By Kayode Ajulo
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”
– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man
Nigerians are generally a hardy people- resilient in the face of bleak circumstances. This trait perhaps is the singular reason the nation has survived the tumults of decades past, from independence till date. Our resilience as a people is a child of hope that “springs eternal in our hearts” apologies to British poet Alexander Pope.
Hope is an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large.
Twenty One Gun salute to the Almighty God for the hopefulness of our hearts and the resilience of our hearts; as a nation, we have weathered all forms of storms and like the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, “we are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed”.
Not given to avarice or any of its undesirable cousins- sloth or greed, Nigerians do not demand too much; all the people want is a nation that works and allows every man to aspire to the fulfillment of personal dreams in a secure, conducive and enabling environment. Nigerians desire a nation that is free from the threats posed by insecurity, dilapidated infrastructure, ineffective health facilities and widespread poverty. It could be said that all Nigerians hope for is a nation that cares for, and supports its citizens as a mother loves her offspring and as a father supports his seed, as seen in other developed nations to which many of our citizens have fled for succor.
It is this hope that, perhaps in our lifetime, we might witness a renaissance in Nigeria that would lift the nation out of its doldrums and into its pride of place amongst the comity of nations that has kept us time after time from the brink of anarchy and discord.
It is this hope that brought the nation to the crossroads, to the March 28 valley of decision where Nigerians once again, expressed indefatigable hope in the future of the nation as they cast their votes.
It is in this hope that Nigerians embraced the Change mantra of All Progressive Congress, and voted General Muhammadu Buhari as President of our great nation. Indeed, Nigerians weary of the decades-old burden of bad leadership exercised that irrepressible hope that perhaps the retired soldier, famed for his integrity and Spartan lifestyle might succeed where many others, in our eventful history as a nation, have sought but failed to chart a course to our Promise Land.
However if the omens we have observed in our polity since the May 29inauguration of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration are anything to go by, it is fast appearing that again, Nigerians have been sold a dummy, and the much expected and celebrated change may very well be turning out to be nothing but a mirage.
The APC campaign propaganda prepared a menu of delectable promises for Nigerian citizens and inevitably whetted the appetite of a population starved of good governance for over three decades, even though many of these promises were considered too good to be true by a more perceptive minority. The piper played the tune, and for the period that the music lasted, the nation danced.
Alas the music has stopped, the honeymoon as requested is over, and the nation appears in for a rude awakening to a reality not as rosy as painted by the ruling APC government.
Promises made have been denied by spokesmen of the president, even though it is public record that those promises were indeed made.
The Boko Haram insurgents are still wreaking mayhem and shedding blood in the North-east even though President Muhammadu Buhari made a promise to put an end to terrorism on our territories within a few months of assuming office as president.
Fulani herdsmen have gotten more brazen in their dastardly attacks on innocent and hapless citizens leaving a trail of blood and tears in their wake, yet the presidency has neither addressed the nation on this budding menace nor told the nation how it plans to nip the threat in the bud before it grows to become a full-fledged menace of the same magnitude with Boko Haram.
The economy is on a freefall as stock prices have continued to plummet owing to the absence of a well-charted and articulated economic policy. As a result, investor confidence is on an all-time low and many potential investors have made for other promising climes to establish their businesses.
Unemployment continues to ravage the youth demographic as our universities continue to churn out graduates in hundreds of thousands filling our cities with jobless graduates who end up turning to unsavory options for making money.
The much-vaunted anti-corruption war has taken off albeit with cries of witch-hunting and bias on the part of the presidency and state prosecutors as some persons, being considered as ‘political exposed’, are being hounded by the nation’s anti-graft agencies while many equally complicit persons in the mismanagement of state funds have been granted ‘amnesty’ by government on the grounds of hob-nobbing with the president or being members of the ruling party.
It is in the wake of all these depressing developments that the National Assembly commenced a senatorial screening process for those nominated to occupy ministerial positions by President Buhari. It has been mooted that the highly anticipated list is lackluster and generally uninspiring. However what offends the true and discerning patriot in all of these are the smooth but dubious rhetorics and largely unserious manner in which the screening cum confirmation process is being conducted.
