By Bisi Lawrence
It is one year ago and there is no denying that the tide of enthusiasm upon which we rode at the beginning has found a significant ebb. The hopes dictated the theme which flared out as the desire for a change in our daily lives as citizens of this nation. The areas of insufficiency had risen to a choking level with little expectation of relief; the vicious grip of evil tended to suffocate us. Policies which seemed aimed at improving our lot were casually up-ended to discharge a filthy stream of discomfort.
We were made to pay for electricity supply that only confirmed our darkness by its absence. Our major roads had become sure routes out of this world; our children’s education led to joblessness; our jobs led to indebtedness; our future as a nation drifted in a haze of uncertainty; our security leaked at every point. So, the people turned away and embraced words of hope for a better deal. We were given the promise of the better life we sought for and deserved.
It is a life in which we could enjoy our God-given blessings of peace and plenty which swirled around us, but seemed to have been corralled by a few people for their own selfish use. They travelled by private jet and looked down at the suffering of the masses from a height that was blurred by the distance of their affluence.
These were the people from whom we turned away actually, because they constituted the clique that held us in bondage through their possession of political power and decision-making, by which they ruled our lives and controlled our fortunes. We were sure that if they were removed and replaced by a different force, our fortune would be improved. In fact, we had people who assured us that we were on a sound track, since they were ready, willing and able to go to bat for us. And we believed them. That was where we were, just a year ago.
From then, we began to look for the change from the former agonies through a relief of good government. The new team, however, was not entirely a new breed. Unfortunately, several of the old hands had been able to migrate into the camp of the new kind. The machinery of government soon showed distortions from the influence of ambitions which have remained inflexible, manifesting disturbing strains of the former misdirection we thought we had finally and forever rejected. Very well has it been said that old habits die hard, and the leopard does not change its spots. That has damaged the effect of the change we craved so much. The enemy is still very much around.
Those who would be our heroes, regrettably, seem rather unprepared, to say the least for the extent of the destruction they were to encounter. But who could have really been prepared for the scale of decadence, the magnitude of corruption, which has become revealed in the past year? Millions of dollars routinely disbursed from the national coffers for bribery by a cabinet minister; government officials walking away with millions of naira over and above their salaries; funds provided for military equipment being purloined in the face of the enemy—these are some of the shameful acts committed by these shameless criminals who, indeed, deserve to be shot.
That is enough to overwhelm any group of decent human beings who form the bulk of the reformers we were hoping would reshape our way of living. But they have further challenges. The former gang leaders are fighting back. They never really gave up, even when they told the whole world that they had conceded defeat at the polls. We were naïve enough to believe the bland falsity. Their supporters and henchmen are still very alive. Their assignment is to creep back into power by ensuring the failure of those who replaced them.
It is simple to understand that the stupendous outlay out of which so much sums of money, have been unearthed would still be vibrant in its pursuit over some areas of influence. We can only conjecture in the case of the judiciary, of course, and this page is not for rumour. But we can read what has, and is being written in other pages, here and there, with the undeniable intention of acrimony. Some emanate from quarters that demand respectability in the profession of journalism; others are from sources that describe them as hack writers at once. But their deceits, distortions and sometimes derisory drivel still have the effect of confusing and misleading hapless members of the public.
And these form a sizeable portion of the populace who are, no doubt, involved in giving judgment over the performance of government in the past one year. Their song is tuned to a refrain of disappointment. They mostly are in one voice, that “this was not the change we asked for.” And of course, it is not. Higher tariff for electricity supply unseen; poorer roads; and now steeper price for petrol which is sure to create an increase in all commodities, and then a wide-open sky in foreign exchange through which the naira is free to fall: it seems the tradition of staggering policies which leave us bewildered will hopefully end one day. It is for our good, they say. Let us leave it at that, for the nonce.
Only remember that the Buhari government did not take part in the smash of our oil boom; it has just stepped in now to find a way of putting it back together. This government did not originate the descent of the naira; it is only finding ways and means of holding it in control. Look around and you will still observe the squalor in which the former government left this country, and try to appreciate the enormous challenges that the Buhari government has had to face in every sector, and how it has been putting this country first in every undertaking.
Then let us face the future bravely. With patience and the contribution of our responsible civic duty towards the nation, we will definitely have a more tuneful song on our lips, only one year from now.