All things being equal, it is safe to predict that 2015 is the terminal date for the set of rulers that took over the reign of governance in Nigeria since 1999. In my self-serving ‘gra gra’, one of those things I pride myself as capable of doing effectively is to predict outcomes of Nigerian general elections. While this may amuse readers, it is not likely to amuse my close friends with whom I have had opportunities to tango over past predictions. I once informed Adesoji Adeniyi, one of the sharpest minds the nation has produced, that I would start charging fees for my predictions. In 2011, I predicted an overwhelming victory for the incumbent. As 2015 beckons, if Goodluck Jonathan continues with his ‘transformation agenda’ in its present form, he will not only be roundly defeated at the polls, but disgracefully so. Even the ‘bolekaja’ indices (undemocratic underhand tactics) that often determine who wins and who loses in Nigeria’s brand of democracy are odds that are currently stacked heavily against him.
The good news for the opposition is that leaders, especially those who allow themselves to be shielded from the masses, like Jonathan, never see this reality until they are back in their ancestral homes or on exile in Europe as ex-leaders. Then they can write memoirs with fancy titles and grandstand on national issues.
This is why the merger by opposition political parties is worthy of intense assessment. Yinka Odumakin, in an interview with Sahara Reporters on the merger of political parties, warned against “a change from Abacha to Shonekan”. He stated further that it is true that “people are fed up with 14 years of PDP, but there isn’t cause for excitement yet. In the past 14 years, Nigerians have cried about the outrageous allowances that Nigerian legislators collect but virtually all these parties have members in the National Assembly who have been there over the years, but not one of them has opposed the outrageous wages they are collecting while the people are suffering. We complain that PDP rigs election at the centre, most of these people also control states where the states conduct local government election in Nigeria that are worse in some cases than what the PDP does at the centre…which suggests that if they have the same space as the PDP, they will do the same thing or even worse.”
So, if a new set of leaders would take over in 2015, how can Nigerians ensure we do not jump proverbially from frying pan to fire?
The late Ayodele Awojobi, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Abubakar Umar, Balarabe Musa, all have one thing in common – they failed to defeat the ‘jegudujera’ (exploitative) forces that lined up against them when it was their turn to engage the prior incarnations of the evil ensembles that have ensured that Nigeria remains underdeveloped, poor and in perpetual crisis. At each turn, the ‘jegudujera’ forces were ahead.
In 1959, as independence beckoned, the leading and most well-prepared minds involved in the struggle for independence – the leader of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), Nnamdi Azikiwe, and the leader of the Action Group (AG), Obafemi Awolowo, were as divided as the proverbial siblings of the African walnut. Rather than forging a united front ahead of the onerous task of building a new nation capable of surviving in a highly competitive modern world, what history recorded was bare-knuckle artifice targeted at conquering opponent’s territory and subjugating other tribes under peer domination (I have decided not to apportion blames). The inability of these well-prepared and capable minds to forge a common front, or even align with persons like the University of London-trained Aminu Kano of the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), is at the root of the layers of ills that have now come to define the Nigerian nation. It is a known truth that leadership of a nation requires the services of the best minds in the pursuit of common good. There is no nation that can thrive under the leadership of position-misfits who are again burdened by devotion to causes other than the common good. That is double jeopardy.
By 1979, Shehu Shagari, a Kaduna College-trained grade II teacher, was positioned to lead, even though the nation had University of London-trained Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as prime minister as far back as 1960. Were merit the determining factor, it was unlikely that he would even qualify ahead of many Northern rising stars at the time. He nonetheless became the president and commander-in-chief of Africa’s most populous nation and for 4 years achieved very little other than what members of his political party bandied as monumental achievements. Before the fall in oil prices in 1981, his government carried on with such profligacy while allegations of wanton corruption plagued his projects, notably the Ajaokuta Steel complex and the steel rolling mills that made the people long for the military days. It was obvious that he had been assigned a role far above his capacity.
When opportunity to remove him came in 1983, perhaps in an attempt to learn from their 1959 folly, Azikiwe and Awolowo attempted to come together. Extraneous circumstance scuttled that goal.