Thursday with Abimbola Adelakun [email protected]
President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to redress the injustice done to the “presumed” winner of the June 12, 1993 election, Bashorun MKO Abiola, confirms what we already know: Nigeria is on the march again, and from now on, every action will be geared towards seducing voters. In the coming months, the government will deploy all the weapons in its arsenal to build a rapport with the voters especially the ones who are already disillusioned with them. The good thing is that we have a government that still takes us seriously enough to bid for our votes through symbolic acts. The other side is that pandering to voters’ primal sentiment is no ready guarantee of electoral victory.
We recall that President Goodluck Jonathan also gave the late dictator, Sani Abacha, a national award during the nation’s centennial celebration. The citation they read at the ceremony praised the economic achievements recorded during his regime and made them seem merely relative to his evil. None of that brown-nosing was enough to sway the northern vote in Jonathan’s favour significantly. Buhari too might have scored a lot of political points with his acknowledgment of the significance of June 12, but the next general election is going to be a more complicated game. The election will test the political dexterity of the All Progressives Congress, the party that made history in 2015 for unseating an incumbent.
While the APC fought hard to win that election, the months followed showed that they had not prepared for governance. They gave their all to win the election, and because they were probably afflicted with post-election fatigue, they could not rise to the weight of expectations that Nigerians had invested in them. After they were sworn into office and it dawned on them that governing required action, they began to fill the lacuna with endless and demoralising criticisms of the past administration. Up till now, some of their party officials are still stuck in that mode. The 2019 general election in the South-West will be a different terrain now that the APC is the one at the centre and has mainly been demystified by its failure to rise above the ethical failings on the Peoples Democratic Party that it displaced. The APC will be contending with the standard of governance it set for the PDP before 2015. In fact, the first challenge that should be put before the APC is the question of how much of their electoral promises they have fulfilled. They were the party that promised to restructure Nigeria and free the polity from the strangulating strictures of the present political arrangement. They were the party that walked back on that promise and have been prevaricating ever since. It makes sense why the APC is now re-branding itself with a democratic ethos by awakening the June 12 ghost.
In the months to come, Buhari will visit the South-West region more frequently to inaugurate one project or the other and also begin to woo voters from the other areas. Soon, the South-West will be heavily bombarded with Buhari propaganda.
So, come 2019, when the APC presidential campaign trailer rolls into town, on what grounds will they sell the Buhari candidature to us? We can take it for granted that at least half of their campaign will be the familiar Jonathan bashing but what will comprise the other half? How will they answer the question of why their mandate needs to be extended for another four years? Has the quality of life in the South-West improved over what it was three to five years ago or it has grown relatively worse? Do we have better schools now and our children better educated than they were before the APC? Are our hospitals better and do we now have basic infrastructure in our towns and cities? Has their administration displayed the necessary managerial acuity and political insight required to understand, define, and address the challenges facing Nigeria in the 21st century that they should be entrusted with another four years? Those are part of the issues that hopefully will determine the 2019 general elections.
In 2015, the three cardinal areas they sold themselves on us were security, corruption, and the economy. Regarding security, Nigeria is not safer than what it used to be before 2015. The frequent bombings by Boko Haram might have reduced significantly, but the menace of the herdsmen across many states of the federation is still a matter of prime concern. The sheer amount of violence that has taken place in Nigeria in the past couple of years is frightening, first for the scale of the human disaster and second, for the way it is being normalised. The usual cries and anguish of the victims have almost become background music to our daily lives, and their deaths do not summon the moral urgency that should have propelled us into action. The economic policies of Buhari’s administration have barely lifted people out of poverty, and the unemployment rate is still just as acute. According to a recent report on Africa Check, “Combined, 40 per cent of the country’s labour force were therefore either underemployed or had no job” in September 2017. Worse yet, our population is galloping at a pace that trumps whatever development agenda Nigeria projects year after year. We should be driven by a sense of resolution in our forthcoming electioneering. On corruption, let us just say that Buhari’s body language has contradicted Buhari so many times it no longer makes sense.
Our goals as we prepare for the next general election is to search for the crop of leadership that possess the potential to advance our nation to a modern status and gain pride of place on the continent beyond the empty sloganeering of “the pride of Africa.” We need a leadership that, armed with a philosophical insight into the failings of the state, can embark on reforms and innovations that will ultimately transform the nation. We live in a global world that is fast transforming, and the answers we thought were definitive are changing and giving way to new realities. Technology is transforming the future, and we cannot afford to sit down with analogue leaders whose vision of the future is already the past elsewhere. Leaders who are still stuck on counting megawatts manually while the rest of the world travels at superluminal speeds. We certainly deserve better than chain ourselves to outdated leaders who have not demonstrated that they have a substantial potential for re-organising the country for maximum productivity. Again, we need to think that what is at stake for us Nigerians is beyond our immediate selves. The decision we take will also connect to our place in the world and the future of our race. The world is advancing too rapidly, and we cannot afford to be bogged down by analogue leadership that dreams minutely and fails to achieve its most basic goals.
A massive chunk of our future rests on leadership, and we cannot afford to reward the mediocrity of an underachieving government. I know the angst now is that Nigeria does not even have a viable option to run against Buhari in 2019. Truly, if we have no luxury of choice, then what choice do we have? I still think there is time enough for a choicer candidate to emerge. We should not be trapped into rewarding an uninspiring and underwhelming leadership. While, technically, what will be contested in 2019 is a term of four years, that real time involved is longer than its calendar length. Any further setback to our nation takes us back decades where we will be relegated to the lightless corners of the dark continent.
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