The turmoil, looting, and anarchy that engulfed Nigeria in the wake of the #EndSARS protests in Lagos and across Nigeria have re-enforced the burning desire by Nigerians to see an end to mass poverty and suffering that has become the lot of the citizenry.
The protests underscored the urgent need for a change in the way the system has been run without further delay. Nothing would assuage the public angst except there is a visible manifestation of change that positively impacts the lives of the people in real terms.
By now, the authorities should have known that Nigerians are not disposed to being patient because of years of political deceit and unfulfilled promises; impatience is the norm. The virtue of patience is not common in this clime and this is understandable.
Understandable in the sense that the country has been raped and bastardised by the political elite and their cohorts, while Nigerians are left forlorn and denied the good things of life since independence. The desire for a good life started on October 1, 1960, but sadly enough, that has never materialised 60 years after independence.
Barely six years into independence was the country plunged into a fierce fratricidal civil war that claimed about three million lives. After the war ended in January 1970 and the military took over the reins of government, Nigerians continued to expect a good life that did not come. The civilian interregnum between October 1979 and December 1983 was a huge disappointment. The civilians re-enacted corruption and maladministration that brought back the military into power in August 1985.
From May 1967 to October 1999 a period of 32 years, Nigeria’s affairs were run by unaccountable military juntas that failed woefully to bring the expected prosperity to the country. The country was put on a ruinous path that is still with us until today. Only a conscientious, patriotic, and committed leader would reverse it.
The argument in some quarters that the likes of Gowon, Babangida, Abacha, and others who presided over the affairs of the country over the period were youths and so ought to have done well does not hold water because they were undemocratic jackboot military leaders who were not accountable to the people. The situation may have been different if they were democratically elected young leaders. Nevertheless, the dominant political system in operation largely determines how the leaders would carry themselves. The warped system won’t even allow any elected spirited youth to do well for the people.
When a new democratic dispensation birthed in October 1999 with former President Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the helm of affairs, Nigerians re-enacted the desire for progress in the country. Obasanjo had the opportunity to bring change but goofed in eight years of political impudence. Obasanjo handed the baton to President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who unfortunately died barely two years into office. Nigerians believed that Yar’Adua demonstrated inklings of progress with his Seven-Point Agenda that never materialised.
President Goodluck Jonathan succeeded Yar’Adua but instead of continuing with the Seven-Point Agenda floated a transformation agenda, which Nigerians interpreted as the other side of the same coin. Jonathan’s perceived personal desire to bring change failed due to the greed and avarice of the powers in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). Thus, for 16 years, rather than see progress, Nigerians saw unthinkable and abrasive corruption and looting that utterly degraded the country.
It is little wonder, then, that when Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) capitalised on the psyche of Nigerians, which has a burning desire for progress and prosperity, and came up with the CHANGE mantra during the 2015 general elections, Nigerians overwhelmingly bought into it. The thinking was that if Buhari, whom they already perceived as a no-nonsense man, was the man who will lead the change that everybody craved, so be it.
Consequently, Buhari won the 2015 presidential election, and no sooner had he been sworn in on May 29, 2015, than Nigerians began to demand the change he promised. But the change could not come. With the mountain of problems plaguing Nigeria, the ground had to be cleared first and the foundation laid for change to take place. Unfortunately, Nigerians were not ready to make excuses. They wanted instant change without excuses. Five years into Buhari’s administration, nothing seems to be happening, particularly, as more and more Nigerians sank into abject poverty and mass unemployment.
I would like to stress that the progress and prosperity that Nigerians need cannot be accomplished by the government at the centre alone. There will be no change in Nigeria without the involvement of the states and local government councils. Unfortunately, the states are overlooked while everybody is focusing on the Federal Government, which is totally unrealistic.
All the basic social amenities – water, hospital, roads, schools, health centres etc that we need are largely the responsibility of the state governments. Though the Federal Government had taken it upon itself, over the years, to be in charge of electricity, nothing stops any state government from building power generation plants as an independent supplier.
If each state government gets serious with power supply, the power from the centre would be negligible. The same applies to roads. Available statistics show that there are about 200,000 kilometers of road in the country, out of which the total federal highways are about 34,340.90 kilometers. The states and local governments have responsibility for 165,660 kilometers of roads. If the states and local government councils do their roads, the federal roads will pave into insignificance.
It is ironic that while people lament over the dilapidated inter-state federal highways like the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Lagos-Sagamu-Ore Expressway, Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, etc, no one mentions the intra-state roads that really serve the people. The people are robbed mainly by the states and local governments. The Federal Government is guilty of monopolizing governance by virtue of the lion share it has on the exclusive legislative list while the state manages the few items on the concurrent legislative list.
That is why the attention of Nigerians is mostly focused on the president while the governors are left out. Virtually, all the administrations that have presided over the affairs of Nigeria since Independence passed through this unfortunate unitary government syndrome.
The worst thing that happens to Nigeria is when, as a result of mounting poverty, the psyche of the people tends to be conditioned to accept that corruption is now acceptable because under corruption, food was cheap and life was better!
Across the civilised world, progress is made when there are rapport and understanding between the people and their leaders. There can be no progress when the leaders and the people are heading in opposite directions because of a seeming military democracy that is being practiced in Nigeria. How can a supposedly democratically elected government not listen to the yearnings of the people? Why govern by force of arm using the police, army, and other paramilitary security forces?
If the only thing Buhari would achieve is to tackle corruption and bad governance by restructuring the polity, then the country would have had change and every other thing would fall in line. Bad governance is an anathema that stifles progress and impoverishes the people. The time to change it is now.