Published On: Fri, Nov 3rd, 2017

Before 2019: Who will invest in honest conversations with the masses?

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By Tabia Princewill

There is no, as of yet, wide scale attempt to educate the masses as to what is going on in Nigeria today or to explain why the expected change is slow to come. Yes, individually, ministers have done their best to explain the difficulties and the challenges they’ve faced but none of this appears to have pierced through the average person’s consciousness because it was immediately contradicted by the loud retaliation and attacks of those who now find themselves accused of corruption and have worked hard to misinform Nigerians as well as scuttle trials and investigations.

Anyone who believes corruption is not the central issue delaying this country’s progress is either ignorant, in denial or part of the problem themselves: too many Nigerians benefit directly or indirectly from the current dysfunctional state of affairs to let go of their illegal advantages without a fight. Much like I said in my last article, President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have brought a knife to a gun fight: many of those around him either do not share his beliefs or his passion about making a real difference. They don’t appear to have shown the sort of dedication one would expect given the magnitude of the issues which seem to have so far been treated with kid gloves. Decisively dealing with corruption (and therefore turning the economy around by making better use of our resources) requires a war-effort which should mobilise every Nigerian.

The Nigerian orientation, our self-interested propensity to cut-corners in search of quick gains is yet to be tackled. The strategy to turn this country around should have links between every federal agency and ministry,which should be re-trained to work together. The system must also be purged of all those who belong to the old order, people whose corruption or insubordination hinders progress must not be allowed to remain. It’s a massive effort but not one that is impossible if we can recruit and appoint, at all levels, honest, capable, detribalised Nigerians to get the job done. Sadly, the best man hardly ever gets the job in Nigeria. We prefer the services of half-baked individuals, so long as they are from our ethno-religious group.

The war-effort requires constant communication with Nigerians and imaginative communication at that. Most people suffering the brunt of poverty and recession have neither the time nor the interest to read graphs and long articles on public policy. Government has also been too civil towards suspected looters, allowing them the space to spread dangerous narratives. The difficult truth for those who support this government is that it also hasn’t   always acted with the decisiveness necessary to quell many of the issues which now find themselves entrenched today. The story of what exactly happened to Nigeria, why we find ourselves here, and what this administration intends to do about it should have been told in digestible, engaging forms on various platforms to galvanise and maintain the interest of the youth who largely voted this government into power.

There was a time when looters were afraid. Now, they barely seem to bother to hide their efforts to scuttle attempts to tame their selfish, anti-Nigeria actions. They deploy the usual tools, ethno-religious excuses, calling themselves victims of a witch-hunt due to their religion or regional affiliation. The Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo, has done a good job of consistently discussing the issues holding Nigeria back, which should have been repeated by this government’s information managers at every opportunity. In fact, rather than react to crisis, they should have directed the national conversation and made Nigerians think differently about both problems and solutions.

Yes, it is impossible to convince everyone, and yes, corruption is fighting back. Hence why this administration should never have left the campaign mode: Nigerians know this country needs to change but the specifics have always eluded us, particularly those too young to remember a time when Nigeria was different and worked for all rather than a few.

The sad truth is that the average Nigerian does not possess the exposure or the critical thinking to easily discern fact from fiction or truth from political manipulation, which is used to the advantage of some corrupt politicians who prey on the masses’ ignorance. Vested interests are powerful and protect each other; their armies and soldiers are everywhere to defend them and to turn logic upside down in their favour.

Pro-Nigeria activists (if there are many in this government is a hotly debated issue) should have been training that “new tribe” of Nigerians the Vice-President often mentions. It is also a shame that the Vice-President’s personal identity as a professional, his popularity, etc., have not been sufficiently used to drive home the government’s points. Is there perhaps a fear that the competent deputy might have overshadowed the principal, particularly while he was away? If so, it’s a shame, more so because the Vice-President’s success can only but have positive effects on people’s perception of the President and his entire administration.

The next campaign will have to be issue based, which is to all our benefit. If the APC hopes to remain in power to finish this war against corruption, it will have to begin a process through which it renews hope and rouses our common indignation at the injustices it is trying to fix. Politicians can’t use the same old playbook, not this time. 2015 was a massive shift in the Nigerian psyche; Nigerians now know they have the power to unseat a President. Electioneering will never be the same again.

Atiku Abubakar

The former Vice-President recently said that the level of division currently experienced in Nigeria is unprecedented. It is the usual vacuous political statement which seeks to pretend the speaker hasn’t been a major political player in the past decades and should also be held accountable for whatever is happening today. It is all the more hypocritical because every administration in Nigeria has had its fair share of secessionist threats and violence due to the corruption over which many leaders have willingly supervised.

Not only is violence and hate speech often sponsored, it is also as a result of government’s failure to develop Nigeria and to provide its people with basic amenities. The most curious part of the former Vice-President’s speech came when he said unity was better than restructuring. Wasn’t he previously adamant that Nigeria wouldn’t survive without restructuring? This is further proof that politicians float kites depending on what is trending and what can gain attention or support. Very few of our leaders operate with a consistent ideology or policy design. It’s why we are still so underdeveloped.

Yemi Osinbajo

The Vice President rightly said that the quota system in use in Nigeria is detrimental to the nation’s progress. I’ve often said in this column that nepotism, tribalism and corruption are three sides of the same structure which keeps competent people out of public office. “When our football teams are playing, we do not ask where the players come from because we want to win. In the same vein, if we want to win in Nigeria, we must insist on merit. We must insist on fair minded and just people in positions. That is how countries are run all over the world. It is only in this country that the first thing we do is to ask for quota system”.

It’s a fine analogy: Without pursuing merit above all things, we’re going nowhere fast in Nigeria. By now, ethno-religious origin should have become meaningless if not for political manipulation. Professor Osinbajo is one of the rare political leaders who tells it like it is. On the subject of religious leaders and corruption he said: “How many Christian leaders stood up to complain? It is my view that the Nigerian elite, religious leaders and politicians think alike when it comes to corruption and they were always very selfish playing religious and ethnic cards when it pleases them.” Sad but true.


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