About three weeks ago, the BBC Hausa Service published a story on the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Al-Hassan, which quoted her as saying that she would choose former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar over President Muhammadu Buhari if both of them decide to contest the 2019 election.
She went on to suggest that she would gladly sacrifice her seat in the cabinet for her loyalty to the former vice-president should her declaration strike the wrong edge in the camp of decision makers.
“Baba has not come out to tell us that he is going to contest in 2019. But even if he decides to contest, I will go and kneel down before him and tell him that ‘Baba, I am grateful for the opportunity you gave me to serve your government as a minister but I will support only Atiku because he is my godfather’… If as a result of what I have said, I am relieved of my job as a minister, I will know that my time is up,” she was quoted to have said.
This bold position by a serving minister, appointed by the Buhari administration, might have come across to a typical Nigerian politician as a bombshell or worse still, an unpremeditated foundation for political suicide. But, viewed critically, in the context of an ideal political setting, where appointees are free to express objective opinions without any fear of victimisation by their benefactors, it would not have been out of place to give the minister a super thumbs up. She blew the trumpet loud enough to startle a sleeping lion, not minding the fatal consequences of an expected defensive move. And this apparently came at a time some concerned citizens felt that the ‘Buhari for 2019’ campaigns, which suddenly surfaced even before the President could sit properly in his office, after his 103 days medical sojourn in the United Kingdom, were embarrassing to a nation as influential as Nigeria.
That the minister’s declaration also came at about the time Atiku, the favoured party in the controversial comparison of loyalty, was reported to have criticised the President publicly, might have pointed at a calculated conspiracy that could spell doom if overlooked. The pronouncements might even have set the primary tone for the almighty 2019 elections, while stirring heated debates on the principal characters’ political stamina, especially in the North. But there are far more important meanings to draw from this scenario that have implications for the future of Nigeria’s fledgling democracy.
First, anyone, whether a career politician or not, whose contribution to the development of our dear country, Nigeria, is mainly in the form of campaigning for the President’s second term at a time when those who truly love him are still thanking God for his recovery, can only be a ‘Bread and Butter’ politician, who does not exactly mean well for the President. Though Acting President Yemi Osinbajo did a good job by the standards of many informed Nigerians, while his boss was away, his best was just able to scratch the surface of Nigeria’s multi-dimensional socio-economic problems.
A fully-recovered and refreshed Buhari should have, therefore, been allowed to sit down for real work and, probably, cover up, for his time outside the country, before ‘loyalists’ would think of kicking off any meaningful campaign, based on ‘real’ achievements of the administration.
The Buhari that I think I know would not be a party to such a show of insensitivity, when over 90 per cent of Nigerians are still grappling with the biting effects of the worst recession in over two decades; the marginal and/or cosmetic improvement in growth figures notwithstanding.
One meaning that could be deduced from this is the fact that the political class may be happy with the high poverty rate in the country and have deliberately ensured that otherwise sound policies continue to fail while the about 120 million Nigerians living below the poverty line continue to be helpless.
In essence, the thinking could be that a helpless Nigerian would always dance to the tune of the oppressors, as long as there is temporary pecuniary relief during campaigns. This, for me, would be the main reason a debate on “Buhari or Atiku” would thrive at this critical point in Nigeria’s economic history.
Reliable statistics have proved, times over, that some of the world’s best brains across major professions are from Nigeria. Why can’t we be in the league of the first 10 countries in terms of Human Development Index; why, for instance, would Nigeria be ranked 152, out of 188 United Nations member states in HDI, far behind Ghana, Gabon, and Equitorial Guinea, which were ranked 139, 109 and 135, respectively.
If the HDI is a composite statistics of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators, used to rank countries into four tiers of human development, is it not shameful that, with all Nigeria’s oil money, abundant human/natural resources, and first-rate brains, she is dragging her feet after countries that should look up to her for mentoring and know-how?
What have we gained from the same class of recycled leaders for 57 years? I can’t place a finger on anything worth touching. All we see are comical displays by leaders who name projects executed with state resources after themselves to prove that they have delivered.
Some still believe that Nigeria is practising democracy – government of the people, by the people, and for the people – but I would say that in Nigeria, what we have is a government of the political class, by the political class, and for the political class. And this brings nothing other than dejection, poverty, loss of self-esteem and, eventually, values, for the vulnerable masses
Yet, Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product per capita is equivalent to 19 per cent of the world’s average. GDP per capita in Nigeria averaged $1648.26, from 1960 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of $2563.10 in 2014, and a record low of $1089.10 in 1968, according to tradingeconomics.com. So, what exactly has been done in almost six decades to warrant the blind followership that has placed Nigeria’s destiny at the centre of a few influential men (and their children), who have been moving in circles since independence?
Some still believe that Nigeria is practising democracy – government of the people, by the people, and for the people – but I would say that in Nigeria, what we have is a government of the political class, by the political class, and for the political class. And this brings nothing other than dejection, poverty, loss of self-esteem and, eventually, values, for the vulnerable masses.
While I would say calls for restructuring are in order, it is important to note that if the underlying problem of citizens’ economic incapacitation is not genuinely addressed, and leaders refuse to shun egocentrism for common good, the coveted bride may soon become a monster.
Patriotic Nigerians, at this point, must not think Buhari, Atiku, or any other person for that matter. We must think Nigeria. Reflecting on Nigeria’s 57 years of independence goes beyond speeches; this is the time to settle differences and rub brains for a workable way forward. Our dear country has all it takes to be in the league of world economic powers, but everyone has a role to play. For us, as citizens, our vote is our power. Let’s leave the highest bidder. It’s time to queue behind Nigeria.
Happy Independence Anniversary.