By Douglas Anele

Nigeria, unity, Vision

Were it not that an increasing number of Nigerians are gullible, lily-livered hypocrites, who avoid the truth like leprosy and swim in the slime-infested waters of self-deception instead of acting constructively together with cool passion to prevent bad leaders from damaging the country, the quantum of suffering, pain and gnashing of teeth nationwide would have gone down considerably especially since 1999 when civilians took over the instruments of power from the military.

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A compelling case can be made that over the years, the people of Nigeria have developed an alarming capacity to endure suffering caused by very wicked and extremely selfish bulimic leaders. The situation became worse since the Biafran war ended over forty-nine years ago. From then onwards, successive military heads of state and civilian Presidents self-righteously continuously enjoined the people to tighten their belts and make sacrifices to save the country from impending economic collapse.

What many people seem to forget is that those asking the people to tighten their belts and make sacrifices for the good of the country were themselves living obscenely ostentatious lives at the detriment of the masses, and that in the not-too-distant future the suffering masses will not have any waist on which to tighten their belts. Now, majority of Nigerians believe that the country returned to a democratic civilian government in 1999.

And to give substance to that belief, this year the All Progressives Congress (APC) celebrated twenty years of uninterrupted democratic governance as part of the inauguration ceremony for President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term of office. But some critics argue that what obtains in Nigeria is not democracy properly, so-called. They point to the low quality of political leadership that has emerged since then and the shambolic manner in which key political actors have conducted themselves and undermined critical institutions that serve as the bastions or bulwarks of democracy. Although these critics are right in condemning the immature attitude of our politicians towards governance, a more fruitful and realistic position is that there is indeed democracy in Nigeria, but it is a highly deformed and inefficient mutation of effective democratic practice. Therefore, if democracy is defined in the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln as “government of the people, by the people and for the people,” that is, as a system of government in which political power ultimately rests with the citizens, who are qualified to vote during elections, then Nigeria is running a democratic system of government, albeit a flawed one. But this minimalist requirement must be supplemented by the existence of robust free press, freedom of speech and of association, the right to criticise top political office holders without fear of heavy-handed retribution by security agencies, checks and balances amongst the three arms of government and an electoral system which ensures free and fair elections at all times. If in a certain geopolitical entity these core elements of democracy are threatened by the an overbearing political elite preoccupied with capturing power by any means necessary, then the future of democracy in that place would be bleak. Some keen observers of Nigerian politic claim that under President Buhari the country has lost some ground in the march towards better and mature democratic practice.

Although a considerable number of Nigerians, including myself, are not card-carrying members of any political party for now, there is an emerging consensus that the APC is probably the worst ruling party to emerge since the commencement of party politics in the colonial period and beyond. The reason for this is not difficult to understand. Immediately after its formation on February 6, 2013, the party ramped up its blistering campaign against the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan and projected Buhari as the messiah whose presidency would boost security nationwide, rebuild the economy and fight malignant corruption to a standstill. In other words, APC stalwarts presented the party to Nigerians as the only political platform that can reverse the decline allegedly brought about by what they characterised as the incompetent, corrupt and clueless government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Respected senior journalists, Professors, religious leaders and self-styled pro-democracy activists jumped into the bandwagon of “anyone but Jonathan,” forgetting that a sizeable number of top APC politicians are political carpetbaggers mostly from the PDP who saw the new party as an avenue to revamp their plunging political careers and participate in the next round of chop-I-chop politics, the politics of bloated stomach infrastructure. The APC came to power four and half years ago. Right now, the Buhari administration has not accomplished fully any of the highfalutin promises it made to suffering Nigerians if they vote out the PDP. Instead, the President and his lieutenants have resorted to tiresome blame-game, subtle manipulation and authoritarian tactics to deceive the people and weaken their resolve to hold the government accountable. As I argued severally in this column, APC’s slogan of change has been actualised, but the needle is pointing to the left. Instead of learning from the failures of previous administrations, instead of performing better in those areas they claimed PDP failed woefully, the current APC administration has plunged the country deeper into the black hole of retrogression. There is an emerging consensus among objective observers of the Nigerian situation that the country has taken more steps backward than she has taken forward since 2015. In fact, APC seems to be normalising and worsening those critical indices of incompetence and mediocrity that ultimately led to PDP’s electoral defeat.

For starters, let us take the issue of security, which Buhari’s puppeteers promoted as one of the areas he would easily outperform his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. His boast that Boko Haram would be decimated quickly has become a huge embarrassment for his government because the terrorist sect has killed more military personnel between May 29, 2015 and now than it did from the founding of the group in 2005 till when Jonathan left office. In addition, armed robbery, kidnapping, violent land grabbing by Miyetti Allah’s foot soldiers and ritual killings have reached epidemic proportions, to the extent that life in different parts of the country, especially in those places where Boko Haram is active, has gradually deteriorated into the infamous Hobbesian state of nature. Now, although the country is not at war with an external enemy, it appears that Nigerians are at war with one another. One of the main problems with Buhari’s apologists is deliberate blindness to facts or data that contradict their sugar-coated remarks in the media about improvements in security since 2015. Nigeria was ranked third worldwide and first in Africa by the Global Terrorism Index Report of 2018. Again, almost on a daily basis newspapers and television stations report how armed bandits and violent criminals operate on highways nationwide, killing and robbing with impunity. Nocturnal activities in metropolitan cities like Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt have declined considerably because of security concerns. From the foregoing, the claim by Lai Mohammed and others that insecurity has been reduced since President Buhari assumed office is fake news, which does not reflect the reality in many parts of the country, despite the one billion naira taken from the excess crude account ostensibly to improve security across the country. The average Nigerian feels less secure now than before because escalating poverty, worsening unemployment, inflation, and rising frustration have pushed a lot of people, particularly the youths, into violent crimes. As even a hundred level student of criminology or sociology knows, violent crimes and insecurity tend to worsen in conditions of rising poverty, unemployment and social anomie generally.

The fact that Nigeria has replaced India as the poverty capital of the world speaks volumes concerning the incompetent management of the country’s economy since the APC captured political power at the federal level and in majority of the states. Accordingly, even if the claim that Jonathan handed over a healthy economy to Buhari might not have been completely accurate, there is no doubt that Nigeria’s economic condition has deteriorated in the last four years. Apart from statistics provided by local and international agencies that track relevant economic indices which indicate that our economy is not doing well, the grinding poverty spreading like wildfire during harmattan can be seen on the faces of Nigerians everywhere except in Aso Rock and its equivalents across the federation.

When buharimaniacs led by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, boast garrulously about the economic policies of this government and throw around numbers purporting to show that those policies are working, I always wonder whether these people are living in a fantasy island far removed from the harsh realities facing ordinary people. Everywhere people are begging, and it is not restricted to the unemployed or the physically challenged. Most people are earning poor salaries, and the self-employed are complaining bitterly that their income has reduced considerably because of low patronage. Inflation has reduced the purchasing power of the naira, which means that keeping poverty at bay has become more challenging than ever. Since 2016, I have been receiving requests for financial assistance from total strangers who got one of my phone numbers from Sunday Vanguard newspaper. In this connection, government officials who quote data from local and foreign sources that contradict existential poverty pervading the country right now do not understand that statistics are like bikinis, what they reveal is interesting, but what they conceal is even more interesting. Everywhere one goes, one always sees poverty and suffering on the faces of many Nigerians, and no amount of finagling with numbers can hide the fact that more Nigerians are poorer since APC came to power. To be continued.




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