Repost From 360nobs.com.: Two Years Of The Buhari Administration: The Past Is Still The Present

Two Years Of The Buhari Administration: The Past Is Still The Present, By Ademola Adesola

“To be educated is, after all, to develop the questioning habit, to be skeptical of easy promises and to use past experience creatively.” – Chinua Achebe

In my assessment of the Muhammadu Buhari administration after one year of its gaining office published May last year in some national newspapers, I argued, besides other points, that “Nigeria under the watch of President Buhari has not progressed in the ways and manners which affirm that its manager has sought that position three different times. If the president has learnt anything about how to effectively manage people and resources in line with modern practices in his over 30 years of being out of power, the country has not seen any evidence of that in the last one year! And there stands the proof of the claim that many Nigerian politicians are only good at gaining political power but are unable to suss out how to deploy it for the socioeconomic wellbeing of the greatest number of the people. President Buhari might not have created the oceanic problems he met on assuming office, but the bald fact is that many of his (in)actions in the last one year reveal a mind which insufficiently grasps that governance is a task of continual problem solving”.

I concluded thus: “As President Buhari’s Administration matures, Nigerians are waiting to see real governance informed by structured thinking. Their lives, and not the coached mouths of official pipers, must bear evidence of the transformation of the transition that ushered in this administration of change!”

One year later and two years into the four-year mandate of the administration, the human condition in Nigeria is still very much the same. The government has made a good show of scratching the surface of things. Its snail speed has not yielded the fruits of change that it proclaims with deafening clangour. Let us not pretend about it, two years of the Buhari administration have only secured train tickets for Nigerians for a journey to a land called change. The train has refused to show up, hence the passengers in their numbers have remained stranded at the train station of increased unemployment, insufferable economic hardships, and avoidable and mind-numbing killings.

The rains of wanton disregard for the rule of law, deliberate lack of accountability, proud disinterest in speaking to the people, unhelpful rebuttals, and arrogant demonstration of paternalism have all wetted the Nigerian passengers at that humiliating station in the two past spectacularly uneasy years. Even when there exists some achievements here and there in those two giddy years, the dominant narrative is still that the Nigeria of today is not markedly different from what it was in the times preceding the second coming of President Buhari.

This is the very matter I wish to address in this piece. In claiming, as the title of this piece announces, that for Nigeria the past is still the present, I do not wish to be understood as looking in the direction of that disappointing behemoth called government. It will not be a Nigerian government if its actions and policies significantly improved the quality of life of the people. The past remains the present in Nigeria because a considerable number of Nigerians are comfortably docile, joyously uncritical, and are outlandishly satisfied with easy, simple answers. Democracy in Nigeria is weak and malnourished because many Nigerians do not tend to it. Governance in Nigeria is distressing and killing because oodles of the people do not contribute to it. Elected and appointed public officials in the country live above the dictates of the grundnorm because a large number of Nigerians either kick feebly in response, are totally indifferent, or too often work the accordions of approbation. The past history of poor, enslaving, punishing governance in Nigeria remains the reality of the present because speaking up and asking the hard questions are an anathema to multitudes of Nigerians.

To be more specific, the Buhari administration was swept into office by a huge wave of uncritical and saccharine approval. A few Nigerians lobbed the stones of germane and uneasy questions, but a disproportionate majority fenced these off, frenetically declaiming that a Daniel had come to hand down the condign judgement to the knaves diluting the broth of justice and good governance in Nigeria. They stubbornly refused that the Daniel be asked a few questions on how he intended to achieve his lofty vision of change.

My take is that had candidate Buhari been subjected thoroughly to a blaze of the right questions, had he been taken through the fiery furnace of scrutiny, we would have known the depth of his vision, the practicability of his ideas, his readiness for the job and, more importantly, the core weaknesses of his thoughts and capability. That knowledge, I insist, would have empowered Nigerians to help his administration in its undertakings. No, it does not mean that if we had done that a vastly better Nigeria would have emerged by now. The fact is that we would likely not have travelled some of the disconcerting roads of the last two years. Candidate Buhari became President Buhari without his feet sustained in the fire of critical engagement in all relevant ramifications. The fault, therefore, is not entirely in the punishing myopia and alarming contradictions of the Buhari administration. It is in many Nigerians who have erroneously understood their duty as “citizens” to be that of praise singing, fawning, and genuflection, rather than an engaging in questioning, keeping watchful eyes on the government, and doing much more than taking its words and promises at their face value.

The administration has been so indulged, cossetted, and lovingly over accommodated that it has become abysmally emboldened to insult decent minds with a scorecard seeking to portray the administration’s Lilliputian achievements in an exaggerated tone, in wanton denial of what reality has actually served. Whether it is the repudiation of the logic of pluralism, as evident in the nature of the president’s kitchen cabinet, the uncoordinated anti-corruption waltz, the flagrant disobedience of court injunctions, the unworkable economic policies (when it manages to put up something resembling that), or, among many more, the kindergarten handling of the president’s unfortunate duel with whatever ails him, a number of Nigerians are still convinced the Buhari administration is infallible and is changing the country as promised. They do not see that their blind, uncritical support for the government hurts it more than it helps it. They do not understand that the great and mighty works they wish to really happen in the lifetime of this administration are not happening because, like the administration, they spare no moments to reflect and examine the methods and manner of the government.

It is these mawkish, unreflective, and surface thinkers that the unsparing public intellectual, Pius Adesanmi, referred to as “Citizen Abobaku”. Indeed, Adesanmi’s piece, “R for Respect, R for Resignation”, affirms the crux of my claim in this present article, that the past is the present in Nigeria. According to him, “The first thing to note is that throughout our recent experience with democracy, whenever Citizen Abobaku has been at his loudest, condemning his compatriots for not respecting the office of the president, it means he has run out of excuses, rationalisations, and justification of the incumbent president who disrespects that very office by: (1) continuously disrespecting the citizens, his employers; (2) reneging on campaign promises or failing to fulfill them. Calls for respect also means that Citizen Abobaku has never really learnt to separate Nigeria from the person and body of the incumbent president he supports.”

Democracy and good governance continue to elude Nigeria, not only because those who call the shots are phoney, struggling democrats and are not (wo)men of ideas and visions, but it is also because a great number of Nigerians lack basic knowledge of civics and do not understand that the roles of citizens in a democracy are not to praise government, go to sleep and expect that while they sleep the government will not sow tares among the wheat, etc. Every Democracy Day since 1999 has become to Nigerians the paradox of the past being the present. Things change in far little ways and worsen in much bigger ways because too many Nigerians do not understand their roles. In other words, you cannot correctly blame blind leadership as the bane of good governance in Nigeria without identifying blind, worshipful following as strongly instrumental to this.

If democracy in Nigeria is to mean more than having elections and peaceful transitions of power from one underachieving civilian head to another with a truckload of promises, if good governance is truly to endure and be enjoyed, Nigerians in their substantial numbers must begin to speak up, ask the hard questions, demand accountability, pamper no government, and be alive to their other duties as citizens. Uncritical citizens do not make a good country. Citizens without the questioning habit ruin a country quicker than they are able to contribute to its progress.

But for their mass of critical citizens, countries who are today reference points in the practice of democracy and the increasing realisation of good governance would have treated the world to different discomforting narratives. Nigeria’s story cannot be different; if this country is to change to a land of prosperity, rule of law, good governance, justice, and equality, many Nigerians must put off their slavish caps and don the one that allows them to think, question, and reject tokenism and ensnaring propaganda. More than ever before, this is needed now if the Buhari administration is to be remembered for good.

Ademola Adesola, a public affairs analyst, writes from Ibadan.

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