Editor’s note: May 29, 2015, will certainly find its place in future books and research papers on the history of Nigeria. Today, Goodluck Jonathan transfers his presidential duties to Muhammadu Buhari.
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Today is the first day of the PDP’s new role as the opposition party against the APC. Naij.com columnist Bayo Olupohunda suggests a number of steps the incoming administration should take to earn the trust of weary and impoverished Nigerians.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Naij.com.
— “Nigerians can breathe a sigh of relief as the PDP and Goodluck Jonathan’s days of rule are over”
— “Nigerians are looking up to Muhammadu Buhari to change the business as usual practice in Abuja”
— “As we say goodbye to Jonathan and welcome the Buhari administration, we must never forget the past for we risk making the mistakes that would doom the future of our country.”
Today, the clueless, incompetent and “I-don’t-give-a-damn” President Goodluck Jonathan quits power. Yes, Nigerians can now heave a sigh of relief. With his exit, Jonathan has thus joined the growing list of former mediocre Nigerian leaders whose reigns have ensured our country never achieved her potential. Never in their wildest of dreams did Nigerians expect Jonathan to be such a sordid disappointment when they gave him the mandate four years ago. But can you blame them? Did Alexander Pope not write that “hope springs eternal in the human breast”? Unfortunately, the man Nigerians supported massively is just another deceptive politician who had no choice but to concede defeat after being forced out in an election he was beaten hands down.
And that is why Buhari’s inauguration is significant. For Nigerians, it is the end of the ‘Jonathan era’ and, hopefully, the beginning of a new epoch. Since the coming of democracy in 1999, power has traditionally been the exclusive preserve of the ruling party. But today, the change of power will be of different kind. For the first time in our democratic experience, an opposition president is being sworn in in the sixteen years of the Fourth Republic. It is as remarkable as it is momentous.
That an opposition president is riding in a motorcade round the Eagles Square while the incumbent returns quietly to his country home is the reason why this year’s inauguration will occupy a special place in Nigeria’s political history. Getting to this stage of democracy was never easy: the battle has been long, rough and tough.
While some Nigerians believe this should have happened much earlier, still, it is better late than never. Just when Nigerians despaired that their country was becoming a one-party state, the opposition fought back, and, with the support of the citizens, snatched power from the party that had arrogantly boasted it would rule Nigeria for sixty years. No doubt that the triumph of the opposition has further strengthened our democracy. A situation where one party had dominated the polity and had become a monster would have not been good for our democracy.
The PDP’s arrogance of power led to its fall. Nigerians must be resolved that no political party or leader takes them for granted again. As Buhari rides triumphantly to the presidential villa today, Nigerians hope it is indeed a new beginning. The hopes are high, as are the stakes. Nigerians are looking forward to the next four years, hoping that the country will be governed differently. They want a clear departure from the mediocrity of the Jonathan’s presidency.
And they have every right to hope because they have waited long enough to experience the dividends of democracy. Nigerians are suffering. They have endured sixteen years of rudderless leadership — a situation made worse under the visionless Jonathan-led administration.
What have Nigerians gained from democracy in sixteen years? The answer is debatable. Perhaps maybe we are freer now to express ourselves? But are we better than we were when Jonathan assumed leadership six years ago? Standards of living have become lower. Statistics show that more Nigerians are living in poverty today than they were six years ago. Insecurity, corruption, power outages, unemployment, infrastructure have worsened. Virtually every aspect of our national life has seen no improvement.
A large chunk of the Nigeria’s resources are being shared by the few political elite while the masses are being fed the crumbs. Corruption has become acceptable under the outgoing president’s leadership. The economy has worsened. Insecurity across the country continues to claim lives in thousands. In sixteen years, sectarian violence has claimed lives not seen in war a war situation. The outgoing Jonathan administration often claims that the growth rate means that economy is doing well. But, according to the World Bank statistics, in the five years of the outgoing administration, more Nigerians have fallen into poverty than in any other period in Nigerian history. As Jonathan leaves for Otuoke today, about 110 of the Nigeria’s 170 million population live on the margin of poverty. So which sector recorded any significant achievement under Jonathan? Maybe the much-vaunted agriculture?
As for education, Nigeria still remains one of the few world countries that will not have achieved the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. The seven MDGs goals remain unachieved, despite all the resources expended to make it happen. A ready example is the MDG goal for education. Notwithstanding the amount of resources wasted on widening access to education for boys and girls, Nigeria still has over 10.5 million children out of school. The state of public education across the federation paints a sad picture of how we have fared as a country under this democracy. The conditions in classrooms in public schools are worse than in detention camps.
For these reasons, Nigerians hope that the change being witnessed today would be a real one to transform the country. They have waited, and in waiting, their hopes have been dashed too many times. Today, they look into the future with optimism. But, given that their hopes have been dashed and dreams deferred by previous administrations, this newfound expectance must be tempered with cautious optimism.
Yet, given the reputation of Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerians are looking up to him to change the business as usual practice in Abuja. They are hoping President-elect Buhari will change the country and set it on the path of greatness — a potential that has eluded the country under the PDP. Can the APC do it?
Indeed, the crises that marked Goodluck Jonathan’s last days in office explained why Nigerians had to reject him at the polls. For the past month, the government appeared to be completely absent. Nigeria seems to be a country running on auto-pilot. For several weeks, Nigeria has been in the throes of a debilitating fuel scarcity. No one knows what is happening. President Jonathan did not hold it an important issue to brief Nigerians about. All we hear are accusations and counter-accusations between the finance minister and coordinating minister of the economy, Dr Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, and the marketers over payment of subsidy claims.
Meanwhile, power supply has dropped to an all-time low. The entire country is in darkness. That the president chose to do nothing and not address Nigerians show his disdain and incompetence. But it is not surprising; the response fits into the character of a president whose catalogue of failures is the cause of his exit today.
We hear our country owes 60 billion dollars. How will the incoming administration meet these obligations? Civil servants in 18 states of the federation have not been paid for several months. Certainly, President Jonathan is leaving behind a nation in crisis — a nation in debt; a nation with broken infrastructure where practically nothing works. Due to his incompetence, he is leaving a country in deep economic and social crisis. He leaves Nigeria more divided more divided than he met it.
As we say goodbye to Jonathan and welcome the Buhari administration, we must never forget the past for we risk making the mistakes that would doom the future of our country. Never again shall this country be ruled by a man like Jonathan whose cluelessness, incompetence and “I-don’t-give-a-damn” response to critical national issues almost ruined Nigeria.
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