Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Nigeria: A Change From Better To Worse?

By Dan Amor
Even as the River Niger surges still along its wonted path to its dalliance with the River Benue and the consequent emptying of the passionate union into the mazes of the Delta, and, thereafter, into the vast, swelling plenitude of the all-welcoming seas, it is Nigeria, our Nigeria. True, Lagos is still Lagos; Abuja is still Abuja. It is, indeed, injury time in a new country under a new democracy, our democracy! Yet, everywhere you look, things look pretty much as they always have been. Still, the sway of buffoonery and unintelligent greed; still the billowing gown arrogance of the supposedly powerful, the surface laughter of the crashing rivers celebrating the disquieting crisis of democracy, the riveting appearances of things. Splendid is the current! Yet, into the heart of the average Nigerian pop uninvited intimations that we live today in the cusp of a new age, a new country and a new democracy. 
*Buhari and Tinubu
Alas, it is a new era. But in the lull between the passions and exertions and excitations of our workaday world today, at these times when the body yields to repose and the mind nestles in shades of quietude, it hits you: it is the dawn of change! But, what manner of change is this? From better to worse?
Something, you realize, is going on in this country, something is happening here. But what? What is it? What really is going on? It is simply real. It is the season of change. It is the season of democracy. But democracy, as you know, never comes like a bolt from the girthless skies. It comes rather upon the ripening. Whether in our bodies or our characters, or our large, tall and considerable affairs, democracy is a ripening, stage after stage and after stage. The trouble, however, is: we live half-blind, usually even totally blind to the obvious processes of liquidation being sponsored by our rulers against our nascent democracy. Our rulers are usually men and women of the sharp intense focus. The problem is that the daily tussle and tackle is sufficient a preoccupation for each perplexing day that they forget so easily the struggle and pains that brought about this brand new democracy and this brand new country around us. Of course, they were not part of the struggle for this democracy. And many there are who still do not see even now that it is, in terms of fundamental structural patterns, a brand new country. Consequently, they are still taking some steps based on old assumptions, old forms of arrogance, that the country remains their bona fide property. To this group of people, we say, it is injury time. Anything can happen.
Thus are insomnia-producing fears and worries being succumbed to all over the place today, shaped by equally outdated assumptions, weaknesses, and inferiority complexes. It is high time, I suppose, we all woke up to the huge new realities concerning this large estate, our estate. The most important feature of the emergent Nigeria is that it has finally arrived at the equipoise-a nice, elegant balance of forces. Nigeria is no longer a tripod of three major tribes; it is a conference table with several legs. What is each tribe bringing to the table? That is the question! This is Nigeria, our Nigeria. The most important change that has ripened is the fierce, truculent awakement of the ethnic minorities who are even more than the so-called three major ethnic groups combined. And because the ethnic majors are always squabbling over power, since they don't use it to serve but to taunt the country, the nation goes where the ethnic minorities choose. As producers of the resources that sustain the rest of the country, be it oil or solid minerals, they must decide the balance of advantage today whether we like it or not. The implications of this new reality for our polity are huge. First, the ethnic minorities will continue to insist on a fundamentally fairer deal. They can gang up against any ethnic majority that threatens their interests.
Second, in the new democracy, only consensus politics will work and not imperialist or hegemonist politics. No body can impose a self-seeking decision on the polity any longer. Thirdly, mass based politics is the name of the game today and not cabalistic manipulations in conclaves. The truncating of the obnoxious Third Term Agenda of the Obasanjo era by the Ken Nnamani-led Senate and the blatant rejection of the retrogressive Interim National Government plot by the same Senate demonstrated that no dictatorship will endure any longer in the country. The immediate past President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan even went further to rebrand our democracy by writing Nigeria in gold in the comity of democratic nations. It is a brand new democracy! Unfortunately, however, the present Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari, is yet to appreciate what it takes for a brand new democracy to be firmly rooted and flourish. Aside from a few states in which their governors have truly earned the overwhelming loyalty of their subjects, the more than two years balance sheet at the national level is a huge failure on the part of the President to deliver on his campaign promises to the people. Both in terms of the economy, the security of lives and property and respect for the rule of law, this government is a monumental fraud. 

