PENDULUM BY DELE MOMODU
Fellow Nigerians, it is truly tragic that the battle for who controls the commonwealth of Nigeria has brought our dear beloved country to standstill. It seems no one seems to care about the myriads of gargantuan issues confronting our country. The economy is in tatters. There is mass unemployment and it can only get worse. Our infrastructure deficit remains hopelessly disgraceful. Security of lives and properties continues to be precarious and dangerous. The level of disunity within the major tribes and federating units is nearly at the point it was just before the cataclysmic Nigerian Civil War. The quality of education has virtually collapsed to an all-time low. Workers’ salaries are no longer priority. The list of tales of woes is endless and seemingly ad infinitum. The saddest part is there is no visible sense of urgency on the part of our leaders to deal with any of these problems which now appear to be so intractable and obstinate.
I weep literally for my country. Not even a prophet of doom could have foretold this monumental misfortune. Between 2014 and 2015, some of us went on a blistering campaign promising heaven and earth, telling the hapless voters why they should give our candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, a chance. We were reasonably convinced that we found in him a true Messiah, a much misunderstood benefactor, the only non-corrupt and incorruptible man in Nigeria, imbued with an integrity that would rub on members of his team, an ascetic disciplinarian. But for the fear of heresy, we would easily have elevated him to the level of a deity. The hagiography was total and absolute.
We were reinforced in our belief that Nigeria was going places because he had chosen as his prospective Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, a cerebral no-nonsense Professor, an internationally acclaimed academic, a man of God, who himself was without blemish in public service and private life and whose good character and integrity was undoubtably undisputed. We believed that waiting in the wings to assist the incoming President in governance were young and experienced technocrats and politicians of the same ilk who would give meaning and purpose to the ‘wise’ choice for “CHANGE” that we had made. And APC had such in abundance.
Nigerians, in our collective wisdom or stupidity, therefore placed their faith in President Buhari and put him back to the presidential palace and thus to a civilian version of the position from where he was sacked unceremoniously in 1985 by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. We were all happy that Nigeria would witness rapid quickfire changes in different facets of our lives. But our hopes soon got dashed as no sooner were they sworn in than members of the ruling party, APC, started their war of attrition and destruction. From the very beginning it was crisis after crisis, not in terms of governance but in terms of sharing of the spoils of war and the vainglorious massaging of apparently ruffled egos and ambitions.
Over three years since then, nothing has changed. Governance has been temporarily halted because of one Senator refusing to allow his party to guillotine or scuttle his personal dream on the one hand and, on the other hand, one individual appearing to believe that his private ambitions are necessarily in concomitance and conformity with the aspirations of the nation or that they are indeed of greater force, in the scheme of things, than the success of the objectives and goals of the nation. I do not want to go into the merits or demerits of the respective arguments or venture to even suggest who is right or wrong. This is because, ultimately, that does not concern the welfare of Nigerians which is what is most paramount at this time. However, I had expected the party to rise above the problem and embrace one another but they have blatantly refused to imbibe and demonstrate a spirit of forgiveness and move on in the interests of the nation.
Nearly four years gone, they are still spitting fire at themselves, promising brimstone, and no one is talking to Nigerians about solving the problems that Nigeria is enmeshed in, the very reason that they were elected to provide answers to. Rather it appears that they have plenty of time in their hands for plotting how to impeach or remove one or two people from the lofty heights that God has placed them. Had such a removal been even possible or feasible, I would have advocated that they should get on with it as quickly as possible so that the act of governance that this Government was elected for would then be allowed to resume. However, it is clear that any attempt at removal of any of the principal actors is doomed to failure because the requisite numbers are simply not there. Obviously, therein lies the frustration and desperation of the principal actors. Rather than recognise this unassailable fact which is palpable to all but not the ‘uninitiated political mind’, both sides are still flexing puny muscles and raving and ranting, all fire and fury but no sound and effect. What a shame, what a calamity. What makes the situation worse is that those principally concerned, in the executive and the legislature, regularly evince a tendency to be able to close ranks at crucial moments of heightened national tension only for discord to be sown by their respective party chieftains, who are acting like outsiders weeping and wailing louder than the bereaved.
