The dust is finally settling on a new reality in Nigeria, as we the people have finally seized the moment and decided that enough is enough with being ruled, with being abused, with being taken for granted- and that we are the ones only fit to decide who rules us and not a tiny cabal.
Several efforts are being made to award the hero prize to the sitting President for conceding defeat once it became obvious that the people rejected him and his party, I say to them – give us a break! What is the President supposed to do? Refuse to leave the State House? Call out the militants that he has been subsidizing to defend Abuja against the emerging new majority? It is time Nigerians set new standards and elevates the expectation they have of leadership. The President should be praised for sportsmanship, but that does not elevate him to become a hero any more it makes the dream team a contending force in African football.
Indeed, the nights of March 28 and April 11 were not good nights for two sets of Nigerians: the establishment minded and the cynical fence sitters. The establishment minded crowd swore even a night before the Presidential election that in Nigeria, incumbency factor overwhelmed all others, and to their surprise only the people could deliver a verdict, which was for change.
The obvious crimes of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was putting its own welfare above the people it seeks to rule in a democratic setting. PDP got richer, while Nigerians got poorer. Our institutions and infrastructures were bastardized, even as PDP became resistant to all kinds of reforms. PDP became an opposition party against common sense constitutional reforms to tackle matters of security (state police), executive corruption and lawlessness (remove immunity), eliminate oil revenue waste and corruption (break up NNPC and pass PIB) and reduce cost of governance to ensure more money goes around (especially the increasing large retinue of aides and legislative salaries).
The crimes of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was however beyond the obvious, it was the impunity and absurdities that flourished under their leadership that eventually ensured its decline. Starting with the first President Olusegun Obasanjo they gave Nigeria to the last – Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, it was like the absurdity had no ending.
First, it was the win by hook or crook mentality. Under Obasanjo, election were stolen in broad daylight, judiciary was compromised, even to the extent that voodoo judgments were procured and we have a sitting Supreme Court that installed the principle of “once a good is stolen, it cannot be recovered!” We learned of billionaire election tribunal judges, even as our judiciary was thoroughly undermined.
The impunity of stealing elections that flourished under Olusegun Obasanjo quickly extended to voodoo impeachments (it happened in Oyo, Ekiti and Plateau in quick order), illegal state of emergencies that installed administrators that were foreign to our constitution, use of EFCC and security agencies to intimidate opponents, seizure of state allocations to make political points and starve opposition voting constituencies, and complete subversion of the democratic process capped by an attempt to extend term in office that was thankfully resisted. We must not forget, and we must insist that these events be etched in our national memory so that the incoming government of progressives – the first in Nigeria’s history, remember the misdeeds of the predecessors and understand that we the people will not tolerate a repeat despite our famous patience.
Obasanjo’s exit from the national stage, including the stage managed installation of a bodily sick successor backed by an empty brained assistant, soon translated to the lost eight years that we are just winding out from. That dubious transition produced a nightmarish eight years that saw our national wealth looted and frittered away on sentiments even as we made more money and got poorer to the dismay of the world.
The Y’Aradua era started and ended with the drama of cabals, godfathers, hijacked presidency and impunity in the presidential court of the highest order. Many of the shades of characters that should be jailed or prosecuted still parade themselves around as political change agents – and we must be watchful for them. It is an open secret that letters to the effect of power transmission was written and signed by the late President but some people hid and tore it- they deserve a prosecution if any to make the case that this country is greater than individuals!
The impunity of PDP however did not stop with this; the government of Jonathanians soon ushered a brand new era of looting and financial malfeasance. Ministers flew private jets, demanded bribes and awarded sweet heart deals to their boyfriends, buddies and friends even as the national enterprise collapsed all around us. Paid spokesmen were converted with bribes and money, and otherwise honest people sold out at the altar of free flowing oil money and allocations to the dismay of commonsense. The height of it for Jonathanians was the absurdity of using the pulpits and hallowed chambers of traditional institutions for self-promotion and lies…this was one joke taken too far for Nigerians.
Incompetence was widely promoted, even as violence and use of security agencies to enforce their will on Governors (16 is greater than 19) and state elections (in Ekiti) where minority number of house of assembly members now old sway even as the President pretend that this matter is beyond him. This is the absurdity that drives Nigerians to the polls and has nailed the coffin of the PDP for good!
