju’s choice of Kashima Shettima, you can see it is all about a re-invention approach to getting things done as a culture maker. Asiwaju’s choice of Kashima Shettima as his Vice-Presidential candidate aptly demonstrated his understanding of culture making in governance, the indices and persons that thrive in governance, as well as the power of having a competent, equally cerebral and proven achiever to compliment his own redoubtable leadership and management capacity.
As the governor of Borno at a time, the state was ravaged by a debilitating war levied by the Boko Haram terrorist group. Shettima handled Borno’s affairs in such a stellar manner that saw not only to the rehabilitation of the war victims but also to the quick rebuilding of the war-torn state. Like Asiwaju, he had a great succession plan of robust inclusion and innovation that brought forth a very competent, efficient and gifted achiever, Professor Zulum as his successor. Today, Borno is home to such incredible infrastructure that many doubt if Borno was the same state ripped and torn apart by a ferocious war that saw massive destruction in the state as the war lasted and the unleashing of millions of refugees, most of them have been rehabilitated and settled back to their everyday lives.
So Asiwaju made the best choice in a Shettima that understands very well the importance of leveraging the tools of governance to offer transformative impetus to the people’s lives. Both were resounding successes as governors of their states. Both have very competent successors that continued where they stopped; they governed states that continued to strike tremendous successes after their tenures ended. So, the Tinubu-Shettima ticket is a loaded ticket of two tested and proven performers who employed transformative capacity and culture making ability to change things for the betterment of Lagos and Borno, respectively. Tinubu/Shettima ticket contains so many packages rolled into one, and Nigeria would be exceedingly favoured to have such a knowledgeable and competent duo managing her affairs. Their excellent results in Lagos and Borno resonate nationally today, and no contending ticket for the 2023 presidency comes near that ticket. They stand to do that for the country from 2023 if we reward them with our votes in the coming presidential poll.
Overall, as leaders, we have a responsibility to set an inclusive plan for our leadership team and provide context to put empathy lessons into practice. About two years ago, Herbert Diess, board chairman of Volkswagen Group, held a public discourse with Nadella on effective change management. The car-maker is moving from a focus on hardware to adopting a software-driven, mobility-prioritised business approach. It was an attempt to rebuild an organisational culture to recover from the Dieselgate scandal of 2015. Nadella’s concept of culture-making draws on his achievements as an inclusive leader. Prioritising learning, leading by example and building diverse teams were at the heart of his message. These are the components of transformational leadership. Asiwaju is an inclusive leader who is an expert in using those ingredients to boost other leaders’ capacity to maximise opportunity. Such an inclusive approach undoubtedly helps national governance transform good leaders into inclusive leaders of robust cultural processes. Asiwaju will always make a governance shift towards inclusion across all Nigeria’s governance platforms, an outcome achievable under his stewardship in Lagos and to be robustly replicated in Nigeria as the Tinubu/Shettima remains the best the country can boast of to transform and change its fortunes for the better, come 2023.