Some of us would remember the popular movie that featured the iconic Hollywood star, Clint Eastwood titled: THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY?
For the purpose of appraising the state of the nation today, l would like to characterize Nigerians as the GOOD; the former ruling party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as the BAD; and the new ruling party, All Progressive Party (APC) as tending towards being the UGLY, unless it mends its ways urgently.
The justification for tagging the APC with the toga of UGLY is derived from the fact that traditionally, the romance between Nigerian voters and their elected leaders lasts beyond 24 months before it goes awry, but the fact that APC’s deposits in the goodwill bank of Nigerians got rapidly depleted less than one hundred , 100 days of being in office, before it started being pummeled online by the same people who heralded the party into power, spells doom and justifies the appellation-ugly.
In the light of the foregoing, the very pertinent question to ask is: why is it that the good people of Nigeria after being ruled for 16 years by the PDP (1999-2015) until it was defeated by the APC on February 28th 2015,seem to have been consigned once again by some terrestrial forces into remaining in the throes of leadership miasma which hallmarked the immediate past administration?
The simple answer to that question is that there is no terrestrial power hamstringing Nigeria. Rather ,the new ruling party is yet to phantom how to deal with the demon of high expectations from Nigerian voters which it created by over promising during her campaign to upstage the PDP and under-delivering.
That much was discussed in my previous article titled APC: CAMPAIGNED IN POETRY AND GOVERNING IN PROSE which was widely published in online platforms and mainstream media.
As we may recall, when the APC rode into Aso Rock on May 29, 2015 with change as its battle cry, expectations were high but the new govt has been on the saddle of leadership for all of sixteen months, yet it has so far not exhibited any superlative leadership tendencies, leaving most Nigerians highly disappointed.
Those who share the opinion above, buttress their position with the argument that if in sixteen months of being at the helm affairs in a four year tenure -the party has failed to show signs of its capacity to deliver on its promise to reverse the misfortune that our country has been mired in-since the return to multi party democracy in 1999, then it is unlikely to make change happen in the remaining period of the four years tenure.
The above assertion is validated by the old saying amongst sailors “Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors warning”.
In other words, the morning reflects the evening.
With the APC displaying Red sky in their political morning, there is cause for the palpable apprehension about the future.
The aforementioned sentiment is underscored by the obvious sense of resentment in the political firmament that one can almost touch physically owing to the hardship apparently being inflicted on the people by the ruling party hence the APC brand is now looking ugly.
Arising from the scenario above ,the same Nigerians who paved the way for the triumphant entrance of the APC into Aso Rock as the ruling party with Muhamadu Buhari as president and Lai Mohamed as minister of information, have been expressing disdain and disgust towards the leadership on online media platforms for failing to provide the change that was promised voters who awarded APC votes of about 14 million and above PDP’s estimated to be nearly 12 million votes in the last general elections.
Some of the rage being spewed online may be base and banal but they are reflective of the resentment of the masses towards the APC and the current Nigerian leadership which is basically the reason the party is looking ugly.
Here are a couple of snippets of the public bile on the Internet as copied:
Although the claims in the posts highlighted above are not grounded in any technicalities and therefore spurious to the discerning eyes , yet they are doing the APC colossal damage because they appear to be logically correct to the ordinary folks on the streets.
That should give the establishment concern enough to warrant correction of the misinformation via concerted efforts.
But instead of addressing such present and immediate concern/danger, what Nigerians are being regaled with is the new campaign ‘Change Begins With Me’ which information and culture minister, Lai Mohamed is promoting and which just got launched by president Buhari.
To say the least, the campaign is ‘breaking’ at a most inauspicious time because at this critical moment of seeming aimless drift of the ship of state owing to lack of clear policy direction of government, Nigerians are looking for the leader who would truly drive change.
The electorate had seen that leadership ability and capacity in Buhari hence he was voted into office as president on March 28th 2015, but the same voters are now highly disappointed because under Buhari’s watch performance has fallen short of the high expectations.
Rather than change her tact by taking the leadership role more frontally and altruistically, APC is trying to shift the responsibility for change to Nigerians via the latest campaign which is obnoxious.
