By KEN TADAFERUA
The die is cast, to use a hackneyed phrase. Nigerians have voted. The frenzied opinions and partisan excesses that escalate oftentimes into literary and physical fisticuffs may now ease up. Now we await the results of the presidential elections.
One can, at least, make a safe prediction. The winner will be either Muhammadu Buhari, the APC candidate, or Atiku Abubakar, the PDP candidate.
If Buhari wins, I will be thoroughly disappointed. If he loses I will be glad. The people’s message to our political elites will ring loud and clear: Fail in one term, you are out. Two terms are for certified performers. Nigerians will not reward incompetence, hypocrisy, corruption, cold shudder to mass murders, nepotism and cronyism which are the hallmark of Buhari’s government in the past four years.
His produce has been poverty and unemployment screaming at alarmingly high decibels. His crash at the polls ought to portend new vistas of competence, efficiency and productivity. But will it?
If Atiku loses the election, I will not be sad. He represents the old order. Not much will change. His most fundamental promise is to restructure the country. APC and Buhari made the same promise in 2014 but threw it out the window on collecting the jewelled crown. The benefits, free loot in billions and humongous political power flowing from the current unitary system to the elites, are huge. These human predators will not set the hunt free. They will not remove their proboscis from the free and honeyed nectar.
Will Atiku go against the grain and opt out of the elite cornering of the free nectar? No. Even if he really deems to restructure, he has wolves in the federal congress and state congresses to deal with, in line with our flawed constitution. So that is a long shot. He will not succeed. The system is entrenched. The snarling wolves will bare their fangs. So not much is likely to change.
But if Atiku wins, I will be elated not because of him. But because Emperor Incompetence Buhari is gone. I will be elated because Atiku will go to Aso Rock, clear in his mind that Nigerians do not take prisoners anymore when it comes to their welfare.
But, as I have said, I will not expect massive change from mass corruption and lack of core values endemic in Nigeria. There could be economic boost. Nigeria might again be marketed positively globally and foreign investments might return to give fillip to industry and jobs. This could bolster Naira value and get stock market coffers zinging with good returns. Still I will be unhappy.
Here’s why. The two men do not represent what we need at this time. Let’s take just three of critical issues that afflict the country. We can predict that the two men will fail the nation on all three scores.
The first: Core Values. Nigeria lacks a coherent core values system. If you ask: Will the Nigerian automatically disdain and refuse to engage in stealing, bribing, driving against traffic, dirtying the environment, being abusive etc.? The answer will, in the main, be no. So, clearly, the hue and cry about anti-corruption and looters is pure unadulterated hypocrisy.
Atiku and Buhari are government pikins, men who lived in the milieu of easy, free oil money shared from the honeypot of corruption called Federation Account. In their 70s now, the leopard will not change its spots. Both men will continue to share free money (allocations) monthly. The corruption streaming therefrom will continue to mushroom. Bribery and contracts inflation will continue even as lip service is paid to a funny anti-corruption war.
servants, judges, policemen and soldiers will continue to demand and take
bribes. Nigerians will continue to act with impunity: drive against traffic, be
abusive, throw dirt on the streets and gutters, build houses in parks, subject
the weak to inhumane treatment etc. The brazenness of incivility and
recklessness will continue.
Both men do not know better and will not come up with ideas to curb these social malaises. It is normal life for the two. Core values will not be systematically targeted as a priority to create a new Nigeria.
The second: Poverty. Here I believe our elites are either maniacally wicked or shockingly ignorant of the sheer scale of the crises gathering like dark and dangerous clouds over the nation. Poverty is a ticking time-bomb.
Imagine a nation with half its population in extreme poverty. Some 90 million people. Yet neither of the two is talking about declaring a state of emergency on poverty. As with past governments, the Buhari government pays lip service to poverty alleviation with its “Tradermoni” and other joke schemes for a few folks.
From Better Life for Rural Women to Tradermoni today, the elite response to dealing with poverty is to dole miserable handouts to a few among the beggarly lots of millions with no food. Then they make political capital out of the meanness with photo ops and media publicity. Just like the West cleaning out illicit financial flows in billions of dollars from Nigeria and making a huge show of giving aid to the poor country with a few million dollars.
It is mean and ruthless mockery of the poor. Atiku is not likely to be different. He would target captains of industry and perhaps the middle class thinking that will pull up the poor from the dank rung of the ladder of wellbeing. Both Atiku and Buhari are from the same region that traditionally upholds a caste system where the poorest of the poor are destined to be so. It is why the highest poverty, out-of-school, disease-stricken populations in Nigeria are up north.
It is reason for the horrible almajirai system. As Buhari said, it is the problem of the local governments. He cannot see the huge challenges. It is not a problem for him. Even Atiku who is wealthy and admittedly built business and schools has only created a mere oasis in a huge desert of poverty in his own state.
Both of them, as I said before, grew through a milieu of easy, free billions from oil and gas. Both do not care about the poor. Farming is one great platform to lift the poor. Unfortunately, both men lived up to their 70s with little or absolutely no regards for farming so that export earnings from the fertile lands and sweet waters God gifted Nigeria are practically zilch today. They do not know better and do not care.
They do not worry about the millions of poor rural farmers feeding the nation with produce they sell for pittances. They do not realize that the farming population is aging and young ones have fled their villages for jobs in the city.
They will not revive the old Produce Board that gave farmers market prices for quality produce and thus encouraged productivity. They will not encourage the great groundnut and yam pyramids, the massive timber, rubber, cocoa produce of the past. They will not return farmers’ pictures on our currency notes. No, they will not. There will be a lot of hot air blown about exchange rates and inflation and oil revenues while poverty mushrooms. There will be no radical policy on poverty alleviation and certainly not about local rural farmers. Poverty will remain endemic.
The third: Restructuring. It will not happen either under Buhari or Atiku. Buhari in his stiff-necked, curt, military knee-jerk manner promptly jettisoned the idea as soon as he offloaded his bags in Aso Rock. Atiku will be more subtle. He will kick-start the process and watch knowingly as legislators tear it to pieces and then it will die.
So, under either of them, the nation’s resources will be frittered away as monthly sharing and security votes to our unproductive and rogue presidency, ministries, agencies, states, local governments, legislators, judges, civil servants and contractors.
Neither men will warehouse oil revenues and corruption cycles will not stop from the Federation Account. It will flow unabated. Under them, a new system restructured on the basis of true federalism will not happen. Productivity will remain a mirage. Vision, a lost hope. Corruption, a recurring pandemic.
I will stop here. But be content to know that we are in for another four-year cycle of ruthless greed, disdain for the poor, entrenchment of the unitary system and sustained looting from that cesspool of corruption called Federation Account. Whether Atiku wins or Buhari wins, be assured of this prediction: Nigeria will lose.
There is one or two of the hordes of jokes seeking to be president who have some radical ideas. But their great failing is their inability to build structures and constituencies. There is an overripe constituency waiting to be plucked: the 90 million citizens in extreme poverty. But the new fellows, in typical Nigerian hurry, have not taken advantage to build a movement with this constituency. I am disappointed.
Someday, sometime, some brilliant minds with great vision will begin a people’s movement that will shift power away from our government pikins, the Buharis and Atikus. That will give political power to the great masses of citizens exploited and robbed ruthlessly every single day in this sorry contraption called Nigeria.
Have a great day, folks.
Tadaferua writes from Lagos