“You do not disorganize a society, however primitive it may be, with such an agenda if you are not determined from the very start to smash every obstacle encountered.”—Frantz Fanon.
When ex-president Goodluck Jonathan assumed office only to further ruin the lives of Nigerians, the democratic machine was set in motion, with the people rising from varying states of self-imposed hysteria to show him the way out. While the efficacy of the machine so deployed remains in the very infant state, one thing we cannot but acknowledge is the result it produced.
Seeing how the people rose in unison to demand that he be made acting president upon the vivid incapacitation of Umaru Yar’adua, Jonathan saw himself as invincible. Unthinkingly, he did not bother himself with questions that would have kept him on his toes, for the people who queued behind him in 2010 did not do so based on his brilliance or track records but due to their yearnings to have the laws of the land respected and the newness his ascension to the highest office represents.
Had he reflected on the motivations that caused him to be rooted for in 2011, he would have done all he could to remove Nigeria from the ditch all of his predecessors intentionally put her. Instead, he rolled in grand delusion, thinking he could buy the souls of the people with the same money he ought to have deployed to protect and better their lives. With such a misplaced thinking, he set out for re-election by dollarizing the entire country, north down south, east through west, four cardinal points complete. Riding into office with massive goodwill having made millions of hitherto uninterested persons to register to vote, Jonathan combined the worst of mediocrity with the crudest form of indiscipline to put the nation on reverse peddling.
By the time he was done with the country in five years, he had succeeded in consolidating the tyrannical legacies of Olusegun Obasanjo; the feeble and unauthoritative leadership of Umaru Yar’adua; and more damningly, the vivid incompetence and felonious provincialism he embodies. If he was not seen dancing on the graves of victims of mass killings in the north, his minister of petroleum would be caught carting billions away from the national exchequer, or his wife heard on TV throwing missives on the same people he canvassed for votes. In one fell swoop, Jonathan increased the pump price of fuel by over a 100%, forcing citizens who were already victims of elite profligacies to further bear the brunt of the wasteful government he presided over.
Seeing how easy it was for Mr Jonathan to sink the nation, the masses turned to General Muhammadu Buhari, a reality that has proved to be a consequence of shallow thinking by all whose frustrations at the cluelessness of the Ijaw man made them chorus ‘Anyone But Jonathan (ABJ)’ only to restrict their choice to a member of the old brigade whose long absence from power had made way for all sorts of charlatans to build mythical images around him—a consequence of the people not coming to terms with the grim fact that since independence, countrymen have been made to bear the agony of a nation that spirals exponentially down south; and the country, the misfortune of being run by elements who have been demystified as beholden to their tribes and tongues, individuals lacking in self-restraints as to confuse their private dealings with public good. With a leadership recruitment process throwing up elements who are either faces of their tribes or religion, a nation whose strategic geography and rich cultures undoubtedly place her atop her peers is seen struggling in every sphere of human endeavour.
From health through education to security, Nigeria grabs the headlines on issues less endowed nations take for granted. Like organised religion which has found a home in Africa as a result of the sordid fact that a completely hopeless people will cling onto any fantasy however absurd to stay alive, Nigerians believed the mythical Buhari, propagating the lies built around his persona to advance his ambitions of governing the country. Faced with the existential challenges exacerbated by the cluelessness and corrupt antics of Jonathan, the ‘Anyone But Jonathan’ anthem closed in on Buhari whose sigil was already adorned with the marks of decisiveness and accountability.
Seeing how desperate Nigerians were to get rid of the sodden hatman, economic leeches like Bola Tinubu and Bukola Saraki whose clash of interests with the Jonathan administration caused them to long for the centre joined the Buhari train, deploying the press, (Lagos-Ibadan especially) already in their payroll to further the propagation of the Buhari mythology. With that, the myth that was hitherto confined to the sterile minds of many core northerners was spread down south, causing an already disenchanted populace to latch on the voices of anticorruption and security echoed by the septuagenarian.
But in less than four years since he mounted the saddle, the chant of ‘Anyone But Buhari (ABB)’ has found its way on the lips of the people. While Jonathan rode into office with massive and widespread goodwill, the masses were not as trusting of him as they were of Buhari, no thanks to the myths built around the latter. An example suffices: when Jonathan raised the pump price of fuel in 2011, the nation tottered on the brink. Millions of Nigerians went on protest until the price was slashed. Fast-forward to 2016 when President Buhari pulled the same plug, the citizens tarried, dousing the tensions soaked up amongst themselves in the hope that the sufferings such an action would bring was temporary.
Alas, such a hope has proved to be a mirage, for President Buhari has shown an incapacitation at doing things differently. From the very first day he assumed office, he has found it difficult to exhibit an iota of quality that distinguishes a 21st century leader from a Palaeolithic relic. In both his mannerism and dealings, our president appears to be losing the battle to wrestle his soul from the lifelong inclinations of command and control, a complete antithesis to the approach the buoys representative democracy whose practice is solely responsible for letting him have another chance to rule the nation.
Like the ABJ anthem that unthinkingly restricted our choice to the APC (what some pundits called the ‘lesser evil’), the people are again deludingly restricting their justified repudiation of President Buhari to an embrace of the new ‘lesser evil’, the same Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who in 2015 was tagged the ‘great evil’, thinking that with a single pronouncement, the many failings of the Buhari administration will change the magnitude of evils the PDP and its poster boy embody. With an embrace of the hopelessly indiscipline PDP in just three years after it was stopped from completely destroying their lives, Nigerians appear to be entangled with the Sisyphus spell, foraying into a realm that got them into the pitiable conditions they helplessly long to exit.
The move from ABJ to ABB is testament to the feebleness and vulnerability of the democratic machine. It confirms that democracy can be as willing a tool in the hands of the corrupt few as any other form of government—rogue or otherwise. Atiku Abubakar resonates loudly amongst the populace because nationals appear incapable of forming opinions on matters of grave importance. Had this not been the case, Nigerians would have shuddered at the reality of staging a comeback for Atiku who as vice president for eight years was instrumental in the despoliation of the country and the carting away of its resources. Having made a living as a Customs officer, the citizens are not asking him how he succeeded in building a university and the few businesses he claims so pompously as consequences of his ingenuity and business acumen. Without inheriting a fortune or innovating a rarity, the PDP candidate has some explanations to make on how he became a billionaire as a worker in the civil service many retire in abject squalor.
Nigerians should not make the mistake of going into the 2019 elections as a people afflicted with short-term memory, for they are yet to escape the bitter consequences as carried out in 2015. Buhari has to be shown the way out having failed to forge a way for the nation in over three years but not at the price of returning a member of an administration who carved the country in his own damning image. A consensus has already been established on the Obasanjo presidency as an embodiment of failures and harbinger of retrogression. Removing Atiku from such agony is a testament to how troubled our judgment as Nigerians is.
Progressive thinking offers a fresh array of untainted alternatives from the present order of corruption and backwardness both Buhari and Atiku evince in complimentary ways. The question remains whether Nigerians will adopt the messages the genuine few amongst the new entrants (Omoyele Sowore and Tope Fasua especially) into politics preach or choose to dance to the malodorous symphonies of these expired men.
Either way, we shall all live to experience the consequences of our decisions.
Modiu can be reached on [email protected]