In a recently published interview he granted the Vanguard Newspaper, ace columnist and social commentator, Dr Femi Aribisala expressed his candid views on the recently concluded 2015 General Elections, with particular emphasis on the Presidential election. Expectedly, his opinions have attracted mixed reactions from different quarters. While majority of respondents castigated him for his blunt submissions, a minute fraction aligned with him.
However, this piece is not about Dr Aribisala or his political thoughts. It contains my personal opinions about the unfolding scenarios before all Nigerians and what it portends for the country’s nascent democracy. Agreed that elections have been held and the winners announced the vital question thrown up by recent events is: Have we made the right decision? This multi-pronged question will be answered in the next four years by the actions – or inactions – of the incoming administration headed by Nigeria’s President-elect, Rtd General Muhammadu Buhari, the winner of the just concluded 2015 Presidential poll.
As has become the tradition whenever there is a change of government (civilian or military), Nigerians have been wildly jubilating over the outcome of the recent polls which resulted in the popular overthrow of the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan-led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) dominated government at the center by the All Progressive Congress (APC), a triple pronged coalition made up of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA); a much anticipated change of guards that has seemingly placed Nigeria on a new political trajectory. The wave of encomiums that heralded the announcement of the election results spoke volume of the general yearnings by the Nigerian people for a better deal from the political establishment; an escape from the sordid, horrid, hellish and brutish man-made conditions they have been forced to subsist in by previous administrations.
The outcome of the 2015 Presidential polls is a test case of the possibility of peaceful, non-violent change, despite the ethnic, religious and other primordial variables that defined and ultimately shaped the processes and outcome, coupled with the pockets of violence that reared their heads in some sections of the polity. For the first time in recent memory, an opposition party in Nigeria, leveraging on the barefaced shortcomings of the ruling party at the center, was able to mobilize a large segment of the populace around the creed of “CHANGE” to come out on top in an electoral contest. It was a vociferous, forceful and clear expression of a people’s willingness and readiness to fight for change, using the only weapon available to them as it were – their sheer will and God-given freedom to choose; an unprecedented development that if maintained will ultimately lead Nigerians to their Eldorado – that Sugar Candy Mountain of possibilities that have until now remained a utopia. This mass action for change should not only be sustained, but should become a benchmark that will guide future popular, peaceful agitations for better deals from the governing class.
However, a critical perusal of Nigeria’s democratic evolution since the lowering of the Union Jack and the hoisting of the Green-White-Green in 1960 reveals a sadly reoccurring decimal – the fact that elections in Nigeria have only served as avenues for the recycling of governments, and not for improving on the quality of governance – the former being a mere change of guards, while the latter connotes a practical utilization of the administrative apparatuses of the state for the allocation of values for the common good. While governments in Nigeria continue to change with each turn the country makes in its political labyrinth, result-oriented leadership continues to be a fast-receding utopia.
Evidence of a country in dire need of proper governance is there for all discerning minds to see: a regime of corruption that has turned politics into a business venture for all comers; dilapidated infrastructures that have stalled economic growth and development; moribund public utilities that have become chief sources of embarrassment for the country and its people; ethno-religious conflicts that are mostly instigated by the political class for personal profit; a stone-age economy in freefall; a failed health system that can no longer cater to the people’s mushrooming health needs; an increasing army of jobless youths, some of who have turned to armed militancy and other forms of violent behaviour to survive the harsh conditions they have been forced to subsist in; a dinosaur educational system that continues to churn out half baked graduates; a security sector that cannot protect the lives and properties of citizens from both internal and external threats; coupled with other preventable deficits of democratic governance that are traceable to several years of maladministration by successive governments – military and civilian.
Nigeria is, indeed, a country in critical ferment – one in need of a new direction; the kind of direction that comes with the right kind of leadership. The locusts and caterpillars have had a field day gnawing away the collective rights of Nigerians to the enjoyment of the dividends of good governance. Since 1960, when Nigeria became self- governing, most of the leaders that have been privileged to captain her ship of state have grossly abused their individual calls to duty. From government to government it has been the same tragic old story of incompetence, lechery, debauchery, mediocrity and hypocrisy all rolled into one messy compendium: Nigeria, the sick man of Africa; a giant in coma; a king-kong trapped in a wooden cage; a Gulliver being lectured by Lilliputians on the art of giant hood; a heavyweight who spars with rookies; a potential without any sought of direction.
This column is, therefore challenging the incoming government to immediately, once it is sworn into office, commence the processes of obviating the leadership bulwarks that have prevented the country from transforming its great potentials into practical realities. Nigerians expect a total revamping of the country’s lethargic administrative machinery – as currently constituted – for better performance. All the processes and institutions of governance must be re-engineered to begin to perform as fluidly and lucidly as they were constituted to; as an interactive unit of several parts all committed towards a common objective: providing the better life for all Nigerians, regardless of tribe, tongue, religion or class. The ministries, parastatals, departments, the private sector, civil society and other state and non-state bodies must be mobilized and galvanized into performing their input and output functions.
The incoming APC government arrow headed by Rtd General Muhammadu Buhari has promised to provide Nigerians with quality leadership; the type of leadership Nigeria has lacked since its inception as an independent political entity; the kind of leadership that is not greed-driven – one that all Nigerians can trust. Considering the giant strides the APC has made since its emergence as a force in the country’s politics, especially the mind-blowing feats being churned out by some of its governors in all the states the party hitherto controlled prelude to the recent Tsunami that transferred power to it at the center, Nigerians can’t help but accept the party’s banner bearers – at both the federal and state levels – as the carriers of their dreams and aspirations; a common belief that obviously influenced voting patterns in the party’s favour during the polls.
Change of government is one of the chief cornerstones of any democratic system. It affords the people the opportunity of collectively contributing their quota to the processes of choosing those they feel are the most qualified to govern them, and the rejection of those unfit to do so. These choices are expressed through elections. But when such change does not result in the enthronement of responsible, responsive and productive leadership, it makes a huge mockery of the electioneering process. What Nigerians need today is a change in the manner their country is governed; a productive, result-oriented leadership committed to providing the greatest good for the greatest possible number; a utilitarian approach to governance that will strive to provide the basic necessities of life – food, clothing, shelter, security et al – for the larger body politic; a patriotic kind of leadership that is committed to liberating Nigerians from several years of underdevelopment in all ramifications of national life. That is the kind of change Nigerians expect from the incoming administration.
In summation, despite the utilitarian values of voting, it should never replace the constant state of alertness that Nigerians must demonstrate towards government. Nigerians must become far better informed of the dangers that stares down on them daily from all the bastions of power in the country, if they are to be truly liberated from the painful fetters of bad leadership – regardless of who comes out on top of any electoral contest. God bless Nigeria!