For me, it does not matter who defects to where, and who has a majority in which House of the National Assembly or indeed who presides over which House or the other. Simply let the law prevail and take its course. We are near the end of the tenures of both the present executive and the legislature, why can’t they realise this and sheathe their swords and try to make Nigeria work for the few months that remain to the general elections. This cannot be that hard to achieve. Let the electorate decide as to who they feel is right or wrong in this imbroglio that has now assumed fabled proportions. The Nigerian masses are very comprehending and discerning if allowed to give true vent to their feelings and wishes. Nobody has the right to ram home his or her choices on the people. The beauty of the democracy is that the people are allowed to make their choices free of intimidation, suppression or oppression. That is the least that both the executive and the legislature can do to assuage the feelings and concerns of battered Nigerians who see very little respite in the horizon.
For now, I see no difference in the ruling party and the opposition. There are no visible policy differences. There are no apparent personality differences. There are no discernible differences in principle. There are no obvious differences in approach to governance as both sides have been characterised by political brigandage, unabashed pillaging and unashamed character flaws. The wave of recent defections which has been dizzying to say the least epitomises the seemingly incurable cancer that has afflicted Nigeria. One does not know what is going on any more. Who is going where and why? The whole debacle has reached farcical and epic dimensions such that there are now double and triple defections and more seem to be on the horizon. We are now in a position where none of the parties know their actual representatives and those that they can count on when the chips are down. A lot of thunderous noises being made, which would have been put to good use to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerian.
What is the way forward? Party politics can be played side by side with politics of national interest. While I recognise that we are now effectively in an election year, it is the politics of national interest that should always dominate at all times. The nation is bigger than any one individual. The gladiators in these battles which are slowly but surely eroding our collective unity and harmony should by now have recognised this. They will some day quit the stage. The nation will remain. Some of them will be remembered for good while others would be remembered for ill. There is the issue of legacy, and if any of the warring actors knows their history, it is that Nigerians can be very forgiving if the right thing is done at the end. It is that spirit that has enabled President Obasanjo, President Buhari and indeed the Senate President, Saraki, to have second chances in their political and national life. They should not forget this, but more importantly, they should not take it for granted. Nigerians can also be very unforgiving! Ask the dead Abacha (if you are instilled with such extra-terrestrial powers) and the living Babangida.
It is the expectation of the generality of the Nigerian public that their leaders will listen to their plaintive cries as they wallow in the throes of neglect and poverty. Nigerians want their leaders to rise from their petty personal and primordial squabbles and face the huge challenges that threaten their existence and that of the nation. It is imperative for our leaders to work as one to redeem a country that seems to be hovering on the brink of the abyss. Nigeria will not be the first country where members of opposite parties decide to join together to fight a common cause. Examples are legion and there is no use in alluding to them here. Even if there were no examples, our own position at this present time is special. These times demand extraordinary determination and sacrifice on the part of our leaders. What makes our situation peculiar is the lack of distinction in principle or policy. This means there is no reason for our leaders not to work together, particularly as what now needs to be achieved is what all persons who have the well-being of the country and its citizens at heart should strive for.
For a start, the top hierarchy of the National Assembly needs to rethink its decision on going on recess until late September. The Summer recess is a normal practice in most democracies, I agree. However, it is not sacrosanct. Most democracies reconvene where genuine matters of national interest need to be considered. I believe such a situation exists today. There is no justification for personal reasons to be contemplated in, or, indeed, be used to overshadow, the consideration of whether the National Assembly is to reconvene to deal with urgent national issues.
I am aware that Committees of the National Assembly are considering different matters already while the Plenary Session remains in recess. This should continue. Similarly, there should be no impediment to any resumption of Plenary sessions placed in the path of the National Assembly by the Executive or any high-ranking Party apparatchik who must have his way by force. The legislature should be allowed to peacefully continue with its constitutional duties without any distraction. The unfortunate incident with the DSS Chief, and the unauthorised storming of the National Assembly by his operatives, must never again be allowed to recur. An emergency resumption of the National Assembly to deal solely with urgent matters can only be for the benefit of Nigerians.
It is paramount for us to get the electoral process right. It is therefore important to properly scrutinise the INEC budget which according to reports contains some scandalous provisions. It is also important for capital projects to be adequately and timeously funded, so that in those areas where supplementary provision is being made, some of the sufferings of the Nigerian populace can be eased. While there may be some blame in presenting these matters late to the National Assembly, that cannot be the basis for not dealing with them. The country expects and demands it and so they should get what they demand.
In the end, all our politicians claim to serve the people and not themselves. Now is the time to show that this is truly the case. Nigerians and Nigeria should come first. In this season of anomy, our politicians should once more re-educate themselves as to why and who they have been elected to work for. There is only a short time in this administration to change the rhetoric in order to enhance the lives of Nigerians.
It is my hope and prayer that our politicians will see the light and for once act to save our country!