The most valuable component of leadership is not power, position, influence, fame, talent, giftings, dynamic oratory, intellectual superiority or even management skills. Character is the cradle of credibility for the leader.

Leadership is a solemn responsibility that carries the weight of a nation’s hopes and aspirations. For a diverse and dynamic country like Nigeria, leadership is not just a position; it is a stewardship of a nation’s future. Leaders are expected to be exemplars of integrity, vision, and ethical conduct, but the history of the Nigerian leadership journey has witnessed instances of leaders who have fallen short of these expectations, leaving a trail of disappointment in their wake.

Nigeria has repeatedly had leaders lacking character, who erode trust, perpetuate unethical behaviour, and fail to uphold the principles of responsibility, accountability, and empathy. This does not only hamper their ability to lead effectively but also burdens the people with disillusionment and unfulfilled promises.

A nation so blessed with immense human and material resources, a diverse, resilient population, should be occupying the top echelon of comity of nations. Nigeria remains a nation in search of true leadership – a leadership that can harness this potential and steer the country toward a brighter future.

In every turn, the Nigerian leader is defective on character when it comes to the discharge of his leadership responsibility and this is almost traceable to every leader occupying prominent position in the country and cutting across; politicians, captains of industry, clergymen celebrities, and what have you.

For instance, the Nigerian political landscape has, over the years, witnessed its fair share of controversies and scandals, but few have been as persistent and intriguing as the “certificate saga” surrounding the educational qualifications of many of the nation’s leaders.

The certificate saga in Nigerian politics is as old as the nation’s democratic history. It dates back to the early post-independence period when the qualifications of political leaders were questioned. The first major certificate scandal emerged in 1964 when Obafemi Awolowo, a prominent political figure, was accused of presenting fraudulent academic qualifications. Although Awolowo was later cleared of the charges, this incident marked the beginning of a long history of certificate controversies in Nigerian politics.

The certificate saga has, over the years, embroiled a myriad of political figures, including presidential candidates, governors, and legislators. The controversies often revolve around claims of forged certificates, discrepancies in educational records, or allegations of incomplete qualifications. Prominent leaders such as Muhammadu Buhari, Goodluck Jonathan, Rochas Okorocha and now Bola Ahmed Tinubu, among many other notable figures, have faced certificate-related scrutiny.

The certificate saga has profound implications for leadership in Nigeria. On one hand, it raises questions about the integrity and honesty of leaders. When leaders are perceived as lacking transparency or credibility in their educational qualifications, it erodes the trust of the people, a critical component of effective leadership. On the other hand, it can also divert attention from more pressing issues, obscuring the focus on governance and policy-making.

When this happens, diverse views will emerge. While some argue that educational qualifications are essential for leadership, others believe that leadership should be judged based on performance and the ability to deliver on promises. This diversity of opinion reflects the complexity of the issue.

Certificate saga is not just a matter of personal integrity; it is a reflection of broader challenges facing Nigeria. The nation’s educational system, accountability mechanisms, and political processes all come under scrutiny.

Greater transparency in educational records and a more stringent vetting process for candidates have to grow louder to avoid the perennial distraction that follows its occurrence while accountability and ethical conduct in public life are also seen as important facets of addressing the issue.

Nigerians are not exclusive in their yearning for effective leadership. Around the world, citizens seek leaders who are principled, transparent, and devoted to the welfare of the people. People yearn for leaders who rise above the lucre of self-interest and are committed to the common good. This hunger for legitimacy is universal, but in Nigeria, it is a hunger that has yet to be fully satiated.

As a country characterized by a complex interplay of diverse ethnic groups, interests, and socio-economic disparities, this complexity has often led to a struggle for power that overshadows the core tenets of leadership, service, accountability, and progress.

Another grave challenge to effective leadership in Nigeria is the pervasive issue of corruption. Corruption has seeped into various aspects of the nation’s governance and institutions, eroding trust, stifling development, and thwarting the aspirations of millions. Effective leadership stands as the antidote to this plague, promising accountability, transparency, and an unwavering commitment to eradicating corruption at its roots.

Nigerian leadership requires a compelling vision for the nation, one that transcends the divisions that have too often held its destiny back. This vision must unite Nigerians under a common purpose, instilling hope and faith in a shared future. The challenges are many – from ethno-religious tensions to economic disparities, but a true leader is called to confront these challenges with a commitment to unite the nation.

As Nigeria continues its search for true leadership, it is essential to remember that leadership is not the sole responsibility of those in power; it is a collective endeavor. Citizens, civil society, and the international community all play vital roles in nurturing and holding leaders accountable.

It is time for Nigeria to break free from the cycle of unfulfilled potential and missed opportunities. It is time for leaders to rise, not for personal gain, but for the greater good. Nigeria’s journey toward effective leadership may be long and arduous, but it is a journey worth undertaking, for the destiny of a nation and the aspirations of a people hang in the balance.

Nigeria’s potential is undeniable. It is the most populous country in Africa, a hub of economic activity, and home to a burgeoning youth population. With natural resources, a burgeoning tech industry, and a dynamic creative sector, the nation has all the ingredients for success. But potential alone cannot shape destiny.

Nigeria’s diversity is both a strength and a challenge. For a nation comprised of over 250 ethnic groups and multiple religions, unity is often elusive. Yet, unity is the foundation of a brighter destiny. An inclusive vision that brings all Nigerians together, regardless of their background, can foster a sense of shared purpose.

Economic disparities must be addressed. Nigeria’s wealth should be shared equitably, and policies that promote sustainable development must take center stage. An inclusive economic framework can uplift millions and serve as the basis for a prosperous future.

Security remains a significant concern. Addressing issues such as terrorism, insurgency, and communal violence is crucial for stability and progress. A secure environment is a prerequisite for any nation’s destiny to flourish.

Leadership is the fulcrum upon which a nation’s destiny pivots. Effective leadership, characterized by integrity, transparency, and a dedication to the welfare of the citizens, is the need of the hour. It is leadership that places the interests of the nation above personal gain and works tirelessly to overcome the obstacles that threaten to stifle progress.

Nigeria’s destiny is not etched in stone; it is an evolving narrative written by its leaders and citizens. The nation stands at a crossroads, where the choices made today will reverberate through generations. Nigeria’s destiny is not predetermined; it is waiting to be woven with the threads of unity, progress, and resilience.

As the world watches, as Africa watches, Nigeria is in pursuit of a leadership destiny that will define its place in history. It is a journey marked by challenges, but also by the unyielding spirit of its people. The destiny of Nigeria is in the hands of those who believe in the nation’s potential, who are committed to forging a united, inclusive, and prosperous future. The nation is in search of true committed leadership. The story is still being written, chapter by chapter. It is a story of hope, resilience, and the unwavering belief that Nigeria’s best days are yet to come.

Okoronkwo, a leadership and good governance advocate, writes from Lagos.