Tell me! Do you call this change?
You have heard it within the last 24 hours, haven’t you? Suddenly, and for reasons that are not entirely misplaced … ‘which kin change be dis?’…has become the new song in town. And, in the midst of the confusion, there are very few Nigerians who are not overwhelmed at the turn of events. Many agree but few are quick to accept that the immediate cause of the rot in the land could be traced to President Goodluck Jonathan who, even before he inherited the presidency, made vacant by the death of Mallam Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was adjudged incapable of providing quality leadership.
And, the man did not disappoint for the five years of his reign. By 2015, Jonathan had become so clueless that he could barely see any link between treasury-looting and corruption! So many things went wrong on his watch because he mouthed a dubious commitment even to his own self-declared war on graft. He simply looked the other way as vultures, leaches and parasites feasted without let or hindrance. If truth be told, Mr. Jonathan all but dumped the sick economy at the Intensive Care Unit by the time he was sent packing. In another classic case of betrayal, Mr. Jonathan had to concede victory or accept defeat after he realised he had been abandoned by his barrel-chested but empty-headed supporters in the creeks! Pity!
Between 1999 and last year, especially during the Goodluck Jonathan years, the situation got so bad that very few honest Nigerians expected any immediate turn-around by the incoming Buhari/Osinbajo administration. At the time the new administration took charge, there was no debate about whether or not the ICU was the next best option but how long it will take to restore the economy to its immediate status. Most experts were of the opinion then, that the new government will need a minimum of 24 months, at the earliest, to get the badly-dented economy back on its feet.
The 24-month deadline expires by the middle of 2017. The way Nigerians have been tuned to see public funds as manna, the stench and mass indiscipline in the system against the backdrop of the administration’s determination to ensure that positive change to do things the right way should begin with the individual means there will always be a fight-back. Nigerians who accepted the position of government that corruption will fight back have not been unduly surprised at the hurdles placed in the path of the administration. If there are any surprises, it has been the stubborn determination displayed by corrupt Nigerians, especially those holding public offices, to resist the administration’s change agenda.
Part of the problem is that, the rhetorical question, ‘which kin’ change be dis sef?’ in local parlance, is popular among Shi’a members who have been trained to self-destruct to the point of developing an intense hatred for anything outside Iran; not even their ancestry or their home governments. The questions is on the lips of sore-headed Biafran separatists and their scavenging cousins in the Niger delta who are still to come to terms with the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 election. It is the question on the lips of MMM Ponzi scheme addicts for whom the storm is gathering! Of course, the question is being asked by perpetually drunken and lecherous Boko Haram bandits and their supporters with their wrongheaded idea of a caliphate.
For dissimilar reasons, the question is being asked even by some Nigerians who voted for the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket. They too will ask the question for the simple reason that they probably never contended with the damage done to the country by the Goodluck Jonathan administration or had the misplaced opinion that the coming of the Buhari/Osinbajo administration will transform the economy overnight. It is best to remind these compatriots that if, by 2019 all the Buhari/Osinbajo administration has done is to plug leakages and reduced stealing, successfully prosecuted treasury-hijackers and confiscated proceeds of corrupt enrichment, then the administration would have started a revolution without having to shed blood!
The campaign for Nigerians to change their ways is a step in the right direction. Before now, few Nigerians believed it was possible to investigate retired and serving army generals and their equivalents in other services, judges and justices, privileged members of the political and business classes, have their ill-gotten wealth confiscated before they are hauled before judges. Had the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket failed, nobody would have heard of the embezzled billions appropriated to fight insurgency in the north east, as untrained Boko Haram gunmen killed and maimed more Nigerians.
Just pause to imagine what Adekunle Amosun and Alex Badeh and other thieving armed scoundrels would have turned Nigeria into had Nigerians failed to disperse the inept and fumbling Goodluck Jonathan crowd. Imagine too, the vile designs Mrs. Patience Jonathan and close Jonathan family members and cronies had for Nigeria! We now know the Goodluck Jonathan crowd consistently borrowed to pay salaries; that the voodoo economists of the Goodluck Jonathan administration failed to save in the midst of surplus and, that many public office holders never reckoned with the day they will be called to account!
The challenge which, for fear of a possible backlash past administrations sidetracked, has been to genuinely diversify the economy. The diversification process has finally commenced. The years of lip-service and outright dishonesty on diversifying the economy has ended and the Buhari/Osinbajo administration has literally taken the bull by the horn. Attention is gradually shifting from oil which has proved to be the nation’s nemesis. It has finally taken the Buhari/Osinbajo administration for Nigerians to realise that oil can and, should no longer be used to hold compatriots to ransom.
The transition is going to be painful but necessary! No reasonable Nigerian thought the transition is going to be painless, anyway. Much of the credit should go to President Muhammadu Buhari who, without doubt, is the leading light of the administration. Say what you wish about him but even his worst enemies concede that President Buhari is not a thief, does not condone stealing and will not glorify and celebrate criminals. General Buhari could have been the richest retired Nigerian General today if he chose to be corrupt!
One of the enduring attributes of Nigerians is their short memory of hate. Honestly, Nigerians who voted for change and who thought Shangri-La would be here the day President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo entered Aso Rock Villa, unrealistic as the thought was, are right to score the administration low. But, it really does not matter now that an expectation of instantaneous transformation, after years of unquestioned looting of the country’s resources, was unrealistic. What does matter is that Nigeria has averted an imminent crash that would have occurred months ago had there been no change of baton last year.
It is this legendary short memory of hate that will come to play when things begin to look up for the country. From the look of things, the day should not be too far off.
Magaji writes from Abuja