By Sunny Awhefeada
Nigeria remains a case study of the kind of paradox that can only be birthed by absurdism. Samuel Beckett despite his acclaimed genius would have found it hard put to envision the Nigerian condition in a dramatic sketch. I doubt if any human imagination has the capacity to imagine the scale and depth of the Nigerian condition. When the world celebrated the turn of the millennium in the year 2000, Nigeria was enmeshed in the crises of a hunted past from which it is yet to free itself. So the world rejoiced and reaped the gains of the year 2000, but Nigeria was lachrymal trying to come to terms with her bitter and bloody history. That was a paradox.
Fifteen years later, the world was agog over the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but Nigeria was recoiling in dread and fright from the many assaults unleashed on her by inane leadership. That year 2015, instead of bearing a beacon for Nigeria as it was in other places, marked her descent into the abyss of despair during which the spirit and psyche of the citizens were crushed and subjected to torment.
The year 2015 offered a dual experience for Nigeria. It held hope, but offered despair. The year elicited joy, but it gifted the people tragedy. Nigerians anticipated cheers, but they received hopelessness. These were instances of the many paradoxes that year bequeathed Nigeria. The year was a political transition year during which one political party defeated another that was in power. It was the first time such was happening in Nigeria’s beleaguered history. The reason for the triumph of the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), was the apparent poor governance for which the then ruling party, The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was known. Under the PDP, Nigeria was made to remain stagnant under a sequence of regimes of uninspiring leadership. All indices of good governance nosedived and there seemed to be an apparent and looming free fall. Then in the middle of national ennui came in the APC with its massive propaganda machinery which rattled and made nonsense of the PDP. The new party took on the PDP and first displaced it in the hearts of Nigerians before subjecting it to an electoral waterloo. Nigerians who had been fed up with the humdrum that governance had become under the PDP danced to the tune played by the APC. The people anticipated something novel that will recreate Nigeria and endow her with a sense of purpose.
The sense of relief on May 29 when the new government took off was palpable. The next day came and went and then the weeks rolled by. Then months and years and it dawned on the citizens that they have been betrayed again. The things that have afflicted us in time past are still with us and the intensity has become insurmountable. We are badly buffeted. Nigerians have never known respite since 2015 as each New Year came with new and worse challenges. Every year since 2015 has been traumatic, but we have survived. That was how we also survived 2022. Yes, we survived. If the previous years were bad or worse, 2022 demands that we go in search of an apt word to describe it. Many wonder if circumstances could be worse than things are in Nigeria. Things have really become bad. Nothing seems to be adding up.
Our biggest and intractable problem remains bad leadership. We all know the problem, but we seem not to know the antidote. May be we know. But we are too complacent or lack the courage to take on the problem. The problem of bad leadership has been with us for as long as we can remember. It has become perennial. The problem gives birth to other problems that conspire to undo us. Bad leadership breeds corruption, it tolerates mediocrity, it encourages insecurity, it is capable of leading to system failure and runs a country aground. What presently afflicts Nigeria is worse than bad leadership because it appears as if Nigeria has no leadership and the nation is on auto-pilot. A president that rode to power on the tripod of revamping the economy, ending corruption and eradicating insecurity has failed on all three points. He has not only failed, but the situation got worse under his watch and he comes out languidly to tell Nigerians that he has done his best.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s idea of “I have done my best” is another paradox thrown at Nigerians. Buhari’s best gave us failed infrastructure. His best saw our universities closed down for an entire year. His best saw Nigeria becoming the poorest country in the world. His best efforts turned Nigeria into one of the three most unsafe places in the world. His best made Nigeria to sink deeper into the quagmire of corruption. His best gave us fuel scarcity. His best not only offered us poverty, but ensured that the majority of Nigerians couldn’t celebrate the Christmas of 2022 and the New Year of 2023. His best took us into the recesses of darkness where we have been tortured physically and psychologically. His best offered us pains.
Nigerians no longer feel the presence or impact of government. That was exactly what characterized 2022. Government took a terminal leave. When governments in other climes think hard on what to do to advance the welfare and security of their people, government in Nigeria thinks of deepening the suffering of its citizens. This was what played out during the last strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The system was simply left to disintegrate. What hit the education sector under Buhari also afflicted every other sphere in Nigeria. No sector has a savoury story to tell. From health to infrastructure, energy, security, agriculture and other related sectors, the score card was abysmal failure.
As 2022 crawled painfully to an end, the usual joy of seeing the end of an old year was there, but it was suppressed. Nigerians, a naturally exuberant people, couldn’t shout “happy new year” with the verve and vigour of yore. What they could say was a weak expression of joy coming from a thankful heart. We remain thankful to God whose amazing grace has brought us this far. As we trudge into 2023 we are confronted with another election cycle that would make or mar us as a nation depending on the choices we make. The Nigerian crises is the product of bad leadership allowed to fester by the people. Once the people rise and say nay, the genie of bad leadership will be eliminated. The next two months offers Nigerians another opportunity to say ay or nay to the many choices being thrown at them. The politicians are out again campaign and playing on our emotions.
Nigerians must think and act wisely. There is the urgent if not compelling need to form a new vanguard that will usher in a new dawn for Nigeria. Our destiny as a nation has been bruised for too long and no human wisdom can surmise how much resilience is left in our spirit. We are all witnesses to the wreckage bad governance can turn a nation into. After this election, we are bound to wait for another four years to make another choice. Let us be reminded that four years is a long time in the destruction of an entity. We cannot afford to get it wrong this time. We should not take our survival for granted. The days ahead are going to be daunting, but we will survive because we survived 2022 and we are survivors.