By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
2015. What a year in our lives! I have thought long and hard about this year, trying to come to terms with its many colours and shades; the ups and downs that made it such an incredible year in the life of our dear country. I honestly think the stand out moment, one which has defined the Nigerian spirit profoundly, was that encounter between PDP chieftain Peter Godsday Orubebe and the former INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega.
The tension was palpable and could very well be cut with a knife! The former minister was acting out what was clearly a premeditated plan to scuttle the process that was already underway and was to be the culmination of the most closely fought elections in Nigeria’s recent history. As he ranted and postured, it was clear to all who watched television that morning, that this was a defining moment for Nigeria. The wrong move was going to upturn the applecart, as our country was taken to the edge of the precipice. Nigeria’s fate hung on the riposte that Attahiru Jega was to deliver to the impetuous Orubebe. Cool as could be, and with all his experience, education, upbringing and character rolled up into a historical moment, Jega delivered what the French call a coup-de-poing!
In putting Godsday Orubebe firmly in his place, with eggs to his face, Nigeria was yanked away from the brinks. The courageous act of one man, at a defining historical moment, reflected the very best of the Nigerian spirit, showing the latent possibilities that have not often been harnessed enough for the common good.
2015 took us to the depth of despair at so many levels of our national life, and the revelations of the past couple of weeks that the media have dubbed as “DASUKIGATE”, must be up there in the hall of infamy. In the decades of studying and commenting on the ways of the Nigerian ruling class, I have sometimes wondered if there are crimes that can truly shock me, issuing forth from the repertoire of our rulers. But the incredible manner that funds meant to arm the military were just shared must be extremely frightening indeed.
Freebie and sharing spree: Here was a state system that had its back to the wall, with a ragtag insurgency, flipping the underbelly up for the scrutiny of the whole world. It seemed the most natural expectation that its operatives will double up, in the effort to arm the military to put up a decent fight against the Boko Haram insurgency in order to restore state pride. What they did was treat the monies as freebie and then go on a sharing spree (some have described the process as “obtainment”). Some of the reasons given included efforts to pray for the incumbent president’s re-election. Meanwhile, hundreds of Nigerian soldiers were sent to war, without adequate provision of arms. Many of these gallant soldiers were killed while those who chose to speak out about the true nature of the operations were rounded up, court-marshaled and sentenced to death in many cases. For those who were sharing the funds, nothing about the plight of our fighting men and women, bothered them. They also couldn’t even ‘give a damn’, in a manner of speaking, about the fate of the Nigerian people in the ravaged communities.
If that was a very low point in 2015, it should also not escape our reckoning, that the emergence of the Buhari presidency has also been the trigger that allowed the country to discover exactly what transpired. That the various allegations surfaced at all, owed so much to the fact that the Nigerian people dared to vote for change! The hind place of the Nigerian fowl of iniquity was exposed in its naked nastiness for the country to see just how rotten things went, in just one area of national life. When that is extrapolated into other sectors of our national life, we won’t need a soothsayer to know just how viciously Nigeria has been maltreated over the years. This has been an unlucky country in so many ways, but nothing can be more disconcerting than being saddled with a ruling class without a sense of history and purpose, about their responsibility to their country. When rulers turn stealing of the nation’s resources into the main reason for being in power, they cheapen completely, the whole notion of being a national elite of power. This is because power ordinarily should be deployed for the common good.
Nigeria’s misfortune is to be saddled with a ruling class with the mentality of gangsters! The brazen manner in which monies are stolen, defy a rational parameter of apprehension in many cases. And the fact that this trend takes place at all levels of the nation underlies the depth of the rot that we are talking about. Nigeria is in trouble and the roots of the trouble are deeply planted in the subsoil of its politics as well as the economic choices foisted on the country, by its rulers.
Power and capacity
It is in that sense, and against the backdrop of the incredible levels of corruption in the Nigerian system, that I have always pitied Muhammadu Buhari. He has taken on a battle that will test his staying power and capacity to stay focused on the objective. Buhari is also surrounded by many politically-exposed-individuals; these include heads of important arms of the governance structure of the country, who are today the poster boys of corruption. They have accumulated huge sums of money and are used to buying off people and institutions to ward off their day of reckoning. And for as long as these individuals remain in circulation, then Buhari himself is endangered. They will pay whatever sums necessary, to render the fight against corruption ineffective, because they know that in the long run, they will be called to account. They also realise that Buhari is running a race against time; he has only four years and a maximum of eight at hand, to carry out his battle against an entrenched structure of corruption which literally now runs on autopilot within the Nigerian state system.2015 has taught a lesson that the struggle against corruption is very much the struggle for the survival of Nigeria. Yet so strong and entrenched are the forces of corruption that no one can even predict which of the two will carry the day: corruption or the forces determined to crush it! There are very few members of the nation’s ruling class with the genuine enthusiasm of Muhammadu Buhari to fight corruption and his success or failure in the anti-corruption drive will be one of the main issues that will determine his place in contemporary Nigerian history.
I think the change of government, through the electoral process has to be recognised as a major victory for our country in 2015. In voting the PDP out of power, people power found its expression in Nigeria and it reinforced the capacity of the Nigerian people to make an informed choice to endorse or reject an administration in power. The genie has escaped the bottle and nobody can return the Nigerian people to the old position, moving forwards. Our people now know that their votes count, and can be an effective way to check the irresponsibility of our rulers. It is this power of the people that is central to the processes of democratic order of life. Power belongs to the people in a democracy, but if and when power is abused, then the people can issue a regime or individual a swift rejection. Before 2015, it seemed impossible that an incumbent administration and political party can lose power. But after 2015, no one in his right senses would bet against the Nigerian people exercising that power in future, to dump any other party of power. Politics, power or economics must work together in the people’s interest not as avenues of enrichment of members of the ruling elite. Where this isn’t the norm, we all know that something has gone wrong. Nigeria has been more unlucky than most countries, but the awareness which translated into the change of government in 2015, must never be taken for granted by the nation’s rulers. It can be harnessed again and again, as is done in every democratic nation.
Fortunes of the world
2015 has also hit our economy hard. A mono economy that depends on the fortunes of the world oil market is always a step away from crisis. When the world oil market went into meltdown, Nigerians knew we were in soup. The past few months have seen the virtual collapse of the nation’s economy and there is hardly any family that is not going through a crunch. It has become very, very difficult for people to afford basic decencies of life, because money is not available to meet the basics for most families in our country today. The battle for economic survival and economic development must be central to the programmes of the government of Muhammadu Buhari. It was Lenin that described politics as a concentrated expression of economics. How the economy will be made to function for the people, must be properly articulated as fast as possible. The scenario in the land can easily build up into despair and loss of hope in the government. That must not be allowed to happen. The Nigerian people voted for change in 2015. It was their way to defeat hopelessness and despair. They were hopeful that things could and would change for the better. What needs to be done is to reinforce the tendencies that will give hope to the mass of our people. That is a duty that should define the New Year, 2016, in our country! I will like to wish the reader a most fulfilling New Year, 2016.