Nigeria is heading to the polls again in 2019 and the weapon of populism which is a political approach that seeks to disrupt the existing social order by solidifying and mobilizing the animosity of the "common man" or "the people" against "privileged elites" and the "establishment" is being deployed massively to sway weak-willed people as usual.
The Nigerian electorate could be likened to that beautiful but orphaned teenage girl roaming the unsafe streets homelessly without the essential guidance of her parents or family members.
Her first hurdle will be her encounter with some elderly wolves in human clothing regarded as paedophiles trying to take her home as if they are interested in fixing her present predicament. But when they get home, her first lesson would be that nothing is free in this world. She would be forced to pay labouriously with what is between her legs.
After being pleasurably used, abused and dumped on the streets where she came from, another paedophile targets her with a different approach in exploitation of her naivety to lure her to his den. They will come with different offers of money, clothing, shelter, food, security, true love and even job just to secure her behind closed doors and have a carnal knowledge of her till her life is completely ruined. One of them might finally decide to end her earthly sufferings by using her for money-making rituals.
This simple analogy embodies the plight of the Nigerian masses right from the inception of the military era since 1966 till date. No political leader dead or alive would honestly admit his misrule; not even the late dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha whose legendary loot keeps returning to Nigeria posthumously almost two decades of his demise. Even a former military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (Rtd) and 'Saint' Muhammadu Buhari once cleared Abacha of corruption charges at the tenth year anniversary of his death in 2008.
I remember vividly the widespread celebrations across Nigeria when the death of Sani Abacha was announced on the 8th of June. 2008. Some called an end to his 5-year tumultuous reign of blood and terror an ‘art of God’ while others in the know called it another ‘machination by power hawks’ who simply got rid of an obstacle before them. The jollifications of that fateful day could be likened to the national hysteria felt in Zimbabwe when the 37-year reign of former President Robert Mugabe, 93 was ‘militarily’ laid to rest on the 21st of November earlier this year. Critical and discerning minds wondered why they celebrated his exit considering the fact that his crony, President Emmerson Mnangagwa self-styled ‘the Crocodile’ who was part of the Draconian rule for decades is now at the helm of authority. The people have been tortured and marginalised so much that they just want to be happy for a second even if that will mean them being mere ‘happy fools’with due respect.
When President Muhammadu Buhari kept contesting serially for Presidency from the year 2003, we all believed the 74 year had a metaphysical antidote to our challenges. Buhari insisted that he kept throwing his hat in the ring every 4 years due to the failure of the Nigerian State to get better.
Today, Buhari is President and we can’t categorically say life in Nigeria has reasonably improved. Even his ruling party member, Governor of Imo State Rochas Okorocha admitted that 89% of Nigerians are not happy even though we don’t know the parameter the statue-obsessed APC chieftain used in arriving at that figure. Under Buhari, we can only take our grievances to our nearby religious institutions and keep hoping for the best as Karl Max postulated.
In less than two years, Nigerians will be heading to the polls again and it seems that orphaned teenage girl on the street is about to be s*xually-abused once more by the paedophiles. A former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who was a part of the APC process has devised a new strategy to lure the poor girl home again for notorious defilement. Nigerians might be sold into modern slavery again like the illegal migrants in Libya for the next 4 years.
Atiku, a shrewd and opulent businessman has opted to use the slogans of ‘restructuring’, ‘youth emancipation’ and ‘job creation’ to win the support of Nigerians. Atiku has been actively using social media platforms namely Facebook and Twitter to worm his way into the hearts of Nigerian youths who constitute about 60% of Nigeria’s population and also dominate the internet space.
Atiku has also been rolling out his economic achievements while he served as the Vice President with former President Olusegun Obasanjo from the year 1999 till 2007.
"I run my businesses to international standards. Let any of those who want to compete with me show what they have managed successfully. I’ve lifted over 45,000 families out of joblessness and poverty through my microfinance company in my State Adamawa and we’ve have empowered mostly women."
