By Douglas Anele
In about three weeks from now, precisely on November 29, 2015, it would be six months since Muhammadu Buhari, flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last presidential election, assumed office as President. The fundamental slogan or catch phrase of his party during the electioneering campaigns was “change.”
Now, APC’s noisy “gospel of change” was anchored on relentless castigation of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, and on the tantalising offer of positive change ifthe party was voted into power at the federal level. On the other hand, the campaign machinery of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), could not effectively repair the serious damage done to Jonathan’s electability arising from APC’s constant reminders of how Jonathan and his team mismanaged the country.
Although in every serious electoral contest for high political office contending parties try everything to win, in the weeks and months leading up to the March 28 presidential election the APC was more successful than its rival in projecting the hyperbolic narrative of a national partyfielding a tested and trusted presidential candidate who is capable of rescuing the country from sixteen years of PDP’s unimpressive leadership.
Even so, Buhari’s electoral victory was partly due to massive rigging in Northern Nigeria, a fact several self-appointed pro-democracy activists and champions of good governance conveniently ignore or pretend to be unimportant both for assessing the quality of the electoral process that led to Buhari’s emergence as President and for the character of governance that would emerge afterwards. Certainly, not all votes credited to Jonathan, especially in the South East and South South, were validly obtained. However, to appreciate the level of rigging that led to his defeat, consider the presidential election results declared in Kano State, a state that is among the educationally less developed states.
According to the results, out of 2.3 million votes cast, Buhari had a whopping 1.9 million, whereas slightly over 200,000 votes were credited to Jonathan. Interestingly, the Returning Officer (a Professor) who announced these apparently fictitious figures also claimed there were no voided votes, no single wrongly filled ballot paper! Only fanatic Buharimaniacs and gullible Nigerians accept without question the obviously manufactured results from Kano state. In my view, exaggerated praises of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) led by Professor Attahiru Jega are unwarranted given the significant logistic problems that attended the elections nationwide and numerous cases of electoral malpractices perpetrated by the two dominant parties in their areas of influence with the connivance of INEC officials and security personnel.
Former President Jonathan had enough reasons to contest Buhari’s victory at the courts. But he wisely chose not to, unlike Buhari who, driven by a bloated sense of self-righteous indignation and messianic pretensions, refused to acknowledge his opponents’ victories on two different occasions even after the Supreme Court had passed judgement on the matter. Indeed, that singular action by Goodluck Jonathan proved doubting Thomases wrong who thought that incumbent Presidents of African countries are temperamentally incapable of conceding electoral defeat in the spirit of good sportsmanship devoid of bitterness. Now that Jonathan is out of the picture, President Buhari has been in charge for about six months.
Nigerians who expected immediate radical departure from “business as usual” if he won are gradually coming to terms with the painful reality that they might have been deceived by highfaluting fantastic promises of the APC. Garba Shehu and some kingpins of the new ruling party have disowned certain campaign documents the party used in soliciting for votes.
President Buhari, Adams Oshiomhole, Rotimi Amaechi and Lai Mohammed are always complaining about the sorry state of the economy and mind-bending corruption allegedly perpetrated by the immediate past administration. In addition, the knee-jerk approach to governance by the APC federal administration – all this suggests that the party has no well-thought out coordinated strategy and action plan for the transformative change Nigerians were yearning for.
But why did so many people believe the APC propaganda of change? Why did a broad section of the population, including those with high-sounding academic titles, forget their thinking caps while responding to the change shibboleth without well-structured plan for its concrete actualisation offered by the APC during the campaigns? Answers to these questions are complex, but we can highlight the more important ones.
To begin with, inspite of commendable successes of the immediate past administration in agriculture, drastic reduction in the wage bill of federal government because of the new biometric payroll system, power sector reforms and infrastructural development etc, Jonathan’s failure to present an image of a determined and dogged fighter of corruption and impunity generated resentment among Nigerians who felt that he lacked the iron will needed to tackle the problem squarely.
