Pondering the State of the Nation

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Nigeria, at this time, needs serious reflections, going forward. Olawale Olaleye writes

An editorial by a prominent national daily (not THISDAY) had stirred a serious national debate in the course of last week. This was to the extent that the newspaper concluded that given the current state of the nation, President Muhammadu Buhari, had not only taken the nation back to his obnoxious days as a military head of state in the 80s, that he would henceforth be referred to as a general since his alleged democratic transmutation was incongruent with his disposition in power.

What’s more? The newspaper also claimed it would cease to refer to his government as an administration but a regime, which is typical with military junta.

Unfortunately, the responses from the president’s media team would further expose the disconnect, not only between the seat of power and the people, but also the seeming disunity in the presidency, following the two responses from the two media heads in the Villa. That, also, on its part painted a critical team without plan, strategy and or coordination.

Generally, and it is without prejudice, an average Nigerian would admit that the country is in a state of disrepair. From rights abuse to increasing insecurity and hard-biting economy, everything is not well with the current regime. What’s however not clear with a majority of the people is if these things were deliberate moves to suppress the people or sheer happenstance that’s only overwhelmed the leadership.

Talk about the crackdown on journalists and the intimidation of the civil society, the signs that these present are ominous. What about allegations of illegal detentions of people by the secret agents, which are not known to the people, even by chance? These developments do not raise hope of a better tomorrow but heightened concerns about the destination the country is headed under the current leadership of General Buhari.

When these things are placed side-by-side other worries like the unabated insecurity, growing ethnic agitation, which had caused serious divisions amongst the Nigerian people, then the reality of the danger that lurks in the corner cannot be lost on anyone regardless of which side the individual stands.

Instructively, after 20 years of democracy, Nigeria does not seem to have developed the shock absorber for the kind of impunity being exhibited by the political class. Nothing, therefore, can be taken for granted even when everyone is hoping and praying that democracy survives at each turn.

This much was addressed in a speech delivered by the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University, last week, when he warned that there was nothing irreversible about Nigeria’s democracy if the current actors did not exercise caution.

“What we established in 1999 is the right to choose our leaders via the ballot. What we must not do is assume a teleological link between elections and democracy. The notion that once you have elections, all else will follow is no doubt a pipe dream that is now obvious to all and even now, there is nothing irreversible about democracy in Nigeria.

“It’s also why our theory of change must not assume that democracy is a destination with a clear road-map. The deepening of other factors like the economic wellbeing of the citizens, ultimately, developing and strengthening the political culture or the civic community that can stand between populism and dogma are the most critical success factors.”

But Fayemi delivered the message more pungently, when he stated: “Clearly, the Election management body is improving in the technical aspects of its operations but elections are not simply technocratic, they are inherently political.

“It is about who gains power, who loses power and a lot happens in that cocktail. But we all should also be worried with what we do with power, once gained. So, democracy is more than just the ability to choose one’s leaders.”

His concerns are as niggling as those of other patriots, whether or not in office, the very reason the current happenings in the country must not be glossed over. Men and women of conscience and goodwill must admit that danger currently stares the nation in the face and must take up the gauntlet and be challenged to change the tide that is destruction-inclined.

The penchant by security operatives to go after critics of this government, depicts a rather inane agency, which panders to frivolities at the risk of more challenging and serious situations otherwise the fight against insurgency, armed robbery, kidnapping, ritual killing and cultism amongst others are still very much alive.

It also suggests that the talk about hate speech and social media regulations are just an extension of the plan to subdue the civil society and inadvertently create a monstrous regime, perhaps, worse than the military jackboot. All that is currently going on does nothing but threatens the gains of the nation’s democratic experiment.

This, of course, is not about party affiliations or ethnic and religious superiority warfare but about the survival of Nigeria through her hitherto wobbly democratic journey – a journey that must not allow for sentimental cultural biases – which often confers undue advantage on some and puts the others down.

Truth be said, failure to see the problems for what they are and embrace the desirability to address them signals a much bigger disaster that could undermine the gains of the last 20 years of the return to civil rule. The options before the nation appear somewhat biblical in nature – of life and death. So, the current political actors are advised to choose life so Nigeria could live.