The January 1966 coup upended Nigeria’s first republic. The revenge coup of July same year gave birth to series of events that crystallised into the Biafran war and cost an estimated 3 million lives. Another coup in December 1983 installed a certain Major General Muhammadu Buhari as head of state and effectively put an end to the second republic, democracy and all attempts at kick-starting Nigeria’s march to greatness. Then came March 28, 2015 and Nigerians trooped to the poll to elect a man who promised them he would fight corruption, defeat Boko Haram terrorism and rebuild the country. Sadly, that decision has proven to be catastrophic on several counts. From emboldening all manner of terrorists who hound and kill villagers or block the highways for hours on no end to virtually destroying the economy with a massive debt overhang to creating the worst ethnic and religious divisions the country has ever seen since the end of the Biafran War, and then, Nigeria becoming one of the least desirable places- even for the citizens to reside in. It has been an awful marathon as the country ambled from one terrible experience to the other in very quick succession.
Nigerians are losing interest in the promises of democracy
The Muhammadu Buhari and APC-led federal government has created the kind of disillusionment with democracy that no one could have anticipated 21 years ago when Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in to usher in the fourth republic and mark the end of military dictatorship in the country. To gauge the importance Nigerians attach to events, I usually follow social media conversations to find out what people are talking about.
I logged on to my Twitter page in the morning to realise that thousands of Nigerians would rather talk about the unfolding race row in America than spare a thought for the trajectory of our democracy- the longest non-stop civilian dispensation the country has had in the last 60 years. On Facebook too, apart from a few random comments expressing frustration with the way things have evolved in the last 21 years, not many gave a thought to the significance of this day.
Beyond Buhari’s federal incompetence
Now for clarity sake, may it be stated that President Muhammadu Buhari is not the only failure we have seen since the return to civil rule in 1999. We have governors who do not consider payment of salaries obligatory. In several states, the roads are in terrible shapes and for many, elementary functions of government such as disposing refuse heaps and keeping the bureaucracy functional is akin to mountain climbing. So from Kogi to Abia, Benue to Zamfara, Kaduna to several other states in Nigeria, we still have millions who feel that democracy has brought so much deaths, poverty, starvation and disaffection that whatever good it birthed now pales in comparison.
A failure foretold
So while it is true that several leaders have failed, Buahri’s failure appears most spectacular. Yes, many predicted, including yours sincerely in the heady days preceding the 2015 general election that the former head of state would be a disaster if elected, I never imagined that it would be this terrible. Every singular problem Buhari promised to solve if elected has exacerbated. Insecurity is at a level many cannot imagine in a society with a functional government, the economy is presently on its knees with a gargantuan debt profile that frighten economists and what’s worse? Inter-ethnic tension is at a position many of us have never seen in our entire lives.
Buhari runs Nigeria like a provincial ruler and so much is done largely from the prism of ethnicity and religion than with considerations for merit and competence. At the moment, a disproportionate number of strategic national agencies are run by northerners who incidentally share the president’s faith. Nobody could have anticipated that Nigeria would ever return to the days when national character in the allocation of important offices meant nothing to an elected head of state.
Just read the papers
Consider also the wanton killing of Nigerians across the country, from Kaduna to Sokoto, Katsina to Delta, Enugu to Niger and you get a clear sense of the crises sheer incompetence has brought upon the country. Nigerians protested when members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria were killed in their numbers in Zaria in 2015 by members of the Nigerian military. Sadly, that killing became all too frequent that in time, people became numb to the news of mass massacre, either by men in uniform or by terrorist elements.
Pray, how many people have lost their lives to Boko Haram terrorists in the last five years? How many soldiers have been killed by the terror group? Did you see that coming in 2015 when you were told to vote for a general to replace a weakling?
Shall we talk about corruption? How about unemployment? Is it ok to spare a thought for the state of public infrastructure; power, federal highways and mass housing schemes? How about the state of our education? How about balance of trade and growth of SMEs? Does it make sense to still talk about the state of the public hospitals; perhaps the one inside the State House?
How about public discipline? How early do civil servants come to work now? How about abuse of offices and special privileges by those with access to the president? Shall we talk about what has become of the judiciary in the last five years or even the state of human rights in the country? Never mind. As Donald Trump would say, “just read the papers.”
There is no better metaphor to capture the terrible slide in our march to development than the terrible decline in the standard of our elections. From being inconclusive to becoming theatres of the absurd, it is nothing short of tragic that the most remarkable legacy of the Goodluck Jonathan administration was effectively destroyed under the reign of the man who promised to bring “change.” Can we ever repair the immense damages? Will Nigeria ever recover?
Sadly, there are still three long years ahead. Can we endure till the end? Only time shall tell. One however hopes that one day in the near future, we shall be able to greet each other with joy on the morning of May 29.
May our liberation come faster before we reach the cliff.