Additionally, the living condition of the most vulnerable Nigerians did not improve significantly when Jonathan was in office. Indeed, in some cases the situation worsened principally as a result of the Boko Haram terrorism in the North East, epileptic electricity, sluggish growth in the real sector and sabotage by certain elements who did not want Jonathan to continue in office beyond May 29, 2015.
Therefore, although APC’s change slogan probably was more propaganda than substance, millions of Nigerians wanted improvement in their existential conditions. And since, as far as they were concerned, the possibility for positive change would be higher if a new party is voted in to replace the fumbling PDP, the people embraced the promise of change enthusiastically. We must mention the unflinching determination of Ango Abdullahi, Junaid Mohammed, Rabiu Kwankwaso and some other prominent members of the Northern establishment who wanted political power to return to the North at all cost. This lust for power, judging from the historical experience of Northern domination of the federal government since 1970, was not motivated by desire to liberate the suffering masses in Northern Nigeria from poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, Islamic feudal servitude, diseases and premature death.
Instead, for core Northern members of what Professor Ben Nwabueze called the “invisible government,” political power at the centre is an instrument for maintaining the status quo in which public resources are surreptitiously funnelled into their private pockets using the instrumentality of the state. From a more sinister perspective, such people see power as a tool for actualising the internal imperialist visions of Ahmadu Bello and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
Finally, the campaign of change by APC was very effective: the party cunningly convinced Nigerians that change was in the air and that it was time to try a new party at the federal level in order to halt the deteriorating situation all over the country. Consequently, millions of Nigerians who voted for Buhari found the change slogan attractive and persuasive. Yet, to make people accept the slogan of change is one thing, to translate it into concrete positive transformation of the living conditions of Nigerians is a different thing altogether.
The pertinent question that rears up from the discussion above is – what has changed since President Buhari assumed office? Obviously, the answer to that question will depend on how the phenomenon of change is interpreted and the context in which the notion is applied, because the appearance of change does not necessarily mean that real change has taken place.
Generally, the word “change” connotes “to alter or make different, to make to pass from one state or condition to another.” It follows that for genuine change to occur in a socio-political environment, certain fundamentals in the society must undergo transformation. Yet, it is another matter whether the change in question is positive or the very opposite.
In order to ascertain whether there has been any real change (or changes) since Buhari became President, it is essential to consider a number of factors, particularly the situation of things before he assumed office and the situation of things right now, together with the direction his administration is moving the country.
The gullible average Nigerian conflates ‘change’ with ‘progress’ or ‘positive transformation,’ without realising that the objective processes which lead to change are dependent on the blending of several variables and that positive or progressive change is quite different from mere change. Ordinarily, change in itself is an inherent feature of reality at all levels of being. But progressive change, which is value-impregnated, is utilitarian and consequentialist in character, since it signposts a transition from one state of being to another judged to be beneficial for a certain purpose determined by an individual or group. Hence, there are different ways of perceiving and interpreting change, which means that any interpretation of change is an invitation for deliberation and possible disagreement.
Going by the campaign rhetoric of the APC, Nigerians would soon experience a positive difference in the war against corruption, infrastructural development, job creation, security, the economy and implementation of welfare programmes for poverty reduction. In his inauguration speech, President Buhari himself promised to be the President of Nigeria, to govern without fear or favour, to fight corruption with iron determination, and move quickly to alleviate the sufferings of the poor and underprivileged. In that regard, we ask again the question posed earlier: in what ways have the fundamentals of our national life changed for the better since May 29, 2015?
Let us start by examining Buhari’s version of the war against corruption. Invidious critics of Jonathan excoriated him because in their opinionated corruption calculus, the former President lacked the willpower to move against corrupt top government officials, especially prominent members of his political party, the PDP. It has also been alleged that the anti-graft agencies were complacent in the execution of their functions, a situation that led to sloppy investigation and prosecution of high-profile corruption cases. Indeed,while Jonathan was still President, I criticised him for the sybaritic lifestyles of some of his political appointees and for pardoning late Diepriye Alameyeseigha, former governor of Bayelsa state, who was impeached and imprisoned because of financial misconduct, although facts have emerged indicating that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the President when Alameyeseigha was removed from office, deliberately orchestrated the matter for political reasons.
