Many studies have shown that a nation’s economic growth and quality of governance is enhanced by having leaders who are well-read, competent with the right leadership skills, exposure and behaviour. It is also believed that poorly-educated leaders are ill-informed and do not have the idea that politics is supposed to be used to offer selfless service to the people that they represent. Furthermore, it is a general belief that a well-educated leadership is a competitive advantage for any nation and there is a correlation between good governance and leaders’ level of education. However, it seems this theory is not working in Nigeria. As it has been observed; the present political leaders in Nigeria – Councilors, Local Council Chairmen, Federal and State Legislators, Governors and those at the Presidency, are mostly individuals with high educational qualifications of First, Second, Third Class Degrees, Masters, Diplomas, and other professional certificates including Professorship. But despite this, it has not translated into noticeable good governance and security-integrity in the country.
With the sort of politicking and political maneuvers evident in the Nigerian polity today and ‘heating up’ the country’s landscape as we approach the general elections, where so called Nigerian Politicians (some of whom who claim to be ‘peace-lovers’), including their ‘supporters’ have been reigning fire and brimstone to cause economic sabotage and unequivocal violence if their preferred candidate(s) does not win; as well as those sponsoring the Boko Haram sect. You cannot say you are an educated leader in Nigeria’s political landscape at the moment when your supporters are heating up the polity with “war threats and war songs” on the one hand while others are attacking Presidential Campaign trains and reigning violence on the other hand. You cannot say you are an educated leader when your so called ‘supporters’ cannot be called to order or be held responsible for heating up the polity with their ill-advised actions and public statements.
Our so called educated Nigerian politicians cannot say they do  not want violence in the upcoming general elections and that they are not in support of such violence, yet their ‘supporters’ are singing war songs and threatening the entire Nigerian citizenry just because they want their preferred political candidates to grab political power by all means necessary. We are not living in jungle neither should we tolerate such ‘abnormal behaviours’ from our so called educated political leaders. No ethnic group or individual has a monopoly of violence, as we have seen in the past, can emanate from any angle. But the onus lies on the supposed political leaders to ensure that their supporters, irrespective of where they are from, don’t  perpetrate such violence against the sanctity of the nation. The hallmark of what our political leaders should stand for; be they educated or not, is to ALLOW PEACE TO REIGN IN NIGERIA in their quest for political power. We need no soothsayer to tell us that ‘war’ is absolutely evil and brings no good to any nation. It is very easy to start a war, but far more difficult to repair the unimaginable damage it will cause. Countries like Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, are good testimonies to this bitter fact. Even Nigerians who were affected by the Nigerian Civil War that lasted about 3years (1969-1970) will rightly advise us that ‘war is evil’ and will do no one any good. So, let us be wise,
Indeed, it is not out of point to say Nigeria only witnessed her period of good governance at a time that those in political power did not possess the array of academic qualifications the current political leaders hold.
The question then is what went wrong?  Is it the quality of the academic qualifications? Is it the system? Has having more University Graduate leaders resulted in the current sophistication of corruption in Nigeria? Does being educated translate to one being a good leader? It is known that most of Nigeria’s current leaders attended the best schools in or outside the country. And the laws, codes of conduct and regulations in the Nigerian governmental system are modest enough to guide those in power. So, what could be responsible for the evident poor governance style by our political leaders and their immature behaviors in their quest for political power?
We all would agree with the fact that the absence of an appreciable level of good governance in Nigeria despite the high educational level of most of its political leaders is a strong indication that leadership’s array of certificates don’t matter, but the individual character and behaviours are what make the difference. For instance, a professor who teaches basic knowledge in school, when given a political position behaves like a motor park tout or a thug. With such situation, one can say leadership is not all about academics but character, because past leaders in Nigeria with lower educational level have proven to be more competent and were able to conceptualize sensible ideas which enhanced all-round national development. They also governed with broader focus on public interest than the current leaders who have higher educational qualifications.
Some educationists have observed that political leaders, who possess high educational qualifications and misbehave, did not earn such qualifications scholarly. Hence, they display disgraceful character in positions of political leadership. This is very true when we examine the Nigerian situation. Education (particularly formal education), is universally recognized as an inevitable tool for the development of the society and a tool for getting rid of “ignorance.” But despite its importance in development, there are still several misconceptions about education in Nigeria, many people define education in “quantities” rather than “qualitative terms.” This means that “paper qualification” is substituted for knowledge acquisition. In other words, certificate acquisition has been highly rated at the expense of knowledge, character and skill acquisition or evident performance. This negates the international view of all-round-education. So, when Nigerian political leaders and their supporters are seen exhibiting ‘unwholesome and immature behaviours’, we are simply not surprised.
Some people have also summed up the reason for the lack of good governance and immature behavior to the fact that most individuals in leadership positions in Nigeria are never prepared for the job. They were never really “educated” and properly groomed to occupy sensitive political positions, rather, many of them found themselves in power via sheer “selection” by so called “political godfathers” and incumbent public office holders who arrange and impose these “overnight” successors to cover-up all the ills and atrocities they have left behind in office. Delta State, is a very good example where this ugly trend has been made the order of the day since 1999 till date. Time and space will not allow us to elaborate more on this but keen observers of Nigeria’s political history in the last sixteen years, especially with what has been going on in Delta State, are very familiar with what we are saying here.
