January 19, 2018

Democracy and change

Buhari advocates partnership to address challenges, as Jonathan declares Nigeria’s LGs dead

By Donu Kogbara

MOST folks who have been readers of this column in recent years will recall that I used to be one of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s most vociferous advocates.

I constantly cheered him on when he was the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s admirably modest Vice (2007-2010); and I continued to be fanatically supportive of him and his wife, Dame Patience, when this Bayelsa/Rivers couple from my massively neglected oil-producing zone quit being regional champions and were propelled onto the national stage as Head of State and First Lady.

Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari

I remember writing an article titled, “Don’t Diss The Dame!” in which I stoutly defended Madame against those who were insulting her because she didn’t sound like a member of the bourgeoisie. I remember being delirious with joy and pride when Jonathan visited the White House and met Barack Obama.

Emotional anguish

It seemed so fitting that the first-ever Black President of the United States should be shaking hands with the first-ever Niger Deltan President of Nigeria. However, not every story has a happy ending; and having lost faith in the Jonathans for various reasons by 2014, I switched my allegiance to Buhari.

I didn’t make this decision lightly. It caused me a lot of emotional anguish because my support for the Jonathans had been a sisterly, sentimental thing. But I concluded, after much soul-searching, that a responsible journalist and citizen should not make political judgements on the basis of sisterly sentiments.

Nigeria, I felt, was bigger than me and more important than my wishful thinking. I had yearned for Dr. Jonathan to be a heroic leader who would do great things for petroleum-scarred areas and the country as a whole; and when I discovered that heroism was not Jonathan’s default setting, I decided to invest my hopes in someone who had a reputation for super-strictness and possessed, I felt, the ability to rescue the Nigerian nation from corruption, indiscipline and terrorism.

Now we have experienced three years of a Buhari presidency. And those who angrily insist that his administration has achieved absolutely nothing are being unfair, if you ask me, because Buhari and his team have made some very positive moves.

There has been significant progress on the agriculture front, for example. Local rice production has soared, while prices are down 30 percent. The number of people facing food insecurity in the terrorised North East has dropped by 50 per cent, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. And the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative is quietly going from strength to strength.

Meanwhile, thanks to this government’s efforts, we’ve climbed up 24 rungs on the World Bank’s “Ease Of Doing Business” rankings ladder…and we have, I’m told, been acknowledged as one of the Top Ten reforming economies globally.

Other encouraging developments are occurring in various institutions and sectors – Customs, Education, Social Welfare, etc. The new Maritime University, which is based in Okerenkoko in Delta State, deserves a special mention and has now commenced operations and been granted a generous take-off grant.

It has to be said that flawlessness will never be possible within any context that involves mere mortals; that forbearance is crucial when reforms and complex projects – infrastructural and otherwise – are being rolled out; and that anyone who expects perfection or overnight miracles is being unrealistic.

Having said this, we who campaigned for Buhari and urged our compatriots to vote for him in 2015 need to be honest and admit that the overall picture is disappointing…and that Buhari is not the messiah some of us expected him to be.

And the beauty of democracy is that it enables us to achieve change without too much gra-gra; and, sure, Nigeria is not yet a properly advanced democracy; but the 2015 electoral tsunami that unseated an incumbent who had tremendous powers and financial resources proved that Nigerians can no longer be held to ransom by the guys who happen to be running the show at any point in time.

Tremendous powers

The bottom line is that if Buhari’s performance/aura are not impressing enough peeps when polling stations open in 2019, he can be dumped the way Jonathan was dumped. Buhari CAN be outwitted and voted out, even if he flexes his considerable Numero Uno muscles and spends billions and tries to play dirty.

And I really don’t understand the horrible messages I occasionally receive from weird Vanguard readers who bitterly resent me for “abandoning” Jonathan…and carry on as if I could and should have known how Buhari’s regime would pan out.

I am not a fortune teller, for crying out loud! I cannot accurately predict how anyone will behave tomorrow, never mind next week, next month or next year!

I can only decide that I don’t like a particular leader or status quo…and then look for another leader who seems sincere and is offering an alternative scenario that seems attractive…and then pray that the alternative leader/scenario I have chosen to embrace will turn out to be OK or brilliant.

But if my judgement turns out to be wrong, so what?! I can only weep or shrug…and restart my quest for an iconic individual I can confidently follow.

To cut a long story short, NOBODY sane or well-intentioned should feel morally obliged to tolerate a murky status quo that is riddled with disturbing weaknesses and chronic dysfunctions, simply because the status quo in question is being controlled by someone who happens to be from the same village or state or zone. And I will never endorse rigid, perpetual knee-jerk tribalism!