Now, some people are unduly excited about and romanticising the so-called “body language” of President Buhari, which they expect would give new impetus and vigour to the war against corruption. Accordingly, these days there are regular media reports about how the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) spent several hours “grilling” Sule Lamido, Godswill Akpabio, Mrs. Saraki and few officials of the Jonathan administration. Moreover, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Godsday Orubebe, erstwhile Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, are facing the Code of Conduct Tribunal for allegations of false assets declaration and corruption. Former National Security Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, Col. Sambo Dasuki, has been charged to court for treasonable felony, and there are attempts to try him secretly in a kangaroo court. All this suggests that the relevant agencies are waking up from their slumbers now that “a new sheriff is in town.”
But the situation is actually more complex than the average Buharimaniac for whom everything the President does, every decision he takes, is right and must not be questioned, can fathom. Objectively speaking, President Buhari is probably repeating the same mistakes that Obasanjo made by deploying the EFCC to harass, intimidate and humiliate those who do not belong to his herd. Prof. Nwabueze, in an informative essay entitled “The tragedy of lack of a collective sense of history,” discussed in detail how Obasanjo trampled on the constitution and used the EFCC to hound selected state governors. Similarly, Buhari, in his Inaugural Speech, hinted that he intends to follow the footsteps of Obasanjo by not allowing constitutional limitations on presidential power arising from our federal system to inhibit his war on corruption. Thus, with Buhari’s ascension to power, we have moved from Goodluck Jonathan’s laid back attitude towards fighting corruption to a more dangerous and sinister situation in which the constitution will be arbitrarily subverted in the name of fighting corruption, which means that we should be prepared for odious dictatorial and unconstitutional usurpation of powers by Buhari against those outside his inner cabal.
Of course, it is impossible for any President to deal with all allegations of corruption at the same time – the war against corruption must begin from some individuals, preferably former heads of state and key public officials whose extremely ostentations lifestyles far outstrip their legitimate income.But consider this: since Buhari took over power, virtually all the prominent government officials and politicians facing the EFCC and the CCT belong to the opposition party or had worked for Goodluck Jonathan, whereas APC politicians with fat hunchbacks of corruption are being selected as gubernatorial candidates of the party in states where elections are pending or are rewarded with ministerial appointments.
More specifically, the politicians APC is fielding in Bayelsa and Kogi states’ governorship elections were former PDP governors in their respective states with unsettled allegations of graft hanging on their thick necks, whereas despite several petitions sent to the EFCC against APC kingpins, including Babatunde Raji Fashola, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and Rabiu Kwankwaso, none of them, to the best of my knowledge, has been interrogated by the anti-graft commission, let alone charged to court.
In my opinion, on the issue of fighting corruption, there is change, but not in the direction that would bolster the confidence of discerning Nigerians that indeed the war against corruption would be fought by Alhaji Buhari in a manner that would be fair and just to everybody concerned. All the same, I sincerely wish the President unequivocal success in bringing the biggest evil looters to justice.
Next, let us consider the question of inclusiveness in central administration, which is extremely important in a federation such as ours, inspite of its numerous challenges and imperfections. The emergence of Buhari as President is an object lesson in the power of propaganda, prejudice and habit of thought in shaping how human beings perceive reality and how they interpret socio-political phenomena occurring around them. It is distressing to note that some Nigerians thoroughly dislike Goodluck Jonathan to the extent that even in few areas that he deserves some credit, they would either concoct some silly arguments to discredit his achievements or distort facts to suit their jaundiced interpretations.
For instance, Jonathan, from what one can glean from accounts of his personality and disposition, is a mild-mannered humble man temperamentally incapable of the kind of sectional lopsidedness President Buhari manifested in the first few dozen appointments he made on assumption of office. I do not have the exact facts concerning the constitution of Jonathan’s inner circle of officials with whom he took on the spot decisions daily, but I am sure that he distributed fairly key official positions, especially Secretary to the Federal Government, Chief of Staff, National Security Adviser, Director of State Security and others between the North and South. But President Buhari gave all these positions to Northerners.
Culled from Vanguard