Morgan Freeman, David Oyewole and Bill Cosby

How Should a Nigerian President Look?

One of the problems seriously hounding the ongoing Nigerian general elections (hopefully, in less than 24 hours from now the final result will be announced), is a most subtle but immanent one. It is almost unconscious until it is pointed out, then, the “Ah ha! moment” arrives. The problem is how should the president of Nigeria look or appear to citizens? Does Muhammadu Buhari look like he should be President of Nigeria? Does Goodluck Jonathan look like he should be the president of Nigeria?

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Xclusive Magazine conducted an experiment with six participants, using the Delphi method (a consensus seeking method) to resolve the problem at hand. The problem was the suitability of the appearances of Muhammadu Buhari and President Goodluck Jonathan as presidential candidates. While many will say appearance is irrelevant and substance is more important, students and practitioners of political marketing and public relations know better.

Appearance is about looks, carriage, stature, demeanour, self-projection, communication style and content, dress code and the like. Body language, charisma, political speak, background and achievements and policy offerings form the brand of the political candidate and PR professional do the marketing.

The Delphi method as used involved the following criteria:

    1. All participants (randomly selected from a pool of participants) must be of Nigerian origin, lived in Nigeria for at least three years in the last ten years and be above age 35.
    2. For easy character analysis and judgement of looks (and to reduce noise/bias), only African American Hollywood actors could be nominated as suitable candidates.
    3. The nomination was rotated by each of the six participants in the experiment, turn-by-turn, to seek the consensus with others.
    4. Consensus will mean at least three participants other than the nominator of a possible actor that looks like the candidate.

There are hardly any popular actors that look like Buhari or Jonathan so bias by comparison would be very small if there were their supporters among the participants. To aid the response of the participants, any actor nominated would be shown on the screen via Google search (images) to assist in the decision of the participants.

The first actor nominated was David Oyewole. This answer sparked a sense of patriotism and perhaps apt suitability, but Oyewole did not achieve consensus. The same thing happened to Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Wesley Snipes, Chiwetel Ejiofor (another Nigerian) and Samuel L Jackson. No consensus was achieved.

President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari

President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari

The next level was to distribute questions to all the participants that listed the following factors as necessary to look like a Nigerian president, namely, handsome looks, a serious appearance, a friendly appearance, dignity, oratory skills/style, health, dress sense, posture/carriage, confidence and maturity.

Their response was by consensus: 5 out of six of them nominated dignity as the most important factor; while 4 out 6 nominated confidence, oratory skills/style and maturity as what they expected in a Nigerian president.

The initial round of questions was then repeated to achieve consensus on African American actors that looked like an electable and respectable Nigerian president. Morgan Freeman achieved maximum consensus 6 out of 6; Bill Cosby 5 out of 6; with Ossie Davis and James Earl Jones 4 out of 6. It was suggestive that dignity, oratory skills, confidence and maturity played a big part in the preferences of Nigerian individuals selecting and respecting a president of Nigeria, assuming free and fair elections were conducted.

It appears a young president is not desirable as a presidential candidate as much as people want youth. There is the #30PercentOrNothing campaign advocating for youthful elected politicians. Fatherly figures are always welcome with voters. Dignity used to be the word that described a Big Man in Nigeria worthy of the title. It seems it is still around and very much alive in the psyche of the nation. Some even called it “digunity”. The experiment also suggested that the appearance of (or actual) capability was deemed as not a necessary factor in the choice of national or local leaders

While somewhat revealing, these responses from the experiment create a problem for choosing between the images of Buhari and Jonathan for voters. Who of the two presidential candidates has the best appearance of capability, dignity, oratory skills, confidence and maturity? We have left that answer to the Nigerian voters and others interested in the elections, while we eagerly await for Prof. Jega to announce the final results.

Until this experiment and its results are published in a peer reviewed journal and the science behind it defended, which it certainly will, do not take it as authoritative.