Nigeria’s Democracy Day passed with deafening silence. Without the fanfare and drama that saw the ushering in of the Buhari administration merely two years ago. The atmosphere was calm and yet highly sensitive. Sensitive to the unspoken words of the people, calm in the face of the unmasked anger of over 170million citizens shocked by a staggering unemployment, a recession, and an ailing president. The hubris of endless campaigns, queue’s and the quarrelling with friends and neighbours over which political party best held the infrastructure to secure Nigeria’s future is all but gone. The conversations are more pragmatic now: power, the weather, and the dollar.
At the Yar’Adua centre in Abuja, the Ernest Ibrahim Foundation triggered a conversation about the state of the nation in the light of recent developments. Its goal according to the founder was to set the course for improved governance through the theme Fixing Nigeria. The age old question arose: What is the problem of Nigeria, and how can we solve them? The topics ranged from the deeply idealistic questions of recycling the political elites, to more concrete questions around bridging the generational gaps in governance, youth inclusiveness, and gender equality in governance. One notable voice was the author and political analyst Gimba Kakanda as it echoed through the chambers: ‘…there are no succession plans for youths in Nigeria, and there is no independent youth in Nigeria, each influential youth you see is powered by a god-father…’ Perhaps Gimba is right, perhaps the irony of such a statement is that in exception of those assassinated or died in office, the rest are still alive, and play a significant role in the affairs of Nigeria. Them, aged men, and not through their children.
At the international space however the IPOB had called for a sit-home strike aimed at surfacing the political marginalization of the Igbo ethnic group. Their actions geared to revisit the clash of colonial constructions and ethnic differences in what has been dubbed by some as a civil war, and by others, genocide. Thousands would later be seen on national television waving ‘half-yellow-sun’ flags, and dancing to the dream drums of succession. All these constructions passed by quietly, and as well intensely: a soft reminder that the problems of Nigeria may never truly die.
Another Democracy Day
Speaking at the Fixing Nigeria event, Assistant Head of Delegation of the European Union Richard Young remarked that such a time was adequate to think through how to design a constitution for improved leadership and economic development. Quoting CNNs Fareed Zakaria and economics science Nobel winner laurete Roger Myerson’s position on embracing structural reforms, and increasing the supply of leaders with good reputation, Young climaxes his thoughts with a philosophical question: Is there a demand for responsible leaders? I find his question quite interesting, shifting the bar a bit, I asked and answered myself: Are Nigerians looking forward to better leadership? If ordinary everyday Nigerians spend their time surfing the net and creating dummy platforms aimed at defrauding locals and foreigners, if ordinary Nigerians travel all the way to Malaysia to peddle drugs, if young Nigerian girls can be psyched into laundering money to as far as Dubai for great Instagram posts, or sent to Italy for physical services, or rallied as mob during election campaigns, or rented as election crowds for bags of rice, then perhaps the demand for good leadership isn’t quite as high as we think it to be.
Itua sees it as a value conversation. Speaking at the event, the youth activist lamented that after two decades of fighting against the system, it still feels like there’s so much more to be done. It’s is almost like Chinua Achebe’s saying that since man has learnt to shoot without aiming, the birds have learnt to fly without perching. No matter the laws we introduce, people have always found ways to circumvent them. In his engagements, he flagged the eroding and corroding of social values as a key component in the super-structure called corruption and urged the promotion of better leadership. I am almost inclined to accept his value prepositions, romantic as they are. Among the panellists, Premium Times Idris Akinbanjo argued the problem to be both systematic and institutional: the amount of money in political office, and the refusal to use public facilities by public office holders.
Two years of Change
For every other Nigerian witnessing the unpredicted turn of events the narrative remains the same. Two teams arguing for and against the party which butters their bread and the people are the grass beneath the elephants. The facts speak for themselves: dollar at sky-scrapper rate, increasing cost of basic amenities, power shortages, rising unemployment, social tension and more politicking towards 2019: nobody truly cares.
For me, May 29 is another chapter in the history books of failed promises, unbundled propaganda’s, scripted successes and a seemingly endless struggle to get it right. If anything, I am already convinced that the current political elite, do not have what it takes to govern the more modern and complex Nigeria that is today. If they were, such disturbing quotes as ‘change begins with you’ would not find a place in our history books, especially not after the brazenly divisive elections of 2015. I will go with Gimba on this one: Change does not begin with the people this time, it must begin with those who were elected on the promise of that change. They it is who must take responsibility to deliver on that change. That is if they can, we have two more years to find out.
Article written by Tahir Sherriff
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