That is contrary to the party’s promise during its campaign to unseat Pdp and in my reckoning, it amounts to abdication of responsibility by the ruling party which appear to have in her DNA the inelegant characteristic of blaming others, apart from its self, for the nation’s current misfortunes.
As a song star once put it “Every generation blames the one before”, but for how long such art of living in denial can be sustained is a different kettle of fish.
Obviously, the APC does not appear to know when to draw the line.
Some of the main tipping points or headwinds against the wave of popular momentum that swept the APC into power is: (a) the lack of tolerance or aversion to dissent by the authorities which is undemocratic (b) lack of inclusiveness which is anti federal character principle embedded in Nigerian constitution and (c)sluggishness in policy formulation and implementation manifesting as leadership paralysis.
In the light of the foregoing, the earlier the govt in power realized that Nigeria is practicing democracy whose functionality is predicated on freedom of speech, freedom of association and right to express displeasure in civilized manners at govt officials, the better for the ruling party in particular and the nation as a whole.
Nothing sustains follower ship in politics or loyalty in business better than keeping promises that were made.
When a leader carries the followers along as Mr President has started doing lately through his recent humble appeal to Nigerians during the Muslim celebrations by seeking their understanding and patience in this period of socioeconomic tumult, all hands would be on deck to paddle the sinking canoe to the shore, but if the devil may-care-attitude of the past persists, l see perdition for APC in the hands of voters.
Considering the hunger inspired angst in the nation, the postponed Edo state gubernatorial election holding in about a fortnight and the Ondo state governorship election also in the horizon may turn out to be foretaste of what might happen to the APC in the general elections in 2019.
Without discountenancing other factors that may be partly responsible for the parlous state of our economy which indicates that Nigeria is racing against time as she is competing against 54 African countries and about 200 other countries globally, the speed to remedy the economic situation should be more priority in policy making and implementation for the progress of society, growth of the culture of democracy and lifting out from poverty trap, a critical mass of long suffering Nigerians.
In other words, Mr President’s fight against corruption is good, but priority should be given to combating poverty and restoring hope in Nigerians to give them a sense that all hope is not lost.
To further put things in better perspectives, let’s recall some of the major policies so far enunciated by APC led administration in the past sixteen, 16 months with a view to highlighting how the policies have helped or hurt the people in the polity that they were meant to salvage.
In terms of cause and effect; has the massacre of El Zarzaky followers by Nigerian army and his incarceration bridged the Shiite-Sunni divide in Nigeria? In my considered opinion, the answer is, No.
Instead, the El Zazarkky issue has accentuated the perennial religious crisis which was hitherto at low ebb. Similarly, has putting Nnamdi Kalu, the radio Biafra promoter in dungeon prevented the formation and proliferation of the movement for the Independence of the People of Biafra, IPOB even after the military alleged killed many protesters agitating for the creation of Biafra? Rather it has created more awareness for the pro Biafra movement which has now mutated into two-MEND and IPOB.
What about the withdrawal or withholding of payment of stipends to former Niger delta militants offered through an amnesty package instituted by late president Umaru Yar’Adua that guaranteed the steady supply of oil for export from the treasure trove of the nation? From an erstwhile volatile region which had become relatively peaceful following the amnesty gesture sustained by the last administration thus enabling the production of nearly 2 million barrels of crude oil per day barely 24 months ago, the Niger delta is now in conflagration, and the authorities and Nigerians have literarily been watching our oil assets engulfed in inferno.
Each time l hear the affable Vice President Yemi Osinbajo lament that about one million barrels of crude oil is being lost everyday due to militancy in the oil rich Niger delta, l ask why the authorities did not have the foresight of feeling the pulse of the Niger delta people or reviewing the previous Niger delta policies with a view to finding out how and why they were formulated before deciding to send out the mixed and confused messages about wether amnesty is being called off or rejigged which l believe is the crux of the crisis in the treasure trove of the nation.
