No one, who had witnessed the elections of March 28th 2015, can deny that we experienced anything short of a revolution. Except those didn’t want change, of course. Tales abound of very old and sometimes even disabled people, who braved the odds in order to make it to the polling booths and cast their votes. My 78 year old mother is one of those who couldn’t be stopped.
I called her on the night of March 27th and tried to discourage her from going to vote, knowing that the exercise will take a toll on her aching knee, but Mama wouldn’t hear of it. She saw no reason to waste her PVC when she could be part of that historic exercise. Luckily for her, the young people in our Kano Farm Centre polling booth were so respectful and well-behaved that the moment they saw her, they made way for her frail, lappaya-clad figure to get accredited without joining the queue. They repeated the same thing when she returned a few hours later to vote, with my younger sister in tow.
Nor were our young ones immuned to the ‘change fever’ that had gripped the nation. Indeed the contribution of our youths to the March 28th revolution just was unquantifiable. Both at home and abroad, Nigerian youths used the social media and other harvests of modern technology to make the electioneering campaign interesting and worthwhile.
When my 20-year-old daughter called from her medical college abroad, in order to share a laugh on the Orubebe comedy, I had to ask her how she managed to keep abreast with events going on here. In response, Fatima told me that she and her friends had been glued to their Ipads since the day of the elections, in order not to miss a thing about that historic transition. Yes, that was how mobilized most Nigerians were on ‘Verdict 2015’.
Yet looking back on this, six months later, we can’t help wondering whether all that involvement was worth it. Most of the pressing needs that propelled Nigerians to democratically overthrow the old order are still unaddressed, yet the obvious single priority of President Muhammadu Buhari now is to jet out to any capital of the world he gets invited to.
Those of us who offered unsolicited advice in our columns, after his victory at the polls, had said that his government must hit the ground running, given the enormity of the problems it has inherited from previous administrations. I, in particular, advocated a hands-on approach, with the Former General leading by example, in every one of the areas that demanded urgent attention.
But with the insurgency still raging (just as I was writing this piece yesterday, the news broke that a Shiite procession in Kano was bomb, leaving 21 people dead and numerous others injured) and no clue as to how female suicide bombers are being recruited and enabled to reach their targets; with the Chibok girls nowhere in sight and the fuel queues returning, it’s amazing that President Buhari still believes he has the leisure to keep travelling abroad.
For instance, if he had to be at the CHOGM in Malta because of how important we still believe the Commonwealth is, why couldn’t he send his Minister of State, Ibe Kachikwu to Iran for the gas exporting countries meeting in Tehran? Why honour the Iranian invitation then soon after jet out to Malta for CHOGM and from there proceed to France as if Nigeria is not in crisis, and sending VP Yemi Osinbajo to France will not suffice?
In all honesty, those who have the President’s ear, like my former boss Malam Garba Shehu, should let him know that Nigerians are not happy with his turning into a jet-setting CEO. Even Former President Obasanjo, who didn’t meet the kind of challenges Buhari met, was criticized for being a flight-happy leader who couldn’t say ‘no’ to the chance of an overseas a trip. What more of someone who was elected when the country was at war with insurgents and learning to come to grips with ugly realities such as suicide bombing?
Yes, we remember President-elect Buhari saying that we should not expect miracles from him because the rot he met cannot be cleared overnight; and we agreed with him. But surely his being with us, as we confront the challenges around will give us the strength and confidence to persevere till we overcome, won’t it? Even his legendary body language will not continue to make impact when it’s hardly there to be felt.
A joke that made the rounds on WhatsApp lately told about an elderly lady who has heard news of recent bomb blasts, high cost of foodstuffs, fuel scarcity and non-payment of workers’ salaries. She was said to have picked her mobile phone and called her eldest son.
‘Dear son,’ she ‘I know you will never lie to me. So in the name of God you better tell me the truth; did Jonathan really hand over to Buhari?’
This might be a joke, but it certainly echoes the feelings of countless Nigerians who made the revolution of March 28th a reality.
President Buhari must avoid making the claim true, that politicians who have been in the opposition for long often fail to deliver when they get to win, for the simple reason that all they knew how to do was be in opposition.
Those who subscribe to this belief cite the examples of Abdurrahman Wahid of Indonesia (who was an opposition leader for 30 years) and Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal (who was in opposition since Senegalese Independence in the 1960s) and the fact that both had failed to make meaningful impact on their country when they finally had the chance to rule. PMB must break this jinx and perform the wonders we dreamt of on March 28th. The first step to that is by staying put in Aso Rock to work.
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