It is very appalling that President Buhari- a man perceived as an icon of incorruptibility, after having affirmed to the entire country that he “belongs to nobody and everybody” and that even though “Nigerians have nothing to fear from him as a person, and everything to fear about the consequences of their actions”, would go on to nominate out of 170 millions Nigerians, persons tainted with gross allegations of mismanagement of state funds for appointment in the cabinet of a government that rode to power on the premise of integrity and probity.
The circus that was called a senatorial screening process saw nominees and senators backslapping, high-fiving and exchanging jokes as if they were at a cocktail dinner or at a reception dinner for old friends. The lack of seriousness that characterized the proceedings alerted all perceptive viewers to the fact that the entire process was nothing but an extended charade intended to further hoodwink Nigerians that something germane was going on.
The right questions were left unasked and even when asked, the questions were skillfully evaded by the nominees. The nominees were repeatedly indulged by the senators as they embarked on an evasive, and sometimes, long-winded rhetoric that wearied many a listener, while some were simply advised to “take a bow and go” without any form of screening.
While I have nothing personal against the person of erstwhile governor of Lagos State Babatunde Fashola SAN, who I have for long considered one of the brightest stars in the nation's political firmament, I must say that his attempts at refuting the recent allegations of mismanagement of funds under his watch as governor, specifically his claim of 'not signing any cheques' and deliberate refusal to acknowledge that he, as governor, was the approving authority, left much to be desired, and also dimmed his trust as a public officer.
What do I say about the screening of APC scribe Lai Mohammed, and also APC chieftain Chris Ngige? Those two incidents struck me as more of comical friends catching up than people appearing before a panel for screening.
The inherent marginalization of women in the released list is nauseating and very insensitive to the place and role of our mothers and sisters in the ministerial nomination.
The total omission of the Nigerian youth which is apparent when one considers the age demographic that characterized the list of the nominees is another issue altogether as it exposes the budding conspiracy against the Nigerian youth with the youngest nominee in the list being 48 years old.
As it stands, Nigerians born within the bracket of the 1970s to the present have been effectively excluded from service and deleted from the membership of Federal Executive Council even though it is this same demographic that midwived the electoral victory on which the present government stands with about 78% votes.
The absurdity is revealed when one considers the distinctly young ages of public officers in other African nations and across the globe. It is made more absurd when one considers the ages of the founding fathers of this nation when they started active participation in politics. It is also common knowledge that former governor of Cross Rivers State, Donald Duke was 38 years when he assumed office in 1999. Is it that Nigerian youths have suddenly become inexperienced and useless as a whole all of a sudden? Is this the Change Nigeria unwittingly voted for?
If these are signs of what is to come, it takes no soothsayer to know that contrary to the promises made during the campaign and also contrary to the rhetoric being dished out in press statements by the presidency's spokesmen, Nigerians are in for more of the very same dish that they have been served for over three decades by the political leadership. Like someone wittily observed, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. Nigerians are a patient people; they have waited for decades, and are now being chided for being impatient with the new administration.
Wait for security, wait for power, wait for good roads, wait for an upright government to handle the affairs of state. It brings to mind a 1953 play written by Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for the arrival of someone named Godot.
Are Nigerians being asked to be like Vladmir and Estragon, who sat around stupidly, passively and ignorant waiting in vain for a Godot who never showed up? Is the call for patience and time a way of encouraging the Nigerian masses to remain passive and ignorant regardless of the cost to the nation and the generations to come?
I am constrained to echo the words of John the Baptist who sent word from prison to inquire of Jesus: “Are you the messiah spoken of in prophecy, or do we await another?” Like Nigeria, the nation of Israel had languished under the jackboots of oppressors and under dark clouds of corruption at the hands of the priesthood, and the common man in the Israel of that era. The people looked into their scrolls which spoke of the coming of a redeemer who would bring liberation and emancipation to Israel.
Like Israel, Nigeria has long sought her liberator too.
I therefore also ask of President Muhammadu Buhari, “Mr. President, the honeymoon is over! are you the change we seek, or should we seek another?”