“As VP, I assembled what is arguably the best Economic Team ever in Nigeria. It was made up of young, world class professionals, who came home to work. Some of those professionals are now political leaders, governors and world leaders in their own right" Atiku has boasted on separate occasions.
Atiku claims the banking consolidation process he backed politically has protected commercial banks from collapsing today which is applaudable. According to the itinerant politician, he oversaw the telecoms revolution which enabled 99 million Nigeria to have mobile phones.
"In my home state of Adamawa for example, I’ve created over 50,000 direct jobs and 250,000 indirect ones. We are the largest private employers of labour in the state only second to the state government. It’s not a lot, but it does help reduce unemployment. Who do you think are holding those jobs? Yes, young people." he claimed in his open letter to ace Nigerian comedian, I Go Dye.
To cap it all, Atiku revealed that he was worth several millions of dollars before venturing into politics and that he even bankrolled the PDP at some point. His CV is alluring enough to sway millions of Nigerian youths living without purpose and motivation due to the unending impecuniosity in the land.
Nigerian youths believe Atiku could translate his personal economic prosperity records into a national one that would affect the lives of Nigerians positively. Aside the seeming unfounded perception that Atiku who has been carefully avoiding a visit to the United States of America due to alleged links with the Halliburton Scandal might be too corrupt to trust with the Nigeria’s already emaciated treasury, he seems to have the political framework to give Buhari a run for his money in 2019.
Atiku has been accused of merely telling Nigerians what they want to hear in his bid to control the blossoming political business in Nigeria. This might not be far from the truth as politicians in Nigeria have graciously used populism to hoodwink the people in whose names they sign fat cheques and get richer while the people whose interests they are supposed to represent become their victims.
Most times, one would wonder how Buhari and his APC friends sleep well at night with the ‘Change’ slogan turning negative before their very eyes.
The leadership of the APC deployed populism in securing power and Atiku, a former member seems to have borrowed a leaf from that playbook to win power ahead of 2019. An X-ray of the campaign promises of the APC seems to show the party intentionally made bombastic promises reminiscent of the Tales by Moonlight told to kids whose brain capacities lack maturity.
The bitter truth is that Buhari would have never happened if the right questions were asked as the party manifesto circulated the media space in 2015.
The APC promised to create 3 million jobs annually and nobody cared about asking the party how; not even the seasoned economists in Nigeria pleaded with the APC to draw a roadmap for the achievement of that mirage in a regressive system like Nigeria. Buhari allegedly promised to make N1 equal to $1 and we never asked how!
Today, about 4.58 million jobs have been lost under Buhari (2016 NBS report) not to talk about the worsening issue of under-employment which has made suicide beguiling to people.
The party also promised to revive the local economy, diversify it and develop vast infrastructural facilities at a period when the price of oil – the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy was dwindling and we asked no further questions. What about the promises of fixing the issues of power supply, security, Boko Haram and others? They have been replaced by either the usual blame game or the endless call for patience. Those listing security as one of the achievements of the Buhari administration might be yet to entertain the gun-wielding Fulani Herdsmen unleashing terror across the different geopolitical zones in Nigeria. What about the Boko Haram sect? A recent investigation by Daily Trust newspaper shows that the terrorist group has killed about 1,100 Nigerians since the government prematurely claimed in 2015 they have been technically defeated.
Did the APC undertake an assessment of our moribund power plants and hapless DISCOs before promising steady electricity supply during the campaign period? The answer is a blatant NO considering the odd realities on ground.
What about Buhari’s promise to improve healthcare delivery in Nigeria? He is the biggest high-profile medical tourist in the world currently while the State House Clinic established to cater for the Presidency can’t boast of common Paracetamol and syringes despite the huge budgetary allocations.
Buhari was presented as the ‘Incorruptible Judge’ who would knock out corruption which is a citizen of Nigeria like Anthony Joshua but nobody asked how. Today, the anti-corruption fighter jets have only been dropping bombs in the camp of the opposition members. Kudos to Buhari for recovering over N5 trillion from looters thus far but it is disheartening that no major conviction has been secured since 2015. There is a palpable fear that these corruption cases would be squashed if a new government particularly from the opposition party - PDP wins power in 2019. Nigeria is still riddled with weak institutions and widespread poverty which are like catalysts for graft. Under the present administration, tertiary institutions have been closely competing with thunder in the area of ‘strikes’.
