Wednesday, April 8, 2015 12:42 pm
By Osuolale Alalade
Indeed, real change is overdue in Nigeria. Hopefully, with the overwhelming (2.5 million vote difference can hardly be described as marginal) victory of President-elect General Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential polls, the journey to change would arrive at its destination reasonably intact. It is revealing that the President-elect chose the slightly modified above caption to capture his first and instinctive reaction to the announcement of his victory. This is important because it reflects his deep seated convictions and the tenacious driving motif of his uphill personal campaign to return to the apex of the political arena since the trauma of and the advent of post June 12, 1993 democratic dispensation. The return of a former dictator in a newly accredited role as the messiah to firm up a dilapidated democracy in a long abused Nigerian state brings with it some irony. The irony continues in opening up the opportunityfor him to bring to a logical conclusion the unfinished business of his first coming that was legitimately perceived as happily truncated by the very forces that turned out to be the main drivers of the ruination of the national spirit. Unfortunately, the well-received termination of his first coming accelerated the rapid slide of Nigeria into the abyss.
This nadir of Nigeria’s fall was characterised by the emergence of successive monstrosities of governance that entrenched themselves as the essences of a Nigerian reality that prided itself in the confidence of its own representation as an unmediated perversion of the democratic state and society. It was this unmitigated betrayal of a people that seemingly made the improbable rehabilitation of a former, if even if repentant, dictator remotely possible.
The President-elect’s unfinished business of retrenching these pasts, his personal past and Nigeria’sself-inflicted chronic woes, must paradoxically represent a continuity of sorts in the historic challenge of democratic consolidation in the country. Yet, the new agenda of this democratic Paul must at the same time usher two things: definitive and tectonic shifts in the structural plates on which precariously rests the Nigerian plane; and, critically, popularly affirmed open and transparent modalities that are consistent with the local geist of the times to achieve this vision of a new station that has now been legitimated by the resounding victory at the polls. The projection of these interrelated missionsc should not be a balancing act, but should entail a sharp repudiation of the very foundations of an old order that brought Nigeria to the very nadir of hopelessness and pervasive national self-doubt. More importantly, from the ashes of the bankruptcy of the old realm must spring the concretization of new understandings of the Nigerian reality that is envisioned by all. But to begin with, we must accept the aphorism, even if clichéd, that the new fondly christened GMB must be the change that he wishes to see. That is the challenge of this change coming to Nigeria.
The burden of the self of he who must now personify and personalize this change is paramount at many levels. At one level is this popularly desired change representing and expressed in the shattering of the entrenched official notions of Nigerian democratic spaces as constricted playfields appropriated by an embarrassing clique of an assortment and collectivity of mindless and bold vagabonds constantly wrestling for the domination of the ever trampled polity. This characterization of our national space is eminently reflected in the small universe of the interlinked leading personalities in the Nigerian public sphere, including social and economic, of this deformed democracy. The main characters in this tragic national comatose were naturally equally deformed. They spanned from thoroughly deficient and persistently delusory military men with seriously warped sense of their messianic engagement and their feckless and conniving human incubators of a nation’s tragedy.
One often wondered if the two protagonists were on the same planet and operating on identical planes. Yet for the one, the President elect, who has offered to be the self-expression of the new era, the change must begin with the self, repudiation of certain presumed core beliefs, and the expansion of the democratic universe. The idea is to infuse the critical core nucleus of the new democratic space-in-construction with new individuals who personify the change required to upend in a constructive manner the character of the debased universe of the Nigerian democratic space. The President elect should be a physical expression of this new Nigerian to be drafted in this looming titanic struggle to forge a character for the Nigerian public realm.
In essence the change that is coming must be founded on the reformation of that crucial universe of the dominant actors on the national stage. GMB must deliberately design a blueprint to build a new political class. Included in this should be a newly constructed alliance with new progressively minded cadres in a newly reformed, truly professional and refurbished state bureaucracy.
Both must be mobilized on new radical ideas given the backdrop of the pervasive rot that defines the Nigerian public space he has inherited. As ridiculous as it may sound on the surface, the conscious brutality of thism universe was contrived to alienate the vast pool of not just the competent but decent individuals who shudder at the personal costs of involvement in the boiling cauldron of Nigeria’s politics and public life. At all levels, the mantra of the decadent system that must die seemingly is “He who dares wins!” If the president and the All Peoples’ Congress plan to be a force for permanent change, they must forge alliance with the most progressive minds across the political spectrum and entice as many as are willing from outside the political circuits to stake their lot for the changed Nigeria.
This possibility has been rendered feasible by the turn-around of the fortune of the main vessels of our national decadence in the decades between the end of the civil war and Wednesday, April 1, 2015. It is predictable that this adventure for change is going to be a battle royale. The battle royale would be the struggle to craft a new era of constructive participatory governance and an enabling environment in Nigeria’s often turbulent history marked by six military coups since independence in 1960 and 16 years of bankrupt civilian fractious and factional misrule by a Peoples’ Demolition Party.
