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2019 Elections: Character Must Guide Leadership Choices

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“Look for three things in a person – intelligence, energy and integrity. If they don’t have the last one, don’t bother with the first two”.

The   above   quotation   comes   from   Warren   Edward   Buffet,   an   American business magnet, investor, speaker and philanthropist who is reputed to be the   fourth   richest   man   in   the   world. 

A   member   of   the   United   States Democratic Party, Buffet insists that the number one trait to look for in selecting a  leader  is  integrity,  which  he places  over and  above all other qualities. And integrity, he says, is about choosing one’s thoughts and actions based on  values  rather than   personal gains.  This,   therefore, means  that integrity is fundamentally a function of character. But   Warren   Buffet   only   validates   the   time-tested   historical   trend   in leadership selection. All through history, the most essential ingredient for selecting   good   leadership   has   always   been   character.   Although   other ingredients   such   as   energy,   competence,   capacity,   empathy,   toughness, knowledge and intelligence are frequently mentioned, these traits are all too often really subordinate aspects of character. Encarta English Dictionary defines   character   as   a   set   of   behavioural   qualities   that   make   a   person distinctively   attractive.   Such   qualities   are   listed   as   honesty,   sincerity, humility,   courage,   generosity,   forthrightness   and   integrity.   

These   are essential aspects of character, which Dwight Eisenhower, the 30th president of   the USA,  described   as   “the   supreme   quality   for   leadership”,   without which no man is fit to lead others. Because leaders hold not just the lives of people   they   govern   but   even   determine   the   destiny   of   society,   it   is supremely important that people trust those who lead them. And trust is earned through character. This therefore goes to suggest that the insight for good and effective leadership is not typically acquired through study, tutelage or experience, important as they are, but depends on the virtue and character of the individual.

As   we   all   sometimes   in   our   affairs   experience,   it   is   always   frustrating, disappointing and annoying if people betray the trust we put in them; it is even worse if these people are elected public figures who cook up phantom political expediencies as justification for their personal character flaws. A fundamental flaw of character is dishonesty. This can come in several forms. For example, a person who cheats, or who cuts corners in executing an affair with the intention of depriving someone else of their rightful claim to something so that the executioner will have all or more than his fair share of it can rightly be adjudged as dishonest.

A person who is given public trust or holds a public office and leverages on that office to increase his personal benefit and wealth, or of his kith and kin, against public interest, or gain undue advantage for himself, or for his kith and kin, over others, can also be categorized   as   dishonest.   In   other   words,   the   person   is   corrupt;   for corruption is also defined as a deliberate alteration or distortion of a rule with ultimate negative effect to the system. Dishonesty can similarly come in a form of deceit – that is a person who portrays himself to another person or people what he actually is not with the intention to get something which otherwise he wouldn’t have gotten   if  the  truth of him is known. Such a person too can be listed as dishonest.

Furthermore, as Winston Churchill, a foremost Prime Minister of the United Kingdom once remarked, even though the pursuit of power with the capacity and in the desire to exercise  it worthily is among the noblest of human callings, still a person who seeks power for the sake of lording it over fellow creatures or adding to personal pomp can also be rightly adjudged as dishonest. In other words, a dishonest person cheats, manipulates, deceives and/or lies; whatever the person does is aimed or meant to deceive, defraud, or trick people with the intention to serve a selfish end. When this flaw ultimately becomes open and known to the other person, or to the society, then that person loses his integrity and becomes a person of lowly character. Automatically, his behaviour becomes morally repugnant and liable   to   make   him   lose   respect   of   others.   He   will   also   be   viewed   as   a dishonourable and unjust person, and concomitantly loses the trust of the other person or the society. This person cannot therefore distinctively be trusted with or selected to a position of leadership.

Against this backdrop, therefore, as Nigerians prepare to go to the polls in 2019 to elect their leaders who, in turn, will determine what happens to the present and future generations of our country, it is cardinal the electorate elect  trustworthy   persons.  And,  as  earlier   said,  trust   is  earned  through character. In other words,  it is supremely important that the electorate base their choices on the strength of character of those they elect.

Having experienced several disappointing leaderships since independence, betraying the trust of the people and responsible for the country’s current state of underdevelopment,  it  is  now  critical   that Nigerians   develop   a  discernible enthusiasm for change in the selection of persons and style of leadership for the   country.   In   the   2019   elections,   Nigerians   must   demonstrate   their resolve either to develop or destroy their country by the standard they employ to elect their leaders.

Whether or not they will be willing to accept men   (and   women)   of   lowly   character   to   superintend   over   their   public institutions will remain to be seen.    As the universal dictum goes, honesty is the best policy. In making the choices in 2019, Nigerians must see clearly, like the rest of the civilized world, the essential role of personal forces in shaping destinies of nations and societies. So, faced with the dear challenge of nation-building, Nigerians must refuse to be misguided by sentiments, emotions or selfish interests, or by rains of naira and dollars that have been the bane of the problem at hand, but   must   go   on   headlong   to   elect   leaders   based   on   their   strength   of character in the sure belief that it is only such leadership that can bring positive change to their lives. To me, if Nigeria is able to attain such a feat in 2019, it will only be a revival of interest in personal character as the basis for   electing   leadership   for   the   country.   

Nigerians   had   before   elected leaders on account of character against sentiments, emotions or monetary considerations.   Overtime,   we   lost   this   noble   standard.   2019   is   our opportunity   to   revive   it   if   Nigeria   must   survive   and   progress   as   an indissoluble and indivisible nation.

–Ardo wrote from Yola





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