Nigeria Matters

Fears and Certainties of 2015 today

For many people these are clearly uncertain times, it is the same everywhere you look in the world. In Nigeria, however, uncertainty is the norm. It is neither a temporary nor a new phenomenon. Generally, most people living in Nigeria and those dealing with Nigeria are never certain of what to expect; they are rarely sure of what might pop up tomorrow. A new law or directive might be announced, that same law might almost immediately be in turn amended. Your flight may be delayed or the road blocked without any previous announcement or warning. Ordinary people live by the day and just hope for the best or at least a better tomorrow.

Yet in the middle of all these uncertainties, Nigerian politicians, and public office holders in general, are in a world of their own. They, of course, have more information and even more power to influence things; sadly though, they do not use such information and power to stabilize the polity. Rather they tend to be the cause of most of the uncertainties and instability their people are forced to cope with. These politicians and public office holders make laws and issue directives and then reverse or modify them; roads are blocked because of them and rules bent to please them.

As usual, the people are in the dark and are hoping. They are hoping that the sitting president fulfills his promise to transform the country; in the meantime time, most people are frustrated and disappointed at the pace and mode of governance. More precisely, Nigerians are unhappy that to date there is little or nothing they can point to as the achievement of this administration. One cannot blame them. President Goodluck Jonathan has been at the helm of the affairs of the country for more than two and half years – I am counting from his term as acting president and then as president. Contrary to the nonsense pro Jonathan are trying to make us believe, two and half years is quite a long time in politics by any measure.

Even in Nigeria, there are examples and lessons to be learnt from our recent history. A comparative analysis of what the then Governor Lateef Jakande and his commissioners did in one year in Lagos State and what President Jonathan and his ministers have done in two and half years will be quite revealing about how long two and half years can be in politics. More precisely, Nigerians are unhappy because the few times they have felt the presence of this government it is to learn about the announcement of measures that cause them pain and embarrassment. One cannot blame them. They ended 2011 with questionable nominations and appointments and started the new year with the removal of oil subsidy, topped it with increase in electricity tariff, and along the way, they are treated to news and rumors of corruption and violence.

In the meantime, Mr. President is reported to have promised to surprise all by 2013 when the contents of his programme start to unfold. At least we now know that even Dr. Jonathan knows that all is not well in the country, to put it mildly. For our sakes we wish him well.

If nothing dramatic like a coup d’état, sudden death or a civil war happens, 2015 will be the year of reckoning for all those in power. That is when they will get a clear and resolute verdict of their stewardship from the people they have governed for four years. There are only two possible verdicts, but objectively, we don’t know what that verdict will be. Everything is possible. The President might still perform and in that case, he and his party will deserve another term; the president may fail and in that case he, his party and all those that work with him will have to make way for others.

For the people to reach a meaningful verdict, however, they need some certainties that can come only from the opposition and with the help of the press. And therein lies the rub; for whilst it is clear that the government of the day is considered by most to be underperforming, the opposition does not seem to be promising any certainty of a better future either.

What we know about 2015 today is that the opposition feels that this President should not be allowed to return to power. Whilst we know why commentators and analysts are not happy with the government, all we know about the opposition is that they want power in 2015. To this end, those outside the PDP are talking about alliance and those inside it are talking of forming a new party. Let us be clear: These are all legitimate maneuvers, but these politicians can and must do a lot more than just maneuvers if they really want to contribute to the progress of the country. They need to provide some certainty to the people of Nigeria; we need clear and measurable commitments.

They can and need to start by telling us in clear terms what they do not like about the current system and what they will do differently. Let them come out and tell us where they stand on federalism, on state police, on the role of the CBN, implementation of budgets etc.

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