In the soon to be bygone era, violence can buy you anything- heck Governor Fayose of Ekiti even beat judges up and sent them to exile with no consequences! In Imo, Rivers and Edo state – elections brought out the worst in the President’s friends as foes were slaughtered and our youths were sacrificed on the altar of the ambitions of his friends.
The one impunity that probably put paid to PDP however was the impunity against itself and facts. PDP became a party that developed propaganda and believed it. The first propaganda was that somehow it can lose all its members and leading lights and still be a serious political competitor. Smelling opportunity of course, the wise opposition party (the All Progressives Congress, APC) pounced and is now the better for it.
Leading up to the election, PDP bounced from one propaganda message to another ranging from its strong believe that General Buhari could never emerge as APC’s candidate to his supposed ill-health, lack of certificate and ultimately the election postponement game (to wear out the opposition who did not have access to stolen oil funds) that undid its invincibility in the eyes of the voting public.
The PDP started war of attrition against itself, starting with the very President Obasanjo and his board of trustees that developed its self-fulfilling strategy of self-destruction. Nigeria will have PDP in short to thank for its own destruction when it is all said and done- and we should be really grateful.
PDP in short was the victim of its own success at using stolen state funds to bulldoze its way electorally, in that it became complacent and incapable of thinking outside the box – and not even recognizing when it was boxed in. This party of spoilt brat, after losing several founders thought it can flourish simply based on incumbency but totally miscalculated because in this democracy: we the people, not the politicians are the boss even though Professor Jega deserves as much credit for his statemanly vision of introducing the card readers and handling of the electoral process including a severe disease of “Orubebetitis”.
For these reasons and many others – especially posterity, the new governing (thankfully, not ruling) party must toe a different course from the immediate past one. The APC must focus first on ending this culture of impunity, even as it redirects its attention to its electoral promises of Security, Anti-Corruption and boosting Employment & Social Welfare. APC cannot neglect sending immediate message to Nigerians by constitutional reforms that accepts the common sense realities which it promised in its manifestoes.
Two immediate actions i.e. forensic auditing of the Oil and Gas industry, and the prosecution of electoral offenders are necessary steps to wish the very bad dream of the past sixteen years away. Without these steps, the new administration risks being undermined internally by the corrupt wealth of the established backers of PDP.
With respect to Anti-Corruption, a Truth and Restitution Commission for major categories of looters including those in the new governing party since 1999 may be appropriate beyond the Petroleum Industry. A window to return loots should be opened, with the intent of saving the country long periods of prosecution and political brouhaha. Those big fishes that do not comply should be pursued thereafter with existing tax laws deployed to send them to long prison terms where their wealth does not match prior tax payments. No evildoer must get away with his or her misdeeds.
Indeed, even as he does this – steps to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill to redistribute the oil wealth where it is found and extracted even while targeting the enforcement of law and order on the militants that disturb the peace of these communities must commence. Indeed, stopping the mendacious and wasteful amnesty program that pays some unruly small group of militants (that seem to think they hold the country hostage) should be priority, even as he replaces the ransom program that pays a few criminals with a broad-based Community Development Fund that is part of the Petroleum Industry Bill languishing in the legislature.
Wisely, the President must commit himself to ensuring the pride of the judiciary is restored and bad eggs fished out if he doesn’t want his lofty executive and legislative agenda to be stopped in their tracks.
With respect to economic development, President Buhari will need a grand new vision not just for Niger Delta, but for the troubled North East, Lagos, and the Industrial Belt of South East Nigeria. Nigeria’s development plan must be rolled out to deliver the goods!
More so, the new President must lead from the front by insisting on reduced salary for all officeholders. The current income he earns which is 2.3 million naira monthly must not go up, and should be the maximum in the land with no allowances. The RMAFC should be reconvened to toe this line, even as the budget to service the legislature should be drastically reduced and the number of ministries and MDAs pruned. The new President can depart from norm by nominating ministers without portfolio appended to the national assembly for screening, so we can scrutinize them for qualification.
In conclusion, separating his role as Party leader and national leader is important to the President’s success. He cannot conflate the role, and as a former Head of State, the standards are indeed higher for him. He must insist that national institutions must be elevated beyond narrow party interests starting with security agencies, his reform process and indeed the electoral body. These will be his first tests as a progressive, as the world watches. Nigerians have said no to impunity once and for all, and our patience must not be tested.