As we approach 2019
Not long after the conclusion of the 2015 presidential election and a victor emerged, a good number of Nigerians were quite willing and prepared to give the new government a chance or what most of us in Nigeria easily call “the benefit of doubt.” To some of us, the country, perhaps, needed to be moved in a different direction, a change – if you like, away from the alleged loss of control by the departing administration. In spite of the amazing mindset of the new helmsman that was fully captured in his 97/5% theory, there was still hope that, with time and surrounded by patriotic lieutenants, the new leader would soon leave politicking behind and squarely face the tedious task of governance in the shortest possible time. There was, therefore, in the thinking of many Nigerians, the need for the new leader to sustain the huge hopes and expectations of Nigerians and respect for the specific campaign promises made to our people.
This optimism for a new Nigeria under this leadership, perhaps, received its first shock when it took the new helmsman more than six months to assemble a cabinet, after the new government was sworn-in. Was he unprepared and why should it take that long for a man, who, in 2003, 2007, 2011 and now 2015 had consecutively angled to be Nigeria’s President, even threatening, at some point, that if he failed the fourth time, dogs and baboons would be soaked in blood? That it took him more than six tortuous months was, obviously, the first big shock that hit those who believed so much in the new man. Then came the planted rumour about “body language.” Let me explain: there were deliberate efforts and serious work, by both the Ministry of Power and the Presidential Task Force on Power under the departing regime, to seriously improve power supply situation in the country – arguably to capture our imagination, attract our sympathy and support to the ruling party then, as the 2015 election approached. For sure, just before the elections and months after, power supply did improve.
Meanwhile, carried away by the euphoria of victory, the new administration failed or forgot to sustain the production levels. Soon, generation and distribution, which had started to thin down, began to be credited to the new government with a small and sweet propaganda: “He has not even started working yet; this is only his body language.” But with time, Nigerians knew that it was all a deliberate deceit.
One other thing that, somehow, reinforced our early fears about the new regime’s lack of preparedness which, easily, agitated the minds of those who put so much trust and hope on our new man, was the unceasing habit of always pointing finger and referring us to “the awful state in which this administration met the economy when we took over power in May 2015,” to justify its low speed and lack of appreciation of what needed to be done to re-direct the ship of state. This soundbite became, at a point, so boring and meaningless that Nigerians began to ask openly: “If they campaigned on the mantra of ‘Change’ and on the platform that the previous government was clueless, that it tolerated so much corruption and was unable to defeat the Islamic terror group, Boko Haram, etc, then tackle them and stop complaining and sermonizing.Deal with the issues as you promised during your campaigns and stop the finger pointing. Or didn’t they know that there were challenges.” Honestly, the assumption that the new ruling party studied and fully understood our problems and how to solve them began to thaw. So, why refer to and remind us always of the “sins of a clueless and corrupt government that were better forgotten and ignored, and deal with the challenges head-on?’ began to dominate popular thinking among Nigerians.
Three years down the line, Nigerians are now asking those who believed so much in the magic wand of the new leader: How market? But let us revisit the cardinal promises made to Nigerians by the ruling party and its candidate in the course of the campaigns. In all, there were a total of eighty-one promises made by this ruling party to Nigerians. It will just be fine to select some of them randomly and see what has been achieved so far. First, no one should deny this government its achievement of holding Nigeria together, albeit forcefully, and in spite of the growing clamour/agitation for the country to be restructured and returned to a truly federal system – the structure that allowed Chief Obafemi Awolowo in the West, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in the East and Sir Ahmadu Bello in the North to develop their regions at their own pace and within their own resources. And I sometimes ask myself: if, at the end of each month, Awo, for instance, had to dispatch his Finance minister (yes, each region had its own ministers!) to Lagos from Ibadan to collect its share of “federal allocation,” would the first Television Station in Africa, Liberty Stadium, Cocoa House, etc be among the flourishing legacies that the legend and his Action Group would have left behind for posterity? Certainly not! I could say the same for Azikiwe/Okpara and Bello. The over-centralisation of power in Abuja has made the component units lazy and dependent on handouts from the powerful centre – a centre that derives vicarious joy from reinforcing the unitary system and holding everyone and every unit down.
