2017: BUHARI, CHANGE AND GOVERNANCE

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At the start of the New Year, amidst the characteristic Nigerian resilience and optimistic outlook that things will become better, there is still an air of uncertainty about what this New Year holds for us as a nation. All human beings tend to embody hope for the future, a feeling that something good will happen, that today will be better than yesterday, and that there will always be light at the end of the tunnel. It is this hope that sustains the human resolve to forge ahead in spite of a prevailing atmosphere of gloom and pessimism. However this hope is not founded on illusions or on empty promises. It is founded on clear thinking, visionary leadership, hard work, sacrifice and dedication. On these grounds, Nigerians are yet to see any clear positive commitment on the part of our country’s leadership.

If we take a hard look at the situation of things in the country, from politics and the economy to security, education, healthcare, social infrastructure, and the general organisation of our national life, the indices are very dismal and discouraging. After a year of hard knocks, an epidemic of mass hunger, starvation and rising levels of depression, caused by lacklustre political leadership that spawned a battered economy, Nigerians are yet to start looking forward to better times. A dislocated political economy continues to decimate the lives of millions of people unrestrainedly. With the magnitude of political, economic, and security challenges facing our nation, we might need a superhuman effort to help us.

As things presently stand, many Nigerians have lost faith in the present political leadership. Two years ago, many people had the conviction that Muhammadu Buhari’s coming to power would frontally address the structural and systemic loopholes of governance that have held this country down and made it a plaything in the hands of rogue politicians. Nearly two years on the saddle, we might just have to look for our political messiah elsewhere. Basking in the euphoria of one man’s personal integrity, we seem to have overrated Buhari’s possibilities. The Change promised by this government is long in coming. As Nigerians are told to be patient, many of them are dying in installment by the day because they are too poor, too sick, too helpless and too hopeless to stay alive. Amidst all the hoopla about a rice revolution, we are still being threatened with mass starvation.

President Buhari sought the will of the Nigerian people to be their president for three consecutive electoral cycles before eventually winning the presidential election on the fourth attempt, yet he keeps complaining about his predecessor’s administration. He grumbles about his age and about the timing of his presidency. Such complaints do not inspire confidence in the people about the quality of leadership. Buhari forgets so easily that if things were so good and glorious the Nigerian people would not have voted out an incumbent democratically elected president for the first time in the country’s political history.

President Buhari rode to power on account of his much-touted anti-corruption credentials. We still remember what the Buhari phenomenon was like. Today, all the euphoria and excitement about a Buhari presidency has crumbled. Almost two years into his government, it appears that Nigerians are not sure of the man they voted for. The whole edifice about one man’s cerebral disdain for corruption has fallen like a pack of cards. He is said to be not corrupt. But right under his nose monumental corruption continues with unhindered velocity.

In 1998, when he was tapped to deliver the keynote address at the Fourth Annual Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Lecture at Arewa House in Kaduna, retired General Muhammadu Buhari spoke on the topic, “Leadership and Accountability in a Period of Moral Crisis.” In his address, the visibly angry former Head of State lamented about how our country has become a paradise for maggots. His eyes were red with rage and grief as he spoke: “Nowhere else in the world can one find a society tolerating the theft of its precious resources in broad daylight with nothing happening to the thieves. A day in the office, as far as the general public is concerned, often means eight hours of converting public resources to private purses. Few societies seem to reward embezzlement with ‘honours’ as does our own.” With the kind of coldness and indifference that President Buhari manifests today with regard to serious allegations of monumental corruption in his own government, one really wonders whether he was the one who spoke those fiery words in 1998.

With President Buhari today, the art of governance has become abysmally uninspiring. Our president has an unusual fondness for drag and delay in matters of serious national importance. When Nigerians expect him to act swiftly on a matter, he prefers to remain silent. This tendency to respond to the most everyday issue after maximal delay is a disease that continues to afflict the Buhari administration. More than anything else, this gross insensitivity and indifference to the plights of the Nigerians people, is the worst part of the Change agenda, and it is this limp and lacklustre approach to governance that has compounded our problems.

Today, there is widespread mistrust, anger, and resentment across the polity. We see unrestrained violence, criminality and bloodshed brewing all over the place. This is a sure sign that Nigerians are frustrated and unhappy. We do not need any other symptoms to know that the architecture of governance has collapsed. This is what happens when a government lacks a listening ear and is practically unmoved by the plight of the masses. We cannot continue this way. Without clear thinking, political altruism and visionary leadership there can be no real, positive Change. If we try to build our skyscrapers on shifting sands, we have ample lessons from history that such an edifice cannot stand the test of time. The house will definitely fall. We beg President Buhari and his government: let 2017 be the year of real positive change for the Nigerian people.

Written by Emmanuel Ojeifo

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