As a result of the aforementioned negligence , the precious oil which should have been fetching our country the much needed dollar to shore up CBN’s fast depleting forex reserve that could have improved the Naira exchange rate and bring succor to the hapless Nigerian workers, that have been contending with back log of salaries payment, are in flames, as Avengers and a host of other new strain of militants carry out their threat of bringing Nigerian economy and by implication the establishment to its knees.
How about the devaluation of the Naira which has seen Naira trading at over N400/$1.
Did the foot dragging by the authorities in Aso Rock and CBN dilute the effect of the policy resulting in the impairment of the anticipated outcome?
And has none activation of social safety net for the masses who are being negatively imparted by the long sought policy of fuel subsidy removal and the associated inflation not left bitter taste in the mouth of millions of Nigerians whose minimum wage of N18,000 can not purchase a 50kg bag of Dangote rice which now sells for at least N22,000?
And as if to worsen the horror, it is now being reported in the media that the special adviser to mr president on poverty alleviation, Mrs Mariam Uwais has recently indicated that the much vaunted N500 billion Naira appropriated in budget 2016 as palliative funds for the provision of lunch boxes for school pupils and payment of N5,000 as stipends to the aged and non employed indigent Nigerians, is now under threat of not being implementable owing to paucity of funds which is forcing a policy review.
Without further equivocation,and for more clarity, aside from the plummeting global price of oil which accounts for estimated 90% of Nigeria’s forex income, it is also the cessation or suspension of the amnesty initiative that is responsible for the return to violence and the vandalization of oil/gas installations in the oil producing region, which has inflicted the following three, 3 jeopardies on the nation:
( 1) shortage of gas to fire electricity plants resulting in the drop of power supply to a mere 2-3 megawatts from the high of 5,000 at inception of this administration,virtually leaving Nigerians in darkness and hampering productivity in industries that are now operating below capacity.
(2) The dwindling foreign exchange income as oil production has dropped drastically from the 2.2 mbpd allotted by OPEC to an appalling level of 1.5 million bpd which is also partly accountable for.
(3) The inability of 27 of 36 states in Nigerian federation to pay civil servants salaries as allocation from federations accounts to states is now at its lowest since the return to party politics and presidential system of Govt some 17 years ago.
What can be worse than the fact that soon after the inauguration of the present administration on May 29th last year, instead of articulating dynamic plans on how Nigerians may be rescued from the pangs of hunger and starvation which poor leadership over the years,reflected in the mismanagement of the nation’s enormous resources foisted on them, the new govt at inception started engaging in self adulation about the so called ‘body language’ and the ‘new Sherrif in town’ appellation for the leader of the Govt, president Buhari based on nothing, but vain glory.
Thereafter,the next priority item on the APC agenda has been fighting corruption, which the new regime has vigorously fought with great success since inauguration, but apart from the ‘feel good’ factor, has the relentless anti corruption war really alleviated poverty? That’s the question that the masses are asking and to which they deserve answer.
It beats me hollow that our leaders don’t see the virtues inherent in conducting opinion polls to feel the pulse of citizens in order to tailor their policies towards addressing their needs.
This is evident by the fact that 16 months after assuming office, because of the glib talks, fanning of ego and genuflection around the presidency, which have no basis in sound leadership,the president’s image built on falsehood has now collapsed like a pack of cards.
From the foregoing, it needs no restatement that it is Govt’s lack of clear cut policy direction which has become the hallmark of governance in the new dispensation, that are the initial culprits or building blocks that crystallized into the wave of disillusionment that have now reached very high crescendo.
Having exercised and exhibited their anger on online platforms via sarcasm reflected in numerous cartoons that should have offered a food for thought for our leaders and trigger a rethink of their policies, the rage of angry Nigerians voters seem to have transited into real life arena as demonstrated by a recent incident of naming a dog Buhari in Sango-Ota, Ogun State.
By naming an animal after mr president and also minister of information-top establishment personalities- who are basically symbols of Govt, aggrieved Nigerians are in very wry manner demonstrating their disgust at some policies enunciated by the authorities.
