Change Has Come

By Abba Mahmood

What is happening in the country is unimaginable. The awareness and level of mobilization is simply unprecedented. The world now knows that even the Nigerian public is not docile and that it can react to impunity and insensitivity of the leadership to the yearnings and aspirations of the led. People are simply tired and, in the words of Mallam Adamu Adamu, are “tired of being tired”. Everywhere there is the mood for change and the determination to change: change corrupt leaders; change incompetent leaders; change bad attitude; change everything negative for everything positive. In short, change has come.

Take, for instance, the convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos. That was the most transparent process since the beginning of this dispensation. It was free and fair with millions watching on the TV. It was therefore very easy for all the aspirants to accept the outcome and congratulate the winner, General Buhari. Before that, the APC change started from Adamawa State. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar backed Ibrahim Mijiyawa for the gubernatorial primaries there. With all the resources at his disposal, Atiku could not make his favourite aspirant win. In the end, Senator Bindowo won convincingly. And in the presidential primaries, Atiku could not defeat Governor Kwankwaso of Kano, it just shows that money and power have limits now. Indeed, change has come.

Contrast that with what happened in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). At the national level, the party tried and succeeded in excluding everyone from contesting for presidential primaries except the president. At the state level, there is no single state branch of the party that is not dogged with crises as a result of the mismanagement of the party primaries, such that, today, the PDP’s worst enemies are neither the opposition nor even the voters but it’s members. How they handle their internal crises will determine their showing at the general election. But, as the Hausa Fulani would say, water has finished for the baby crocodile. For, change has come.

What we are witnessing now is challenging the very roots of the PDP’s long-held hegemony, as the conflicting interests that came together under its banner in the closing days of military rule unravel. The PDP is already in the process of moving from a strategy based on hegemony to one based on domination, which would entail more intolerance of opponents, a narrowing of public discourse and probably a shift to a more trenchant and perhaps patriarchal rhetoric, but suddenly there is a floodgate of defections of key members, disappointment of key figures and disaster for key leaders, which are all catalysts for change. Yes, of course, change has come.

The usual low political temperature during the Christmas and New Year holidays will be at fever pitch this time round as contenders crisis-cross the country in search of public approval. Unlike the PDP dogged by infighting, the APC is a much more cohesive unit, structurally and logistically better organized to contest the 2015 elections with, for the first time, a decent prospect of winning. It appears the revolts against the PDP are multiplying. The genie cannot be coaxed back into the bottle, and, as it is proving resilient, it is heralding rapid change. It only shows that change has come.

Just this week, one PDP apologist was telling me that fuel queue returned because some people are undermining President Jonathan! For goodness’ sake, even if that was true — but we know it is nonsense — can’t Jonathan deal decisively with the saboteurs? The late President Yar’adua met persistently long fuel queues. He dealt with it and, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, his government reduced the price of petrol from N70 to N65 per litre before some people who “own” petrol came to increase that price to N97 per litre. To make matters worse, while the rest of the world is enjoying a decrease in the price of petroleum products due to lower prices in the international market, here we are being asked to pay more due to a phantom “subsidy”. But change has come.

And, in a most brazen, most blatant and most scandalous display of impunity, the PDP raised a whopping N21 billion campaign funds for its presidential candidate during a fundraising dinner in the Villa last weekend. The Electoral Act 2010, as amended, specifies in Section 91 (2) that “the maximum election expense to be incurred by a candidate at a presidential election shall be N1 billion.” And, for the first time in Nigeria’s history, government agencies donated to the campaign funds of a party during the dinner, which are clearly in violation of all extant laws. The PDP state governors donated N50 million each to the presidential campaign on behalf of their states. Did their respective state assemblies appropriate such money? And who told these governors that their states consist of only PDP members? And who are the mysterious friends who we were told donated billions to the president? What taxes have they been paying? Anyway, change has come.

What sort of government is it that abdicates its primary responsibility of protecting life and property, as can be seen when local hunters and local youth civilian JTF are more effective in protecting communities than the conventional forces? What type of economy is this government running when a slight price fall in oil is making the government so panicky it is announcing that very soon it cannot even pay salaries? What sort of government is it that it cannot provide drinking water for even the nation’s capital? What sort of government is it that there is not even a presidential broadcast when territories are being lost to insurgents and innocent lives are being wasted by terrorists daily? Change has come.

Jonathan is very unpopular not because of the section he comes from or the faith he professes or his tribe but because he is a bad president. He has inherited most of these problems no doubt; but he has done nothing so far to solve them. Instead, all these problems are multiplying. We are going deeper into these crises and some people are saying we are making progress — progress of a well digger is more like it. In any case, what has he done with this mandate to justify continuity? It is a combination of ignorance and arrogance we are seeing. Change has come.

There is poverty everywhere, regardless of the Powerpoint presentations of so-called road maps, master plans and charts meant to deceive all. No one is safe in his or her house; no one is safe in the streets; no one is safe in the market places; no one is safe in the cities; no one is safe in the rural areas; no one is safe in the churches; no one is safe in the mosques; and no one is giving the people any hope. Is this what they want us to continue to witness for more years? Societal values are upside down. These are the reasons the mood of the nation is for change, and change has come.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

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