DEMOCRACY AND NATION-BUILDING: NIGERIA, SURVIVING THE 2019 ELECTIONS AND BEYOND.

 

 

By Gideon I. Onyedi

 

The beauty of democracy is that it affords the people the opportunity to have their say and their way in their governance and exercise of power, one way or another. The bane of democracy is that it affords the winner(s) the opportunity and mechanism to overlook the aspirations and cries of the political minority, and the opposition, one way or another. The burden of democracy is that it involves and evolves a long and daunting process and huge cost of implementation and governance. And, the blight of democracy is that it is a fertile ground for manipulated perpetuation of power and power culture; legalisation of illegality, re-christening of official corruption as lobbying, and enthronement and beatification of irregularity skewed largely in favour of the incumbent or the more endowed and supported opposition by advocates, legends and bulwarks of regime change. It is a present process and period of decision informed by the past, for posterity or the future.

It is time for Nigeria, again. And we need God’s miracle and intervention this time.

Following the distraught situation and precarious socio-political state and atmosphere Nigeria found herself in, as the nation trudged onto the last general election in 2015, and given the disconcerting intrigues of power, and for power among the gladiators, quasi marshals, and comedians of democracy, evident in the criticisms, counter-criticisms, verbal tirades and multiple attacks that prevailed and pervaded among these merchants and mercenaries of both positive and pseudo prescriptive political ‘litany’ and ‘liturgy’ of power for both the incumbent, and chanters of change mantra, the literate, the illiterate, the elite, the religious, the young, the underprivileged, the rich, in fact, the entire citizenry, all were inexorably caught in the frenzy and haze of the moment.

The socio-political air was scented with uncertainty and fear. Everyone treaded with caution and trepidation, as it became undeniably evident that the king and the kingmakers had grown poles apart. And the opposition had chewed the steel fashioned in the furnace of brimstone.  The drumbeats of war, nay, of power change and succession rented the air. And we prayed for God’s intervention. We wailed and worried. We took cautionary cover in places of choice for fear of the unknown. What a democracy!

As it happened in 1992, in the historic days of the Abiola political race. Many feared and died many times with their breath still in their nostrils. What a democracy! What a politics! What a nation!

So was it. Almost. In 2015 the then incumbent had been controversially presented in the negative and bias in various fora of public opinion: Jonathan should go. Goodbye to Goodluck. That was the ‘Nunc Dimittis’ jamming the drums of our political terrain.  The king makers had decided. The oppositions had assembled and swore almost with their blood. Corruption, security, and ego on the side of kingmakers who felt sidelined were the indices and yardsticks on which the dispensers of this situational political justice were to anchor as they heralded the next best alternative, nay, adjudged credible man.

Whoever had, or appeared to have what the nation needed to tackle corruption and insecurity was unarguably the man of the people. Whoever also could command the cult of hero-worship followership was already the anointed arrow of the gods for retributive justice against the seemingly recalcitrant and incorrigible chief priest of Nigerian politics and leadership of the moment. They judged.

With rhetoric and sermons that assayed to meet the populace at the centre of its needs with a paradisiac package of promises, the people saw, or thought they saw and perceived a credible alternative in General Mohammadu Buhari, a man, who by all standards, should qualify as a true nationalist. By standard, by calling, and by professionalism, every soldier should be. Especially one who had fought, fretted and fronted for the indivisibility, sorry, I prefer to use the word ‘unity’, (indivisibility is a natural characteristic of objects that do not have internal differences and divisions or marked diversities of any kind in their system and structure; indivisibility is not colonially, politically or artificially imposed, else, it becomes somewhat whimsical,) of Nigeria;  who by his training  and military calling; who, by his testimony and hitherto celebrated official and unofficial record, though fraught with some controversy; who by his austere, or rather, disciplined lifestyle seemed seasoned, salted, and serviced to fill in and fix the perceived yawning gap of the socioeconomic, security, and political systems of Nigeria. To the electorates, not a few, General Buhari was not just a gap stopper, he was a seasoned mouth filler.

That choice as the next best and credible alternative in 2015, is the subject of controversy today, with some regrets and disenchantment, though not without diehards in faithful followership, as well, as we stand to write another beautiful or blurring chapter of democratic history in Nigeria. Of the 2019 elections. Shall it be a beautiful story? Shall it be a blurred history? Shall it be bloody or blessed memory for generations unborn? Will there even be a nation to tell the story? Only President Buhari will tell. Only INEC will tell. Only Nigerians will tell. Above all. Only the Almighty God will tell.

It is time for Nigeria, again. And we need God’s miracle and intervention this time.

Today, there is a divide, a political chasm in the nation. A normality with democracy. A given for human rights. As it happened in the days of Jonathan. And myriads were led to reject him. Rightly or wrongly. While many stuck with him. Rightly or wrongly. So does it fly on the air of Nigerian politics, today. Many Nigerians who regret the choice they made in 2015 have resolved to make a change  It is believed that Atiku Abubakar is the man. The next best alternative. Others still believe President Buhari remains the man. For better; for worse.

Politics is an opinionated game. And so are all endeavours of mankind; from religion to revolution. Agitations and activism alike. However there seems to be some kind of beautiful objectification, not enamoured of dissensions, though, of this pro-Atiku opinion. Atiku seems to be the song of the choir, and the music of the political orchestra for not a few in Nigeria. He seems to be the next best alternative, the toast of the trendies, and the preference of many within and without.

But the incumbent also has his ‘credentials’ and controls the political and economic ‘arsenals’. The president believes, with his cohorts, that he still loves this country and has more to offer, and more to recover for her. Ethno-religious politics seems to have undermined this claim, in the estimation and experiences of many.

