By Femi Aribisala
IT is all going to happen within four days. Four days to the great national revival and renewal. Four days to the rejuvenation and restoration of the Nigerian economy. Four days to the great “changi” we have all been waiting for. Four days to the arrival of the Nigerian messiah, Muhammadu Buhari. I am sure we all can hardly wait.
In four days time, there will be an end to the problems of Nigeria. Corruption will be killed. NEPA will be reborn. Youth unemployment will be a thing of the past. The international oil market will stabilise. The naira will find its level. Petrol will sell for 40 naira per litre.
The Boko Haram will lay down their arms. Fulani herdsmen will stop their killings. Our cotton mills will roar back to life. The groundnut pyramids will reappear. Our cocoa farmers will laugh all the way to the bank. Our hospitals will stop being consulting clinics. Our universities will once again become ivory towers of learning.
We will achieve all this “changi” because Muhammadu Buhari will make a transition from president-elect to president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. May 29th will no longer be known as Democracy Day. It will henceforth be Buhari Day. On Friday, we will finally bid goodbye to the PDP, and usher in the APC who will rule Nigeria for the next 60 years! I can hear vice-president-elect Osinbajo saying: “Let everybody shout hallelujah!”
However, the hallelujahs have been dying down lately. The “Amen and Amen” are getting few and far between. Believers are becoming uncertain. Cynics and skeptics are beginning to come out of the woodwork. The Buhari brigades are fast losing their mojo. Indeed, if the election were to be re-held today, many would not even bother to vote for their Daura favourite-son. Not much is heard anymore of “Sai Buhari; sai Baba!” The wedding is on Friday, but we are not even sure anymore whether the bridegroom will show up.
Buhari’s supporters are no longer as bullish as they used to be. They are no longer sure if there will be “changi” after all. Some now hasten to insist they did not vote for Buhari; they voted against Jonathan. They are now likely to point out that Buhari is not a magician. They would have us know that Rome was not built in a day. But nobody bothered about these truths during the election campaign. Then, Buhari was presented as the answer to every question. He was sold as the solution to every problem.
I am a Nigerian who lives in Nigeria. It is in my interest for Buhari to succeed. I am the potential beneficiary of every Buhari success. But I don’t see him succeeding because APC told too many lies in order to get him elected. They built up expectations to unrealistically high levels. They are not going to be able to tamp down those expectations now. They are simply going to be left to drown in them.
There is an expiration date for the current penchant to blame the PDP for everything. That date is May 29, 2015. The blame-game has served its purpose. It has secured APC the certificate of occupancy to Aso Rock. What Nigerians need to know now is what the APC has to offer. Alas, in that department, Buhari and his cohorts do not seem to have a clue. They are now just holding conferences at this late hour in order to put together a road map. By all indications, that road map leads to nowhere.
“Power must return to the North. Power must return to the North.” We have heard this chant for the better part of six years. Congratulations are now in order: power has returned to the North. Now what is the North going to do with this power? Will this power be used to revamp the Nigerian economy? Or is it merely fulfilling the imperatives of “Turn-by-turn Nigeria Limited?” Will the power now light up our home and industries? Will it be used to overwhelm the Boko Haram?
Not likely! Those who wanted power to return to the North are now calling for amnesty for the cold-blooded Boko Haram killers. Could it be that their insurgency has fulfilled its purpose? Those who insisted power must return to the North certainly did not make this demand in order to make Nigeria great. They made the demand because they are hungry. They want a Northern lion share of the national cake. Anti-corruption is anathema to their agenda. In the anti-corruption campaign, Buhari is on his own. He is a lone-ranger. He cannot even secure the unflinching support of members of his own APC party.
One of the myths of the last presidential election is that it was won and lost on the platform of anti-corruption. Nothing could be further from the truth. The APC and the PDP are yin and yang. Neither party is anti-corruption. As a people, Nigerians are definitely not anti-corruption. From the mechanic to the plumber to the dentist to the policeman to the Senator; Nigerians are corrupt. In Nigeria, we live and breathe corruption.
