The dawn of democracy in May 1999 brought a refreshing hope for Nigerians after 16 years of military intervention in national politics. The attempt by late General Sani Abacha to transmute into a civilian president had come to naught, following the death of the dark-googled General.
In a twist of fate, the angel of death that took Abacha also blew the whistle that signalled the beginning of a return to sanity for our nation. General Abubakar Abdulsalami, the man whose retirement papers were set to be approved by the Kano-born General, became the new Head of State. Determined to return Nigeria to democracy after nearly two decades of endless transition programmes, the General from Minna would deploy all resources to end jackboot tyranny.
The election of General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 represented a new era of hope for a people that had become weary and wary of the military in power. Politicians who should have participated in the transition programme adopted a lacklustre approach to Abdulsalami’s transition programme, entertaining fear that it would be an extension of previous transition programmes that never saw the light of the day.
Throughout Obasanjo’s eight years, Nigeria was warmly welcomed by the comity of nations and new prospects for integration with other countries of the world brightened up. Vision and programmes for the improvement of the Nigerian state were pursued vigorously without let or hindrance. Apart from series of development and broadening of development frontiers, the rising prices of crude in the international market further provided the means to embark on gargantuan projects that were expected to improve on the quality of lives of citizens. Unlike in the past where the clouds of uncertainties enveloped the nation’s skies, the Obasanjo’s era introduced hope and Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief that at last Eldorado was on sight.
The nation under Obasanjo exited the foreign debt trap. Anti-graft agencies were set up to prosecute government officials accused of frauds. Whopping sums of money were set aside to resuscitate the ailing power sector. There were far-reaching reforms in the public sector and all ethnic groups were accorded a sense of belonging. Poor salaries for academics and other public sector workers were reviewed as the ray of hope rose for a nation that has remained the butts of other countries.
Then came the Third Term campaign that almost ruined every good thing Obasanjo had ever worked for. Against all odds, former Governor of Katsina state, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was drafted into the 2007 presidential race by Obasanjo. Despite protestations from politicians that the former Katsina governor was not healthy to contest for the presidency, the farmer from Ota insisted on having his way. And he had his way. The consequence of a sick Yar’Adua in the corridors of power proved catastrophic as members of inner kitchen power cabal emerged to swing the affairs of the nation to their favour, while the nation bled and citizens grope in darkness over the fate of their President who spent more time attending to his health challenge than governing the country.
The death of Yar’Adua in May 2010 transferred power to his deputy, Dr Jonathan Goodluck. Unprepared for the position, Yar’Adua’s successor left Nigerian unattended to as he grappled with the problems of insurgency. Corruption returned as government officials took advantage of the non-interference of President Goodluck. Insecurity and other criminal activities festered as those mandated with the task of ensuring safety of citizens became more interested in acquisition of wealth.
Not even the election of Goodluck in 2011 brought respite. Apart from adopting a clueless approach to staving off insurgence in the North-east geo-political zone, the university don who hails from Bayelsa proved a failure on many fronts. Goodluck was bereft of toughness and his government would become a lame duck. At the 2015 polls, he lost to General Muhammadu Buhari who vowed to lead from the front and not at the rear.
The first six months of the Buhari government in 2015 promised change, but that soon fizzled out as many people came to realise that it was business as usual. The delay by Buhari to inaugurate the Federal Executive Council then pointed to the fact that the promise by the All Progressives Congress (APC) government to hit the ground running had become a hoax. While majority of Nigerians called on their fellow citizens to exercise patience with the man who was thrown out of power through a palace coup in August 1985, many feared that the worst may come upon the nation.
At the completion of the first tenure of President Buhari and his re-election that is now a subject of bitter litigation at the election tribunal, there is cacophony of views as to what Buhari has achieved for Nigeria in the first four years of his reign. More than ever before, insecurity is ravaging the country, with the North-east zone now headquarters of insurgence. Despite repeated assurances by the nation’s military that Boko Haram has been decimated and its capacity to unleash devastating mayhem on Nigeria diminished, the military has continued to be preys of the sect’s destructive capacity. Hardly a month passes without news of an attack on a military base by the group resulting in deaths and destruction.
Incessant attacks by herdsmen on North-central, North-west and Southern parts of the country have increased in occurrences, with hundreds of deaths and massive destruction of lives and properties. Banditry in states of North-west has left many dead. While government has been accused of employing hard stance on Shi’ites and proscribing them, not a few political observers have condemned the government’s deployment of kid gloves in dealing with the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) that has owned up to attacks by herdsmen on Nigerian communities.
On a painful note, Nigerians on the Plateau living in Gashish District have been sacked from their dwellings and their towns are being physically occupied by their attackers. The Federal Government has remained mute on the invasion of these communities despite threat of suicide by the indigenes of Gashish who are now unwilling guests in various Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps. In most parts of the country, many Nigerians go to sleep with their eyes open for fear of ubiquitous and blood-thirsty marauders that have made the forests their abodes.
If the security problems have not proved enough of a headache, the soaring poverty level plaguing Nigerians has brought the clouds of despair low for citizens. As a result, high rate of suicides, coupled with massive unemployment, has hit a damaging cord in national survival. Democracy is gradually becoming a password for suffering that is threatening national instability. Added to this, negative and destructive partisanship across political platforms is not helping matters. Those expected to champion the task of building consensus for national cohesion are slowly returning to their ethnic cocoons, having felt betrayed by the central government.
In a world that is being transformed into global village, government’s inability to rally for national consciousness is providing a platform for grave worries and trepidation. With political leaders engaged in relentless pursuits of goals that are opposed to national unity and cohesion, the road to divisive politics is now the rule.
Nigerians, no doubt, are hopeful of a prosperous future, but current challenges are too cold for comfort. A country that is constantly engaged in resolving her many contradictions without a clear development vision for her citizens is not a nation but a political contraption that is incapable of meeting the yearning and aspirations of citizens. Therein lies the dilemma of Nigeria.
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