As I look back four years from 2014 into the administration of the entity called Nigeria – the country of my birth, I can’t but feel like I am in an endless flight. That feeling when each time you wake up, you realize you’re still up in the skies, wondering when and if the man-made machine will eventually lower you in one piece, down to earth, man’s natural habitat.
Four years gone since the last struggle for leadership at various levels of governance. 2014 will certainly go down in history as one of the most memorable years in the life of Africa’s largest economy and world’s most populous black nation. It was a year that brought so much panic and threats to the existence of the country. Rhetorics were intense and toxic, so were expectations of the rest of the world as to what would become of the black nation after the doomsday predictions of a United States based group that Nigeria will cease to exist by 2015. In the end, incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan lost his re-election bid, yet he became the hero of not just Nigeria’s democracy but that of the entire continent of Africa. Conceding defeat in such a politically charged atmosphere and in a continent where leaders have the culture of perpetuating themselves in power was a rare feat by all standards. In no small measure, President Jonathan consolidated Nigeria’s democratic portfolio as Africa’s most vibrant and most sophisticated. He also by that singular act averted violence or what could have become the end of Nigeria.
Goodluck Ebele Jonathan
I cannot however believe that after all the promises of improving the living standards of the people, lowering of both interest and foreign exchange rates, blocking leakages in government finances, as well as fighting corruption, Nigeria has become far messier than the current administration met it. President Muhammadu Buhari who many of us supported and even campaigned for in view of his past records as Military leader and Chairman of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), carelessly watched a golden opportunity to turn the fortunes of Nigeria around slip off his hands. We were promised lower pump price for petroleum products, unemployed graduates were promised monthly stipends, monies were promised to be recovered from looters and funds applied to infrastructural developments and/or improvement. Previous administrations were accused of massive embezzlement and electric power projects identified as one the biggest frauds of government during campaigns. The right things were said, which captured the attention and admirations of most Nigerians, thus the election of Mr. President. Today, all of those are in far worse states.
Major General Muhammadu Buhari as Military Ruler
To begin with, Nigeria under Buhari’s current administration has been governed more from outside Nigeria, as the President has spent substantial amount of his work days and months, either attending to his health in the UK or attending one international event/summit or another. In many cases, his entourage for these overseas trips leave more questions than answers for a man who constantly accused previous administrations of waste in governance. This simply shows that the problem of Nigeria is not necessarily that of just one man (the President).
Observing from a distance, there seem to be a structure that encourages sycophancy especially in the executive arm (all tiers).
So, what is it that makes every saint fall for the norms, no matter how strong willed they are perceived? Why have we been unable to hold our leaders accountable for their stewardship in Nigeria? Might we have been cursed with leadership as a people?
Looking at the line-up of contestants for the position of President for the 2019 general elections, I haven’t seen any change in either character or ideology in the persons vying for the highest office in the land. The major contenders who are today eulogized are same set of individuals who were labelled looters and misfits during the previous election(s). Those who decamped from PDP to APC accusing the then ruling party of corruption and ineptitude are today back to same PDP. The then die-hard PDP optimists who called Buhari all sorts of demeaning names as a candidate were quick to join the APC either to avoid EFCC harmer or simply to find their ways back to the corridors of ASO ROCK as political gladiators. How can any politician with character or integrity crisscross three to four political parties in three years? This simply shows what leadership has been reduced to in Nigeria; a game of winner takes it all and survival of the fittest.
Today, one is only seen as a stakeholder in the governance of the country if you belonged to the kitchen cabinet of the ruling party, be it at local, state or federal levels. The rest become spectators who must make do with whatever is dished out for them to see, with no practical rights to question or demand anything better. You better take or leave it, else you pay with your life. No wonder why Nigerians all over the world are continuously losing their prestige and her citizens would rather settle for anything, anywhere else, instead of returning to Nigeria.
I have consistently posed the argument that Nigeria’s problem is more of citizenship than leadership. Since we have continued to recycle same set of leaders, how do we expect a change in pattern of governance? Until we rise up as a people and say NO, with a firm resolve to elect new sets of leaders, no matter how poorly experienced, we will never be able to hold public servants accountable. The level of apathy when it comes to matters of governance among Nigerians, especially the youth is very appalling. Most Nigerians today believe they have no role to play in making things right. This is an issue I will address in the coming days.
Today I ask Nigerians who say; “Anyone but Buhari”, what about “Anyone but Jonathan”? In 2014, a lot of us believed that anyone else but Jonathan will take us to the promised land because of the Boko Haram menace and the rising level of insecurity at the time. Is our security situation not worse today? Are we not poorer today than we were in 2014? Are more people not dying today from hunger and lack of adequate healthcare? Why are we always in a hurry for a change without thinking? Why can’t we opt for a change to something new?
My opinion; we need a total change in the leadership of the nation. I’d rather we subject fresh bloods in politics to test. Let us gun for structural changes that will accommodate every Nigerian as stakeholder in the governance of the nation. Nigeria is too large to be left in the hands of very few (cabals) who hold the rest of us hostage and continue to humiliate us in the global scene. We have lost our moral values and prestige all over the world because of bad leadership. It’s never late to start afresh, but it could become too late for us to catch up if we don’t act now. Shine your eyes Naija!
Martins E. Ogbu