Opinion

Nigerian, Reinvent Thyself

By Sonala Olumhense

For your consideration ahead of the new year, I examine five prevailing myths. One: A saviour is coming

For most of Nigeria’s 60 years as a so-called independent nation, we have thrived on the false notion of a liberator or saviour arriving to make everything alright.

Two of such figures are prominent: Olusegun Obasanjo, who returned as an elected leader in 1999 after 20 years, and Muhammadu Buhari, after 30.

Please observe that in that sentence, I do not employ the notion of “service” in the journey of either of these men.  Upon being elected, however, upon each fell the mantle of altering the Nigerian narrative not just from hope or even potential, but to success.

At the conclusion of Obasanjo’s eight years in 2007, he was maneuvering to remain in office for an unconstitutional third term.   Buhari, who is now in his sixth year, has fared even worse, and as we enter 2021, Nigeria is in such bad shape that people are being kidnapped and killed not only around his Daura home in Katsina State, but in the presidential palace in Abuja.  So bad is the situation that in the middle of a pandemic, the first lady has reportedly fled the country.

Two:  APC is a respectable party

Seeking recognition in 2014, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), dismissed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as lacking a vision for Nigeria.

In its manifesto, it said: “The consequence of trusting power to a party that does not have the genuine interest of Nigeria and Nigerians are clearly manifest in our political and economic predicament today; tens of thousands of innocent Nigerians have been killed due to government neglect of security; poverty and unemployment have multiplied due to the perverse economic policies, corruption has been taken to new levels while health, education and job opportunities are all in free falls, the question on the lips of most Nigerians is: is there a federal government in Nigeria?”

It claimed, among others: “The APC’s philosophy is the welfare of the common man, the assurance of a great future for the youth, and a decent quality of life for all. The APC is determined to give a voice to the youth, mekunu, the umu obenye, and the talakawa.

“The test we have adopted for all our policies is: ‘Will this policy create jobs and benefit the youth and ordinary Nigerians?’

“We are committed to nation where every citizen has the opportunity to work and earn a decent wage, and where the disadvantaged elderly, the disadvantaged disabled and the unemployed are assisted by the state. A nation where the curse of corruption is no longer tolerated in our political, social and civic affairs. A nation that is economically and socially vibrant. A nation that recognises our diversity as a source of strength.”

Clearly, this was only a power-seeking pitch, as the party has done considerably worse than the PDP in almost every measure.  Perhaps in 2021, it will split again to merge with a faction of the PDP to re-purpose for elections.

Three: Nigerians are ungrateful to President Buhari

This is a myth being peddled by the administration, notably Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed, who told a forum of the News Agency of Nigeria last week that some Nigerians are ungrateful to the Buhari administration. According to the narrative, such Nigerians do not appreciate that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is doing so much with limited resources.

The converse is the truth: it is Mr. Buhari who has been ungrateful to the people who voted him into power.  He is the one who mistook their trust for licence: the license to do as he pleases, including to be incompetent, indifferent, complicit and nepotistic. That licence is the principal reason that Nigeria has deteriorated.

Of the limited resources about which Mr. Mohammed complains, that has arisen not simply because of the collapse of the world oil trade, but because of the insincerity and incompetence of the Buhari government.  The insincerity has resulted in Buhari pursuing almost none of his key election campaign objectives and his substitution of propaganda for transparency and justice. Buhari would rather borrow from China than trouble those important thieves.

Four: Buhari will defeat Boko Haram

In August 2015, as Buhari replaced his Chief of Defence Staff and the heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force, he gave them a calendar by which to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency: three months.

In December, he declared that he had “technically won the war.” But that technicality is all that Buhari has enjoyed in five years.  The insurgency has broadened, as has the insecurity not only in the Northeast but nationwide.  Nigerians trust neither the government nor the security agencies, and Fulani herdsmen and all manner of armed criminals are multiplying.

Also remember that in mid-2017, Chief of Army Staff Yusuf Buratai gave his soldiers 40 days to capture Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, “dead or alive.”  They could not.

At Christmas 2017, Buhari celebrated “the long-awaited and most gratifying news of the final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa Forest.”In February 2018, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, the Minister of the Interior, described the group as “completely decimated,” the group’s structure degraded, and its leadership, dismantled.

This is fighting Boko Haram with words, like a poet.

Five: Only “restructuring” can save Nigeria 

Restructuring has become a seductive and politically-correct concept.  But restructuring alone will not save Nigeria, just as 12 states did not, and 36 states have not; and just as neither a southern nor a northern “presidency” has.

The reason is that it is not Nigeria that is wrong with Nigeria; it is the Nigerian that is wrong with Nigeria. It is the Nigerian who has refused to imbibe the concept of Nigeria as one, not 200 million.  It is the Nigerian who does not believe in serving Nigeria, but himself.  It is the Nigerian, not Nigeria, who does not believe in right and wrong.  It is the Nigerian who, when armed with political power, retreats into his cheapest, self-centred self, rather than open into the greatness and humility of service.

Restructuring will not save Nigeria because we are a hypocritical people.  Why is it that when we are outside of power, we are energetic, intelligent and patriotic but upon achieving it, mutate into the very animals at whom we had directed our activism and vitriol?  This has nothing to do with the structure of Nigeria but with the content of our heart, and it is the reason why, in our prime, we can rob children, the sick and the elderly with our pens and our power and feel no guilt.

What this means is that restructuring may give you your own village but will not affirm the “common” in commonwealth; or insert the light of service in a heart where there is only the darkness of self. The enemy is within, Nigeria.  Reinvent yourself and you fight your own war and save your nation.

Happy new year.

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