AS a development professional with some international exposure, the anomic social order in Nigeria is heart-rending. The social situations in the country occasioned by endemic corruption, bad governance and lack of responsiveness to civic duties among the general population has for long reached a critical level.
Besides my concerns for the state of worsening deprivations of the common people, the utter decay in social values is more worrisome as the entrenchment of materialism and moral decadence has reach an epic dimension, with common criminals enjoying social accolades. The traditional institutions of society are so decimated, and the holy places such as the church are not even spared as some of those who are supposed to be the custodian of morality and social ethics are all engrossed in the macabre dance of indiscipline.
Given the ethical travesty that has become a threat to the Nigerian social fabric, like many other well-meaning Nigerians, I have longed for a change both in governance and the general way of life among the populace. Thus, when the duo of Buhari and Osinbajo were chosen as candidates of the main opposition party in the last presidential election, I was really glad, and most of us abroad campaigned for them in our own unique ways. My strong support for Buhari and Osinbajo was based on their personality and antecedents. To me, Buhari represents the opposite of most of our past leaders in terms of indiscipline and corruption as he had earlier demonstrated during his short term as Nigerian military head of state. For Osinbajo, my belief is that with his character as a clergyman, he would provide a good support in steering the nation out of moral deficit and towards good governance. The uniqueness in characteristics of these two reputable Nigerians raised the hope in me that the time for change has come.
Although my belief in Buhari and his deputy is still intact, there are certain developments that are being witnessed at the moment, which are raising some concerns regarding the focus and priority in achieving our expectations from the Buhari administration. One of the main issues at the moment is the detention of Nnamdi Kanu. There is a proverbial adage that says “you don’t carry an elephant on your head and at the same time seek for an ant on the ground.” Our expectations and existing need for change at the moment, makes the focus on Nnamdi Kanu a distraction. What I have read from the press is that this man operates a Radio station in the UK, which campaigns for the Biafra. Before now, most of us who live in Europe do not know this Kanu nor have heard about his Radio station, likewise other Nigerians at home. Freedom of speech is one of the unique attributes of democracy. Emphasis on freedom of speech is based on its usefulness for achieving good governance and keeping the government of the day on track. Though moderation and constructive opinion is necessary. I am not a supporter of Nnamdi Kanu as I believe in the oneness of Nigeria. However, the manner in which this young man is being handled is raising questions over the priority of the government on the real issues. The question is: does the suffering of this young man, who is continuously detained and paraded with handcuffs really worth it? There are situations in the Nigerian political sphere and social development that is fuelling the present agitations, which needs to be looked into, if promoting fairness and maintaining the oneness of the Nigerian agenda is in the heart of the present regime. The treatment that is being meted to Kanu and also the killing of those unarmed people, who were protesting for Kanu’s release, indicates the fate of the powerless, which may also make the narrative of ethnic antagonism and humiliation attractive.
Kanu’s situation presents an analogy of using a sledge hammer to kill a fly. The irony of the matter for most people who are watching as events unfold is that the weight of punishment being given to Kanu, who is dragged around in handcuffs, is what we expect to see of many of those celebrated criminals in previous administrations, who have created and nurtured the social woes that Nigerians are facing at the moment. Rather, those enemies of the Nigerian progress are enjoying freedom, which is raising questions whether the government is losing focus. Nnamdi Kanu did not take arms against Nigeria, neither did he kill anybody, and his activities were even done abroad. Meanwhile, even with the weight of evidence against politicians, who plundered the treasury and caused the death of many Nigerians, only but a few are being tried. Even those who are being brought to book are not facing the kind of situation that Kanu is going through. They are even granted bail while Kanu remains in detention. This is the situation of the powerless. Many of those politicians and their accomplices, who diverted public funds and aggravated the suffering of the common people are the ones who should by now be languishing in jail and paraded for Nigerians to see their real enemies. Many of those eminent criminals are walking freely and enjoying their loots. Some of them and their accomplices even have the guts to challenge the government and frame the criticism of being persecuted by the government. These persecutors of the common people, who should be languishing in detention, are now the ones turning the table against Nigerians. Ironically, while those untouchables are enjoying the luxuries gained by short-changing Nigerians, Kanu and other unarmed protesters are the ones facing the full weight of state power. This is a loss of focus and the dilemma of the powerless.
I still believe in Buhari’s government, and for this reason, let me remind him that the world, and indeed most Nigerians in diaspora who trust in the Buhari personality and character, are expecting something better.
There is a concern among the international community at the moment, especially regarding the detention of Kanu, and for Buhari’s capacity to fight corruption. There is need for the president to take advantage of the international support at the moment to get things right before the table turns against him.
If the government loses the present support by failing to do the right things, the continuity of the APC as the ruling party will be jeopardised, which may also reverse situations to a status quo.
The continuity of APC as a ruling party rests upon what is achieved by the present administration. Let the APC government be reminded that the main trust of the Nigerians on the party lies in the yawning to eradicating corruption. Therefore, no matter the criticisms of selective treatment being peddled by the cronies of the past regime, and those who misappropriated public funds, the global community expects the Buhari led government to be focused and to leave a legacy in dealing with corruption. A clear conscience they say, fears no accusation. Given the severity of the threat posed by the phenomenon of corruption to national progress and sustainability, those who have no skeleton in their cupboard, and those who have the interest of Nigeria at heart would not raise any objection in the efforts to eradicate this epidemic. Nigeria is more than any individual, and those that have colluded in one way or the other to short-change the common people should be brought to book, no matter who they are. This is what the Buhari’s government should be pursuing in order to maintain credibility and to retain the trust of the people.
At the onset of Kanu’s detention, I read in one of the dailies, the discourse that was put forward by Dele Momodu. What makes Dele Momodu’s article very interesting and useful is the manner in which he navigated from defining the means and also the ends on the issues that Kanu represent. In so doing, he tried to identify appropriate ways of engaging with the issues at hand, as well as raising our consciousness to the implications of faltering in this regard. The government should have tapped from the analysis and advice that Dele Momodu has offered free of charge through that article. One of the major concerns of the Buhari’s government should be to address the kind of issues that people like Kanu has raised but not to suffer and detain him. If there is one important thing that Buhari should do, it is to make the common people his primary constituency. The present government need to be friendly with the common people by devoting more time to looking for strategies that would salvage their situation. This is necessary because they have for so long endured suffering in the hands of leadership mismatch and manipulators, who should not have any business in places of authority.
To a biased mind, Kanu may have gone too far, but objectively thinking, the salient issues that are raised in the Kanu saga should be given a serious attention, and not to be treated in a manner that would aggravate the ordeals of victims of deprivation and exclusion. Kanu is not the problem of Nigeria, Kanu is only a child of circumstances, and we expect the Buhari’s government to address those circumstances that is projecting people like Kanu and his adherents. For those of us who are ardent supporters of Buhari, the continuous detention of Kanu is an embarrassment because those are not the strategies and battles we expect at the moment. The government cannot win this kind of war, rather it may lose confident of its supporter – the common people.
Mr. Austin Eweroke, Social and Institutional Professional Research Scholar, University of Bath, wrote from UK.