I have never had as much difficulty in any year since I started selecting my person of the year as in 2018. This is probably a sign of the diminution in the quality of governance and civil society that we have experienced in Nigeria in recent years. It is difficult to observe evidence of persons one may regard as outstanding governors, ministers or other public officials as everything appears to have become crass and base. It is worse in civil society-very few people have any credibility left as many of its leaders squandered most of theirs with the seeming merger of civil society and the APC over the Buhari presidency in 2015. Now what passes for activism are the antics of Senator Dino Melaye, former Governor Ayo Fayose and maybe the common sense articles of Senator Ben Murray-Bruce. All we are left with in the civil space are business models to ensure personal “sustainability”!
Ask yourself which governors can credibly be described as having distinguished themselves in impacting the lives of their residents? It’s really difficult to point to real achievement, beyond PR and propaganda! Governor Ambode tried and started a lot of infrastructure projects but he has been castrated politically and his record left in tatters; Obaseki in Edo has shown some thinking, economic planning and seems to want to restore the dignity of the state, but has he done enough? The public space is now dominated by entertainment-Senator Ademola Adeleke, the dancer nearly made it into the Osun State Government House on account of vigorous dancing, with his excess bodily slabs shaking visibly, and while it became known that he only possessed secondary education, with accusations of examination malpractices hanging over his head; Dino Melaye has done enough to earn awards in Nollywood and even globally-he is the one filling the vacuum in civil society, along with now former Governor Ayo Fayose! Any reflective person will wonder what happened to all our activists that activism now rests on the dramatic shoulders of Melaye and Fayose?
Nnamdi Kanu started a new Biafra struggle, only to disappear and show up many months later praying at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem, Jewish Scriptures in hand and draped in Judaism’s holy praying shoal! He has since dropped a significant controversy as he solemnly avers that the President Muhammadu Buhari we see today, is actually Jubril from Sudan, with the old Buhari long deceased and buried! There is a sense of course in which Buhari is unquestionably invisible-in the quality (or lack of it) of the leadership and governance he does (not) provide for Nigeria! The country has not managed to reach two percent GDP growth in spite of Nigeria’s endowments, and revival of oil prices-at a point approaching $85 per barrel. Even Buhari’s wife Aisha in her activist moments (!) contends forcefully that her husband’s government has been hijacked by two or three men. Most gossip suggests she refers to Mamman Daura, Isa Funtua, Babagana Kingibe and the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, which some others describe as the “fantastic four”! I think Aisha and her husband are playing “good cop; bad cop” tricks on the Nigerian people though to what end is yet unclear!
To be fair, Babatunde Fashola has been trying to construct some roads, even though he has had less success with power-we pray he oversees the completion of the troubled Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as his legacy to the nation; and Rotimi Amaechi affirms that he would also deliver a Lagos-Ibadan rail service (in his case, we should be praying that he is not displaced from that objective by the notorious “Amaechi Tapes”) but beyond those two, there is really nothing to celebrate with the notable exception of the vigorous exertions of our dear Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who is zestfully providing “moni” to traders, farmers and sundry poor persons! His critics accuse him of vote buying but he has been neither distracted nor deterred from his noble endeavours!
In the political space, former Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel bounced back into national reckoning by leading the successful primary campaign of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, but in the curious ways of Nigerian politics, some of those he defeated have now taken over the Atiku campaign! His principal, Atiku himself has returned to the national stage and now has a plausible (but probable?) chance of defeating the incumbent president, Amina Zakari permitting! Governor Kayode Fayemi achieved the improbable-returning to office as Ekiti State Governor though his own adversaries say his victory was tainted by “federal might”; and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu appears to have re-asserted his political relevance in the APC (as co-chairman of the presidential campaign) and in the South-West (replacing (?) Ambode; electing his cousin Oyetola in Osun; displacing his chief power rival, Amosun’s candidate from the party ticket in Ogun State-working with VP Osinbajo and Chief Segun Osoba, it seems; and selecting the APC candidate in Oyo State) but will he achieve his ultimate aim, upon which he’s staking everything?
In spite of the dis-ennobling state of politics and civil society, there are two people however who save us from our shame-Leah Sharibu, the little girl who in her weakness and captivity of Boko Haram gave others hope by refusing to renounce her faith AND the gentleman known on social media as “Segalink” or “SEGA L’eveilleur-real name Segun Awosanya who led and still leads the “END SARS” Movement which campaigned against police brutality and gave voice and support to its victims. Leah Sharibu and Segun Awosanya are my joint persons of 2018. They demonstrate that when the erstwhile leaders of civil society get tired and/or are co-opted, others will rise up and replace them!