One of the strengths of democracy is the power of the people to determine who leads the country. Fixed tenures are a way of making politicians subject themselves to the will of the people at the end of a cycle. As a result, in countries where democracy is practised, the average politician is often conscious of the next elections. The electorate must be satisfied with performance before voting a party back to power. In some jurisdictions, for example, in most African countries, the electorate is often confronted with making a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, between the lesser of the two evils.
At the national level, the APC government has been in power for seven odd years, led by President Muhammadu Buhari. If we were to judge the national government on the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of Security, Education, Employment, Social Security, Business climate, Inflation, Infrastructure, Corruption Index, the party should stand no chance of winning the elections in 2023. The level of disenchantment and despair in the country is palpable. We need no statistical evidence to prove this: the mere fact that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan now looks good in the eyes of the people is instructive. The optics of performance are dismal with the incumbent administration. Analysts who have the courage place the blame of the antithesis of the grand movement of 2014 at the doorstep of President Buhari. His style of governance, his aloofness, his clannish approach to governance, his frequent medical tours, all add up to creating the image of an emperor who loses no sleep over the crumbling empire that he inherited.
The APC mounted a vicious and manipulative campaign against the PDP in 2014 and drove sitting sheriff out of town. To be sure, a combination of international and domestic forces made the brutal humiliation of President Jonathan a piece of cake. The Obama administration lost faith in that administration over gay rights and once the John Kerry’s State Department turned its face against Jonathan, Obama was ready to fall into line and turn Jonathan into a whipping boy. Support was shifted to an over-hyped sheriff who was coming into town to bomb the walls of corruption. How are the mighty fallen?
With the benefit of hindsight, we can now say that the Obama years in the White House did nothing positive for the African continent. There was too much hope in the mere fact that a Black man was the President of America. His hands were tied by institutions and the kind of politics he played, and which took him to the White House. President Jonathan was a sitting duck for that culturally inebriated government! I will write more about this subsequently.
The same issues which formed the core of that massive propaganda against the PDP government led by President Goodluck Jonathan have remained and keep haunting the Buhari government. Insecurity has taken a frightening dimension. There is evil silence from Aso Rock about the government’s inability to contain mere bandits hibernating in the bushes between Kaduna and Abuja, between Bauchi and Maiduguri, between Osun and Ogun States. Pause for a while and picture characters like Generals Ibrahim Babangida or Sanni Abacha in office and some monkeys show up in the name of Fulani rights, causing mayhem and deaths in the heart of the northern region! Would any government official be paying ransoms or negotiating with them? Why, even as a civilian Head of State and government did Alhaji Shehu Shagari not negotiate with the Maitasine miscreants? Why has President Buhari been brutal and harsh on the Shiites and soft on the mystical herders? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.
Indeed, there is no difference between the APC and PDP in terms of approach to governance. This may seem to negate the thesis construct of my essay. However, it is the APC that has failed. Not the PDP. It is APC that has supervised the lockdown of federal universities that has presided over the massive crash of the naira and the iniquitous poverty in the country. It is APC that promised to contain the insurgency and failed woefully. The buck stops at the desk of the leader of APC. We should entrench the power of the ballot box. You fail the people; we boot you out. The next party takes over. That simple almost simplistic way, we can entrench democracy.
But this is Nigerian democracy: A bastardised version. A party could fail the people and still steal the elections. All the institutions of State are controlled by stooges. Some INEC officials are stationed to maintain the status quo. So, they support the shenanigans of the people in power. But let us be warned. If we have another four years of the type of government that was inflicted on us in the last seven years, there may be no Nigeria after 2023. This is the danger to the bosses and the stooges along with their apologists who feed from the crumbs. It is instructive that though they may not be happy with the style of the incumbent they are obsequiously obliged to claim that they will build on his legacy.
One of the tragedies of our times is that the PDP as an opposition party is weak, disoriented and confused. Easy points of attack are routinely sidetracked. Is it fear of the unknown that makes the PDP just roll with the tide? Fear of attack dogs? No matter what the propagandists say, Nigeria has been bumped into a rough and uncertain ride. Except we do the needful, we may end up in the belly of the tiger.
*Eghagha, a professor of English, is a commentator on public issues.