New Telegraph Back Page
Posted on December 9, 2021
By Ike Abonyi
“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change the system might be.” ––John Wooden
Nigeria’s next general election is by the corner and the preparations for it are in top gear. Governance, as usual, has taken the back seat as electioneering occupies those charged with the state administration. Now everything–politics, economy, security, and social life–is tied to 2023. It’s going to be a year of destiny for the country. It’s going to be an election year like no other.
It’s a make-or-mar event in the nation’s annals. Such tales in Nigeria have become hackneyed like the cliché. The looted funds are creeping out of their hideouts. They are being released from secret vaults and deployed to help secure another term of office for the Continuous Looting Nigeria Plc. The campaign messaging content hardly changes. As it was in 2015, so it was in 2019 and will remain so in 2023. Insecurity, poor economy, petrol subsidy, youth unemployment, and corruption. If you try to compare the messages, you discover that the more you look, the less you see. All the sectors are worse off now than ever before.
Little has changed in our lives through democratic governance. Yet, we are made to believe that democracy is the best form of government. If so, then our problems emanate from where we are yet to discover. Who did this to us? If we are practising the best form of government and things are not working, doesn’t it mean that the Nigerian project, unable to sustain egalitarianism, no longer makes sense? How can a nation endowed with such huge natural and human gifts be in such permanent motion without covering any distance? The ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC), and President Muhammadu Buhari’s spin masters are already compiling the huge achievements in their records.
It would not matter to them if what they will push out to the public as achievements cannot reflect well with the real situations in the lives of the populace. Their concern will be to sway you and get your vote. From 1999 to 2023 will be 24 consecutive years of so-called democracy. Meanwhile, the people’s standard of living has been sliding steadily. The glaring benefits have been noticeable in the individual lives of very few active players in government that represent less than 20 per cent of the general population.
In the nation’s seat of power Abuja, good houses litter the whole area built with looted funds and occupied by no one, yet in the suburbs and other places, the squalor has been multiplying with the obvious shrinking standard of living. Last week, a respected cleric, the Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, angered by the noise over election amidst myriads of unaddressed issues, screamed, “As for the election, we are not even sure whether Nigeria will be one country or whether we would have an independent country.”
Fuming over the happenings in the country, the ecclesiastic said, “There is no reason the spate of insecurity should continue like this till 2023. There is no reason we should not be able to finally settle this problem before 2022 is over. If it’s not over, it means we have failed as a nation and the question will no longer be whether we can have an election or not, but whether it makes sense even to have an election because we don’t have a country; the matter is serious.”
If a retired Archbishop, now in his 80s, feels so much frustration about a country he served at the pinnacle of his calling, should it not bother us where we are headed as a nation? The Cardinal’s strong views perhaps buttresses the stand of his brother Bishop of Sokoto, Dr Matthew Hassan Kukah. Bishop Kukah, easily the most exasperated cleric from Northern Nigeria in this dispensation has been on marble saying that Nigeria should divide so that those who want and are interested in development can move on to develop their areas. The cleric’s reaction didn’t just come out of the blues; he has been a consistent crier of the twaddle in governance, particularly the anti-development de-portment of the Northern region. His frustration has been very apparent to the point of occasionally undressing his spiritual garb to buttress his point.
The Bishop’s point is perhaps the guileless way of saying that some regions are more interested in making progress than others. In a normal clime of uneven development, the area of a disadvantage should be hungrier for it but here the reverse is the case, an attitude the clergyman cannot understand. This is the question in many discerning minds for which the distinguished cleric is proffering solutions.
The question is if we are all in agreement that things are just not working, is one Nigeria still necessary? Even those who feel they are benefiting from the status quo live in denial if they think of the general population, not of the tiny individual self-gains.
Recall that at some points in this country, during the civil war, Gen Yakubu Gowon was the Head of State and we were made to interpret his name, Gowon to mean ‘Go on with one Nigeria, there were also slogans like “Nigeria unity is not negotiable,” “to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done.” All of the above underscores the inevitability of one united entity called Nigeria. That was when one Nigeria used to be as inevitable as death. Particularly after a failed attempt to break it during the 30-month civil war of 1967 to 1970 that over three million citizens were sacrificed to retain the country.
But remarks of disappointment coming copiously from highly respected clerics above gives a picture of the mood of the nation. Our conversation this week will address the perplexing question of whether the supreme sacrifice made by these citizens to keep Nigeria one is worth it looking back and in juxtaposition with the happenings in the country today. Whether the image we see in the mirror is still what we present will be better understood after reviewing the situation in the country, the hype over 2023 and trying to corroborate it with the people’s living standards. The ironic thing is that these two clerics have been very active members of the General Abdulsalami Abubakarled peace and reconciliation committee. It’s this committee that always intervenes when things are going wrong and is critical in our polity. For them to be talking like this, one thing is very clear, the committee may have reached a cul-de-sac in the mission of finding a solution to the country’s challenges.
If the picture painted by the clerics is this gloomy, the peace committee owes Nigerians a report card of their activities and a way forward. To just join social media activists in lamenting the nation’s woes is not enough. If you are the vehicle that helped to bring us to this bus stop and we can go no further, the driver and conductor owe the passengers a sincere explanation of the situation, why the vehicle is grounded and the way forward. For years since this new democratic dispensation, we have listened to various reasons for our failing, stories of intelligence failure, glaring displays of incompetence by operatives of both government and its agents. But in the private and corporate community things are working out well, underscoring the fact that our system is arcane and responsible for our latent failure. No wonder then an American actor John Gould said that “if you don’t fix latent failure in your system, you’re asking for trouble.”
Truth is that if Nigeria of today refuses or fails to restructure, she would be asking for trouble that is if she is not already in it. Reality demands that a road must be created where there is none, voters in this country must bolt out of their cocoon, wipe their eyes and say no to a jinxed system that blocks out-of-the-box reasoning.
In looking at the grave situations in our polity over the years and the merry go round ahead of 2023, maybe we need an immediate response to these questions. Is 2023 even an answer? Are the fouryearly elections that add no value to our political life needed? Can a distinctive unpleasant odour clear on its own without deodorant? Answers to these questions may help as our nation struggles to walk out of its current quagmire.
May God help us.