By Emeka Asinugo, KSC
Not too long ago, the National Leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu pleaded with Nigerians to allow President Buhari use his first 100 days in office as his “honeymoon” period, to study the state of affairs in the country before executing his “change agenda”. And characteristically, they did. Nigerians would do anything their leaders request for them to have a life.
But now, most Nigerians are getting worried. Is the honeymoon not over yet?
So many things which should have happened to usher in the sort of change Nigerians dreamed about and voted for more than a year ago have not happened. And so many things which shouldn’t have happened have happened in recent times – things that bring the seriousness of the change Nigerians voted for into deep question.
One thing is obvious though. The men and women Nigerians have so unfortunately saddled with the mantle of leadership, to take the responsibility of managing the affairs of the country, are a group of selfish party cronies whose only interest is in making money and more money and more money out of the sufferings and penury of their less fortunate countrymen and women. They are neither interested in building up a united nation where justice would reign, nor are they interested in the welfare of the ordinary citizens of their country.
Many Nigerians had expected that by now President Buhari would have put in place the first blocks towards a genuine unity of the country by building a bridge across the ethnic differences which made it difficult for Nigerians to merge properly all these years. No one knows this better than those in public office. They know that one simple but effective way to build that bridge is to legislate on the three main Nigerian languages being made compulsorily taught at primary school levels across the nation. In such a way, young Nigerian children will no longer be able to see themselves as Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba. And in about 10 years’ time, the foundation would have been laid for a meaningful, painless integration of the ethnic groups that Britain lumped together as Nigeria. That is one thing that should have happened to usher in the change that Nigerians dreamed of. But it has not happened.
Nigeria is the only country I know where the servicing of the needs of the people starts from up and flows down. In many other democratic countries, whatever money is available goes to service the lowest segment of the country first and moves systematically up. Public schools are serviced. Public libraries are serviced. Government ensures that roads, public transportations, water supply, electric supply and basic essentials like amusement parks are serviced and that the ordinary people lack nothing that would have made them happier and more confident in the government they voted to take care of their affairs. But in Nigeria, available funds first go to service the office of the President, then the Vice President, down to the senators and the members of the House of Representatives. Then it runs down to the office of the governor, and the members of the State Houses of Assembly. By the time it comes to servicing the needs of the ordinary citizens, the money has run out. And they are left to suffer as usual. That is the number two change Nigerians expected to happen. But it has not happened
Nigerian legislators are widely known as the highest paid in the world. Many people have asked them to deny or accept the allegation as true. They keep evading public knowledge of their income and how it is made up. In many democratic nations, they would either obey their constituents or their mandate would be withdrawn by the same people who voted them into power leaving no doubt that the voter is politically stronger than the voted. Why are Nigerian legislators afraid of making their income public knowledge? If by public estimation they are milking the national economy dry through their oversize wages, why would they be afraid of cutting their wages to a normal and nationally acceptable level. For instance, if they take the income of a legislator in America, one in the United Kingdom, one in Saudi Arabia, one in Australia, one in Israel and one in South Africa and take their average as the maximum pay for a Nigerian legislator, what could possibly be wrong with such an arrangement? That is the number three change Nigerians wanted to happen. But it has not happened.
Rather, President Buhari tells the world change should start from him. And the question is why? What is there to change in a man who has been there and practically seen it all – from being a military officer, to being an oil minister to being a military head of state and now a “civilian” head of state.
Since his inauguration, the President has been chasing after corrupt politicians and businessmen. No one knows after these months how much has been realised. No one knows where the money is meant to stay or what use the government wants to make of it. But Nigerians know that similar “recoveries” in the past have always gone back into the pockets of the ruling cabals. That is why the military kept striking, either for the greed of money or for power and the spoils that come with it, or for reprisal, to square up with a sworn opponent. But now, it has become necessary to remind President Buhari and his APC government that recovery of stolen money cannot be categorised as change by any stretch of the imagination. Recovery of stolen money was not exactly what Nigerians had at the back of their minds, or what they bargained for when they voted for change.
Oh yes! From the look of things, Nigerian leaders will eventually not implement the change Nigerians desired and voted for because they have a mission. They have a mission that is partly a legacy from the country’s military bosses who mastered the ropes after so many years of interference in the democratic evolution of the country. While, I do not wish to stoke any fire of discontent among Nigerian citizens, is it not necessary to observe for instance that ever since the case was made to investigate the Senate President on certain charges, nothing seems to be happening? Is anyone in doubt why this is the case? It is because birds of the same feather must congregate in unison. The mission is somewhat obvious. But the road is definitely more obvious.
Nigerian leaders know that if those in public office and their criminal-minded business accomplices balkanise the country by creating a two-class system of very rich families and very poor families, sooner than later they would hit their target. For the rich families, millions of naira or dollars or even pounds must be like peanuts. In such a way, they can always intimidate, bluff or swagger their way. In some instances, they could even apply the use of impunity to get what they want.
Those of us in the Diaspora who spend sleepless nights working ourselves out for a mere pittance know how it feels to save enough to be able to come back to Nigeria on vacation, just to see and be with our people for a few weeks. And we know that the leaders in Nigeria are not sincere about building a strong and united country. They are only serious about setting up a high class of very rich families and a low class of very poor families. And that is why the country has become a paradox – the richer the country is, the poorer the citizens. The money is shared up there.
Down there, the people have not only to accept their fate as God-ordained, they are also expected to sing the praises of the rich and influential in their society. The reason is what Professor Chinua Achebe rightly observed in his last book: ‘There was a Country’ that “once a people have been dispossessed and subjected to dictatorships for such a long time as in Nigeria’s case, the oppressive process also effectively strips away from the minds of the people the knowledge that they have rights.”
After the bruises military interregnum inflicted on the country, Nigerian leaders still do not want to unite Nigeria despite their claim that to keep Nigeria “one” is a task that must be accomplished. I guess it is because it pays them to operate as sectional or ethnic leaders. Then they can negotiate. Then they can be paid off. Then they can stuff their pockets with plenty of money. For them, any talk of building a genuine one Nigeria with a central identity will rob them of wealth and they would not, even in their dreams, support such an idea.
So, who is deceiving who? The United Nations will soon host a meeting along with President Obama to find ways of appealing to freer nations to accommodate the over 64 million people worldwide who have been displaced from their homelands by insurgencies across the globe. Nigerian refugees could be among them, displaced by the activities of the dreaded monster they call Boko Haram.
If members of the UN knew what is actually going on in some of these countries as I believe they do, would merely appealing to nations do any good? They need to study the true situation of things closely to be able to find the right panacea.
In a country like Nigeria, since the ethnic type of leadership cannot go away, why should the Hausa, the Igbo and the Yoruba not go their separate ways and negotiate proper as ethnic identities? Since what is actually happening is that ethnic leaders are finding it impossible to break with their ethnic authority and allegiances, why must the international community not recognise the truth and stamp it with the authority of legality? Why must ethnic leadership continue to define Nigeria’s uncertain political terrain or for that matter, Buhari’s change agenda?