It will be 24 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria by May 2023. I can still vividly remember the wave of joy the country felt when the then Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, handed over to the newly elected civilian president, Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999.
At last, Nigeria would start her journey to growth and sustainability for all. The then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, in his speech, described the day as “the beginning of a genuine renaissance” in Nigeria. The word renaissance comes from a french word meaning “rebirth”. In hindsight, was it truly the beginning of a genuine rebirth in Nigeria?
The political structure in Nigeria has been largely criticised by many as being laden with corruption, godfatherism and a lack of visionary approach to leadership. So much so that many in their pain and naivety have wished for Nigeria’s return to military dictatorship in the hopes of some form of sanity and economic stability. This largely owes to the seeming steadiness of the exchange rate from the day the Late General Sani Abacha took power in 1993 till the day he died on June 8, 1998. For a period of five years, the exchange rate of the naira to dollar never changed from 22 naira to $1 while on the parallel market, the naira was trading as high as 88 naira to $1 (Using the word ‘high’ to qualify 88 naira to $1 in 2022 might be a stretch but you get the point).
It is, however, important to note that Democracy, no matter how problematic it might seem at the moment in Nigeria, is the closest to what we can get in terms of a system that can protect everyone. The almost 24 years of Democracy under two prominent political parties (People’s Democratic Party and All Progressive Congress) may be seen as some form of progress despite existing challenges.
Sadly, Nigeria has missed opportunities, truncated dreams and lost talents. Many sectors of the economy have suffered backwardness. Education is in a state of a cry for help. Security has degenerated so much that the average citizen sees the safety of their lives and property as their personal responsibility. There is the issue of police brutality that led to the #EndSARS movement. Also, the country is wallowing in massive debts. Inflation is on an all-time high, with Nigerians lacking the ability to afford three square meals, which has become a luxury. Even the power sector is so inflated with corruption that solutions deployed by smaller countries to generate power are so cumbersome for our leaders to deploy. According to the Nigeria Bureau of statistics, the rate of unemployment was 33% in 2019 and is likely to have increased as many lost their jobs during the pandemic. It appears that the country is crumbling with a lot of problems.
Nigeria is at a crossroads and people are expecting a miracle. One of my professional colleagues once said, “Nigeria is not something that anyone will want to acquire if it were to be personal property.” Hence, I pity the next President of Nigeria.
The last seven years of our lives as Nigerians have been excruciating. This is not to say that the present administration under the leadership of Muhammadu Buhari has failed in every area. However, communication is key and I can authoritatively say that this administration has failed in terms of communication and carrying the populace along in the little progresses made. The concept of servant leadership has been trampled upon.
According to a publication on OCED.org, Nigeria is the largest Black Nation in the world: “One of every four Africans and one out of every five persons of African origin is a Nigerian.” This speaks to the power, talent, skills and resilience we have as a people. Nigerians are amazing people – industrious, innovative, creative, bold, kind, family-oriented, hardworking, etc. Young people have argued that they only need an enabling environment in order to survive and build the country they desire. They want leadership but leadership with all the progressive qualities of a visionary leader.
Leadership is service, management and hard work. Whoever emerges the president of Nigeria come 2023, be it Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP), Nigerians are expecting that change promised by President Buhari in 2015. It doesn’t matter that the next President did not make this promise; that expectation just comes with the territory of being the president of Nigeria. As such, fighting corruption and seeing true change is now an inherited campaign promise and the next president needs to be seen to hit the ground running from day one and ensure that true positive change happens.
It’s important to pay attention to the campaign season of the coming election (September/October). Beyond asking what, we must begin to ask, “How?!”
Just as Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa, who is the PDP Presidential running mate, said on Politics Today on Channels TV, it’s a common fight for hope.
The struggle for change remains constant.