"A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia." - David McCullough
"Maybe they were saying chains when we thought it was change," blurted a certain social media senator, who has made the cyberspace his default "chamber." And before you could say Jack Robinson, a hashtag, #ChangeToChains, metamorphosed on twitter with various irascible characters jumping on the bandwagon with little or no understanding of what they were saying. Worse still, they could not muster concise and intelligent reason(s) for their anger aside the fact that they just want to be seen as angry.
What seems to be the cause of their anger in the first instance? Some said there were fuel queues; others said the economy was in comatose etc. Justifiable anger, won't you say? No, you are wrong. Most of the folks pouring expletives actually have conveniently forgotten so soon (like the Israelites who were liberated from over 400 years of captivity in Egypt) where we were coming from. As at middle of May 2015, most of the telecommunication companies were sending emails and text messages to their customers appealing to their understanding on why they should expect serious disruption in services due to the twin problems of power failure and lack of petroleum products to run their offsite generators.
Last Friday, 4th March, a Muslim friend of mine was rushing to the mosque for jumat prayers and we struck a casual conversation. We both reminisced on how just a few months ago, going to the mosque or church on Sunday for prayers could be your last as there may either be a bomb blast or some deranged fellows lurking somewhere with sub machine guns. But today, we have almost forgotten that our lives were lived in such fears that daily living was a miracle.
Yes, Nigeria is not yet an Eldorado, sadly so, but while we are not where we ought to be, the truth is that we are not where we used to be. For those screaming economic downturn, I am wont to ask what economy? We have been a country with no economy aside being the dumping ground of finished goods from China and other countries. While the Asian Tigers are competing on how to be the best in terms of production, privileged elites in Nigeria are competing to outdo one another on consumerism.
Our shame as a nation reached abysmal levels when we became the butt of jokes of others as it relates to a product that we used to be its sixth largest producer. Petroleum was our major, if not the only product, yet we unashamedly sold it in its raw form, and then spent our hard-earned foreign exchange to import the same product in its refined form, thereby costing us not just several by products but millions of primary and secondary employment.
The current government, however, came with a three-pronged approach of security, anti-corruption and revamping the economy. In the last ten months even the blind can see that the North East that was almost totally lost to the rampaging Boko Haram murderers has regained relative peace and the monumental corruption that had hitherto hampered our growth as a nation is now being fought with renewed vigour. The erstwhile comatose EFCC has regained a new impetus to take on economy scavengers headlong (never mind the Awada Kerikeriposturing of former President Obasanjo).
There is no gainsaying that until security is fully in place, the economy will continue to suffer gridlock. But be that as it may, the federal government is doing its best under the circumstances it found itself. The Nigerian custom service is declaring revenue within months beyond what the revenue agency has ever declared in the past years.
Make no mistake about it, the Nigeria that President Buhari inherited was almost a broken entity characterised by dwindling revenue due to the plummeting international crude oil prices, mounting domestic and foreign debt, tumbling foreign reserves and a wicked gang up of supposed leaders who were doing nothing but stealing and looting the country with reckless abandon.
Recall that when this administration took over, 27 states owed between 5-12 month arrears of salaries of civil servants. Yet, I hear people wailing that the president Buhari has done nothing? Bombs were exploding all over the country like firecrackers, but today we have relative peace and people still think the president is sleeping? Military chiefs saddled with security of our lives and properties are today singing like canaries and confessing to how much they stole individually and collectively, and I still hear some trumpeting that Buhari has done nothing? Over N3 trillion which would have been stolen by "ghosts" have been saved due to strict adherence to TSA yet some say Buhari isn't doing anything?
Frankly speaking, we are not where we should be. But it was Cheryl James who posited that change is not an event, it's a process. If in ten months we have come this far, the least we can do as patriots is to support the government to do more.
We are not helping anybody by wishing the government to fail just so that we can say "I told you so." What patriots should do in times like this is to support the government with intelligent criticism and advice on getting it right, not moaning for the heck of it or wishing for the failure of government.
I have seen a lot of positives in the past ten months. I have also observed some things that can be done better. However, I will opt for where we are today rather than where we were about twelve months ago.
This brings to mind George Bernard Shaw's poignant counsel that "Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
Agreed that Nigeria deserves more than it is getting, but who can build without a foundation? President Buhari is uniquely placed to rebuild Nigeria from the shambolic country he met. But to make Nigeria work for Nigerians, the one they fondly call Mai Gaskiya needs the unalloyed support of the long suffering masses because as John Kenneth Galbraith posits, "People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage. Intellectual myopia, often called stupidity, is no doubt a reason."
Ayobami Oyalowo, a deputy director of media and publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation, writes from Abuja.