In all sincerity, the Nigerian judiciary, which was the first target of the APC-led federal government, has ironically been liberated by the new Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen. The judiciary which is supposed to be the safety valve or sole arbiter for the common man was wittingly or unwittingly intimidated by the Executive arm of government but Onnoghen courageously stood his ground and has brought some tall reforms to bear on the hitherto corruption-infested temple of Justice. But unfortunately, just as extra-judicial killings are on the increase, illegal detention of Nigerians without trial is the order of the day. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lost its independence the moment Jonathan handed over power to Buhari. It is the biggest tragedy of the century.
In fact, it is yet to dawn on our rulers that, given the several years of confusion in the land, the true representatives of the people of Nigeria must get together and cut a deal. It is increasingly becoming clearer by the day that to end sectional and sectarian grudges and belligerence, and begin to rebuild our sadly violated nation, what needed to be done in 1999 was to embark on a national reconciliation and consensus building. That was what Jonathan did in 2014. But, sadly, this present government which was in opposition then and boycotted the confab, has chosen to throw the baby with the bath water. Some of our political actors and gladiators still do not appreciate the fact that the wayward era of the winner-takes-all has gone forever in all climes. Indeed, the political class, by its conduct has demonstrated that its commitment to democracy is much weaker than that of the average Nigerian. The reason for this lack of commitment on the part of our politicians is because the foundation was weak and docile from the onset. For instance, the National Assembly in 1999, was largely made up of 'militicians' who were mere errand boys to the military in the plundering of our national patrimony. At the Executive were expired warlords and members of the reactionary faction of the Nigerian ruling class who saw the democratic experiment as a continuation of military rule. Only a few in their midst demonstrated extreme exemplary character.
Intrigues, treachery and greed, are the catchwords with which to paraphrase the character of the Nigerian governing elite. But it is disheartening to note that in the second decade of the twenty-first century, Nigeria still has as leaders, a tiny gang of disillusioned professionals, retired, tired and worn-out generals, nostalgic agrarians, insensitive intellectuals and gentlemen of inherited or stolen wealth, who call themselves politicians, and who still hang on grimly and defiantly to the values of a departed era. This obscure motive in our polity has proved to be a most elusive element for commentators and analysts to pin down. The question is: why is it that some people should actually take a kind of grim pleasure in the idea that it may be impossible for things to change in our clime? This leisured class has always resisted real change, not the borrowed slogan they used to deceive Nigerians in 2015 during the election thus preventing the people from enthroning a class of young, brilliant, articulate and patriotic Nigerians with the requisite credentials and capacity to turn around the condition of the people. What Nigeria needs at the moment is a new order in which there must be total devolution of powers from the Centre to the federating units. States should generate their electricity, own their refineries, build their roads, own their police, etcetera. In fact, the Federal Government has no business in agriculture because the lands belong to the states. The federal government should be made to control only defence, the currency, the interiors, and international trade, and leave education, health, roads, policing, natural resources, etcetera, to the states.
We need as leaders men who have good understanding and comprehension of the dynamics of federalism and the dialectical forces that define its character. We need leaders who are at home with the mechanics of modern political engineering, who know how politics is played all over the world, not pseudo-politicians who are scared stiff of responsible opposition. We need as leaders people who must uproot the old order and institute the emerging democracy in all its vehemence and ramifications. This fake Change which has turned honest and hardworking Nigerians to beggars; this fake Change under whose watch Nigerians now trek long distances to work and other activities due to scarcity of fuel; this fake Change in which about 20 million Nigerian children are out of school because their parents or guardians can no longer afford to pay their school fees, must be changed. Retired Generals who looted our national patrimony into their private pockets, who truncated the growth of democracy in our country, should no longer be allowed to play a dice with the collective destiny of the nation. This kpalongo dance of one step forward and thirty steps backward should no longer be our national condition.
*Dan Amor, an  Abuja-based public affairs, contributes regularly to this blog (danamor641@gmail.com)

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