May 1, 2014
By Amir Abdulazeez
Nigeria is arguably the strongest nation not only in Africa but in the whole world. This is a nation that has withstood disunity among its citizens since independence and yet it has not disintegrated. It is a nation that has endured the most chronic form of institutional corruption for almost 35 years and yet we are still rich and recently richer by our ‘rebased’ GDP. Nigeria has endured the highest form of electoral abuses and manipulations in one form or the other from 1999 to date, but yet our citizens have never refused to vote. This is a nation in which the judicial system is almost insignificant as far as common justice is concerned but yet people have never refused to direct their grievances to the courts of law and hence court cases are threatening to explode our courts. In our country, insecurity in the form of riots, ethnic and religious crises, armed robbery, violence, raping, kidnapping and recently terrorism has been on a rampant and consistent increase since after the civil war, and yet most Nigerian leaders sleep with their two eyes closed. This is a nation whose industrial sector has all but collapsed with more than 75% of its products being exported from abroad, and yet our economy is still ‘growing’. Is it not in this country that the labour market has now become a deadly market? Yet, people are still willing to attend a fresh immigration screening exercise whenever they are called upon because of chronic unemployment. Is it not in Nigeria that security agents who are supposed to protect and guard you in particular and the nation in general, are the worst public enemies? Right now, I can’t think of any Nigerian household that depends on government for power supply that has had three days uninterruptable power supply in the last 10 years, and yet we are generating ‘more’ electricity.
I don’t think there is any nation apart from Nigeria that can survive all the above problems for such a long period without totally collapsing out of existence. Therefore, Nigeria is currently the strongest nation now in existence. Let’s remember that strength is not only about what you can do, but about how much you can endure. Some have predicted that Nigeria will cease to exist before 2015 and about seven months to 2015, I still don’t think Nigeria will stop existing. Well, Japheth Omojuwa described Nigeria as a failed state that is still working.
One big question we are to ask ourselves is that, when are we going to bring an end to our problems? Should we rather ask, are these problems going to end or are we going to continue like this? We may also ask, who are going to end our problems? Is it the citizens, is it the leaders or is it God?
I may not be able to provide clear cut answers to the above questions, but one thing is very clear. At the moment, the destiny of Nigeria looks to be in the hands of Nigerians, but it is not. Average Nigerian citizens cannot even determine who becomes a presidential or gubernatorial candidate. The process of producing Nigerian leaders is being hijacked by political parties who use their narrow and selfish methods to produce some limited choices to Nigerians. In the last elections in 2011, Nigerians were only limited to the options of Buhari and Jonathan, with Shekarau and Ribadu being considered as distant outsiders not because of their incompetence but because of the nature of the political system and myopic political thinking of the Nigerian public. This year, the choices are even narrower as Nigerians would only have the option to choose between whatever thing the PDP or APC presents to them.
Why can’t Nigerians produce their own presidential candidates to choose from irrespective of what the major political parties want? The biggest step Nigerians must take is to bring back their destiny from the hands of APC, PDP, INEC and whatever political organization back to their own hands. Nigerians must boycott any arrangement that will not make them the major players in the emergence of any presidential, gubernatorial or senatorial candidate. Any party that goes ahead to use its narrow methods that do not in whatever way represent the majority of Nigerians, should be completely rejected in the polls. Nigerians must establish their supremacy; citizens must be feared and seen as people who can effect collective change at any time they want. Nigeria must be slave to its citizens and not the other way round. At least, citizens should be able to install anyone they want as leader, as far as they trust him, irrespective of his political, economic and social background.
Traditionally, every election year is seen as crucial and future-determining or future-shaping year. The same happened in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011. A lot of people made different propositions that if we failed to get it right in those elections, that will be the end of us. All that have come to pass and we are still here with a future which can be made a good one in 2015. The 2015 elections are much more significant than previous elections for many reasons. Nigerian democracy is approaching maturity stage, if it completely enters the maturity stage with bad leaders and non-credible elections, then it may permanently become part of our political culture that you have to be bad to win and you have to come through rigging, godfatherism and so on.
Secondly, Nigerians have never been so ethnically and religiously divided as now. This was very much proven in the 2011 elections. If we don’t stop this trend in 2015, then people will begin to form ethnic and religious parties so that no one can win, no matter how competent unless he is backed by a religious or ethnic following. Nigeria has never being so fragile and if care is not taken, 2015 may be the last straw that may break the camel’s back.
I personally believe that, 2015 is the last chance for Nigeria to get it right. We should consider all what has gone wrong from independence to date as a necessary sacrifice for nation building but it must come to an end. Right now, we desperately need leadership that will unite our citizens and lay a solid foundation for our country to flourish. The nearest available opportunity for us to get this is in 2015 and if we fail to grab it, we may not even have 2019 at all.
Nigerians must consider 2015 to be their last chance to bring any change. Change must not necessarily be by voting in APC or voting out PDP. No, we must have a complete change in the set of people that govern us. We must make sure that they have our full mandate and we can hold them accountable anytime, anywhere. We must also be able to change them once they begin to fail. We can’t play with our country.
We must collectively put behind us issues of gender, ethnicity, religion, political party and social differences. Let’s be courageous, let’s do this sacrifice and let’s vote like Nigerians and not like southerners or northerners. Let’s forget Nigeria if we fail to elect a credible leader in 2015.
Amir Abdulazeez is the President of Foundation for Better Initiatives (FBI) and can be reached through [email protected]