As Nigeria prepares for the general elections, various political parties have embarked on political campaigns in a country where there is a high level of tension amid insurgency and insecurity particularly in the North.
It is worthy of note that the current mood of disenchantment of most Nigerians towards the government of the day is not new in the nation’s history. What is paramount is a reassessment of certain beclouding parameters erroneously used in the past by the majority in making their choices at the polls, only to find out later that such parameters were wrong.
First, it is necessary for us as Nigerians to activate our memories and remember that most of us have for many years, claimed that a current administration is worse than its predecessor, even after sacrificing a lot to ensure that we voted such administration into power.
When in 1999, former President Olusegun Obasanjo was canvassing for votes, the optimism of Nigerians regarding his abilities to deliver the country from the doldrums were higher than the electorates’ optimism being enjoyed by any of the current presidential candidates. Obasanjo was then touted to be the only Christian acceptable to the Muslims, the only civilian acceptable to the military and the only southerner acceptable to the North. This campaign slogan was added to the fact that he once ruled the country as a military Head of State and voluntarily handed power over to a democratically elected regime of President Shehu Shagari in 1979.
Months after the 1999 elections and Obasanjo’s assumption of office, I remember a clergyman, Pastor Tunde Bakare, telling Nigerians in one of his televised sermons that Obasanjo was not Nigeria’s expected messiah. Pastor Bakare was widely attacked in the media for such pronouncement.
By the end of Obasanjo’s second term in 2007, after his alleged failed attempt to manipulate the constitution and get a third term, most Nigerians were already fuming in disenchantment, saying that his administration was worse than the preceding military regimes, in light of the volume of corruption Obasanjo’s regime recorded. Nigerians were made to watch NTA at midnight to see the outcome of Oputa Panel, electricity power probe by the House of Representatives, and so on. Billions of naira was approved by that regime to provide electricity to Nigerians but those monies were hardly accounted for. Bags were used to carry cash from the Presidency to the floor of the National Assembly for bribery. Nigeria’s oil blocks were shared. Oil subsidy thieves smiled to the banks and corruption was simply Nigeria’s second name. Most Nigerians were particularly angry then that Obasanjo had all he needed in terms of influence and resources to transform the country but failed to do so.
When Obasanjo’s successor, late President Umaru Yar’Adua died, the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan constitutionally assumed office as President, to complete Yar’Adua’s tenure. During that period, the kind of confidence that Nigerians had back in 1999 in Obasanjo’s capabilities to change Nigeria, was even higher for Jonathan. Then, there was the sentiment which stemmed from the fact that the Niger Delta area, where he comes from, had been denied the position since independence. Besides, he was perceived not to be an ambitious person, considering his reluctance to assume the governorship of Bayelsa State from his deputy governorship position when his boss, Diepreye Alamieyesiegha fled the country for months after he was indicted for financial impropriety by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. When he was Vice President, Jonathan did not also get involved in personal agitation to assume the office of late President Yar’Adua when the President was obviously terminally ill.
The soft spot of most Nigerians for President Jonathan was increased by the fact that the 2011 general elections were a few months away when he assumed office as President. Jonathan’s 2011 electioneering campaigns brought up the ‘I had no shoes’ slogan and also pushed the fact that he is the first PhD holder to occupy Nigeria’s highest political position. Tribal and religious sentiments were not left out.
Today, many Nigerians are saying that the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan is worse than preceding administrations. Former President Obasanjo has become one of the major evaluators and critics of Jonathan’s administration. Even a former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, whose regime was perceived as being a major undoing to the nation’s dreams and aspirations, was quoted as saying that his administration was a saint, compared to Jonathan’s regime.
The 2015 electioneering campaigns are here and all the contending political parties and their representatives are canvassing for change while high hopes are building up again for the next dispensation. The same Nigerians, who have produced the past leaders, have not changed their orientation, value system and attitude towards nation-building.
The truth is that every society gets the leader it deserves. There is no one Nigerian leader that can singlehandedly deliver Nigeria from its current economic, social and political problems, as long as the followers remain the wrongly oriented populace that they have been over the years.
The parent who encourages his or her child to get involved in examination malpractices or advanced fee fraud (419) has to change for Nigeria to move forward. The belief that what you get from society is more important than what you give to it has to change. The civil servant who sits on a colleague’s promotion or retirement file in the office because of his refusal to bribe him has to change. The driver who stops his vehicle in the middle of the road to exchange pleasantries or make phone calls without considering other road users has to change. The clergyman who applauds the criminal in his church or mosque because of personal gains has to change. The trader or driver who inflates prices of commodities or fares suddenly to take undue advantage of an unfortunate customer’s situation must change. Owners of corporate organisations who connive with government officials to defraud Nigeria have to change. Lawyers who give bribes to court judges and judges who collect bribes to compromise the justice system need to change. Traditional rulers who accuse their subjects of being failures because they did not loot public treasury require change. The politician who begins to marry as many wives as possible at the expense of state funds just after assuming office has to change. The list is endless of categories of people who need to personally change to usher in the desired new Nigeria.
Nigeria as a country can only be delivered from its current social, political and economic mess when change comes. The change from the current status of the country can only come if individual Nigerians change from their negative beliefs, orientation and attitude. Until this happens, even the election of a Pope into Aso Rock will not make any difference.
We can only hope that few months after the February 2015 general elections, most Nigerians will not change their current song of change.
- Albinus Chiedu, Public Affairs Analyst, Ikeja, Lagos for PUNCH newspaper.