In the past few weeks, I have traversed the length and breadth of Nigeria, asking my compatriots, especially members of our political party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to give me a chance to fly our flag and eventually lead our country.

Along the way, I have met the Nigerian people in their domains and felt their pulse. I have had the benefit of the introspective wisdom of the old and, in meetings with young Nigerians, I have seen not only the vibrancy of youth, an uncommon creativity and a unique zest for life, as well as the hope for our future as a people.

Our women, our source, ever hardworking and ever multi-tasking, remain, in the north, east, west and south, more precious than gold as our best resource. In our men, I encountered uncommon leadership, diligence, hard work, character and commitment to edifying values in such ways as only a few other societies can boast of.

As I took in the essence of Nigeria at every stop, my joy multiplied in bounds and, today, my pride in my identity as a Nigerian is fully affirmed.

No doubt, these are not the best of times for our country and its people. But their resilience remains unassailable and their desire to live a life of worth is a message I have got so comprehensively.

Nigerians are proud of their Nigerianness. And the elite must stop their devious manipulations that divide Nigerians. The savage attack on the national common wealth by a few persons cannot build a healthy nation and must stop now.

Just because of the greed and selfishness of the ruling elite, our time-tested values of hard work, honesty, integrity and unity are being debased. Our education has been robbed of its visionary robustness and development-oriented content. Nigeria’s diverse but unifying cultures, rich in content and edifying in values, have been fed to the dogs. Our young ones, our future, are being denied the joy of being young and seeing themselves as the future of Nigeria.

As the future beckons, what Nigeria needs is a new model of leadership and a compassionate style of governance the signature of which is prudence, simplicity and people-centredness, above everything else. With a moral and ethical compass that sets a lot of store of love and sacrifice for the common good, it must be a leadership style diametrically opposed to that of self-aggrandizement.

For our nation to find its way to the fulfillment of its manifest destiny, it needs a leader with the moral strength to seek the good of all, a leader with the courage to do so accountably, responsibly and with the highest level of integrity.

Nigeria needs a leader who can be trusted in the south, north, east and west, irrespective of tribe, tongue, religion or political or social inclination.

The truth must be told: Ours is a broken country today, torn apart by an inept leadership but, happily, held together only by the graceful spirit of a resilient people who would have nothing else but a united Nigeria.

Because we are a broken people and with the country divided as has never been before, the job of mending Nigeria should go to a man in whom every tongue and every tribe, all faiths and creed find a symbol of their oneness.

In the Nigeria I grew up in and the essence of which has been reinforced during my current journey, with the right leadership, all the things that ail Nigeria are curable, given the good hands as well as the good hearts the Almighty has blessed the country with.

The impression that Nigeria is a country run by a corrupt and inept political class that is self-seeking, impervious to knowledge and bereft of understanding should not be reinforced. It must change. Disgraceful indifference by leaders to the plight of the people, arrogance in the face of little or no knowledge, greed and avarice cannot be ways to building a united, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.

I have also seen that our people are aware of their own culpability in the parlous state of Nigeria. It is, however, gratifying to observe their readiness to make amends. They yearn for a leadership that would consciously rouse them into war against their own passivity over their own affairs, a leadership that will shake them out of the apathy that encourages impunity against them.

With appropriate and development-focused education, therefore, our people must be empowered to find their voice. They must be empowered to boldly point out failed promises of leaders and political parties.

Nigerians want to and must be enabled to ask critical questions and interrogate vague or nebulous statements that politicians make instead of specific plans. The people must be given well thought-out and effective strategies for addressing the problems of widespread insecurity, poverty and want in the midst of so much abundance. Nigerians want to be told of homegrown policies for growing their economy and they seek a leader who will find new ways of pushing the frontiers of excellence.

I have met a people who believe the time has come for an end to cruel and unlawful enrichment of selves by public office holders at the expense of the people and destruction of their future. They want to see a leadership that ensures those who pillaged the collective treasury even in the past are brought to justice for their crimes against the Nigerian people.

They want to see a country where there are no sacred cows in the investigation and prosecution of corruption cases, a leadership that diligently wages the war against insurgency and one that ensures the crimes being perpetrated by herdsmen, whoever they are, have no place in their Nigeria.

In our country today, of course, publicly declared commitments to education, wealth and job creation, security of lives and property and industrialization abound. But the will to implement anything has been absent. The message I got from Nigerians is therefore simple: The era of power for its own sake must, of necessity, end!

Visionary leadership, which our people need and deserve, does not run on impulse, on mere body language or on a hunch. Its signature is genuine personal capacity, deep respect for facts and figures, appreciation of diligently generated data and research findings germane to running the economy as well as an ability to deploy the best of all things, the best of all persons, in pursuit of the best for all.

A healthy respect for good data and the appropriate use of same in the management of the nation’s human and material resources must, therefore, be the hallmark of the leadership that will liberate Nigeria.

The leader Nigerians want and deserve now is one who looks beyond these times, one with the capacity to dream big dreams. That leader must also have the energy or vibrancy to stay awake to make those dreams come true.

Our signature as a nation and a people is boldness in speaking truth to each other in the knowledge that a nation that deceives itself and willfully lives a lie can only live in eternal damnation. Nigerians must, therefore, engage in a deep thought over their national life with a view to charting a new course for the country.

Once again, the Nigerian identity is boldness in the face of challenges, an ability to thrive in adversity, willingness to surmount obstacles and finding fulfillment even on the narrow path of honesty, hard work and integrity.

We must, therefore, return to the work of nation building started by our parents, the late President Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sardauna Ahmadu Bello, Chief Jeremiah Oyeniyi Obafemi Awolowo (a hero whose entire thoughts I have read and committed to heart), Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Michael Okpara, Harold Dappa-Biriye, Joseph Sarwuan Tarka, Aminu Kano, Anthony Enahoro, Margaret Ekpo, Hajiya Gambo Sawaba, Sa’adu Zungur and many other departed great compatriots, ably assisted by devotees to what I call the Nigeria as My Identity (ID) idea.

Departed or still alive, Nigeria as my Identity, for the likes of Sunday Bolorunduro Awoniyi, James Ajibola Ige, Adekunle Ajasin, Bisi Onabanjo, Bello Ijumu, Bukar Dipcharima, Jolly Tanko Yusuf, Dan Suleiman, Ndubuisi Kanu, Yakubu Gowon, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, David Akpode Ejoor, and many others too numerous to mention, would not be a phrase just for mouthing but an idea to live and die for.

On this journey through Nigeria, my identity, I have found that our country, indeed, needs to be led by a man of impeccable character, a man of integrity, one who will ensure sustainable prosperity, keep Nigeria united in peace and progress, propelled by the rule of law and driven by strong institutions.

For all Nigerians today, the work of building a nation where justice reigns, where merit is the way to the top and where the content of a man’s or woman’s character is an unassailable route to enjoying the riches of a united, federal and prosperous Nigeria must begin in earnest.

But first, Nigerians must recruit a leadership that is sagacious enough to listen to the pulse of the nation, patient enough to understand the people and committed to doing the work of liberating the creative energies of all of our people by opening their eyes to their different areas of comparative advantage and equipping them to make maximum use of such for an all-inclusive national development.

Suffice it to say that I am genuinely Nigerian. And I am very proud of my identity.

– Dankwambo is the Governor of Gombe State and presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.