LEGAL luminary Chief Afe Babalola has advised Nigeria’s political parties to ensure that the candidates they select for next year’s presidential elections is less than 60 years of age and is fit enough to work for 14 hours a day.
In February 2023 Nigerians will go to the polls to elect a new president and already, the battle to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari has already begun. In both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), jostling for the presidential ticket has begun in earnest.
However, some of the candidates like the former Lagos State governor Asiwaju Bola Tinubu are not only advanced in age but also suffering from ill health. Coming after eight years during which President Buhari was always abroad receiving medical attention, Chief Babalola, 92, has warned that moving forward, Nigeria needs a young, fit and healthy president.
Chief Babalola, the founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, said that the country needed a candidate who would go beyond politics and embrace the principle of a stronger Nigeria. He added that the political parties must search for the very best, without mundane considerations in picking their candidates.
According to Chief Babalola, such candidates must be highly educated, up to at least, degree level and must not have history or penchant for corrupt practices. He added that such a candidate must not be too old and must be of sound health.
Chief Babalola said the candidate must also be extra-ordinarily brilliant and have sound knowledge of the current affairs, work ethics, leadership experience, good human relations and also have clear cut vision and mission for Nigeria. In addition, he said that the presidential candidate should be fluent in spoken English, such that he would possess the ability to write a speech all by himself and must possess the ability to speak off-the-cuff.
“The candidate must produce evidence that he possesses unquestionable means of livelihood. He should not just be seeking election as a means of securing employment or to offset outstanding indebtedness or use his position as the president to divert government’s funds into his offshore accounts,” Chief Babalola added.
He further advised that the candidate must demonstrate that he is willing and prepared to serve the nation without earning salaries, as it was the case between 1960 and January 15, 1966. On age, Chief Babalola explained that any candidate for the post of Nigeria’s president should not be more than 60 years old so that if he has the opportunity of serving two terms of four years each, he would still be leaving office before he turns 70.
Chief Babalola added: “The president should not be a person who will be looking for medical treatment from hospital to hospital around the world. He must be so healthy that he should be able to work for a minimum of 14 hours a day.
“It is normal that the aspirant for the post of Nigeria’s president must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, obtained from a reputable university. Sound knowledge of current affairs must also be considered as a person aspiring for the post of Nigeria’s president should possess a sound knowledge of Nigerian, African and world affairs for him to be able to speak and debate convincingly on any of them.”
On work ethics, Chief Babalola said that the occupant of that exalted seat should be able and ready to work for a minimum of 14 hours a day, based on his personal knowledge of the volume of documents, petitions and applications that daily flooded the office of the president, most of which would require his personal and urgent attention. He added that he knows of one past president who did this.
Chief Babalola added: “I know, as a fact that former President Olusegun Obasanjo worked for a minimum of 18 hours a day when he was at the saddle without leaving any file till the next day. That is how anyone aspiring to be Nigeria’s next president should work.
“Concerning personal attributes, the aspirant should not be arrogant or opinionated and he should be a good listener, respectful and humble. He must be law-abiding and a respecter of the rule of law, vision and mission for Nigeria
“The aspirant must be someone who is totally detribalised and who appreciates that the country, Niger Area, now called Nigeria was brought together by Europeans during the 1884 Berlin Conference without consulting the locals and without their consent. He must appreciate that the over 400 ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria have their different languages, cultures, religions, customs and values.
“He must, therefore, demonstrate to the voters that he believes in the evolution of nation-Nigeria from these various ethnic nationalities.” Chief Babalola, however, called for a brand new constitution for the country, in which the presidential candidate must be a strong believer.