This piece was first published in this column on January 4, 2015.
As Nigeria is marching towards the 2019 General Elections, I think we should reflect on how we all got “tensed up” in the run-up to the 2015 General Elections. Has there been any change, as promised? Has Nigeria started the process of change? Will change still be the focus of the upcoming general elections?
I think I can guess. When the campaigns finally take off we will be celebrating “the change”. In the next few weeks, I shall be “celebrating” the changes, the processes of change and the “business as usual” change.
January 4, 2015:
The most common word among Nigerians now is “Change”. In every corner of villages, towns, cities in Nigeria, change has become the currency and a word to start conversations, even among strangers. Never in the country’s history has a word united the citizens as we are witnessing now.
Nigerians in the diaspora do not like to be left out as they always see themselves as patriotic as those who reside in the country. They always want to identify with whatever is going on and as a result, have joined the change bandwagon. They are “demanding” change, unfortunately (though) mostly on the social media platforms.
The ultra-patriotic are packing their bags and “jetting” to Nigeria to be part of the “revolution”. These argue that you cannot effect change from thousands of miles away. To be agents of change, they have to strategically position themselves on the ground in Nigeria. This is better than just mouthing the change on the social media. They reckon that change needs more than the “revolutionary posts” some of their compatriots are churning out on Facebook, Twitter etc.
These Nigerians, who have put their faiths in their “legs” and decided to relocate, must be praised. The patriotic instinct in them has been ignited and they believe they can be part of the change process. However, I hasten to say that some Nigerians in the diaspora habitually see general elections, as opportunities for them to come back into the “system” they walked away from years back. Unfortunately, most of them come back with disappointments and unpleasant stories.
I have often asked myself why the majority of these “diasporans” get frustrated out of Nigeria’s political system. The truth is that things are done differently in the society they come from. It does not take long for them to soon discover they cannot fit into the peculiar Nigeria “system” where every “card” is played on ethnicity and religion. But it takes a lot to convince a determined “Diasporan” not to go on a fruitless political journey.
THE CHANGE IS HERE
The “journey” to “change” peaked in Nigeria towards the end of 2014. The word has literally replaced the national anthem. It has also rested (hopefully) the iconic words “Bring Back Our Girls”. In the last part of 2014, Nigerians realised there must be a change. And we have all been chanting this word but making no progress towards beginning the real change. The politicians are vociferous about the change that has to come. The ordinary masses are in it too, believing this is what can guarantee three square meals for them.
In recent times, especially with the Nigerian situation, I have come to realise that change has different meanings. It depends on what side you are. To the politicians shouting change, what they want is a change in their personal status, so they can have control of the resources. While the ordinary Nigerians want a “miraculous” change that will create millions of jobs, banish poverty and put nice meals on their tables.
I love Nigerians. We are a unique people. This uniqueness is reflected in what we do, and how we go about them. Nigerian politicians are the mirrors of the society we are. They are all over the place chanting change, with no laid down plan on how to achieve this. A friend of mine lamented during the week that what we are demanding as a nation is superficial. He argued that for any meaningful change to happen, the individual psyche must be “fine-tuned”. Unfortunately, what we want is a change of government and not a change of individual psyche.
We ask who are the people who make up the government? These are individuals and they are Nigerians. If we change the government and bring in a new set of Nigerians, we shall still be shouting change in a few months’ down the line. It is the psyche of the ordinary Nigerians that need change, and not the political grandstanding our leaders are engaged in now. An ordinary Nigerian believes the government is a gateway to wealth, so getting into government is a means of having a comfortable life for himself and his family. Without a change of this mentality, there is no “change” coming to Nigeria.
Change does not come in a vacuum, it has to be produced. And no society can be changed without changing the individual. The Nigerian has to change himself before the society he lives in can change. And this is the mistake the agents of change are making, thinking change is something that can be achieved overnight. It has to be a steady process, with adequate plans and processes.
The change campaign is obviously a failure from the beginning. It is set up to fail because the foundation is wrong. Our politicians have different reasons for demanding “change”. Mr A. who lost his political party primaries is demanding change. Mr B. is demanding change because a party has been in power for “far too long”. While Mrs C. is demanding a change because the candidate is not from her “neck of the woods”. And Chief Z. wants a change because there are more opportunities for economic patronage from a particular candidate. In the process, the masses are confused and do not even know what they are supposed to be voting to change.
The Nigeria case is different in many ways. This is a country where politicians campaign to win elections merely on mudslinging and sentiments. In other climes, elections are won on the basis of how candidates have drawn out plans to change the lives of citizens. The 2015 General Elections in Nigeria is just a few weeks away, yet no manifestoes. The voters do not know what “change” these candidates are hoping to bring, as all we hear is “Time For Change.”
The United Kingdom General Elections (7th May 2015) takes place a few months away. But the politicians are not just mouthing change, they are already educating the voters on their plans. On Friday, the ruling Conservative Party came out with its first campaign ad. It was a simple yet effective one that highlighted how many jobs it created and how it halved the country’s deficit. No mention was made of the opposition parties’ candidates’ educational qualifications or religion.
In Nigeria, we are obsessed with change. But the question is, will there ever be a change? Will the education sector ever witness a change? Will the health sector ever witness a change? Will anything ever change onwards from the year 2015? Will anything ever change in Nigeria after the elections? These are questions that are begging for answers. Unfortunately, none is here.