Although the agent provocateurs have argued that the unusual names of their pet dogs are not meant to denigrate but in honor of their name sakes, the curious development should have been of grave concern to the authorities, not with a view to arresting the individuals involved in expressing their views in the unusual, but legitimate ways, which has been the case, but to examine the underlying factors with a view to making amends through policy review.
Was it not Chinua Achebe the great novelist of all times that wrote in one of the most popular literature books in Nigeria, THINGS FALL APART that Eneke the bird said “since hunters have learnt how to shoot without missing , it too has learnt how to fly without perching”?
For those who don’t already know, it was when former president Olusegun Obasanjo allegedly caused Diepreye Alamiesegha, then popular governor of Bayelsa State to be arrested in London by the British police with the connivance of the EFCC for money laundering offenses, that militancy in the Niger delta went under ground with devastating consequences on the economy.
Before then, as the chief security officers of their respective states, governors in the region had reasonable oversight on security in their domains, which enhanced their ability to separate criminals from environmental rights activists,using both formal and informal methods of intelligence gathering.
But with the popular ‘Governor General’ of Ijaw nation, late Alamiesegha, being nabbed in London, other governors in the region backed off from interacting with the militants, so from being environmental rights agitators, some militants morphed into rogues with serious collateral damage to Nigerian economy.
I would like to believe that a similar situation occurred in the north east with the Boko haram insurgents , when allegations that governors that are against Goodluck Jonathan and PDP presidency were behind the terrorist group in the bid to make Nigeria ungovernable.
To avoid reprisal, suspected northern governors started dissociating themselves from the religion extremists groups that eventually went rogue by becoming Boko haram insurgents fighting perceived Islamic infidels at a catastrophic loss to the north east in particular, northern states in general and Nigeria as a whole.
What am l trying to convey?
Government is not engaging in enough critical thinking by enlistment of social scientists, economists and philosophers that abound in Nigeria for articulation of effective and efficient policy formulation that would enthrone good governance, alleviate poverty and boost the well being of Nigerians that voters were seeking when they voted APC into office at the federal level.
As such, l’m sorry to say that , most policies and actions of Govt so far tend to suggest that the authorities may be ruling with brawn rather than brain , which is rather unfortunate and the underpinning factor for the leadership turmoil in which the nation is now embroiled.
To be fair to President Buhari, apart from not being particularly fast in making decisions , he was initially averse to the removal of fuel subsidy and floating the Naira-two policies that the present economic doom and gloom and state of anomy in the country is being attributed- and which could be temporary if well managed to engender the long term benefits.
To allay President Buhari’s concerns about the plight of the masses that may face severe hardships which informed his earlier hard stance against increase in petrol pump price and floating of the Naira, he was probably persuaded by the proponents of the two policies that the hard times that would be netted off with palliatives like the social safety net initiatives highlighted earlier to ameliorate the pains of the impending spike in transportation costs and double digit inflation on the masses. But the proposed cushion against severe hardship have remained work-in-progress, while the hunger triggering policies have been rolled out with life becoming unbearable for the average Nigerian.
A case of putting the horse before the cart.
What this implies is that under President Buhari’s watch, the masses seem to have been taken fore granted which is rather unfortunate because the masses are supposed to be the backbone of mr president’s political machinery.
Having punished the PDP by denying the erstwhile ruling party their votes in the 2015 general elections for driving the economy aground through massive corruption that some APC stalwarts have estimated to be as humongous as 51 trillion Naira of oil money misappropriated in 5 years of ex president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and forcing majority of Nigerians into poverty, voters seem poised to give the APC similar cold treatment that was meted out to the ousted PDP, except rapid changes in policy are effected fast.
In my honest opinion, attempting to shift the responsibility of changing the sick Nigerian economy and society to the citizens as the new campaign Change Begins With Me, suggests, is an effort in futility and such psychological trickery could further rankle voters.
The obvious, as opposed to ominous question now is: how far would Nigerians go in denying APC ticket back to Aso Rock villa in 2019, if the government continues with policies that are not people friendly, owing to poor articulation and shoddy implementation?