A recent anomaly in the system was when it was discovered that one Adamu Abubakar Rasheed, the son of the current Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, NUC - Professor Adamu Abubakar Rasheed bagged a PhD degree in Engineering at the University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom and the man, a former Vice-Chancellor of the Bayero University, Kano celebrated it on social media with colourful pictures without considering the political implications of his actions. Buhari and the APC leadership promised to restructure Nigeria but never explained how as they today hide under the ambiguity of the concept.
Now the Waziri of Adamawa, Atiku is here with the revised textbook of populism and his media team appears to be doing a fantastic job with the contents. You will know politics is about to get comical when you see a ‘yesterday man’ of 71 contesting for Presidency and at the sametime advocating for the youths to be given a chance. Atiku’s claims about the marginalization of the youths would have looked valid and sincere if he could step down and sponsor a youth he must have mentored all his life. An Atiku Presidency means the youths will wait for another 8 years before it might be their turn because he will certainly gun for a second term as an African man who knows the sweetness of the political business. Specifically, he is giving the youths some 10 years to fully take over government after he must have been done with his two terms.
It’s a good thing Atiku has been promising the creation of jobs which is a global campaign promise in the league of politicians but we need to ask him how and when? This is not about pessimism and scepticism but there is a need for Atiku to show us his economic blueprint and timeframe to actualize it before he blames the Buhari administration and advocate for endless patience like Mama Peace. This is necessary so that the despondent youths can realize what they are up against so that 8 years of faint hopes wouldn’t be wasted.
One wonders how Atiku can restructure Nigeria and devolve powers to the state governments considering the current posture of the National Assembly and the 36 Houses of Assembly concerning restructuring. The National Assembly expressed their nonchalance towards restructuring when they voted against the devolution of powers to the state governments in August, 2017. Is Atiku planning to enforce restructuring by decrees just like the military era? Or Atiku will be the Nigerian version of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman who is breaking standard governing protocols?
This imminent Wild Goose Chase is synonymous to President Donald Trump disdain for the ObamaCare, obsession with travel ban, and building of the wall at the Mexican border at the profligate cost of $66.9 billion aside the annual maintenance cost of $150 million according to the Senate Democrats. Today, Trump has been coerced into supporting the relocation of the Israeli capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem purportedly to score high ratings among the Evangelicals as a fulfilment of his election campaign promise.
Atiku delivered a wonderful speech at the recent national convention of the PDP but one grey area was when he advocated against the high recurrent expenditure in Nigeria. He harped on; “a smaller, more effective government that does not consume 75% of the federal budget just on paying salaries”. This is intriguing but it would be more explicit for Atiku to spell out how he intends to reduce the over-bloated salary burden on the federal government. Will he cut the salaries of civil servants, lawmakers or even downsize the present workforce? Can an all-embracing man like him latching unto all Twitter trends for support summon the courage to take food off the mouths of the ‘great’ Senator Dino Melaye and his colleagues? That will be a blockbusting drama to watch!
U.S President Donald Trump was able to create a record of 261,000 jobs in October, 2017 partly because of the working nature of the American system. One wonders if such a revival is possible in Nigeria where the country is at the brink of collapse after its life has almost be snuffed out due to age-long looting by political businessmen still being recycled till date.
I have a premonition that Nigeria might be ultimately sold to China when Atiku is done recouping his invested funds which some journalists, publicists and other political stakeholders have eaten over the years of his failed attempts at winning power.
A parting question; will Nigerians want to return to the PDP days especially with the latest damning report by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, DFID Nigeria that a about $32 billion was lost to corruption under the previous 6-year administration of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan?
Osayimwen Osahon George is a Political Scientist and a journalist. He writes from Lagos State.