By ABBA MAHMOOD —
If there is any indicator that sub-Saharan Africa will also have its spring like the Arab Spring of 2010/11, what happened on May Day 2017 is enough indicator. In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma was booed by workers demanding his resignation. Scuffles broke out resulting in all speeches cancelled. Here in Abuja, Nigeria, the situation in Eagle Square was almost similar. Both government officials and labour leaders were booed. There were no speeches too here.
These are the two major countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Leaders have to come to terms with the fact that society is becoming more sophisticated by the day and no country is immune from what is happening elsewhere. Leaders must also remember that the people are on edge.
It tells a lot about how far we have degenerated when we see governments counting the payment of workers’ salaries as part of their achievements! Indeed this is scandalous. The quality of leadership is so low that hardly any leader is believed when he or she speaks. Instead of providing public goods that ordinary people cannot provide for themselves such as roads and other infrastructure as well as enabling laws and environment for decent living, some governments are organizing mass wedding or paying for religious pilgrimages for their supporters. What a waste!
Local government is the closest to the people. They have not only become appendages of state governors but I can’t remember when last any local government repaired feeder roads like they used to do before or even dispose wastes and maintain public schools at the grass roots level. Even the quality of local government chairmen and councillors now is simply laughable, even though it is not a funny thing. Pimps and thugs are simply anointed as local government administrators in most cases by their godfathers.
The state governors are controlling two tiers of government – state and local – and, before Buhari, they were dictating to the federal government. In fact, from the time Yar’Adua and Jonathan emerged as president and vice president respectively, every state governor saw himself as potential president or vice president.
In fairness, there are a few of these governors who are doing very well, but the majority are just in need of our prayers. Most of the state legislators who are supposed to check the excesses of the governors do not even know their powers or rights, as they are mostly school dropouts.
At the federal level, perhaps there is no time the nation has invested so much on one individual as it did with Buhari. He came with enormous goodwill within and outside Nigeria. Most unfortunately, he chose the wrong team and wasted precious time. His close aides are not competent and his cabinet composed of mostly people who neither knew the struggle nor the philosophy of the change that Nigerians in their millions sacrificed and voted for. The greatest fear is that Buhari seems not ready to change this non-performing team.
The National Assembly that is supposed to check the excesses of the executive is simply not very concerned. The House of Representatives has good leadership, which was transparently elected by all the members. In the Senate, however, an alliance of mainly criminals in and out of the red chamber has hijacked the upper chamber. In fact, the Senate is now like a retirement house of former governors, most of them with yet-to-be-disposed corruption cases. Instead of passing laws for the good governance of the country, the Senate is now reduced to fighting the battles of its leadership. Consequently, very few senators can freely go to see their constituents without being booed or even heckled.
The religious leaders are supposed to be the conscience of the nation. There is so much religiosity in Nigeria with very little spirituality. Mosques and churches are springing up everywhere but the morality of the people is daily getting worse. In fact, some of the religious leaders are the ones who legitimise corruption and the corrupt. They support any government of the day regardless of how harmful it is to the society. They pray for them as if God will answer the prayers of the oppressors. For some elite, after stealing from the public they build churches and mosques as if to say they are giving religion itself the share of the loot, like one preacher once said.
The traditional rulers are supposed to be the custodians of our cultural values and fathers of the people. Even the colonial rulers had to leave them because they were with their people and serving the interest of their people. Today, the prestige and respect the traditional rulers had is no more. They compete on who visits government houses more. Some are so controversial that they are demystifying the revered institution. They give titles to undeserving individuals, thus destroying the honour and dignity of these titles.
Due to all these, it is now the people who protest openly against the leaders. Governments are not providing basic things for the people. Public schools have been destroyed as officials have buillt private ones. Public water supply scheme is no more as private people build bottled water factories. Even security is being provided by private companies as the government police are busy guarding officials and their families.
We have to reflect and think deeply on all these and try to make amends before it is too late.
History is on the side of the oppressed.