The biggest disservice done this space by the almost 7 years of the Goodluck Jonathan administration was not its signal lack of qualification for the job at hand — although how this fate befell us still remains one of our darker mysteries. Its main damage was that by contributing to a near criminal distortion of the national sense of what “normal” is, the Jonathan administration has helped lower national standards, especially of what we ought to expect from a federal government.
Alas, the Buhari administration is the main beneficiary of this “lowered expectations”.
Thus, senior state functionaries have no compunction whatsoever advertising the fact of a lower spend on the nation’s 55th anniversary celebrations as evidence of material progress. True, President Buhari may have budgeted just N70m for this. But the N16bn which the last administration spent on average over the four years to 2014 ought to be the outlier. The result of an administration that was so in office, but completely out of power. This cannot be the measure by which we indicate propriety.
Understandably, most Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief when finally, we saw the back of the Jonathan administration. Most of us also exhaled as comprehensively, when, finally the military agreed to leave centre stage after the debacle of the botched June 1993 elections. From June 1993, to March 1999, the Nigerian on the streets pitched his vision of a country where “no man is oppressed” against the politico-military leadership’s clientelism; and appeared to win.
That we were wrong-footed by the emergence of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration is an understatement. Barring the major legislative reforms in the four years to end-2007, we owe to that administration much of the unresolved problems that we confront today. Truth is, there are many who hold it culpable for the emergence of the travesty that is the last seven years in the management of this country.
A tired people deserve a breather. And post-civil war, it is doubtful that any other episode in the annals of our existence as a people was more enervating than the struggle for the supremacy of the popular will in the wake of the annulment of the June 1993 elections. Again, the struggle for democracy up to the last elections was also epochal. In a backhanded way, this is the point made by those who insist on rewarding the last president for his acknowledgement of defeat at the polls. Until then, we were headed pell-mell towards a ravine.
Barely delivered from that precipice, we, no sooner, confront a new danger: that we stand to lose, once again, by the surrender of vigilance.
Since March, this year, a partisan crowd in the service of President Buhari has invited us to accept as progress, standards that, first are at odds with the manifesto with which this administration ascended office. And, more importantly, we railed against under the Jonathan administration.
The list of would-be ministers circulated late Friday, last week, is the latest of these affronts. True, it is not official. But the manner of governance in the last six months has verged on the near duplicitous. Too many red herrings and kites all over the place. It would seem, on this basis, that the administration’s preferred mode of work is to engineer ambiguity into its policy positions, and work through the popular arguments for and against these.
If this is the case, then we ought to be clear in our messaging to the president on the list of ministers circulated last week. Given that any Nigerian could have put that list together in 2009, the list lacks novelty, is patently obvious, and there are serious concerns over its utility. In a way, these three parameters are generally accepted tests for innovation.
Put, differently, then, the list bruited about last week of the persons President Buhari may be considering for ministers fails the test of “change”. Not “his” test, but “ours”; for gradually a gulf opens up between this administration’s perception of reality and the common understanding of it. You only need look cursorily at its assessment of current monetary policy to get a feel of this.
However, the fact that it has taken us six months to get here fits Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s definition of a “perambulator”: “e no go anywhere. Na the same place e dey”.
Truth, though, is that we did not campaign for the removal of the Goodluck Jonathan government in order that we may remain on the same spot.