It is understandable if the momentous win of Buhari-Osinbajo have not sunk in. After all, this was a feat considered by many to be near-impossible – if not outright impossible. In the summer and fall of 2014, for instance, not many gave General Muhammadu Buhari a winning chance. But here we are! Millions of Nigerians, at home and abroad, made it possible for this giant of a man to part the sea and realign the stars. On May 29, 2015 we would be embarking on a new journey – a journey laden with hope and possibilities.
Around the world, there are new problems and challenges. This is also true of Nigeria. For instance, who knew that terrorism, religious radicalism and insane levels of unemployment would be a part of our nation’s landscape? Who knew that a day would come when a Nigerian president would tell the nation that “stealing is not corruption,” and that the famed Nigerian Armed Forces would become a shadow of its once glorious self? Who knew? Sadly, these have been part of our recent experience.
The problems and challenges we face are enormous, daunting. These are problems and challenges that demand a new breed of leadership, vision and approach. To the glory of all, we finally, after almost three decades of wandering and wondering, got the leaders we truly deserve. We have Buhari, we have Osinbajo.
But really, Team Buhari-Osinbajo cannot do it alone. It would be insane to expect them to do it alone. Our country is neck-deep in private and public scatology. Either way you look at it, we are in a mess. A bloody mess! Nigeria is at once bleeding and drowning. It is this bleeding and drowning that Team Buhari-Osinbajo must first attend to. Personally, I am not expecting a miracle. When we are no longer hemorrhaging and sinking, then, the miracles can begin. This may take a year, two or even three. This mess, after all, started a long time ago. It is not going to be easy cleaning it up. Therefore, we must be patient with the in-coming government.
But beyond being patient, I hope something else is clear to all Nigerians: electing GMB and Professor Osinbajo is just the first step. That was just the beginning. There are a million and one things the good people of Nigeria must do in terms of their duties and responsibilities to the Republic. Because the President and Vice President cannot do it all and do it alone, we the citizens must step up and be counted. For instance, we must obey the law at all times. And we must also pay attention to what the government (at the local, state and federal level) is doing with our resources and institutions. We must speak up and not be indifferent to the welfare of our fellow citizens.
We must take responsibility for our actions and inactions. We must be willing to sacrifice our comfort and conveniences. We must invest in this nation of ours. Essentially, therefore, we must be good citizens; be exemplary members of our communities. We must have compassion for our country.
Now, let’s look at a few issues. If we say we hate corruption, then, we must resist giving and stop asking for bribes. We cannot condemn those in high places if we are also guilty of the same things (even if at the very low level). Bribery is bribery no matter how small you may think it is. Second, we must obey the law at all time. This includes not committing prosecutable offenses. Relatedly, we must not personalize the rule of law. Third, our thinking and attitude towards government must change. We must, for instance, stop destroying government property. Let’s protect our government the way we expect our government to protect us. Unlike in the past, we must not see government as an abstract or as our enemy.
If you believe in a high performing government, then, you too must do your part. For instance, you must not come late to work, leave early and or transact your personal businesses while on duty and or on government premises. Be a model employee; and also encourage others to be. Also, what’s the point stealing government’s physical belonging. They don’t belong to you! But more than that, what’s the point stealing money from government? What’s the point stealing from the people if you want government to be accountable for the money we entrust in their care?
Yes, we the people have spoken. The majority of the electorates have made their choice known. Even so, we cannot assume that every section of the citizenry will do the right things for our country. A sizeable number of the elite, by nature, are self-serving, predatory and exploitative. They are good at manipulating the weak and the gullible. Our history has also shown that many members of the elite are in the habit of undermining governments. No one should be surprised if they band to together to undermine and frustrate Buhari and Osinbajo. Be aware of this simple fact: those they cannot control and or manipulate, they frustrate and asphyxiate.
General Buhari and Professor Osinbajo deserve our support. We must be faithful and steadfast. Nonetheless, faithfulness and steadfastness does not mean we remain quiet in the face of deliberate malfeasances, indifference, and callousness. Where and whenever necessary, we must speak up. Speaking up does not mean you hate the government. Criticizing the president’s administration does not mean you have given up or are now in/with the opposition. No! It simple means you love and care for our country and the government. It means you have a stake in the destiny of our country. And that you want the President and his team to do well.
According to Senator J. W. Fulbright, “To criticize one’s country is to do it a service and pay it a compliment. It is a service because it may spur the country to do better than it is doing; it is a compliment because it evidences a belief that the country can do better than it is doing. In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith. Like medicine, the test of its value is not its taste but its effects, not how it makes people feel at the moment, but how it inspires them to act thereafter. Criticism may embarrass the country’s leaders in the short run but strengthen their hand in the long run; it may destroy a consensus on policy while expressing a consensus of values. Criticism, in short, is more than a right; it is an act of patriotism, a higher form of patriotism, I believe, than the familiar rituals of national adulation.”
There are times when they (Buhari and Osinbajo) will make mistakes. There are times when they will get it wrong. But that’s OK. It will be ok if they own up to it and make amends. In a few weeks, the countdown to “100 Days in Office” will begin. That’s how long Team Buhari-Osinbajo will have to prove that millions of Nigerians made the right bet, the right call and the right vote. I believe that this is truly the start of a new dawn. Let the journey begin!
Sabella Abidde lives in Alabama. He can be reached at: [email protected]