By Isaac Oraweme
On Saturday 16 April 2011, Nigerians trooped out in large numbers to elect a leader for the next four years. As the results of the election trickled in from polling booths and collation centers all over the country, I could not but shake my head in dismay at a lost opportunity, an opportunity to dislodge the PDP, one of the biggest factors Nigeria is still a backward society. As I followed the returns on Twitter, the results were posted under, and tagged “Nigeria Decides”, and it is no longer news that the PDP won that election handily, so I felt it would be if I titled this piece, “Nigeria Decides to Fail Again”.
I have been through all the stages of grief since that election. I suppose Nigerians deserve whatever they get from electing such a clueless, corrupt and weak person to run the affairs of the country. Nigeria and Nigerians have suffered grave injustice in the hands of the ruling party, endured corruption day in day out, have lived without power for the better part of the twelve years the PDP has been in charge, yet they gleefully elected Mr. Jonathan on account of his ethnicity, and people utter words like it’s their turn and all sorts of unbelievable words in support of Mr. Goodluck. The reasoning being that everything else can wait, and we have to elect someone from the Niger Delta. You hear some folks talking about Jonathan repositioning the country and developing it, how oxymoronic!
The PDP slogan is ‘power to the people', but the PDP has actually succeeded in taking power (at least electrical) from the Nigerian people in the last twelve years. We’re actually doing worse than we were before they came into power.
The most important lesson I learnt from the presidential election is that those of us whose opinions are widely read on social media like Sahara Reporters, Nigeria Village Square, Twitter and Facebook control only a tiny slice in Nigerian politics. Though we have the eyes and ears of the social media generation, we should not become complacent, with such a sense of entitlement as to assume the stance of a hypnotist. Jonathan won handily despite the groundswell of opposition to electing him or the PDP for that matter at least that was the feeling on social media websites. To Nigerians, he was seen as humble, calculating, unassuming, and funny enough, likeable. Nigerians saw Buhari as rigid, unpredictable, brash, vindictive, and retributive. Nuhu Ribadu was simply not on anyone’s radar. Whatever their reasons may be for electing Jonathan, it turned out that despite all the beautifully written pro-Buhari and pro-Ribadu articles on Nigerian media websites, social networking websites and the pages of newspapers, nothing seemed to change any minds.
I believe it’s time to re-evaluate how many Nigerians actually get to read these brilliant articles, Tweets, and Facebook notes we write. Fact is the number may be quite miniscule when we put things in perspective. Relatively speaking, Nigeria is not quite at the point where minds can be changed by reading sound opinion pieces from pundits. One could also speculate that the average voter is busy hustling; some are selling their wares in traffic, while others are sweating profusely in their air conditioned cars attempting to navigate the insane Lagos traffic to care about checking a social network site, not to mention reading articles on some website. Some are probably so worn out by the time they get home that the only thing they want to do is watch something entertaining on Africa Magic. All of this is of course if there’s electricity by the time they get home. In the end, no matter whom we thought could have been a better president, the average Nigerian thought otherwise.
Nigeria as we know it today has been reduced to a country of self-help. The government will not create an atmosphere for corporations to take over power generation; roads have become death traps for all and sundry, our rulers have abdicated their primary duties of securing the lives and property of the Nigerian people a long time ago. Security agencies have become tools in the hands of politicians; there is absolutely no security of lives and property anywhere in the country. And you have some elements hell bent on turning the country into Afghanistan with weekly bomb blasts.
There is no denying the fact that we need to restructure our power sector and reform the police, without these long overdue reforms, we will slowly regress to the Stone Age. One thing the PDP has been very good at these past twelve years is making promises, successive presidential candidates and eventual presidents have campaigned on reform of the power sector, to develop infrastructure and ensure that they protect lives and property. Yet time and time again they have failed us. Voting the PDP in again is akin to doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It is insane!
Because Nigerians have elected the PDP, the next four years will be wasted, as there will be no direction from the PDP. I still can’t fathom how Nigerians have come to distinguish or shall I say, separate Jonathan from the PDP. These two are not mutually exclusive. When Jonathan selects his cabinet, it will be from a pool of PDP stalwarts and party loyalists. In essence what you get is garbage in, garbage out. There is no way a reasonable person can come to the conclusion that voting the PDP for another four years will change anything, except one is a dreamer. One amazingly interesting thing about the Nigerian, which till date I do not seem to understand, is the ability to remain eternally optimistic even in the midst of grave despondency and severe disappointment. It is universally believed that you can successfully push a man to the wall after which he will fight back, but with a Nigerian be sure he will either try to scale or penetrate the wall to avoid fighting back!
Our problem in this nation is that we are suffering from poverty of the spirit, mind and body. This illness knows no class, status, gender, tribe or religion. The thinking of an average Nigerian is a clear indication of this terrible disease. I wonder why anyone would liken the choice of PDP and the opposition to choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea. If I may ask who is the devil and ‘who’ is the deep blue sea? I’ll take a wild guess, we often say that “the devil you know is better than the one you don’t” so going by this I’ll say the PDP is the devil in this instance and the opposition represents the deep blue sea.
To a rational person, the devil would naturally connote gloom, misery, pain, suffering, hardship, bondage, broken promises, shattered dreams, and the like while the deep blue sea indicates challenge, struggle, hope, world unknown, victories and achievements yet attained. My biggest concern is the effect of this “poverty” and its effect on the teeming population of masses who are daily being bought over by this line of thought which in the real sense is predicated on ethnic and religious bias. The issue up north is vote out the infidel slaves while down south the cry is to not let the monstrous religious bigot in. Further down south, it is now the turn of the “real owners” to have direct access to the loot while in the core north of Nigeria, the thinking is for us to allow them this one chance and we the ruling north will have it back very soon.
The truth of the matter is that it is the very few who are in the corridors of power that throw up all this dust and are cashing in on the state which the dangerous disease has left the people, a state of hopelessness. One thing Nigerians need to know is that we had an opportunity to rout those leeches once and for all but Saturday April 19, 2011 was that missed opportunity!
Oraweme is a retired United States sailor currently living in Boston.