Akin Sawyerr argues that Nigerian leaders need to make a u-turn to save the country from catastrophe
The highly anticipated 2019 Nigerian elections are all but over. There were winners at the ballot box, winners at the tribunal, and 'winners' in their pockets who are mutedly celebrating. The losers are licking their wounds and looking for some sort of compensation or at least the opportunity to change allegiance or perhaps an intervention that will change the outcome.
Although voters turned up in force in the capital city Abuja and queued up for hours to cast their ballot turnout was at a record low nationwide – just under 35 per cent – down from 44 per cent in 2015, with a notable absence of young voters. More than half of the electorate are under the age of 35. The electorate, voting or otherwise, are now able to go round town and try to pick up the pieces, like a group of hibernating squirrels coming out after the hurricane has passed. But there is nothing to pick up, except for discarded plastic bottles, once holding sweet soda but toxic in the long-term and damaging to the environment. None of the spoils is bio-degradable.
What should happen next is that the incumbent government should make a sincere attempt to re-unite the country given the cries of electoral fraud from the losing side. It is instructive to note that there were two presidential addresses in the immediate run-up to the elections, one before the original election date, and one after the election postponement by the electoral commission. But there has been no formal address to the nation since received his Certificate of Return. This is essential in demonstrating leadership.
The state of insecurity has continued to grow, and the general feeling of hopelessness seems to be increasing by the day. Nigeria seems more rudderless and adrift than ever. The government should properly demonstrate that it is in charge since one of its tenets for vying for office was security.
The economy is stuttering, with no evidence that there is any serious interest in getting it back on track. Ministers are making visionless pronouncements and soundbites and taking the leader’s lead of criticising past leaders, and in some cases criticising Nigerians themselves. Many seem to be sending subtle messages of loyalty to him, so they can be re-appointed.
The fight against corruption seems to be one that has been held hostage by none other than corruption itself and our leaders seems inept, unimaginative and decidedly one-sided. By now there should have been a cross party post-election reconciliation committee put in place with representation that cuts across all sub nationalities within the nation.
Instead rumours are being allowed to fester. The government is neither denying nor confirming whether the news is real or fake but at the same time is putting out very few statements of its own, giving the impression that only winning the 2019 election mattered.
The impression that appears to be created is that speed is not a good thing, even though events tell us all that you should race through the straights and slow down at the bends and roundabouts. Being slow on the straights and approaching bends at the same speed makes passengers and onlookers wonder whether the driver can see ahead. Confidence in the driver is ebbing away by the minute.
For the average Nigerian, who now desperately needs a good education to move up the global opportunity ladder, who now needs to have reasonable access to healthcare to remain healthy or at the very least alive enough to contribute to nation building (itself and endless programme), and who now need access to jobs to put food on the table and keep the otherwise idle minds engaged, it seems it is a case of more of the same. One chance has gone, this is looking like they have entered two chances.
The vulnerable in society seem done for, and more seem set to join and swell their ranks. Everyone should be worried, even though we know that worry does not necessarily help. In the current system though, action by the citizenry has very little impact.
There is an urgent need, for the opposition to come up with a coherent agenda that challenge the oppressive system that has built over the past five decades in Nigeria. It must positively oppose with ideas, innovation and setting up nodes of change.
The country has gone beyond needing change, it
now needs to make a U-turn because there is certainly a cliff ahead and the drop below is very steep. If
Nigeria falls of the cliff, there will be no survivors. If it manages to stop itself at the edge, there will still be many injuries.
‘Post-election, the country has gone beyond needing a change, it needs to make a U-turn because there is a cliff ahead and the drop below is very steep’