Furthermore, the political system is so corrupted that the easy way to secure an elective office is to have the right godfather; belong to the political party in power whether at the centre or in State and during electioneering campaign all that is needed of one is to climb to the podium, rain abuses on the opponents, shout the name of your political party and dance. Such system would never produce good leadership. Most of Nigeria’s political leaders, if not all, were never trained and educated to adequately handle and manage the various public offices. They were just trained, groomed, nurtured and carefully ‘picked’ to represent personal and political interests and not the general interests of the masses. With this, Nigeria’ political leaders cannot be said to educated. An educated mind cannot be looting, misappropriating and mismanaging public funds with reckless abandon and impunity just because the political offices they hold, have given them the ‘freedom’ to do so. Whereas, as “public office holders”, our political leaders are custodians who they people have given the mandate to adequate manage the resources of the nation or state, for the general good of all. But in a situation where the ‘mandate’ are often ‘stolen’; and the ‘people’s choice’ and voice are never allowed to prevail, the issues of ‘unaccountability and ‘unanswerability’ become the order of the day.
Notwithstanding the array of reasons for the absence of good governance in Nigeria, the supposed highly educated Nigerian leadership is still not performing as expected of “well-read leaders with global mindset”, because everything in the polity is ascribed to ‘politics’; politics of some selected few to the detriment of the general masses.  When politicking overtakes policies, leadership degenerates- and this is the disease affecting the average Nigerian political leader.  The politics we are referring to here is “when a political office becomes an opportunity for self enrichment” and it is associated with pride, arrogance and larger than life attitude. Our so called educated political leaders have become “public masters” rather than “public servants”.  Another factor that leads to the bad governance in Nigeria is; the society sometimes encourages national leaders to transform into regional, ethnic, political party or religious champion after serving at the centre. In addition, some members of the Nigerian society expect their people in power to have or to do certain things even if they are wrong; just because one person has done it before.
There is no doubt, the educational level of whoever aspires for a public office in Nigeria matters, but individual good character and behaviours are essential for listening  and servant leadership. It is one thing to pass through ‘formal’ education and gather all the certificates one can gather, but it is a different entirely to allow formal education to really pass through one. Let us also not forget the importance of having good ‘informal education’ that adds in the shaping of one’s character and view of life. As a matter of fact, informal and self education is even far more important in building one’s character with high moral values like honesty, integrity, sincerity, empathy, being good and responsible citizens. Most of these values are not gotten through formal education but can best be instilled through informal education. There is also the very important part played by one’s religion and belief system.
With the recommendation by the recently concluded National Conference that those aspiring to contest for the offices of the President, Governors, Members of the National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly and Local Government Chairmen, should have a minimum of a University Degree, we had disagreed with this as it is absolutely a move in the wrong direction that will not be in the best interest of the country. Though, the National Conference however agreed that the minimum academic qualification for Local Government Councilors must be a minimum of Secondary School Certificate, we still believe there is need for us as a nation, to soft-paddle on the ban on non-University graduates aspiring for higher public offices. There is nothing as ridiculous and unwise like this recommendation by the National Conference to prevent non-graduates aspiring for top government positions in the country from doing so. This is hinged on a number of factors. Topmost on the list is the fact that Nigeria’s problem, regarding its “very slow and somewhat retrogressive developmental progress,” is not about having graduates or not having graduates as political leaders in all various levels of governance, but our problem is about not honestly and holistically addressing the issue of ‘corruption’ in high and low places regardless of who or what is involved. Then there is also the issue of us not having the ‘reliable’ electoral process that Nigerians can confidently depend on to bring in their desired political leaders. The interplay of godfatherism, nepotism and do-or-die kind of politicking have not allowed those whom majority of Nigerians believe can bring about the needed change, to be elected into sensitive public offices.
In as much as the National Conference report of the Committee on Political Parties and Electoral Matters, made several recommendations that delegates voted for, which include: May 29 should be scrapped as Democracy Day while election riggers should be banned from holding elective offices for 10 years, the issue of banning non-graduates from contesting stated public offices is not Nigeria’s problem that is responsible for its underdevelopment. All over the world, especially in advanced countries like the United Kingdom (UK), and USA, school leavers/dropouts can become Legislators/Parliamentarians, Governors/Mayors, Prime Ministers or President. Not to mention the fact that these advanced countries have successful and greatly admired business moguls and tycoons like Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, etc. This is so because these advanced societies understand that ‘performance’ in government or in business has little or nothing to do with ones acquired certificates.
Even in Nigeria we have had past leaders like Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Tafawa Belewa, that did quite well and more than the so called new crop of University graduate political leaders we have today. If having University graduates as political leaders in government positions was the solution to Nigeria’s problem of development, then by now we are sure Nigeria would be competing favorably with developed societies in Europe and America. This is because we have had, and we still have, seasoned university graduates in different levels of government public offices at Federal and State levels yet, our developmental problems as a nation is growing by the day.
