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By M. Babajide-Alabi
In the midst of the celebrations of the inauguration of the President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, let us all pause and reflect for a moment. The happiness and joy expressed by majority of Nigerians on the smooth handover of power on Friday, May 29 – the Democracy Day – from Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to Mr Muhammad Buhari is unquantifiable.
Nigerians popped champagne, danced, sang and raised their voices in support of the new man in charge of the affairs of the country. Many, all over the world were glued to their television sets, watching the historic event of this decade happen in the capital city of Abuja. This was the day Nigerians, all over the world were proud to identify themselves with the country. Proudly, and maybe for once in many years, Nigerians in Diaspora from London to Toronto, Houston to Tunis could walk down their streets with their heads raised high.
Nigeria was the focus of the international media. Not even the reelection of Sepp Blatter as the FIFA president amidst the corruption charges could “outstage” the inauguration news. Understandably, the inauguration of any president in the world is newsworthy, but the case of Nigeria is unique. The 2015 General Elections that culminated in the inauguration ceremony was a source of concern for the international community. Some predicted the elections would mark the end of the largest black populated country in the world.
The inauguration of Buhari has indeed brought new hope to the nation. Nigerians yearned for change and Buhari came in as the agent to effect it. Nigerians needed a hero, so they reached for Buhari, after his record fourth shot at the Presidency. The stage was set for him to come back and finish the job he was pushed away from thirty odd years ago. The same Nigerians that rejected him three times in the past, suddenly realised he was the only hope of the common man.
Nigerians are over the moon right now, as they believe it is a new beginning for the country. They care less how articulate or not the plans and programmes of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC) are, but they know it’s a new day.
The hope generated is understandable as for the first time in the history of the 4th Republic, there is actual transfer of political power from the ‘domineering’ party to another. For sixteen years, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ruled the country and made no secret of the fact that it would not let go of it under normal circumstances. While the “largest party in Africa” had produced three presidents in its existence, the current APC ha to undergo transformation and reconfiguration to take over power.
Ever since the results of the elections were announced in March, the mood of the nation has changed. There seem a unity of purpose of a scale that has never been experienced before. Nigerians are now able to sleep better and can afford to dip hands into their life savings because they are sure of a better tomorrow. Ever wondered why there was not much fuss about the fuel scarcity? Hope for a better tomorrow.
The only time this had happened in the country was immediately after the June 12, 1993 elections when Nigerians threw away the garb of ethnicity and embraced HOPE by voting for the Presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Alhaji MKO Abiola. But it was short lived as the ‘Evil Genius’ Ibrahim Babangida shut the door of hope in their faces, thereby turning hope to despair for them.
It was nostalgic when Buhari was declared the winner of the 2015 elections. Although his sound bite for the election was not Hope, he chose one that Nigerians could relate to – Change. Nigerians needed not much conviction to realise that if there is change, there is definitely hope for a better tomorrow.
But we need to thread softly. The mood in the nation today is similar to what we had four years ago when Nigerians voted massively for Jonathan to send this same Buhari back to political trench. In 2011 when Jonathan was sworn in as president, the goodwill he enjoyed was unprecedented in the history of the country. Majority of citizens were happy to identify with him, as they convinced the skeptical among them that Jonathan was the man divinely sent to save Nigeria. On his part, Jonathan assured Nigerians that his plans for a better Nigeria could only materialise under a full term and not one he inherited from the late Alhaji Umar YarAdua.
Jonathan was too simple, young and fresh to be doubted. The common men on the street could identify with his story of a hard working boy who came from a poverty stricken background. He reminded Nigerians that a boy whose parents could not afford to buy school shoes for has same opportunities like any other Nigerian kid. It was easy for us to fall in love with this man from Otuoke.
At his inauguration, Jonathan promised us a better tomorrow where we would be proud to call ourselves Nigerians. Just like Buhari did on Friday, Jonathan reiterated his love for Nigeria and said he had good plans to make the nation great again. Although he did not do the nationalist “fist salute” at the inauguration, Nigerians understood him and silently implored him not to say too much.
Nigerians were in love with Jonathan like they had never been with any leader before. Although there were pockets of reservations on his ability to transform, these were quickly dismissed by the mention of his first name “Goodluck”. Many critics shouted at the top of their voices that Jonathan’s shoulders were too frail to carry the responsibilities of the country, but Nigerians cared less.
However, it was not long before Nigerians became weary of Jonathan and his team. They knew Jonathan was still the same good man they fell in love with, but surrounded by “strange looking” men and women who could not differentiate between personal and state funds. His will to change the fortunes of the country for better suddenly lost momentum.
Jonathan not only lost momentum in his drive for a better Nigeria, he also lost the goodwill of the Nigerian masses. His ‘downfall’ was engineered and orchestrated by the people he had chosen to run his government. Unfortunately Jonathan had no political will to caution these lieutenants who were bleeding the country dry. To him, stealing is not corruption.
Today, we are celebrating Buhari. But it is instructive to advise the new President that he must not take for granted, just like Jonathan, the goodwill he is enjoying right now. As he has been sworn in, Buhari must hit the ground running and start the implementation of his manifestoes.
Many Nigerians do agree with the President that they should not expect him to perform miracles. They do realise how bad the Nigerian situation is, and for anything to come out, it would take a little time. But they want to see commitment on the part of the president and his men.
Nigerians are hoping to see the “replay” of the action days of Buhari in the early eighties when he first had a shot at governance. The situations may be different, but Nigerians are behind Buhari and expecting much from him and his team. This is wishing him the very best.
Published in the Sunday Vanguard May 31 2015