The battle royale is inevitable to deliver the fundamental change that has been declared as the objectives of this phase of Nigeria’s democracy. A national culture of impunity has been fossilized in the last six years. The national culture of impunity is so strong that it may be in fact be hazarded that President’s predecessor in office was a hapless hostage to powerful forces that were determined to maintain the status quo for their continuing personal aggrandizement. This was understood to be at the expense of the well-being of the majority of Nigerians. A nuanced and milder version of this conspiracy was that governors, even from incipient progressive constituencies, developed the strange habit of sharing cabinet offices to the children of the prominent families and traditional names in their states. Meanwhile, some gave out monies to their god fathers as part of the politics of survival. The outgoing President took it a notch higher. It did not matter if you were the best in your field. What mattered was the political clout that your name brought into office. The attempt to roll back the aforementioned corrupt practices ended up destabilizing the polity because the feeble attempts to do the right thing were too weak given the pervasiveness of the systemic rot. More sinister though is that many of those who one may suspect went beyond the instructions of President Jonathan and were loudest in their vociferous opposition to the emergence of GMB as President were driven more by the danger posed to the safety of their loot from the public treasury and reputations than advancing the candidacy of the outgoing president. It would help the in-coming president’s cause if he facilitated the plans of the most delusional of this set to go on exile as some have indicated. One way or the other, the President elect will face a dilemma of how much energy to devote to these vermin, without sacrificing the construction of the validated futuristic vision on which platform he was elected. Also, how do you persuade the population that is seething for an to end of impunity if the President voted into office on the promise of change is perceived to be slow in dealing with those who flaunt their underserved riches to the larger society? Yet, acting robustly, he’ll be a hostage of an intimidating past in delivering on this very popularly acclaimed coming change.
The fractiousness of governance and structure of political sentiment is well demonstrated in the scantiness of meaningful discourse across the board during the campaigns and the mere localized pockets of rational engagement only in some parts of the country. Notwithstanding the good import of the overall outcome of the presidential poll in helping to create an opportunity for radical turnaround in the fortunes of our Nigeria, the shameful ethno-regional pattern of votes is a very disturbing continuity of the challenges of internal cohesion. This observation is however mediated by the exception of the South-West where the currents were definitely not monolithic. The debate in the South West was rigorous around what represented the best interests of the Yoruba nation and under whose administration these interests could reasonably be expected to flourish.
Yet the undercurrent was also an open jousting for continuing ascendance of an alliance of old, disparate but ever dignified war horses against an emerged new breed of strategically savvy younger actors who share the same vision with the old hands but differed on the best approach to achieving this common objective. The tussle often bordered on animosity against the person perceived as leading the new breed. It may be observed that despite the reported dogged attempt by the incumbent administration to provide monetary incentives to realign political sentiment in this region, the votes reflected a healthy balance in such a manner that the status quo, in succumbing to the predominant thinking in the region, still made reasonable showing in the final tally. That is good.
This contrasts sharply with the experience with most other regions where ethno-regional sentiments were completely monolithic. The entire north and the South East and the South-south, registering sovietique tallies in favor of outgoing President, are primarily guilty of this. This poses the challenge of deciphering whether the message of change was truly validated outside the South West, if the north and the south east and south south merely voted uncritically on ethno-regional or ethno religious sentiments. This would reflect continuing challenges of national integration and cohesion that would be required to provide a solid condition for the launching of profound nationwide reformations in institutions, structures and attitudinal orientation in the context of coming change to Nigeria. It would be remiss to not to appreciate the decisive emotional and human factor in the voting preferences of some of the states in the middle belt that are daily engrossed in serious fights against the Fulani over land and pasture as well as perceptions of religious expansion into those areas.
This is a matter germane to the articulation of the change agenda. In fact, the management of associated problems of religion may prove to be the most single factor for the in-coming presidency. Yes, it may defeat Boko Haram on the battle field. But success in the literal battle field that is only an infinitesimal element in this challenge. Containing the Boko Haram menace would be the single most determinant factor of the in-coming administration’s legacy, because how this is handled would truly reflect the single minded determination of the President elect to ensure the longevity of the Nigerian state as a continuing corporate entity in the long term.
The President elect would have to work assiduously to promote and institute a secular state in Nigeria. It is the best guarantee to roll back the intrusion of religion into national life that has taken on a dangerous trajectory. This deleterious trajectory is expressed in the incremental escalation of the demand for Sharia to a terrible insurgency that has integrated itself into the global war of political Islam.
On the other side are highly cerebral and otherwise respectable persons that have dedicated their lives to the promotion of Christ in the polity. The nation witnessed as partisan political forces turned every church pulpit into a campaign podium and the clergy, especially of the pentecostalist strand, became megaphones of very odious religion affiliated political campaign. The activities of imported faiths seeking furiously for ascendancy may in the final analysis sound the death knell to the coming change in Nigeria. Finally, the President elect is enjoined to throw the report of the last constitutional conference into the trash can of history. It is challenging to appreciate the logic behind the proposal to break Nigeria into fifty four (54) dignified local governments pretending to be states. It is the most telling evidence of the decay of the abused democratic space that the President elect has inherited.