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Coping with Nigerians’ short-term political memory

By Tabia Princewill

CAMPAIGN season is officially upon us: there will be no shortage of populist sentiments making the rounds, as in 2011 when we were introduced to the tale of   the “boy without shoes”.   Like   Goodluck Jonathan before him, Atiku Abubakar has a tale of woe to convince the public he is “pro-people”: he grew up an orphan he says, selling firewood in Adamawa.

Elections

Jibrin of Sudan and the audacity of fake news

If the experience of poverty was a guarantee of good leadership and performance in office then by now, due to the number of Presidents, governors and politicians from working class or poor backgrounds, Nigeria ought to have become a wonder to behold.

Both the PDP and the APC Presidential candidates published their policy documents/manifestos this week. Nigerians were underwhelmed.

In truth, our problem at this stage goes beyond a good manifesto: anyone with access to expensive consultants, technocrats and public policy experts could produce a workable policy document. That is not the issue in a country where even laymen have a basic understanding of Nigeria’s problems given our common propensity to endlessly analyze the issues. What has always been lacking is the will to act on this knowledge.

Serious scandal

In fact, the Nigerian predisposition for according second chances to individuals and personalities who are not only marred by serious scandal but by their unwillingness or inability to get it right the first time, is a huge part of the problem.

The PDP was in power for 16 years. Former President Obasanjo was largely responsible for foisting the Yar’Adua/Goodluck duo on the nation with the consequences which we all know, despite President Buhari’s curious rehabilitation of Goodluck Jonathan on his birthday a few days ago when he called him “an inspiration to young Nigerians.”

We must also beware of fake news this election season and refuse to allow propagandists divide us for their selfish gain. The idea that President Buhari was “replaced” by a body double from Sudan is laughable and makes one wonder what exactly makes some people so gullible? Politicians will truly say anything to excite whatever portion of their electorate is so full of fear and hate they are easily manipulated.

Firms like Cambridge Analytica, indicted for influencing elections around the world, including here in Nigeria where it invested heavily in doomsday predictions about a Buhari Presidency using the threat of “islamisation”, are still available to work with Nigerian politicians to manipulate the electorate. It is up to all of us  to  be as logical as humanly possible and to analyze everything we hear and read with a clear head.

It’s interesting, however, that those who discredit Buhari on the grounds of his being a Muslim and a Fulani man, who’ve called every Yoruba or Igbo man or woman working with Northerners a “slave” have no qualms about being “atikulated”. Ethno-religious bigotry is a powerful campaign tool used to divide and confuse Nigerians while leaving the real   problems in this country unquestioned and, therefore, unresolved. Corruption remains the single biggest issue holding this country back.  If 55 people could  get away with looting one  trillion naira it’s understandable the country was plunged into a recession, if to top it all off, oil prices fell and government’s meagre revenue couldn’t support the economy of corruption we’d all grown accustomed to.

It’s a shame so few of us question what happened to Nigeria and how we really found ourselves here, outside of blindly loving or hating one politician or the other. I pity the young people excitedly tweeting candidates’campaign promises forgetting the billions of dollars already hijacked and in their possession.

Former President Obasanjo who withheld Lagos State funds, is now an advocate for local government autonomy while calling on governors not to “incapacitate” them. His actions, like the military before him, encouraged the unitary system of government we currently practice. So how can the PDP suddenly rebrand itself as a pro-restructuring party?

Like I’ve said many times, it’s one thing to believe Buhari has under-performed (although it’s another all together to analyze why and what should have been done given corruption’s expected  tendency to “fight back”) but it’s another entirely to condone attempts at re-writing history.

We are yet to reckon with the disastrous policy choices that brought us to where we are. Nigeria did not collapse under Buhari: things have gotten steadily worse under virtually  every President and head of state, we were only fooled by our oil wealth which kept us afloat and ridiculously spending. Privatization saw us sell assets to private companies which are not   performing much better than the public sector corporations they replaced.

Proposals to sell off yet more national assets, like the restructuring plan, can never deliver real change because they are done using the old rules of the game whereby cronyism and nepotism trump due process: that is the way it is in Nigeria, no matter who is in charge unless we collectively decide we’ve had enough. The truth is, our ambivalent acceptance of corruption, our love of the crumbs we scavenge and beg for, literally doesn’t allow us to see straight or to constructively reason.

Pertinent questions

According to Waziri Adio, the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative NEITI, Nigeria earned $592 billion from oil and gas sales between 1999 and 2014, more than the equally mismanaged $12 billion gulf war windfall. So, if anything 16 years of PDP only exacerbated the problems created by the military. Looking at the facts head on doesn’t mean unflinching support for the APC, it’s simply acknowledging history and asking pertinent questions.

Unfortunately, Nigerians are too busy arguing over Jibrin the fake news body double from Sudan and celebrating politicians’right to enslave them for all eternity. Coping with your fellow Nigerians’short-term political memory is a burden every one with any sort of platform must embrace. This country’s survival depends on it.

NASS

THE Acting  British High  Commissioner to Nigeria, Harriet Thompson asked federal lawmakers not to forgo their legislative duties for political campaigns.

It’s a timely reminder given only 20 senators were present at plenary last week. These are the reasons for our underdevelopment, not the fake news about Buhari’s replacement by a Sudanese man called Jibrin.

Saraki

AN audio recording   allegedly featuring the Senate President’s voice gives reasons why he no longer supports President Buhari. Although the Senate President stated it was doctored and “fake  news”, the contents describe the political patronage at the heart of Nigeria’s dysfunctionality whereby politicians only see politics as an opportunity to place their cronies in “juicy” positions where they can milk the state through fraudulent contracts and other opportunities.

“I know that even if it’s just one Kwara person who is the DG of UBEC, we know what he can do with his position; even if it’s one million or two million.The point I’m making is not that I want to make trouble or it is my intention for the youth to go through what they are going through. That’s why I’m very pained. As it affects you, it also affects me. That’s why I said it’s not possible for me to work with those people again. It’s not about me”.

We’re unable to build national unity because every state and tribe sees political office as an opportunity to “take” from the centre as opposed to creating universal prosperity for all and Nigerians mostly survive off of handouts as opposed to a more liberating system where things work for you even when you don’t have access to public office. The language used always strives to appear selfless yet it is anything but…

 


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