The President Nigeria Needs — An Open Letter To My WCE I

International Women’s Day is a day I like…..that one day during which women are celebrated for their achievements…..for impact they have had in various spheres of life. I am a product of significant investment by some amazing, truly amazing women. I come from a lineage of superhero women and I have also learnt at the feet of some equally great ones who helped me on the path of development and finding myself. I truly believe in women leaders and so when International Women’s Day comes around, it leads me to reflect on how lucky I have been and wonder what it would mean to see this luck more widespread.

So I stumbled on an image on Social Media and decided to tweet it this way:

Inevitably I have had people ask me who my WCE (Woman Crush Everyday) is. Now if you follow me on Twitter, you probably would have an idea but if you don’t, wait for the big reveal at the end of the piece……don’t let your Nigerianness push you to scroll down now o… it first!

Now, the other thing you would have noticed if you follow me on Twitter and have stumbled across my tweets or Medium pieces is my obvious disdain for the government of the day in Nigeria. I was firmly against the candidacy of Muhammadu Buhari and I have not been surprised at the unprecedented descent into ignominy the country has been subjected to over the last 3 years. It is no gainsaying I expect the Buhari experiment to come to an end come May 29, 2019. The question is how do we correct the error of 2015–2019? Who do we turn to this time?

In the run up to the 2015 elections, it was clear in my mind that Nigeria’s biggest issue was the inability of successive governments to truly enable economic prosperity for the majority. There had been some progress made since the return to democracy, but it was all stop start and several shackles remained in place. Some of them were constitutional, the set up of the country with a dominant center lends itself to statist tendencies which have been fully embraced by the Buhari regime. Some of the shackles were also in place due to the misguided notions of the citizens who want subsidized fuel and pilgrimages, blissfully ignorant of the fact they are mortgaging their future and that of their children. Other shackles ranged from corruption to lack of leadership capability. What was most ridiculous was the elevation of corruption into the number one issue……now that Nigeria has endured more than a year of recession, millions of jobs lost and a decimation of the economy, perhaps people can embrace their blinkers-on anti-corruption stance for comfort!

Nigeria with an estimated 170million people (some say it is closer to 120million) simply needs to bake a bigger pie and pursue inclusion like our collective lives depend on it (actually they do). Regressive laws like the Land Use Act need to be repealed and replaced with a law that enables wealth creation and distribution. Tax laws need to be revised with incentives to stimulate Small and Medium Enterprises. Government recurrent spending needs to be significantly pared down with capital expenditure ramped up significantly. The Central Bank of Nigeria needs to be made to go back to driving the economy and not propping up the government. Stimulating private enterprise and creating an enabling and inviting environment for investment needs to be a top priority. Top on the agenda must be full deregulation of the petroleum sector with full privatization of the nation’s oil and gas assets to unlock the sector and generate capital to open up other facets of the economy such as Power and Transportation Infrastructure.

The President Nigeria needs is someone with a proven record of top level economic management with a clear understanding of what needs to be done and more importantly, knowledge of how it can and should be done. Someone with enough clout locally and internationally who can get the best brains together to push through policies that will truly unlock Nigeria’s potential. At this time we don’t need another politician or someone whose ties to the political class are too strong, they have failed us repeatedly. However, we need someone who understands the political terrain and can navigate successful while not being sucked into the murky depths. We need someone who understands inclusion (particularly gender) and is passionate about creating a level playing field for everyone. Someone who has the foresight to see what can be achieved when all of Nigeria is engaged in productive pursuits. Nigeria needs to break the mold, we need a president with the clarity of purpose and will to push through the needed restructuring and reimagining of the nation.

In keeping with the International Women’s Day theme, I choose a woman to lead us forward. A woman who is exceedingly qualified and has been recognized at home and abroad as one of the pre-eminent talents of her generation. A woman who has served her country twice with distinction, leaving indelible marks, first in helping the country throw off the shackles of debilitating debt and second time around helping to institute reforms and tackle the issues of public finance while creating enabling environment for unprecedented growth. A woman whose international profile has grown in leaps and bounds since leaving public office, with accolades and appointments poured on her. A woman whose record remains unblemished and untarnished despite all the ridiculous attempts by those threatened by her brilliance and the fact that when she was in office she checked their excesses. Through it all, she has remained dignified while soaring to greater heights.

In a meritocracy, the best of us should lead us. That being said, Nigeria has never pretended to be a meritocracy, which explains the situation we are in at this time. However, the time has come to buck the trend and put our best foot forward. Across Africa we have seen the quality of leaders improve in countries like Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal and Ghana with a visible improvement in their fortunes. We have also recently seen South Africa replace Jacob Zuma with Cyril Ramaphosa, a significant upgrade from a capability perspective that immediately saw the Rand make gains and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange responding positively. Nigeria can ill afford to be left behind in the development race, it is time for leadership to be entrusted to those that are capable, not the popular.

I therefore call on my WCE to throw her hat in the ring in the assurance that a good number of us are ready for a visionary type of leadership. Even if we have to crowdfund the campaign funds, we will do so to save our country from ruin and put us on the path to success. It is a journey we will embark on, knowing there will be some pain as we try to course correct and that the destination may not be reached in one electoral cycle or two. Breaking the shackles and undoing decades of rot in the first instance will go a long way to setting us on an irreversible path of real nation building. Reforming the Unreformable was part 1, now is the time for the real work to be done.

My WCE I is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and she is my choice as the next President of The Federal Republic of Nigeria.