When the colonial masters were leaving Nigeria, they ensured that people with credibility and the required level of knowledge, were made to lead the country. And as such, people like Alhaji Tafa Belewa, Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikiwe were not only embraced by Nigerians but were also well-respected by developed countries like the USA. Even the way these past Nigerian political leaders were received and given audience by Western nations clearly depicted how they respected and held our political leaders in high esteem. But today, all of that ‘respect’ by the Western nations has been lost due to years of bad governance. One thing was certain with the crop of political leaders we had post-colonial periods; they were truly educated men and women who were ready and very willing to make the necessary ‘sacrifices’ to serve the general good of the Nigerian masses. We never had ‘controversies’ hanging over Nigeria’s political leaders post-independence, like we do today.  We never heard that they owned properties or stolen/misappropriated public funds like we see and hear today. In fact, the normal thing for our present crop of political leaders is to own so many property as they can have across the country, especially in Abuja and Lagos.
However, it was after the James Ibori (former Delta State Governor) corruption case saga that most political leaders in the country now prefers to own property in Abuja, Lagos and different parts of the country, instead of abroad (like they used to), for fear of having them confiscated by Interpol like they did Ibori. We can boldly say that there is hardly any past and present State Governors in Nigeria that don’t own more than two properties in the country. But our political leaders post-independence, never chased after owning properties in Lagos; the then Federal Capital Territory. This again goes to justify the fact that our political leaders today are best trained/groomed to loot and misappropriate public funds. An all-round educated person cannot be looting public funds without restrictions just because his/her political position has provided the ‘opportunity’ to do so. Developed countries like France, Germany, USA, Britain etc, are governed by people we can term educated in all ramifications. That is why when you hear people like Barack Obama talk, there is an ‘aura’ they radiate and you get this sense of someone who is ‘responsible’ and ready to account for their actions, is addressing you. In Nigeria, the pride, arrogance and indifference often exhibited by our political leaders clearly suggests that they owe no one any explanations for their actions and inactions. This is simply because, the ‘factors’ that brought them to power is not engineered by the people but by some political interests of some selected few.
A person without a ‘conscience’ and empathy for others, no matter his/her attained level of education/training, can best be described as uneducated. Education, formal and informal, is supposed to produce an ‘all-round’ developed individual whose character, mind and human intelligence are well groomed to serve and meet, not only his/her needs, but most importantly the needs of others if in a position of leadership; no matter the level of leadership. That is why when we look our present crop of leaders and what is going on in our society, we can say that our political leaders of this era are uneducated. They are uneducated in the sense that it is only ‘uneducated’ persons that will pay armed thugs to snatch ballot boxes and stuff them with fake voting cards in their favour; it is only uneducated persons that bribe electoral officials to declare fake results in their favour, and then they go to the church to give Thanksgivings for stealing political mandates. Educated persons will not hire our jobless youths to assassinate political opponents. Educated persons will not carry armed thugs wherever they go as body guards. Educated persons will not loot public treasury through the awards of highly inflated government contracts, and at the end of the day still abandon such contracts with impunity.  Educated persons will not be involved in ‘praise-singing’ and sycophancy. Obtaining degrees upon degrees, doctorate degrees in law or fellow in medicines and becoming Nigerian Professors of any discipline does not make one educated. It only means they have been trained/skilled to become this or that without actually being educated.
But our political leaders over the years, particularly since the inception of democratic rule, have demonstrated not to be called educated leaders because they have shown the masses nothing that they are really not educated in all ramifications. Nigeria has remained poor (despite high GDP figures), and underdeveloped no thanks to corrupt practices in high places (exhibited by ‘uneducated’ political leaders), in spite of abundant material and human resourcefulness. Who can we say are the rightful owners of the observed wealth of our present crop of political leaders? Did they inherit the wealth they so shamelessly flash around today, from their family businesses or personal investments/estates? Can any of Nigeria’s past and present Governors and Ministers for instance, boldly boast that they made their current wealth from personal businesses or they inherited it from family estates and businesses? These are posers, any right-thinking patriotic Nigeria that has been following the politics of Nigeria, knows the right answers to.
Inept leadership has always been the bane of Nigeria’s development. The unfortunate, but yet well-embraced exit of South African icon leader, Nelson Mandela, and his memorial that practically held the whole world on stand still, reminds us of what political leaders are supposed to be like.
For us, Mandela’s life, time and legacy left behind should be a worthy example and stand as role model for our so called ‘educated’ Nigerian Politicians and Leaders to reflect on and emulate. If Mandela rested peacefully and the entire world came to a standstill, can Nigerians and the rest of the world standstill for even one day to mourn the death of any of our present and past political leaders and politicians? This should be food for thought for all of us. Let our political leaders learn a great lesson from Nelson Mandela’s death: “what you do in the past and present will judge how your future will be and what you will be remembered for, no matter how educated or wealthy you are.”