The new class of 2015 in the National Assembly is not anti-corruption. One of our Senators-elect is already wanted for drug-smuggling in the United States. These people cannot be expected to fight corruption. What is likely to happen is that they will fight Buhari’s pretensions to anti-corruption to a standstill.
In my youth, there was the story of Ali Monguno, a federal minister from the North-East, who was hated by his people. Their angst against him was that he was not corrupt. His people found it unacceptable that while other ministers were corrupt; their own representative was foolish enough to be upright. They wanted to be fully represented in the corruption at the national level. They wanted a representative thief for Borno in Lagos.
Buhari does not understand this propensity. As long as we continue within the current federal framework where the centre controls far more resources than all the states combined, the issue of corruption will remain with us. As long as Buhari sits in Abuja with 55% of national resources to which he and most Nigerians are abstracted, so long will there be corruption in Nigeria. As long as the whole point of government is the allocation of resources deemed to belong to nobody and to everybody, even so will the emphasis be on dividing the cake rather than on baking it.
If you steal the money of cocoa farmers, you will have to answer to cocoa farmers. But if you steal Nigeria’s oil wealth, you are the man. To deal with corruption structurally, you have to deal with Nigeria’s lopsided federal structure. But the issue of fiscal federalism does not feature at all in Buhari’s anti-corruption road map.
In any case, any attempt by the in-coming Buhari administration to address the allegations of corruption under Goodluck Jonathan is bound to be problematic. Out of 55 years of Nigeria’s existence, the South-South has only been in power for five years. You cannot prosecute corruption in the five years of South-South rule without being accused of ignoring corruption in the 50 years of North-West and South-West rule.
In many respects, South-South corruption while in government is justifiable in view of North-West and South-West corruption while in government. Since the oil is from the South-South, the geo-political zone is entitled to its own oil billionaires as those of the North and the South-West. Why should Theophilus Danjuma and Folorunso Alakija be oil billionaires when the sons and the daughters of the Niger Delta are not? These questions will continue to haunt any and every attempt at addressing past corruption in Nigeria.
Anti-corruption is good public relations, but it is no substitute for a viable programme for economic growth. In the final analysis, it is all sound and fury signifying nothing. Making a difference means ending the petrol shortage. It means increasing electricity generation and distribution. It means providing jobs for unemployed youths. It means providing social security for the teeming poor. In these practical decibels of government, the APC is at sea. It simply has no idea what to do.
Running against time
Buhari has just 100 days to make a difference. After that, all bets are off. With the same measure the APC used, it will be measured back to it. APC used social media masterfully to defeat PDP. They will now come to understand what it means to govern in the age of social media. They called Jonathan “clueless.” They must know that new names are in the offing for Buhari. Some are already going viral. But I leave it to others to conduct the naming-ceremony.
Complaints about how bad things are will just not cut it. Buhari cannot expect to get any sympathy from Nigerians. He showed no sympathy for the plight of Goodluck Jonathan. He deserves none in return. If the economy is in bad shape as a result of the drastic drop in oil prices, that fact was known before the election. Nevertheless, he asked for the job. No point in telling us now what is wrong with the job or how difficult it is. You were elected to overcome the difficulties.
In my youth, I used to sing a popular Yoruba song. It says: “Omo n’wase, o ri’se. Ise to wa lo ri.” It means: “the chap looking for a job, got a job. You got the job you were looking for.” Buhari wanted to be president. He ran for president four times. He is finally the president-elect. But one week to his inauguration, he runs away to London. He is already tired, even before the job begins.
Is he sick? Does he need regular medical attention? The General talks a lot about the need for transparency in government. However, he does not seem to understand that this must also apply to his personal life as a public official.
In order to achieve anything meaningful as president within the first 100 days, General Buhari is going to need all the good luck he can get. However, Goodluck will be leaving Aso Rock unfailingly on 29th May, 2015.