But that shouldn’t detain us too much. Let us quickly return to some of the critical promises made to us by the ruling party as captured in their official and semi-official documents. The party and its leader told us that, if voted into power, they will introduce free daily meals for all primary school children nationwide, embark on “a phased social insurance scheme” in favour of certain groups in the population with social welfare payments, ensure that Nigerians will have no reason whatsoever to go outside the country for medical treatment, work towards the creation of three million new jobs a year through industrialisation, public works and agricultural expansion, ensure that “under my watch, no force external or internal, occupies an inch of Nigerian soil,” work with the National Assembly towards “the immediate enactment of a Whistle Blower Act, create a Mortgage Market by reforming land ownership to give ordinary Nigerians easy access to title deeds and affordable houses, pursue the expansion of electricity generation and distribution of up to 40,000 MW in four to eight years. The document went on: we will eradicate State of Origin and replace it with “State of Residence, to ensure Nigerians are Nigerians first, before anything else,” create additional middle class of at least two million annually, stabilise the Naira, disclose in media outlets all government contracts of over N100 million prior to award and during implementation at regular intervals. There were many more.
What Nigerians are getting out of this social contract is far from what they bargained for. Naira crashed so fatally soon after the new regime began its poorly thought-out monetary and fiscal policies.
In no time, Naira dived from 150 to a dollar to almost 400. Federal roads and other infrastructures began to decay more, the brutal and senseless massacre of Nigerians, especially rural farmers and dwellers, by Fulani herdsmen in what looks like calculated ethnic cleansing in Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Enugu and Plateau states dominated the headlines, and the official denial that such atrocities never occurred or were exaggerated fueled the feeling that the murderers had the tacit approval and protection. The new Muammar Gaddafi angle to the official narrative became, at once, so laughable and mischievous. The menace of Boko Haram could not be effectively checked and songs of technical victories against the Islamist terror group became louder, but Nigerians were no longer amused or impressed. The Independence agitators represented by the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) and the Niger Delta militants intensified their demands for independence from an obviously failing Project Nigeria and total Resource Control respectively. The new regime’s total belief that brutal force or intimidation would push the political demands off the table has not yielded too much in terms of concrete results.
Interestingly, this federal government has not done anything visible to tackle or help in the area of housing deficit nationwide, and it hasn’t done too well power generation and distribution nor am I aware of social welfare payments to any category of Nigerians. The war against corruption is prosecuted so selectively that Nigerians quickly saw through the sloganeering. The monumental decay and corruption in the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, now totally under the full control of the kinsmen and religious adherents of the new helmsman has been left untampered with. This government’s cash cow, whose hierarchy is dominated by bosses who are neither technocrats nor fine technicians, but must be reported to by technically experienced and qualified industry hands. The government that came on the scene or rather won an election, mainly on the basis of fighting corruption has preferred to ignore the headquarters of monumental corruption in the country, the NNPC.
The elections are here once again, and wild campaign promises will soon dominate the atmosphere. Trust politicians! Everywhere you go, someone somewhere would quickly remind go get your Permanent Voters Card, PVC. That is clearly the right thing to do in a polity where votes count, not where rigging is so widespread and normal. Here, the electoral body and almost all arms of security forces are in the hands and fully dominated by one ethnic and religious group, and where under aged children would be fielded on voting dates to subvert the process. If we protest, even on the pages of newspapers, we are quickly reminded that, if we dare it, dogs and baboons would be soaked in blood, or something to that effect. The helmsman has carefully amassed and constructed vast and unassailable electoral advantages for himself and his party ahead of the elections. It is certainly something to really worry about.
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