By Tabia Princewill
There are two kinds of cynicism currently making the rounds in Nigeria. The first and arguably the most dangerous, comes from politicians (those under the PDP banner in particular) who believe that Nigerians are so gullible, so easily manipulated that they would vote back into power a party that was plagued by unresolved corruption scandals for most of its 16 years at the helm of affairs. I was disappointed, during a conversation with some young people, to hear that the standard is so low that some people don’t seem to mind that those who propose to lead them have little to no integrity and have been alleged to steal from them.
The PDP can afford to be cynical because it knows that a sizeable portion of the population still doesn’t quite understand how corruption impacts the economy. There is still no resolution to the allegation that during former President Jonathan’s tenure alone 55 individuals allegedly stole over N1.34 trillion. Imagine what $6.2 billion could have done for this country if properly applied. Would we have known recession? Would the naira have crashed the way it did if such huge sums had been invested in our economy rather than wasted? The PDP’s recently concluded national convention seemed so detached from reality, it appeared to have been advertising the successes of some other party, in some other country.
How dare the PDP gloat, when for 16 years it was incapable of giving Nigerians power, roads, affordable housing, decent education, running water or any of the social amenities taken for granted in countries as small as Ghana or Benin Republic. All of those suspected looters who initially fled to London or other parts of the world, or who kept a low profile out of fear of Buhari, are increasingly gaining their confidence back. Former Presidents who failed woefully and who seemingly presided over some of the worst looting this country has ever seen, still have the gall to comment, when the court cases and investigations surrounding their tenures are too many to number. This cynicism, this belief that Nigerians’ often bemoaned short-term memory will soon take over, shows they take us all for fools.
The second form of cynicism, which I believe is the most dangerous of all, is the hopelessness of the average Nigerian, encouraged by some segments of the media and their backers whom the status quo profits. Nigerians were able to vote out an unsatisfactory leader, yet, the promised change still seems far off: the temptation to give up on ourselves and our country is the psychological premise that permits our underdevelopment. Politicians take advantage of our apathy, we mustn’t allow it.
Interestingly, a form of naiveté seems to exist in the APC, in parallel with the PDP’s cynicism. Some of President Buhari’s aides believe that his “popularity” is enough to secure his re-election. They don’t seem to realise or understand that Nigerians today are different. The 2015 election did something radical for the voters’ psyche: he saw that it was possible for an incumbent to lose an election. It would be a grave mistake for anyone to take the Nigerian voter for granted, even when he or she is provided with an incentive. In today’s Nigeria, voters have been known to say they will take the money and vote as their conscience dictates.
Moreover, without a resolution to the scandals which have plagued some of his appointees, President Buhari will find it difficult to convince Nigerians about the sincerity of his fight against corruption: first impressions count. Neither does it help that high profile cases were either lost, dropped or remain pending. His lacklustre cabinet, many of whom haven’t shown the zeal to perform which Nigerians expected, is also a foremost issue. All of these facts have given the PDP the confidence to speak out in public again, even after so many of its top members have been indicted or named in one corruption case or the other. What a sad day for Nigeria when those who brought it to its knees are comfortable enough to act like all is forgotten.
One has to wonder just how much President Buhari’s illness affected his time in office. Otherwise, nothing makes sense. His cabinet failed him. We can only but guess why or under whose influence they were chosen, and then the question of how a man of Buhari’s stature could be influenced to that extent comes up again. We are living in a political climate where very little makes sense. The impression that nothing is working, that everything is at a standstill has been allowed to fester, the momentum and the good will from 2015 is gone.
Buhari allowed himself to be used by people who it seems just needed another political job or appointment. They didn’t mean well for him or this country, they only saw him as the next phase of their career. Amaechi recently told the government to stop blaming Jonathan, Okorocha has rated the APC performance as low;so many have acted as if they weren’t a part of the APC and didn’t have a means of making a difference if they so wished.
The PDP claims it is expecting more “returnees”, more former PDP governors etc., Buhari banked on the fickle nature of politicians rather than investing in his relationship with Nigerians, which he could have done with the right team communicating his achievements and the right people leading his key ministries. How terrible for him and for Nigeria.
Atiku recently said the APC is the “enemy of Nigeria”, and called on all governors who left PDP to return so they can “rebuild Nigeria”. But wasn’t that why they all claimed they left PDP in the first place, to “rebuild” the country? Most of our politicians have proven that their actions are not in our interest: their self-serving nature is second to none.
Nigerians are hopefully wiser now, more discerning. We expected miracles from APC, we hoped for wonders to be accomplished in four short years: we wanted to reap where we did not sow. We gave in to euphoria rather than focus on the certainties of planning. We’ve always given up at the wrong times, supported or made excuses for the wrong people, defended evil because it affected someone else. Now we’re paying for it: our finances are strained, we’re struggling to fund our budgets.
What did we choose to do as a nation when the price of oil was so high? Where is all that money now? I perfectly understand the impatience of the many who are poor or disenfranchised and to whom the origin of our current situation is mere semantics. But that is precisely the issue: the masses have been encouraged to treat discussions of our problems as “big grammar”, something above their heads. We have little or no social activists capable of explaining why the fight against corruption is so important to our national life. When the poor were getting poorer because social services were collapsing and huge sums were leaving our economy, the middle classes looked away.
We only began to care when we too were affected and the rich began to hoard their benefits and the poor were so ignorant of their rights that our leaders got away with murder. Nigerians are rightfully angry but let’s not succumb, yet again, to cynicism and manipulation.
The Federal Government raised the alarm over Nigeria’s population growth which begs the question. What do we have to offer all these people? It isn’t enough to tell young people that they are the key to a corruption-free Nigeria: What sort of future is on offer? Without answers, people will keep migrating or committing all sorts of crimes.
It’s tragic that the World Bank and the Swiss government believe that without supervising Nigeria’s use of the funds, they will be looted again. How did we allow ourselves, over the years, to be taken over by mediocre leadership? How were we bribed into silence?