The second year anniversary of the Buhari administration came and passed. Instead of assessing where the government was headed, we were worried about the health of the head of the government.
Now that the head of the government is back - in supposedly good health - it is time to continue the mission to rescue the government.
But time is running out on that project and the wider Nigerian project. Yet, there is still time. Eighteen months is eternity in the land of politics. The whole Buhari reputation as an effective military head of state all rested on his 18-month stint in that office from December 1983 to August 1985.
While Buhari was away, the problems of the government were heightened. Watching Nigerian events from London, Buhari must have felt that the country he was supposed to lead had become a runaway train. This feeling in him showed in the speech he made to Nigerians when he returned.
The truth is that the ground was already shifting while Buhari was home. A vast majority of Nigerians arrived at the conclusion that the status quo could not be sustained. They wanted something different. Some were screaming it on top of their voices. These Nigerians have also made it clear that this thing that they wanted could not be delivered through the same old pipelines that had been clogged by debris and dirt.
The paradigm shift is unmistakable. Any leader in the Nigerian political arena can pretend not to understand, but he or she cannot swear that he does not feel the throbbing pulse of the nation.
We all know that there is an unemployment problem in Nigeria. The government is tackling it with programs like the N-Power entrepreneur scheme. There is abject poverty in Nigeria. The government is tackling it with the Conditional Cash Transfer Program. There is the problem of power supply in Nigeria. The government is dealing with that by repositioning the power sector using Fashola’s master plan - whatever that is. There is a problem with Fulani herdsmen. The government is confronting it by moving security assets to the affected areas (and by issuing statements expressing sadness after every attack). There is a problem with bad roads. The government is tackling it by rehabilitating existing roads and building new ones. There is lack of good healthcare delivery system in Nigeria. There is the problem of the crumbling education system. Whatever the problem may be, the government has a plan. The measures the government is putting in place to tackle any of these problems may not be sufficient for now. It may not be widespread either. But there is a semblance of efforts to tackle these problems.
For the purpose of this analysis, let us say that in 18 months, the government is able to solve all these problems to the satisfaction of Nigerians. It still will not eliminate the need to rescue Buhari’s government. Of course, we know that there is no way the government can solve these problems in 18 months. The way the government has been going, there is no hope of solving them or even making significant gains in another four-year term. The reason for that is simple – something else is exacerbating the problems. In fact, more than exacerbating, it has remotely hijacked Nigeria’s motherboard, scrambling commands and rerouting signals. The thing that has hijacked Nigeria’s command and control system is this overwhelming feeling of injustice and inequity in Nigeria.
A vast majority of Nigerians have concluded that Nigeria failed as a result of years of systematic and debilitating injustices that have accelerated to a breaking point. They are at a point where the sweet smelling promises of a better tomorrow are blocked by the stench of these injustices all around them. In our own eyes, they have grown to become sustained and uncontrolled. Sustained and uncontrolled injustices over time does to a nation what multiple sclerosis does to the human body – damages the nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cords.
There is no doubt that the brain and the spinal cord of Nigeria have been damaged. This damage has disrupted Nigeria’s communication lines causing problems as wide ranging as blindness, screwed up sensation, muscle frailty and trouble coordinating. Nigerians are hyper-sensitized, brittle at the base, hard to be carried along and disinvested in any collective mission. The result of which is that the Nigerian project, the Nigerian identity, the Nigerian dream, the Nigerian vision have never been as eroded as they are today.
More and more people are recognizing this ailment by its symptoms. The other day, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar, acknowledged that there was the need for “adjustments here and there for equal accommodation of all and sundry in Nigeria for equity and fair play religiously, socially and economically.” A while ago, Ibrahim Babangida also conceded that it was time to restructure Nigeria.
President Buhari seems to be deeply fastened to a chair at the bottom of Nigeria’s submarine that is taking in water. He doesn’t seem to notice the holes. His feet are so far from the ground for him to feel the rising pool of water on the floor of the submarine. And he is so far away from the water surface to see the steam gushing off the boiling water.
British doctors working in a British hospital rescued Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari. It will take dispassionate Nigerians working in Nigeria to rescue Buhari’s government. And they can do it by simply telling the president the truth. And the truth is that all is not well with Nigeria. And the things that are wrong are not the kind of ailments Buhari should outsource to the quack doctors practicing at Nigeria’s National Assembly.
Last week, the political class in Yoruba land gathered in Ibadan to discuss the political fate of the Yoruba people in a fast floundering Nigeria. At the end of the meeting, the group issued a position paper on the kind of relationship they, the Yoruba, want from Nigeria. They did not wait for Buhari to approve such gathering. Every nationality and every social-political group unsatisfied with the structure of Nigeria should have such a gathering and produce their position paper for the world to see.
At this point in the game, Buhari should forget about giving Nigerians constant electricity, portable water, good roads, manageable employment level, security, decent education, functional healthcare system and a less corrupt society. He should just give Nigerians one thing – a just and equitable nation. He can do this by creating the space for the strengthening of the foundation of the Nigerian project for generations to come. The blueprints are out there. His job is to muster the political will to gather them and work with different interest groups to fashion out mutually acceptable terms. If he does that, other good things will come. If he doesn’t, nothing else that he does will outlive him.
Nigeria will be reformed and restructured whether Buhari likes it or not. The longer he delays it, the harder it becomes. Those who know the president should get him to read what happened to the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev. Tired of waiting for the president and political class, Nigerians have launched their own glasnost ("openness") and perestroika ("restructuring"). The only option left for Buhari is to decide for himself whether he would be Nigeria’s own Mikhail Gorbachev.
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo is the author of This American Life Sef!