The recently launched ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has generated intense debate among Nigerians. JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH writes on the controversies.
In a move to revive patriotism and nationalism among Nigerians, the federal government launched the ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign, which is aimed at reorientation of the mind and attitude of Nigerians.
Recall that a former US president, John F Kennedy in his famous inaugural speech in 1961, said, ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country. The speech was then a rallying point for Americans who rose above personal interest and put love of country first.
In a similar move, the ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaign is meant to galvanise Nigerians towards restructuring of the mind and attitude.The All Progressives Congress ( APC) campaigned on the change mantra. The ruling Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) which held sway as the ruling party, was roundly defeated at the presidential, state and National Assembly level. The change mantra, like a hurricane, blew away the PDP as Nigerians were yearning for change.
A year after, the change agenda is under serious threat as Nigerians are beginning to lose patience and confidence in Buhari’s administration. Last month, after playing the ostrich on the economy, the National Bureau of Statistics ( NBS) in a report, stated that Nigeria is officially in recession.
According to the NBS report, Nigeria’s GDP has declined by -2.06 per cent, annual inflation has risen from 16.5 per cent in June to 17.1 percent in July and food inflation has risen to 15.8 per cent from 15.3.
Buhari has in several fora, maintained that his change agenda is hinged on fighting corruption, reviving the economy and security. While considerable success has been recorded in the fight against corruption and insecurity, the economy has been left to suffer.
Political commentators have blamed the president and the APC for the present state of the economy. The argument was that the ruling party must realise that it’s responsibility transcends more than just capturing power but they must find solutions to economic quagmire instead of engaging in blame games.
With the popularity of the APC tethering on the edge,many Nigerians observed that more than one year after they voted for change, their lives have not changed for the better rather things have changed for the worse.
Political observers say the campaign is coming at the right time as Nigerians have virtually lost all hope of the change agenda becoming a reality anytime soon.
President Buhari, during the launch of the campaign, said Nigerians need to change their ways before the much needed change agenda becomes a reality.
Buhari noted that this campaign is part of the determination of his party to seek to carry all Nigerians along on the journey to a better and greater society that we all can be proud of.
The president lamented that that our value system has been badly eroded over the years adding that the resultant effect of this derailment in our value system is being felt in the social, political and economic sphere.
He appealed to all Nigerians to be part of this campaign as the citizens must realize that the change they want to see begins with them, and that personal and social reforms are not theoretic exercise.
Buhari said, “If you have not seen the change in you, you cannot see it in others or even the larger society. In other words, before you ask ‘where is the change they promised us’, you must first ask how far have I changed my ways ‘what have I done to be part of the change for the greater good of society’.
“While the government will drive the Change Begins With Me’ campaign, it must be strongly supported by all concerned individually. In this regard the private sector is a major stakeholder. Indeed when the campaign succeeds, it will impact heavily on the private sector.
“The long-cherished and time honoured, time-tested virtues of honesty, integrity, hard work, punctuality, good neighbourliness, abhorrence of corruption and patriotism, have given way in the main to dishonesty, indolence, unbridled corruption and widespread impunity.
“The resultant effect of this derailment in our value system is being felt in the social, political and economic sphere. It is the reason that some youths will take to cultism and brigandage instead of studying hard or engaging in decent living;
Buhari explained that it is the reason that some elements will break pipelines and other oil facilities, thus robbing the nation of much-needed resources.
He further stated that Nigeria today is passing through a challenging moment where hardly anything works in a normal manner as many have attributed this phenomenon to the total breakdown of our core values over the years.
“it is the reason that money belonging to our commonwealth will be brazenly stolen by the same public officials to whom they were entrusted; it is the reason why motorist drive through red traffic lights, it is the reason that many will engage in thuggery and vote-stealing during elections;
it is part of what has driven our economy into deep problem out of which we are now working hard to extricate ourselves. Every one of us must have a change from our old ways of doing things, we cannot fold our arms and allow things to continue the old way” He added.
Buhari remarked that Nigerians must resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship, pettiness and immaturity that have poisoned the country for so long.
“Let us summon a new spirit of responsibility, spirit of service, of patriotism and sacrifice, Let us all resolve to pitch in and work hard and look after, not only ourselves but one another, What the current problem has taught us is that we cannot have a thriving army of rent seekers and vested interests, while the majority suffers.
“ Rather than sit back and complain endlessly, we have decided to act pragmatically, with the launch of this National Re-orientation Campaign. The campaign will not be a sprint but a marathon that will run the course of our tenure.
We are under no illusion that the changes we seek will happen overnight, but we have no doubt that the campaign will help restore our value system and rekindle our nationalistic fervor, He stated.
However, the campaign has received knocks and condemnation from Nigerians. While some see the campaign as a right step in the right direction ,some have accused the APC of buck passing .
On his part, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, commended president Buhari for introducing `Change Begins With Me’ campaign in Nigeria.
“The president deserves commendation for making this bold move christened, The Change begins With me,’’ he said.
Abubakar said: “the campaign cannot come at a better time than now when Nigeria is in dire need of change.
“Change is, however, very unpalatable and pretty difficult as such Nigerians should be cooperative and patient. “Destruction is always very easy, while reconstruction takes more time and patience is required.’’
Ojo Madueke, in a recent piece, said change begins with the APC, accepting its mistakes. According to him, the APC, during campaign for the 2015 presidential election, played dirty opposition politics with the Book Haram menace, especially the issue of the abducted Chibok school girls. Now, more than a year after winning the election, the party is still finding it difficult to transform into a ruling party, blaming the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, at any given opportunity.
He said, “This tactics to absolve itself of blame is why the APC, elected to change Nigeria, is now telling the masses that the change they voted for begins with them. When the party’s national leadership, in a reply to criticism from the PDP had asked Nigerians to support the APC government, no one knew that this request was for the masses to take full responsibility.
But that aside, the APC does not need supporting; not because there are no Nigerians willing to assist the party, but because they are the type to want to take the glory. This is why they blame the PDP, hoping that when things turn positive they’d take the credit and use same to score political points ahead of the 2019 elections.
A social media commentator, Thompson Iyeye argued that a campaign such as this will be unsuccessful as it appears to have a flavour of “do as I say, and not as I do”.
According to him,Buhari and his government should start the change and there are a few suggestions particularly for the president, which include; Constitute a crack economic team with skilled and knowledgeable members, to solve our current economic problems. The present kitchen cabinet of nitwits will not do.
“Take steps to reduce the cost of running the government. Legislators emoluments must be brought in line with the public service, your fleet of aircraft must reduce, and the frequency of your foreign trips. Adopt a less belligerent style of solving problems. This strong man posture of military solutions is not sustainable. The military is already stretched, being deployed in too many areas.
He added that the change Buhari’s government wants from the people can only happen if it starts from Buhari himself and all arms of his government. It will otherwise be just another worthless campaign.
Another social commentator in Abuja, John Paul, said the campaign is not about PMB as Nigeria is bigger than PMB.
He posited that Nigeria was there before PMB became the president and Nigeria will still be here when PMB leaves the stage. Indeed, “change begins with me”
He said,Let us take taxation as one example. According to Newsweek magazine, in 2013, 75 per cent of registered firms in Nigeria refused to pay taxes, and 65 percent of registered taxpayers had not filed returns in the previous two years.
In terms of tax to GDP ratios, Nigeria ranks at an abysmal 3.1 per cent while Kenya has remained above 15 per cent for over a decade.
If Nigerians, and millions of other adult Nigerians, pay their federal and state taxes every year, many of the problems that we are complaining about, will be solved in one year.So, “change begins with me,” he added.