BY FEMI AKOMOLAFE
Nigerians are a case study in paradoxes. Back home, the 180 or so millions of them can hardly agree on anything. They bicker about almost everything from religion to ethnicity to revenue sharing to appointments of state officials.
Agitators for restructuring the country appear hell-bent to tear it apart with Old-Testament fury. However, put a few Nigerians together outside the shores of their huge country, they become Patriotic Unity Personified.
Very enterprising and with a go-getter mentality, Nigerians passionately love their country and they are obsessed with how they can make their country get back its lost allure.
Sadly, for Nigerians, the history of their country is littered with broken promises by visionless leaders who, through the years, have reduced a once-great country (it used to be called The Giant of Africa) to a lawless, semi-failed state where life is short and brutish.
The latest menace to hit the country is rampaging Herdsmen who continue to cause mayhem across the land with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari increasingly looking incapable of stopping the violence. This has led to calls for States to be allowed to have their own police forces.
Ironically, Buhari came to power largely on his track record as a no-nonsense dictator during his first stint at the presidency from 31 December 1983 to 27 August 1985. His campaign promise was anchored on the twin pillars of fighting corruption and beefing up national security which the Boko Haram insurrection had all but shattered.
To be fair, Boko Haram no longer controls swathes of Nigerian territory like it did in the past. The group has splintered into two and has been reduced to hit-and-run bombing campaigns. This is not to suggest that the group is no longer capable of shaming the government as it spectacularly did on February 15, 2018, when it kidnapped 110 students at a school in Daapchi, Yobe State. Negotiations led to the release of some of the girls a few weeks later.
Nigerians who complained that Buhari’s fight against corruption was mere cosmetics have very strong points as hardly a day passes without Nigerians being shocked with one case of gargantuan corruption or the other.
Some even bordered on the pure farcical. A sales clerk with the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, Philomina Chieshe, stole N36 million cash and claimed that the money was swallowed by a spiritual snake.
Eternally optimistic Nigerians, who continue to hope for a better tomorrow, voted for the elderly Buhari in the 2015 elections because he promised them CHANGE.
To be sure, Nigerians were totally fed up after 16 years of inept rule by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The last PDP president, Goodluck Jonathan appeared to be a man totally out of his depth as he attempted to navigate the affairs of state. The insane corruption of Jonathan’s government made people decided on a change and voted for Buhari, who headed an amalgam of parties under the umbrella of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Sadly, the Buhari government has failed to deliver on most of its campaign promises. The country’s economic indices make depressing reading. The total budget is $23 billion for 193.3 million people. National debt stock is N23.7 trillion (March 2018) and rising fast. Unemployment is intolerably high at 18.80 percent. The country managed to emerge from recession but growth is still anemic. The Brookings Institution recently rated Nigeria above India as the country with the highest population of extremely poor people. 87 million Nigerians are said to be living below the poverty level. The African Development Bank recently says that 80 percent of Nigerians live under the US$2 poverty threshold set by the World Bank.
Nigerians will go to the polls in 2019 and there is already a great cry for CHANGE. This time, the youth are agitated and have launched various initiatives to get themselves actively involved in how their country is governed.