Many Nigerians are not only deliberately or conveniently and even inconveniently amnesic about their past, they are also lying to themselves about their future. This explains why we cannot seem to correct basic governance mistakes, even after we have suffered for decades from such mistakes and even after we have been repeatedly presented with opportunities to change it and with clear evidence available.
It’s over a week now since a new government was historically sworn in at the centre. While there is this high pretence from various interests groups about the new government, with some making such harebrained declarations of great achievements so far by the new government, the cold, honest truth is that the country is at the moment directionless and nothing is happening. This is something that the myth of a Muhammadu Buhari bringing change cannot hide. Okay, I know one week is not the time to judge a government, but that is actually under a ceteris paribus assumption. In the real world of power and public policy, one week is a long time in politics.
From the way the APC campaigned and for the fact that Buhari himself has been gunning for this top job for over a decade, giving the impression that he knows what he wants to achieve once he gets there, most Nigerians expect him to hit the ground running. But what have we got? He hit the ground alright, but he’s just strolling. Any honest APC change voter knows deep in his or her heart that this is not what they voted for. I know it’s hard to admit now, but it’s the truth. Buhari is evidently an ‘analogue’ leader who believes too much in the hype of his own wisdom and who consequently thinks he can micromanage this whole change thing. In the end, little minds and hangers-on will run rings round him, cannibalise his ideas, gorge on his goodwill and the goodwill to him from the people and leave the government he runs an empty shell. He will come out of it as Baba Go Slow Redux.
No, I’m not judging Buhari after one week. I’m just using the above comment as a signpost of something more fundamental. I’m telling Nigerians that Buhari and co have no idea what to do at the moment and for various reasons. They most probably did not expect to win. Their campaign was abjectly poor on vision, but Nigerians still voted them. Now that they are there, it’s head-scratching galore! They attempted to buy time immediately after the win by repeatedly stating how bad things are and why Nigerians must be patient, but when they got the feedback from the people, they knew that kite wouldn’t fly. Yet, rather than for the thinkers and intellectuals amongst them to seize the party and its leadership by the scruff of the neck and boldly craft out an agenda at least for the first two months while they work on the thereafter, they were busy deifying Buhari and creating all sorts of silly myths around him. They totally refused to appreciate that there’s a difference between campaign and governance. Buhari is not God! All is falling around him now, but spin doctors are doing great covering up, but for how long are they going to depend on empty gimmickry?
Here is the unvarnished truth and this truth is the purpose of my post: The real character of our democracy is in view now. The reason Buhari has not been able to make or propose important appointments is not because the old Senate was still in place or any of that kind of excuse. It is simply because the party is factionalised dangerously in its attempt to share power. That wouldn’t have been a huge problem, if there was enough democratic content within the party. But where there is a distinct lack of internal party democracy, where a party is colonised by power cabals soused in the grand tradition of high corruption, what you see now from the APC, even after winning power, is what you get. Like the PDP before it, the APC is only a special purpose vehicle to win power, not an ideologically ground movement, not a party ready to form government or deliver good governance. If there was internal party democracy, you will not have a situation where party members elected into the National Assembly would be dragging themselves publicly in the mud to win leadership of the Assembly. It would have been a simple case of the members elected meeting and voting by a simple majority on who they want to lead them - nothing more than a thirty minutes affair and it’s over. But they cannot, because there are tin gods in every corner wanting to put up their human drainpipes in every aspect of national leadership. How can any result of such a process benefit Nigerians?
Of course, things can be corrected if young party activists begin to rise now and make their voice count, rather than timidly sit back doing “Babe ke!” and “Rankadede” behind expired leaders whose only claim to leadership is the amount of money they’ve stolen while in public service at some level. Such an action will jolt the party leadership into action and will prod them to begin to take the job at hand seriously. If this does not happen, the APC like the PDP will fail and you will hear such excuses as Buhari himself being of good mind, but those around him being evil. We will hear threnodies of how he was betrayed by his party or how his spokespersons muted his real intentions in pages and pages of silence. The power fight will take the usual ugly ethnic turn and nothing will be achieved for the nation as the better part of four years will be spent locked in such mortal political combats. One can only imagine the effect of this on the ordinary people knowing how our people are easily the playthings of politicians and inciters.
For the rest of society, the implications are dire. Anyone who thinks once the APC fails, the PDP would walk back needs another think coming. The historical fact is that the PDP has failed Nigerians, which is why they were voted out. Yeah, we can all provide extensive lists of rationalisations for this, but the fact that the PDP did not and could not challenge the APC victory is statement of fact enough. So, no, Nigerians won’t just be rushing back to the PDP after four years simply because APC has failed them. Rather, the more dangerous result of the APC failure is that Nigerians will become disillusioned with party politics and begin to express themselves in ways that are not so nice. Real social anarchy could be the outcome.
So, really, what Nigerians should be doing now is to clear their eyes and begin to look for a means of creating a third force in politics. I’m not talking of supporting another party outside the PDP or APC, but a third force in terms of a conglomeration of new ideas, no matter how informally we start this. We must begin to create conversational spaces nationally where we as citizens can begin to look at issues without partisan-tinted glasses and provide solutions we can push in public space and force the establishment to accept them. Nigeria has wasted too many years under rudderless leaderships that the people have to seize the day now and begin to force the issue. If we really want democracy to work for us, we the people have to actually make it work for ourselves. This consciousness must start now.