Change In The Reverse

Change In The Reverse
May 28 17:14 2016

By Denja Yaqub

[W]hen Nigerians decided to vote for a change of the country’s political leadership during the March 28, 2015 federal elections, it was premised on the obvious helpless situation we all found ourselves as the Jonathan government treated the country and her citizens with such nauseating contempt without remorse.

As against previous elections, the country united mainly behind a man with records of people driven services, clean from corruption which has characterised our political leadership for decades, perhaps since the 1960 flag independence. The votes were more for the candidate than for his party for obvious reasons; though his party’s influence cannot be underscored.

As a military officer, Major General Mohammadu Buhari, and his team’s intervention at dawn on 31st December 1983 was popular at inception because we all saw the country drifting towards political anarchy and socio economic abyss, with stinging sights of mass poverty alongside a tiny few bloating and swimming in unquantifiable wealth-stolen wealth from funds borrowed from neo liberal multilateral financial institutions who though knew the destination of their resources, but ignored any checks because it is in their interests to borrow out funds that will keep countries and their citizens in perpetual subservience to their institutions.

Just as it was before the inevitable but unfortunate termination of civil rule in 1983, the political class and their cronies took the entire country for granted; looted the treasury in such mindboggling magnitude that until the new government came in, we all underestimated the quantum of what left our national treasury to private accounts under very ludicrous guises, including spiritual prayers. The worst and perhaps most criminally callous was the diversion of funds budgeted for securing lives, properties and the sovereignty of the country, including retrieving the Chibok girls from their captors, Boko Haram; the gang of terrorists hardened by state negligence. Boko Haram reigned in brutal conquests because we had a leadership that felt the country can go down as long as public funds keep flowing into their private accounts.

What belonged to the collective were distributed for political campaigns of an individual, a President almost the entire country felt wasn’t worth the office as he was obviously lacking in nearly all facets of leadership attributes.

Though he got into office with popular votes in 2011, many voters turned their backs on President Jonathan as they soon regretted their votes just few months into his reign. Insensitivity, mass looting, political rascality, administrative nepotism, impunity at all levels and on all issues reigned supreme, compromising our fundamental political and economic rights.

However, the massive votes President Buhari got wasn’t for excuses. We desired obvious change beyond sloganeering.

What has happened so far under the leadership of President Buhari has not demonstrated any qualitative change enough to make the country feel the March 28, 2015 victory moved us far enough from the old order. Though we are not where we were, but we are not anywhere near where we should be.

As important as the battle against corruption is; even as the fulcrum of our underdevelopment, it can’t be the only preoccupation of any serious government. And it is worst when the President seem the only individual in his government determined to fight corruption, or merely expose those who filtered our collective resources to their private uses. That is what has happened so far. We read or hear of people who had so much of our money in their possession but we don’t have the big thieves, as alleged, yet in jail. We don’t even know how much have been returned under the so called “plea bargain” option, which in itself encourages corruption. This is obviously because the battle is not systemic, it’s more like flashes in the pan so far.

Corruption, or any obstruction to national development cannot be dealt with without a major shakeup of the entire system that created or encouraged such obstacles.

A serious battle against corruption must start from the judiciary, at the bench and the bar; the entire justice system, including review of relevant laws. The judiciary is the final point for determining the fate of the accused, and if the judiciary is not fully part of the battle, then it’s a lost battle at inception. That’s what has happened so far. Accused persons are arrested; splashed in media with lots of hypes; arraigned before a court and finally the court grants bail, even before commencing trials. That ends the case.

To worsen the battle, the legislature seem not committed to any change and cannot be relied on to make any qualitative review of existing anti-graft laws since most of those at the National Assembly can hardly be exonerated from allegations of corruption, especially former governors who found the National Assembly a safe haven.

In any case, the ruling party is pathetically in the majority at the National Assembly and because the party is not just in obvious deficit of common policy, guiding principles and strong political cohesion, it does not have the muscles to give direction to the legislators.

Some highly placed elements in the APC, as it has now become so obvious, fought against all anti people policies, aligning with the Nigerian people and practically made the country ungovernable under previous administrations such that in January 2012, power was clearly on the streets for days. If the Nigerian people had a strong opposition leadership with a clear popular pro people ideological commitment, the opposition could have easily taken power then just as it could have in 1983. But we all submitted our hopes in the 2015 elections for an alternative.

That alternative now seem a disaster. A monumental disaster. As soon as the Buhari regime assumed power, the Breton Woods institutions grabbed the country effortlessly with the aid of their agents within the party and around the President. The result of the visits of Mrs. Largarde, the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director and her World Bank counterpart is what has manifested in the recent increases in electricity tariffs and pump prices of petroleum products as well as the free fall of the national currency.

The danger in having a popular government lacking in any serious socio political vision, on the platform of a party filled with prominent beneficiaries of our collective struggles who rode to power through the ashes of popular mass actions; conveniently assuming power snatched from the pangs of the battles of majority of the populace is when the government becomes a bride of global contraptions against the poor, the only constituency that brought it to power.

As the country’s leadership has been fully captured by the IMF and its cohorts, Nigerians should brace up for more excruciating hardships, perhaps that is the change the new administration had in mind when Mr. President and his party promised us change before the 2015 Presidential election. We just hope the administration will learn from history how those who embraced the IMF and its allies collapsed like parks of cards through mass uprisings and eventual electoral defeats.

Yaqub is an Assistant Secretary at the headquarters of Nigeria Labour Congress, Abuja