Just like Tchicaya U’tamsi, écrivain engagé and pre-independent Congolese (DR) Poet, “ I have used the excuse of my rotten teeth to keep my mouth shut decently” over the general elections in Nigeria. Considering the hue and cry that heralded the sham called elections as well as the vociferous protestations that greeted its conclusion, I knew I took the right decision in choosing to keep my mouth shut decently and drink from Uncle Bola Ige’s well of wisdom which prescribes that “blessed are those who do not hope for they shall not disappointed.” Of course I did not hope for something better and wasn’t disappointed with the outcome of the elections.
But following the proceedings of the Presidential Investiture Dinner for President Yar’Adua and his deputy where eulogies and elegies for were generously composed in cadences of extensive hyperbole by Politicians, ‘stakeholders’, Bankers, Economists and professionals on the many ‘achievements’ of Mr. Obasanjo which included the GSM revolution, debt payment, solid foreign reserves, international recognition, economic reforms of progress, peace and stability, poverty alleviation and democratic institutionalisation, I almost had a change of mind. Have I been living in the same Nigeria so lavishly painted? Is this Nigeria my country they are talking of or another? Have I been a part of Obasanjo’s Nigeria for the past eight years? Is there something wrong with me? Am I normal at all? How come I always see glasses from half-empty positions?
The Nigeria I know is not in anyway close to what these otherwise honourable men and women have said. The Nigeria I know is the Nigeria of Obasanjo’s yesterday. A Nigeria that was for eight solid years, under the clutches of a man who had a self-depreciating sense of humuor before he finally succumbed to the lure of Bonarpatist self-monumentalisation. A Nigeria where liars and thieves are our honourable men and prostitutes are our ladies of honour. A place where we fight corruption but cannonise certain criminals. We pour eulogies on riggers and defamers of our constitution, bestow nonentities with honoris causa, and decorate illiterates with Doctors of letters. A country where lecturers and teachers are perpetually on strike and students only resume school from strike to embark on another strike. A Nigeria where we cannot even organise Hajj operations or conduct a near-accurate population census. A country where darkness reigns supreme with families and industries wiped out by deadly fumes of generators and power plants. A nation where life has become so cheap that the highways and airspace have become veritable icons of mass extermination. A Nigeria where Governors are kidnapped, Ministers are assassinated, federal allocations are hijacked and the brains behind these acts are given national honours and presidential handshakes.
A nation with an open sore called Niger Delta that continues to fester into cancerous growth, swallowing innocent citizens, expatriate oil workers, and properties at a pace so dizzying and frighteningly apocalyptic. A Nigeria where poverty walks on all fours in the face of abundance of nearly everything and the only oil-exporting nation on earth that imports fuel. A Nigeria where new refineries cannot be built in eight years but old ones can be sold after eight years of Turn Around Maintenance!
All these and many more represent the Nigeria of Obasanjo’s yesterday and with a change in baton from Mr. Obasanjo to President Yar’Adua, Nigerians have been treated to an undesirable rendition of the facile dictum of “I will continue with the programmes and reforms of the Obasanjo administration”, “I will build on the successes and achievements of the last administration”, e.t.c, thus giving us an inkling into how a Nigeria of Yar’Adua’s tomorrow will be. Going by the foregoing, it wont be hasty to anticipate a Nigeria of Yar’Adua’s tomorrow where the fundamental principles and characterization of Obasanjo’s yesterday would hold sway. A Nigeria where elections would be conducted for the purpose of killing and maiming in order to get opportunities to “serve”. A Nigeria where reforms would only matter when they serve the interest of the rulers and are disregarded when they tend to regulate their excesses. A Nigeria where considerable number of presidential hours would be spent in the air, junketing the globe, proving to unconvinced international audiences that we are the heart of Africa. A Nigeria where 5% of the earnings of all public office holders produced by the ruling party goes straight the party coffers.
Amazingly, Nigerians still continue to wallow in their legendary rendezvous with hope and optimism in the face of great challenges. Inspite of the questionable legitimacy of the mandate and the all-depreciating baggage of Obasanjo’s yesterday which Yar’Adua wears like babylonic apparels, the Nigeria of today still expects him to rise above these moral confines and put in place a leadership that will extricate her from the interlocking clutches of corruption and subservience to imperial forces in the name of poisonous prescriptions for economic growth. A leadership that will eradicate, not alleviate, poverty as well as provide incentives for industrial and agricultural revolutions, thereby engaging gainfully, millions of her befuddled youths who presently subsist in desolate waste lands of joblessness, prostitution, armed robbery and struggle, militancy and youth restiveness.
Between Obasanjo’s yesterday and Yar’Adua’s tomorrow, lies a Nigeria of today that earnestly craves for a change in all principles of state policy. An early dislodgment and disempowerment of all anti-people reforms, retrogressive presidential posturing, pretensions and proclamations. A leadership that will put education on the front burner of budgetary relevance, resolve with dispatch and conclusively, the lingering feud between the Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), and take people-centred steps in revamping and revitalising education at both primary and post-primary levels. A leadership that will put in place for her people, basic infrastructure and facilities such as housing, roads, Airports, Aviation facilities, water and electricity at all levels. Of equal importance is the provision of standardised health facilities and centres of medical excellence where both the rulers and the ruled can access quality health care delivery. The Niger Delta question must be solved swiftly through the implementation of a complex whole of strategies and steps that are aimed at addressing decades of neglect, exclusion, underdevelopment, infrastructural decay and utter abandonment currently being experience by the region.
Of greater importance to the Nigeria of today is the restructuring of our bogus federation and an immediate overhaul of our constitution. The past eight years have not only brought out the naked deficiencies of our constitution but have also revealed in its truest shape, the knock-kneed and distended nature of the Nigerian federalism. The advent of an Obasanjo yesterday, who swept aside all questions of national existence by the simple process of arrogating to himself, his immediate family, small circle of cronies and destructive party, has of course further galvanized the thinking, inserting the possibility that one way to ensure that this aberration never again occurs, is to look into and modify the very structures of the nation being that made such an unthinkable possible, for if the unthinkable could happen once, and the internal arrangements of a nation’s democracy are not drastically overhauled and rendered more equitable and accountable, then of course, the temptation to repeat that phase of our history will ever remain with us and we may wake up tomorrow to discover that a clone of what we now democratic dictatorship has resurrected while we slept or busied ourselves with unbridled scramble for public office.
For Yar’Adua, the choice of being a politician who places the nation at his service or a statesman who will place himself at the service of the nation is obviously his to make, not mine, not ours.