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Nigeria: The Illusion of Change and Permanence of Mediocrity



By Joseph Rotimi… The main thrust of the PMB led government is the fight against corruption and appears to be gaining traction according to current perception. But is it? The government seems to think so. It released the sum of money already collected from corrupt officials sometime back but failed to tell the country who the crooks were. The government appears to have mastered the sensationalization of the corruption fight by using the media to accuse, prosecute and sentence its victims. Fighting corruption is one thing, but turning it into a soap opera is anachronistic.

The notion that government, or Nigeria’s political elite, to which PMB belongs, can change the country for the better is a pipe dream. It is a fallacy and something we, as a people, must do away with in its entirety. The notion that those benefitting from the country’s prostration would willingly commit political or physical suicide in order to redeem the generality of the Nigerian people goes against human nature and tendencies. Prison officials or concentration camp overseers would hardly want to trade places with their wards.

In Nigeria, change of government often does not engender consideration or care for the poor, though citizens might be temporarily hoodwinked by the illusion of inclusion. The unwillingness or inability of the ruling elite to genuinely excoriate or judge itself is the reason why the recent call by Atiku Abubakar for a re-examination of our federalism should be viewed with suspicion. Abubakar’s suggestion is just babble, playing to the gallery or the effect of too much champagne.

Before the conclusion of the last presidential elections; I said nothing would change, noting that no matter who became president, Nigeria as presently constituted would continue to yield a master/servant relationship between the people and their leaders. The elites, by their divisive roles would continue to have too much power and the citizens would still be deprived of meaningful participation in their destiny. We do not have true political parties that are characterised by genuine Nigeria-based philosophies to help transform the country. All we have are political parrots that are able to mouth what they learned during conferences or studies in London, Washington or Paris without any form of relevance to the poor farmer in Ikot Ekpene. A quick test of their resolve soon reveals a shallowness that betrays their goals of pursuit of power and privilege, not service or upliftment of the citizenry.

To truly gauge a nation’s progress one needs to examine the life of its most vulnerable citizens. Look at its children, women and young adults. An impartial observer must conclude that these demographics are the most brutalized, uncertain and stunted in Nigeria. And yet, they are those with the most potential to change the country because they represent the future.

Buhari was part of the military arm of the political elite that have held the country down for most of its history as a nation. Whatever stance, philosophy or mantra he chants today; whether it is anticorruption, an angelic cabinet, grazing rights for Fulanis, diversification of the economy or desire for a new Nigeria must align with the idiosyncrasies of these political elite – not common Nigerians.

To the average Nigerian, government officials and rulers are rare, distant entities to be gawked at on TV or at parade grounds. And yet, their powers and legitimacy are supposed to come from the people. As a citizen, you only need to try getting to the first gate (God knows how many gates they have) of Aso Rock (seat of government) in Abuja to understand the real distance between the people and their rulers in Nigeria. Contrast this with the fact that ordinary tourists (non-Americans) get to touch (some Americans actually jump over) the fence of the White House in Washington DC where arguably the most powerful president on the planet resides.

Buhari’s anticorruption is both one-sided and illusory, and will ultimately fail because it does not address the root of Nigeria’s problems, which includes but are not limited to a faulty, unequal and unfair federation that is based on a less than stellar constitution. A real fight should focus on strengthening people-oriented institutions (try renewing your passport) and laws that would make corruption more difficult. The government should impartially insist on the rule of law, an effective, efficient, self-regulating judiciary, and amendments to the constitution that guarantees equity, justice and the fundamental human rights of all Nigerians. Power must be given back to the people not potentates and their cohorts in the military, industrial and political class. For example, see what the people of Britain did to Cameron’s government.

Whenever people are denied basic human rights, education, and power to determine their destinies, tyranny usually takes over. When Nigerians talk of elections; which in reality are selections, you will think the exercise is the culmination of a cogent presentation of programs, solutions, accountability and participation by an educated and informed electorate. But this is hardly the case and that is why elections have become mini civil wars that eventually degenerate into internecine guerrilla warfare. There is a “winner takes it all” attitude that engenders political patronage and untold corruption, to the determent of our national progress.

The average Nigerian is not an empowered person but a parody of citizenship. Citizens are owed years of unpaid salaries without any explanation other than “no money”, and yet, they are expected to go to work or face retrenchment. According to a state governor, only 30% of those working in his state are needed, so government was just being nice to the other 70%! Yet, these buffoons go home with untold amounts of money as salaries, allowances and security votes. More than seventy percent of Nigeria’s yearly expenditure goes to cater for government officials and their coteries. Though Nigerians appear to believe prima facie, that PMB is Spartan in disposition, but how about the untouchable people (so-called kitchen cabinet) he relies on to remain in Aso Rock?

For real change to come to Nigeria, the people must be able to put forth demands and actions that will overturn the present status quo. If change is going to come, it will not come from the top but from the bottom. Nigerians must put aside the petty issues that set them apart or against each other and direct their unreserved anger at the siren-blaring-good-for-nothing pieces of garbage, whose heels have been contemptuously placed on our collective necks for so long.

Has change started in Nigeria, in 2016? No! We have a long way to go and have not even started the journey yet. A country of over a hundred and sixty million, that has produced so-called “world-class doctors” and a president that had access to a clinic that enjoys almost limitless resources and yet was unable to handle an ear infection is purely retrogressive and no amount of self-adulatory grandstanding can change that.


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