By Morak Babajide-Alabi
It is not all the time people start a conversation with you only to have insight into your opinion on what is wrong with the motherland Nigeria. When they do, you would naturally think it should not be a big task for any patriotic citizen. In recent times, however, it is becoming a rather “speechless” task whenever I get confronted as such on developments in Nigeria. Not that I do not have the faintest idea of the many things that are wrong, it is that I am usually overwhelmed by the proportions and scale of what to talk about.
It would have been an easy task if these wrongs were in a sector and you can see that efforts are being made to tackle them. Unfortunately, all identifiable sectors seem to have identical stories to tell. I know this may seem an unfair and general statement, but one struggles most times to point out a particular sector as doing better than the other. Comparing developments in, for instance, the economic sector with happenings on the political scene would seem as comparing apple with orange. So for the sake of argument let us class politics as a standalone sector that needs special indices to measure its development.
It is easy to conclude that the assemblage of individuals in political settings have been the greatest undoing of Nigeria. While in other climes, when individuals of similar ideas and persuasions come together, it is to find common platforms to advocate for the development of their countries, nations or regions. This is how they are able to achieve the dividends of democracy.
Going by experiences, the coming together of individuals on political platforms in Nigeria is not usually for national development. It is beyond reasonable doubt that politics in the country are for selfish interest, hence the reason why it has become a do-or-die affair. By extension, rather than reap the dividends, Nigerians carry the burden of democracy. Most of the activities destroying the past, the present and the future of the country are happening in the political “sector”. In effect, the efforts of other sectors to bump the country up are rubbished on the political front.
Nowadays the awkwardness of discussing the many wrongs of the country is painful. Everyone struggles to explain the abnormalities that play out in the political scene in the country. Even the political analysts that are permanent features on our televisions screens are losing their voices. Some of them are beginning to sound like broken records while they explain the absurdities. We still hear arguments such that no one should blame the present political players, as Nigeria’s democracy is still in infancy.
You can sympathise with the analysts. The rate at which these events are unfolding nowadays is unbelievable and very hard to keep up. It is impossible to form opinions, talk less of putting them out in the public sphere. You will agree that when “things” happen in Nigeria, they do fast and you may need more than human efforts to keep up. This has always been my dilemma because while trying to get my head around some, others are developing at frenetic pace. At this point, I am always in need of refreshers courses to recollect what happened the previous week.
It is not easy catching up with these unfolding events – from Lagos to Osogbo, Offa to Abuja, Ibadan to Sokoto, Ado Ekiti to Calabar. If you had thought after a few years of the “Change Revolution”, politics would have evolved in the country; you are in for a surprise. The game is still the same, if not worse than it used to be.
With the 2019 General Elections around the corner, the craziness is now taken up the notch. The stakes are higher now while the players on all sides are back to their old selves, as they throw their weights around. Give it to them though; the polity is not as worked up as it was in the pre-2015 General Elections. We can recall the dramas, the promises, the lies, the gang ups and the various crisscrossing of political landscapes to install the “chosen one”. It might not be intense now as it was then; yet, we are witnessing more ridiculousness and desperation where one would never have imagined.
In the article “Nigeria Will Change, When There Is Individual Rebirth“, first published in this column on January 4, 2015, I had written that until we all “go back to our mothers’ wombs” to be reborn, Nigeria will not witness any change. I wrote “We ask who the people who make up the government are? These are individuals and they are Nigerians. If we change the government and bring in the new set of Nigerians, we will still be shouting change in a few months’ down the line.” For effect, this article was published again a few weeks ago, and the responses from some readers have been mind-boggling.
Change is a loosely used word in Nigeria’s political climate. So the meaning and perception of change are mainly on what side of the political divide you belong to. To some, Nigeria has never had it as good as it is right now. They believed a lot has changed since the All Progressive Congress (APC)-led government of President Muhammad Buhari came into power. I also believe the country has seen some changes in some sectors since 2015, compared with what was obtainable as at that date.
It is somewhat distressing for me that we continue to measure these changes against standards that we agreed pre-2015 were very low. Because as a nation we have been unfortunate to have selfish, greedy and unpatriotic leaders who have set low standards for us through the years, we have continued to measure our progress by these. The supporters of change are always quick to let us know that we enjoy more hours of electricity than before, corruption has become a thing of the past, and the economy is booming. This is what politics has done to our psyche.
While these changes are taking place in other sectors, the politicians have forgotten to change their primary constituency. It is still politics, as usual, as politicians are winning elections, not by manifestos, but by how much money they throw around. Deals are being done right, left and centre to stay in power, to grab power or to stay relevant. Kingpins, godfathers, “cabals” are showing their hands, not faces, but we know they are controlling the affairs. This is Nigeria politics for you.
To achieve “common” goals of “nationhood”, once “celebrated criminals” are now de-criminalised, pardoned, dusted and made brides. These are attempts to keep the masses in line. Yet, I keep hearing the well-beaten word “change”. Where is the change? These politicians should remember the words of former US President Barrack Obama who said: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
How many of our politicians are acting the change and not just mouthing it?
As written for the Diaspora Matter column, Sunday Vanguard, September 30, 2018.