Suddenly, what seemed yesterday like a near-comatose PDP is now a resurgent party, buoyed by President Olusegun Obasanjo’s endorsement of the man he once vowed would rule Nigeria over his “dead body”. The PDP is now seriously threatening President Muhammadu Buhari’s bid for a second term.
Suddenly, we find ourselves in 2014 again – a President popularly elected and from whom much was expected but who hit the ground and fell flat on his face like humpty-dumpty; a President blinded to constructive criticisms by sycophancy, launching paid cyberwarriors and truculent media aides against real and perceived enemies; a President who forgot how he groveled before those who made his election possible and wasted no time dissing them in private and in public; a President who saw himself as President of just his own ethnic enclave; a President who overestimated his own self-worth; overambitious, arrogant, recalcitrant, condescending, clueless, and feeble; a President carried away by the sense of entitlement…the “it-is-our-turn” mentality. We are where we were in 2014 when we thought we only had to pick between that President and a main challenger who had an odious past.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s fish did not realize early enough that the river had dried up. He saw himself as invincible. The power of incumbency would see him through; until powerful people ganged up against him and turned him out of power, throwing away with him the massive goodwill of support he had received from Nigerians who had hoped a relatively young Ph.D holder was what Nigeria needed to find her way out of the doldrums. Jonathan had the added advantage of having served in the local government, served as Deputy-Governor, Governor and Vice President. In the end, he was an unmitigated disaster and Nigerians bought the message of the amalgam of vultures united only by the desire to wrest power.
We are back in 2014 again. Buhari of 2018 is Jonathan of 2014. He has frittered away the goodwill of many who placed their hopes in him. Six months to put together a list of Ministers, and the quality of most of those Ministers? Appointments upon appointments skewed in favor of the north, and blatant, arrogant disregard for calls to ameliorate and stop the practice? Stating and believing that the East which gave him only 5% of its votes will be treated according to the 5% it gave him? Having no compunction about the optics of a President seeking medical care for undisclosed ailments overseas while his own people are dying in droves under a primitive healthcare system? Failure to overhaul the judiciary, particularly the criminal justice system even though the Vice President is a lawyer and a SAN? Reneging on the campaign promise to look into restructuring the nation’s revenue-sharing formula with the view to achieving equity? Giving aid and comfort to Fulani herdsmen who plundered and pillaged villages, brutally killing and maiming farmers on their own farms? Allowing confessed corrupt officials to pay back pittances from their loot, accepting them back into the APC, deodorizing them and letting them go…in a government whose main plank is anti-corruption war? Using the apparatuses of state security – DSS, EFCC, Police – to harass opponents on the one hand while professing adherence to the rule of law on the other? Gaunt and frail physical appearance…clearly evidence of old age and illness? Incoherence and obvious inability to hold his own with foreign leaders? Rumors of a three-hour maximum daily work routing, most of which is in bed?
And there is more. We don’t know exactly how much Nigeria has collected from corrupt officials and who refunded what? We are paying a lot more for fuel yet we did not repair the refineries we promised to repair and we are waiting for Aliko Dangote and Biodun Ladepo to give us refineries? Mr. President, the man who couldn’t tie his own shoes, retained the position of Minister for Oil and Petroleum Resources for himself? We promised to revive our national airline (something I opposed and still do) but failed to do so and failed to explain why? One man is manning three ministries…three key ministries in a country full of millions of qualified people?
And then when you try to say something, his spokespeople will come after you with such ferocity that you’d think they have been living on mars; that they do not see the pain and anguish in the land. That arrogance pushed them to attack Obasanjo in public after he wrote one of his usual letters, daring him to do whatever he was capable of doing. They didn’t know they were stirring the hornet’s nest. Last week, Obasanjo stung them by eating his own vomit, throwing his weight behind the phlegm he had spat on the political roadside a little more than a decade ago.
And pronto, we find ourselves in 2014 again. Much of the country now, again, believe the contest is between two evils – a sickly septuagenarian, ethnic jingoist who thinks he has been ordained from heaven to rule till he dies, and an overambitious, disloyal, conniving, unpatriotic and corrupt septuagenarian who also things he has been ordained from heaven to rule till he dies.
Surprisingly, almost everybody who was championing the call for the youths to aspire for leadership is now lining up behind one of these two poor choices. They do not see any “credible’ candidate in the legion of young, untainted-by-the-scourge-of-corruption, well-educated, well-spoken, healthy men and women vying for the presidency.
When you mention Omoyele Sowore’s name, or Kingsley Moghalu’s, or Fela Durotoye’s, they return with either “let them go and start at councillorship” or “they have no structure on ground”, or “they don’t have enough money”, essentially reducing the choices to a binary one. They have forgotten that most of the politicians who start that low and have been in politics for that long will most assuredly have been corrupted by the system before they are able to aspire for the top jobs. They forget that Yakubu Gowon and Muritala Muhammed didn’t have experience in governance when they took over the country. While being a soldier teaches leadership skills, it does not the same as governance experience. Many other professions also teach leadership. And they forget that with all of Jonathan’s experience…all of Buhari’s experience…the country did not fare better under them.
The most gnawing thing for me is the total absence of shame, absence of principles, absence of ideologies in the political structures…the so-called structures that the entrenched politicians have built all these years, and because of which we, the middleclass, supposedly educated, exposed and enlightened younger ones are killing ourselves applauding these people into positions of authority.
They get there and then they rape us. We are the ones that come into the bedroom naked with lubricants in hand and get in bed with them. We are the ignorant enablers. We know these people employ marabouts and all sorts of evil spirits. We know the hospitals they built for us are not good enough for them, their family and even their pets. We know their children do not attend the schools they built for us. Heck, they don’t even use the highways they built for us!
We go from beer parlors to Twitter and Facebook and pontificate about how best to govern the country. And when it is time to vote, we vote ourselves back under the same set of people. Six months later, when the faked funk has faded, we troop to churches, synagogues and mosques, seeking God’s intervention and deliverance. We start to cowardly canvass for the “Rawlings Solution”. We want a gun-toting crazy to come do for us what we greedily, myopically and self-centeredly failed to do with our own head and vote. We fail to note that we were the ones that failed to hear God when He tried to show us the way.
Every single Candidate Buhari out there…every single Candidate Atiku out there…has at least one Ph.D person working for him, patting him on the back and telling him he is the best to have happened to Nigeria since Gaari was discovered. He has a prolific journalist, a former editor at least, helping to burnish his tattered image. He has middlemen in the guise of Advisers helping to distribute dirty money with which they buy our consciences. And in our unquenchable thirst for the easy way and the filthy lucre, we sell our souls to these hardened, pathological criminals, mortgage our future and the future of the generations yet unborn and re-volunteer ourselves for lives of penury. We re-consign ourselves to the vicious circle of servitude in our land of birth. “Fool me once, shame on you; but fool me twice, shame on me.” they say. The shame is ours.
So, if either of these two poor choices wins the presidency, we have ourselves to blame for not having the courage to change…to change our perception of the kinds of people that should govern us. It will be our fault that we didn’t challenge them by getting behind some of the new entrants into the fray in such numbers as to shake them to the core of their being.
If we had the courage to put before Buhari or Atiku some of the tough questions that Sowore, Moghalu and Durotoye have had to endure…questions on personal life and policies, we would probably be better informed. But neither Buhari nor Atiku will ever make themselves available for us to grill on the streets. And come election day, we will not punish them.
Our road is long.
By Abiodun Ladepo
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