The current savviness of Nigerian voters to political leadership is a testimony to the fact that voters have become increasingly conscious politically and have thus been weaned of the old notion that-votes don’t-count and this phenomenon is largely due to the advent of the social media and the massive embracement and participation of youths in politics.
To avoid the imminent punishment which is increasingly becoming apparent that the APC may receive for failing to keep its campaign promises, drastic changes must be effected in the polity to reverse the current socioeconomic chasm occasioned by the poorly or unarticulated policies of the APC led government such as: (a) poor implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy without thinking through its consequences on the financial system, nay economy with a view to mitigating a total collapse of the system by implementing the otherwise laudable policy in phases.
With a banking system largely dependent on Govt deposits now literarily drained of funds which have been scooped into the central bank of Nigerian CBN, banks are now looking like humans drained of blood hence most of them are now prostrate and unable to offer new loans as they struggle with provision for bad loans which is at all all time high of N694 billion Naira as at December and currently nearly on the one trillion Naira threshold.
Assuming the over three, 3 trillion Naira said to have been recovered through the anti corruption campaign of present administration from treasury looters and the equally size-able amount of three, 3 trillion Naira estimated to have been garnered into the CBN through the TSA policy were to be re injected into the financial system, the prevailing financial anaemia could have been prevented, but while l understand that there are technical reasons for not doing so, but the masses don’t know that.
In other words, the elite knows but the hoi poloi or critical mass of Nigerians do not understand such technicalities and nobody is explaining it to them.
The second sore point that has exacerbated public angst against the ruling party and authorities in Aso Rock is the issue of fuel subsidy removal without provision of mass transit to protect the masses from the hardship that would be visited on them by transporters.
Before previous fuel pump price increase exercises, concerted efforts were made to procure mass transit buses for workers transportation schemes at affordable rates through schemes like SURE-P etc. Such interventions could have helped in cushioning the adverse effects of the very progressive and laudable policy of fuel subsidy removal that has saved Nigeria trillions of Naira hitherto cornered by a few privileged petroleum products importers, who turned billionaires overnight, through fictitious documentation aided and abetted by NNPC, customs and ports authority officials under the guise of the bogus fuel subsidy scheme which was falsely touted as benefiting the masses.
The third policy that has touched the raw nerves of Nigerian masses is the unprecedented Naira devaluation.
Floating the Naira since June 20th this year, which has seen our currency exchanging at about N400/$1 in the open market as it jumped nearly 200% above the rate it was exchanging for when APC was campaigning to be elected into office, was bound to have dire consequences on our economy where practically nothing is produced locally and almost everything consumed is imported.
It is an understatement to point out that it is the masses that have been bearing the brunt of the devaluation of the Naira as factories have been shutting down owing to inability to procure equipment and raw materials and a knock-on effect of factory closures is manifesting in the form the staff layoff , which is rather sad.
To ease the pain of workers, it could have been ideal if the proposed palliatives/social safety net programs like lunch for school children, stipends for the indigent and 500,000 teachers jobs for unemployed graduates still in the pipeline were implemented ahead of the floating of the Naira.
It is the scenarios described above, that justifies classification of the long suffering masses of Nigeria as the Good, former ruling party, PDP as the Bad and new party in power, APC as tending towards being the Ugly to form the title of this article.
Although, some pundits would argue, justifiably too, that it is a tad early to declare the APC as ugly, we don’t need any oracles to point discerning observers to the fact that the ruling party, APC may end up wearing the ugly toga sooner than later, if the party does not change its ways in consonance with the change it promised Nigerians.
So Mr President, Change is in the Government which you lead.
Don’t believe Lai Mohammed’s latest theatrics- Change Begins With Me.
Nigerians know you as a highly decorated army general and in my little knowledge about the military, Generals don’t abdicate responsibility in any shifty manner as the new campaign slogan-Change Begins With Me, suggests.
If in doubt, please ask General Patton, the US Army general who led the allied forces during the world war.
Magnus Onyibe, a development strategists and futurologist is a former commissioner in Delta State government and alumnus of the Fletcher school of Law and Diplomacy,Medford Massachusetts, USA.