If he could dislodge a sitting Commander-in-Chief from the outside, and remains the only one that has been able to do so in Nigeria’s political history, why do people think that anyone can easily send him on political retirement when he has the institutions of the state at the tip of his finger. After all, it is the man with the microphone that the people hear; whether they want to listen to him or not. Let alone when some, rightly or wrongly, still find that voice melodious. However it sounds.

Realizing that it is easy to install a ruler in power, but not easy to dethrone or remove a ruler, Nigerians who believe in the need for change in the leadership of the nation, are working their fingers to the bone to give effect to their vision. Through sensitization, mobilization, education, international diplomacy and entreaties.

President Buhari came to power to salvage our economic heritage. And he meant to do that for the nation. Whether that has been achieved or not is either a different story or a tool in the hand of the opposition. On his own, many still believe it is yet to be proven that he is corrupt. Opinions are sharply divided on this. Of his military generation, he is the last man, (among those who fought to keep Nigeria united), standing, as a sitting President. Others are working and fighting for the nation from the outside. As private citizens, though elder statesmen today,

After President Buhari, there is likely not to be another man from that generation of military gladiators to rule this country. It is a nostalgic feeling that has started filling the air before its time. He occupies a sensational, emotional, and historically important position by virtue of that. Many of his contemporaries have had their times and thrones. And now, after him, that generation of soldiers that claim to have mind-blowing emotional attachment to Nigeria and the ‘unity’ of Nigeria as a result of the ‘sacrifices’ they made, will be gone in active Nigerian politics.

This is why President Buhari, whether he is to win or lose, owes this nation a historical, peaceful, free and fair election. This is why President Buhari owes it to himself and his admirers, to prove their detractors and doubters wrong, and avoid anything, by omission or commission, that will adversely impact on the peace of the nation, in the coming election. Buhari belongs to a special class of military ‘nationalists’. And they will all be gone in time and season out of active politics in Nigerian. My respect for them as a Nigerian. Especially to a man I consider the father of modern Nigeria, a true nationalist indeed, though not without imperfections, like anyone else, Chief Dr Olusegun Obasanjo.

As an aside, former President Obasanjo has lived to fight for this nation. And everything he has done. Every mistake he has made. Every mountain he has climbed. All has been with the utmost interest of this nation at heart. The day he dies, many who want to crucify him today would release statements that he died when the nation needed him most. Let us appreciate him while he lives. And embrace his inspirational patriotism. He is not a permanent friend of anybody. He is an unrepentant permanent friend and lover of Nigeria. Obasanjo is God’s gift to Nigeria.

If such special class of our patriots that bled for us, would go without imparting patriotism and true unity into the young; if such gallant group of Nigerians who are Nigeria personified, depart this planet without teaching the youth to love Nigeria; if such great soldiers who, in the poetic tradition of a troubadour, traversed the length and breadth of Nigeria, not for partisan politics, not for naira and kobo, but for the ‘unity’ of Nigeria, for their ‘Knightly’ love for this lady of a nation, exit our world and polity anytime,  without imparting that same spirit into all of us, where would we be in the future. They will all have failed. This is why I genuinely feel pained when a supposed ‘veteran’ of ‘unity’ and collective existence of Nigeria, President Buhari, is before the court of public opinion, being accused of nepotism at its highest level, fearful secret agenda, selective justice, disregard for the rule of law and human rights, and politics of alienation, with facts and events to prove his accusers right. Though he has his defense and reasons for every action or inaction

My heart aches for this. It is beyond mere politics. It is our life. Our future. Our nation. Our world. Our freedom. Our pride. Our humanity. Our godliness.

This is why in this election, and beyond  May 29, the present administration, under President Buhari, should exhibit the highest sense of patriotism, selflessness, and credibility, to write Muhammad Buhari’s name in gold, as the last of the Generals of nostalgia, in Nigerian politics, by further exhibiting the democratic credentials he showed in the case of the Gambia; and re-enacting the stellar political sagacity and un-African selflessness showcased by Goodluck Jonathan, who created a peaceful environment and a universally commended and acknowledged level playing ground and non-interference during the conduct of the 2015 general elections. This, Buhari should do as he himself, today, in 2019, presides over this election from the conduct to the conclusion of election and concessions where applicable and necessary. Win or lose.

However, we know that the political world is awash with the intoxication and emotionalism of power. Raw emotions can be stronger than pure and edifying knowledge. The quest for and clutches of power can be much stronger than the intriguing and momentarily reason-blurring, enchanting and crippling ‘usurpation’ of romantic exhilaration and experience in the bosoms of Cleopatra and Venus. Notwithstanding its eternally damning consequences. Its allurement can be unsparingly captivating. Power consumes…. Power confounds…. Power conquers, even the bravest will and courage.

It is time for Nigeria, again. And we need God’s miracle and intervention this time.

Shall it be a beautiful story? Shall it be a blurred history? Shall it be a bloody or blessed memory for generations unborn? Only President Buhari can tell. Only INEC can tell. Only Nigerians can tell. Above all, only the Almighty God can tell. But the future will surely tell. Good or bad.

I call on President Buhari and his cohorts, to overcome that which conquers the young, the inexperienced, the pliable, the myopic, the undiscerning, and the insensitive. I call on President Buhari and INEC to consider the fate of about 200 million Nigerians for whom they are responsible. I call on all and sundry to rise up and give Nigeria a free, fair and credible election.

This may be the only opportunity President Buhari has to make humanity and the world honour and remember him as a repentant democrat and inspirational leader, or the world may forever chronicle him among those who lived, ruled and died as dictators. History beckons.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Gideon I. Onyedi,

Founder/President, Diamond-Crest for Youth Education Foundation

gidonyedi@gmail.com

+2347060760601

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