Three months ago, for the first time in Nigeria, the people elected to vote out an incumbent President after one term, replacing him with a candidate who had lost the last three elections. The opposition candidate’s failure at previous polls may have had something to do with his staunch anti-corruption stance, making it instructive, and momentous, that he was elected on the same platform this time around. At face value, it indicated Nigerians might be coming of age… until we dig deeper.
Nigeria has routinely suffered para- or post-election violence, rooted in tribal divides and religious tensions that politicians stoke unconscionably while canvassing for votes. The 2011 elections, while not the bloodiest in recent history, were quite gruesome, and upwards of 1000 people lost their lives. This violence was limited mostly to the Northern part of the country, where the current president-elect hails from. The 2015 election was expected by many to mirror previous trends, especially if the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, who hails from the southern part of the country, won the elections.
As it happened, Jonathan had fouled the air too much for Nigerians to want to return him to power. So, despite widespread intimidation and manipulation, the elections were won by Muhammadu Buhari - a retired Major-general that had ruled Nigeria previously in a 20-month dictatorial stint that is the subject of very polarizing folk-lore. Before the results were officially announced however, Jonathan placed a phone call to Buhari, against whom he had run a very dirty smear campaign, to concede the elections.
Some Nigerians hailed Jonathan as a “hero of democracy”. Their rationalization was that Buhari did not do the same in the previous elections he lost, nor did he come out to ‘condemn’ the post-election violence that occurred in 2011. They further asserted that if he had, violence would not have occurred. Thus, they magnified to elephantine proportions, this single act of Jonathan’s statesmanship, and attempted to use it to obscure his total failure as a president.
Now, as all the financial and administrative atrocities committed by his ruinous regime are revealed, a plethora of excuses are being manufactured from the conveyor belt of “lowered expectations” that condemned Nigerians to such callow leadership for umpteen years. The latest I heard today was “Jonathan should have been allowed to finish his tenure, he was just being demonized…”
This, the Jonathan of 276 missing school-girls, who did not as much as pay a visit to the bereaved families for a whole year, citing ‘security reasons’. This, the Jonathan, who then visited the same region thrice in 3 weeks in an attempt to redirect the pendulum of Nigerian favor towards himself when the gong was howling for his exit, showing the only thing he cared about was a thirst for power.
This, the Jonathan of failed promises and missing billions, who had the audacity to sack a central bank governor for deigning to report money as missing...
This, the Jonathan who tried everything to first scuttle, then tilt the very same election some Nigerians are calling him a hero for “conceding”!
This Jonathan… Demonized???
While this may just be the concoction of a “Jonathanian”, too ashamed to accept a mistaken choice, I see it as something much, much, deeper. It is reflective of what has been wrong with Nigeria and indeed, Africa for a very long time - absent standards and lowered expectations.
We have gotten so comfortable with weekly scandals about billions of dollars of taxpayers money being carted off by one individual in Africa that Buhari’s alarm about all these immediate past goats eating all our Nation’s yams - our collective harvest - is being treated as “something normal” by Nigerians.
Someone else, in this same conversation, listed Jonathan’s “achievements” as building roads and delivering pipe-borne water to his village. In this day and age! Those are duties!!
The Oxford dictionary defines ‘achievement’ as a thing done successfully, typically by effort, courage, or skill. What courage does it need to build roads the people already need and want, and for which the funds exist? What effort does it take to give the people what you were voted into power to give them?
Let us explore what an achievement in Nigeria, or even Africa, would look like.
As an oil exporting country, if a Federal government is able to wean its country off its dependence on oil before the end of their tenure - that would be an achievement.
If a State government for example, is able to replicate the Burj-al-Arab in a place where a shrine once existed, following it up with an International airport to service the world-wide tourism needs of that area, we can accept that as an achievement.
Why would these be achievements? These feats would take courage, effort and skill. Everything else falls under duty or responsibility.
First, let it be clear. Calling to concede an election you were bound to, and deserved to, lose does not make up for 6 years of ineptitude and maladroit wastage. After all, as a buyer, one does not purchase everything that a seller offers just because there was a price reduction on one good. Even a child knows to think twice when someone who has been uncommonly wicked to them suddenly comes and prepares their favorite meal.
Second. Low expectations are exactly why Nigeria is where it is: Behind everyone it started the race with. Indeed, it is why Africa keeps looking like the prodigal son: feeding on hogs despite the abundance of natural and human resources available to it.
Third. If Nigeria is to make any leaps at all, and not just one step forward with the current government and two steps backward with a subsequent one; if Africa is ever to benefit from having a country as individually and as collectively blessed as Nigeria is, our lowered expectations have to be treated like the previous government – thrown out like trash.