opinionBy Oludayo Tade
The ‘not-too-old-to-run’ movement in the Presidency has given Nigerians reasons to believe that their principal is fit to vie for the exalted seat, compete with younger aspirants and run for a second term in 2019.
The venue of the fitness test was Daura, home town of the President where he was reported to have, against protocol, covered a space of 800metres while receiving cheers from Daura residents who lined up the road to catch a glimpse of the ‘I-am-fit-to-run’ trek. My check shows that 800 metres is like trekking the track of a standard stadium twice but the burden is reduced with cheers.
Trekking is not new to the Buhari Presidency. Recall Hashimu Suleiman trekked from Lagos to Abuja to honour and congratulate the president when he won the 2015 election. While Hashimu got to his destination, others got lost along the way. This premeditated Daura Trek, as a practical response to Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s query regarding the health challenge of the president, downplays the enormity of ill-health that the nation is currently faced with. But unlike Hashimu Suleiman, another Nigerian, Isa Mohammed Munlaila, recently embarked on a trek from Lagos to Abuja to protest against the president. Like millions of other Nigerians, Isa is displeased about Buhari’s policies which he felt had made life harder for the masses.
If the president is fit to run, is Nigeria as healthy as the president – or as sick as the president? The 800 metres trek of the Daura prince less than 200 days to the 2019 polls is therefore insignificant compared to the unhealthy situations and kilometres of trekking Nigerians are daily engaged in to navigate unhealthy governance experiences
One way to diagnose our health status as a country is to look at the health sector. How healthy are our health institutions in the last three years of this ‘healthy presidency’? The first family has made several sojourns to the colonial headquarters to either fix the self-caused mishap of bike-riding Yusuf and of Mr. President. This is not bad at all because they are entitled to the privilege of the Number One office of the land. But what is bad is that there is no effort to put in place such ‘healthy’ health institutions back home, thus, increasing the death ratio in the land. It is even worse that the health sector gets abominable budgetary allocation. Consequently, the good hands in the Nigerian health sector are forced to undertake longer treks towards the Global North where better working conditions and environment are certain. It does not appear that this transnational trekking will abate soon. This means that beyond 2019, a healthy president, if victorious, will govern a much more unfit nation and unhealthy populace.
There are also other forms of trekking that are being triggered by Nigeria’s general un-healthiness under healthy president Buhari. For instance, insecurity has made trekking a ‘modern’ transportation strategy employed to escape unsecured terror zones across the country. Narratives of those kidnapped informed us that they are made to trek distances far into the thick forest. They are forcibly removed and relocated on foot. When they are lucky to be released, people trek to the main road before help comes their way. Is the energy of the healthy president spreading to those in Internally Displaced camps? Where did their energies come from, having been forced to move midnight on foot when killer teams of either Boko Haram and herdsmen visited them? Their precarious living conditions in IDP camps show how unhealthy their lives have become.
Similarly, that Nigerians want to trek to Global North and endure hardship on the way is partly a result of unhealthy governance that made realising life’s goals difficult. Even after their rescue and return to Nigeria from Libya, little or nothing has been done to properly ensure their integration beyond the first few days of media hype of government’s magnanimous gestures. This is why despite the reports about hardships on the way, people still prefer to die while trying outside the shores of the country to secure blossoming greener ‘pastures on the other side’. To political office holders, a trek to 2019 presidency is far valuable than having a real healthy president watering our grasses to make it greener for people to stay.
That is not all. Yearly, over one million young people sit for the JAMB exam. Yearly, at least ,close to one million if not more students graduate into the unemployment market that gets wider by the day. Since 2015, education funding has nosedived. Curricula in educational institutions are not healthy to equip students on self-reliance. After the promises and dashed hopes, unemployed graduates trek daily in search of non-existing jobs. Many more trek daily to take up menial jobs. The unhealthy situation of these young people has received less attention from a government who denies that youth unemployment is such a big problem in the country.
Living in denial and self-glorification multiply the unhealthy status of the populace who daily trek out their unhealthy circumstances. Not all will be conformists waiting for God to do it; others detour into crime and criminality.
The unhealthy situation in the nation’s education affirms the failure of the leadership both at the state and federal levels. Recognising this, many have willing and those who can afford it embark on transnational trekking to Ghana, Benin Republic, South Africa and Global North countries for a healthy-qualitative education. Public educational institutions are grossly underfunded and workers work in the most excruciating conditions. Yet, these institutions are supposed to produce top rate graduates with twenty-five percent funding from government! . Until, the situation gets worse, this ‘ healthy’ presidency will not do the needful but will rather compound the woes by scaling down the education budget. Little wonder other African universities are poaching for our best brains.
Security agencies of the state (police, customs, immigration) would rather ask for what you will give them than do their job which is to secure the state. The policemen, SARS, and traffic wardens officially or unofficially trek to demarcated economic locations to extort people. They also complain of poor funding and have to generate their own revenue to perform the job of (in)security!
Thus, the Daura 800metres trek is not a healthy assessment of the president’s fitness to run. It shows the president is actually worried about his health and needs to prove it. A president is as healthy as the country he superintends. As it is today, the indices point to the negative. The pot-holes in governance must be fixed, not patched to underscore the president in good health governing the nation. Until then, the 800metres ‘not-too-old-to-run’ trek unveils an unhealthy country.
*Dr. Tade , a sociologist, wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org