Over the next few weeks the new president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, must think very hard, that is, well beyond the realms of political expediency, before making what may be the most momentous decisions not only in his life, but also in the history of his country. This is surely a time to be bold and decisive.
The story of President Buhari’s second taste of power has been a happy one, so far. A leader swept into power on a tidal wave of votes; the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan, leaving office gracefully.
Many in Africa applauded this smooth and gentlemanly transition, but many others thought this is the way it should be. Maybe this has been a story happy enough to erase the memory of the dark days of military dictatorship in Nigeria, in the 1980s, when President Buhari, a general in the army, was installed and deposed by a coup.
What this story needs is a happy ending. President Buhari fought his campaign on an anti-corruption ticket, now he needs to provide the proof of the pudding. Horse trading and compromise, be damned, President Buhari needs to stick his neck out and name tough, upstanding, cabinet members who have the strength to wipe out corruption. This dishonesty is a scourge of nations around the world yielding little but painful uncertainty for investors and heavy costs for business.
We at Forbes Africa know the spirit of the entrepreneur burns brightly in Nigeria. Its people are organized, hardworking and driven. Go anywhere in the world and you will find a Nigerian making money through business. I always recall the ultimate Nigerian entrepreneur, Aliko Dangote, telling me in Lagos once that he went out to buy razor blades in Brazil and – you’ve guessed it – a Nigerian owned the shop.
This powerful entrepreneurial spirit can be unleashed across the continent, creating jobs and business, at the same time inspiring other Africans. What it needs to thrive is certainty, business as clean as a whistle, backed by the firm rule of law. All of these may elude Nigeria, on its worst days, but every journey begins with one step.
That one step for the General, the former coup plotter born again as a democratically elected leader, could be crucial for his premiership and could set the agenda for Nigeria for decades to come. Think hard, Mr President, your country needs a towering cabinet now more than ever.
*Chris Bishop is the Managing Editor of Forbes Africa