By Chidi Maduagwu
I am as curious as very many Nigerians in this generation who are trapped by the unusual developments in the country today. But one important point must be made before I begin to penetrate the political, economic and cultural issues that seem to be holding the people bondage. This point is that for the first time, the entire people have a taste of freedom. They may not have received the proper dose, though, or not everyone realizes there is freedom already, but I have no doubt that majority of the people are enjoying freedom.
Sometime, within the life time of the present administration, the Freedom of Information Bill was signed into law by the President. I remember being called upon by the media to comment on it and I could not hide my excitement. To me, it is awesome to be free. I have little doubt also that freedom could be intoxicating, especially, with an overdose of it. However, what I do not know is if there are some, who have also taken an overdose. So it seems, but I am not one of them
Now, I must say that I have every plan to enjoy this freedom. My focus today is on what I refer to as the things which hold Nigerians bondage and I begin with the Political Issues which eventually will intersperse all other aspects of life. I recall the jingle that greeted all Nigerians in the 1993 campaigns of Chief Abiola and Alhaji Tofa: the Social Democratic Party of Chief Abiola captured the moment when in that jingle; the party claimed that “Nigeria is on the march again … searching for Mr. President.”
We knew then that the statement would occur and recur again and again. It is booming now like a canon. I equally recall the famous slogan in 1983 was CHANGE ’83. Virtually all political parties, apart from the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) took up that slogan. Here we are again, romancing with CHANGE. This is actually what has held the country captive. It is made worse, this period, because there is a parallel word, TRANSFORMATION. The later word was in existence before the former in the present socio-political lexicon of the country. Today, it appears more like Nigerians are faced with two options: TRANSFORMATION and CHANGE. Let me attempt a crystallization of the two terms.
First, Transformation in politics and governance connotes “marked” change, especially a positive change and if related strictly to politics, it is backed up by ideology. It is some form of metamorphoses. On the other hand, CHANGE appears to be almost the same with Transformation, only that it is more of a way of becoming different. It is more or less, replacement. It is quite prosaic because it does not seem to possess the ideological adornment of Transformation.
However, it is populist and more attractive to those who are not very intellectually endowed, but who, nevertheless, understand their world. Since we have these two options before us and we must make a decision as quickly as possible, we need to think fast, deep and straight. May God grant us SAFETY and SPEED!
As someone, in love with this country, who has also meditated on these issues I want to make some statements. I prefer transformation to change, neither because of the personalities nor the political parties behind them, but because of my personal and ideological relationship with them. Transformation is positive, visible and relates to positions and directions. It alters in a systematic way. It is noticeable and functional. Change is obtuse and does not address any serious issue.
It is pedestrian and as such can hardly yield to accountability, even though it holds a great appeal to the masses. Let me give practical examples of the two in this society that I have been privileged to be a part of for many years. Recently, the Federal government announced a reduction in the pump price of premium motor spirit (pms) popularly known as petrol. It came with joy, but mixed feelings. From our experiences of CHANGE in this country, that decision or action would come with difficulties because of its implementation. Retailers of the product would hoard it and thus making hoodlums make brisk deals out of what was meant to be a palliative measure for the people.
But believe it or not, there were hardly any such cases. Price reduction and time of its implementation were announced and all people involved complied. This is transformation. On the other hand, in 1984, there was a change from what the Shagari administration stood for to a new way of doing things. Everything that characterized President Shehu Shagari’s government was crushed and a supposed improved system was going to be inaugurated. Common household goods and edibles, which were available before the CHANGE that took away the people’s freedom, disappeared from the market and these goods became essential commodities. People were made to line up to purchase rationed goods and were brainwashed into believing that it was in their own interest.
A cosmetic slogan, “the queue culture” came into being. One would ask why queue in the first place, when there is a possibility of getting supply to meet demand. The seamless transformation in Jonathan’s reduction of fuel price and the excruciating experiences of the essential commodities of 1985 are evidence of the difference between the change propagators and the transformation exponents.
Change always struggles, imposes itself on the claim of superiority. Whenever there is a cry for change, and it becomes premised on the “better option syndrome,” then the change is sincere. However, if the clamour rests on a wrong premise, then people must be careful to avoid a monumental deceit. Positive change is a product of love. Like love, it is neither selfish, nor arrogant. That presupposes that it is both selfless and humble. It is sincere and devoid of evil; it is neither vengeful nor parochial. This brand of human development attracts all and creates systems capable of accommodating all.
Because of its enormous strengths, it affects all things while it remains constant… Change changes everything but nothing changes change. Change, thus is rightly the only constant thing in life, as they would say.
But all these are characteristic features of “CHANGE” which I have identified to belong to “the better option syndrome.” This is what the country needs. It is in this arena that the two sides of the same coin have been placed before Nigeria to choose. Transformation is change, defined and sharpened; we need a definition of the broad-based change that is echoed by the opposition. Let us keep talking; let the politician also talk more, perhaps, in an organized debate. Now is the time for definition.