Opinion: Buhari’s ‘Change begins with me’ – a bargain of the century!


by Mohammed Alhaji

For the first time in the history of our nascent (if 17 years of unbroken democracy and 4 presidents so far could be considered one) people from all walks of life – paupers; peasants; pink-collar, blue-collar and white-collar workers; unemployed; young and old; kids not eligible to vote; and probably even thieves – across the country donated funds into the begging bowls of the APC’s presidential candidate now Nigeria’s president.

Many went beyond cash donation to actively involving in grass-root mobilizations and whatnot. Though everyone had their individual motive and expectations but a collective proclivity for change could be felt in the air. The efforts were unprecedented and a significant paradigm shifts from the custom of hitherto pay-as-you-campaign and pay-as-you-vote politics.

Nigerians, tired of corruption and lawlessness that had enveloped the Nation and even more tired by the helplessness of the State Institutions saddled with the responsibilities of checkmating those vices, saw the 2015 general elections as a timely window to toss their anger and frustrations in the ballot boxes.

The extraordinary crusade for Change (in governance and attitude) (coupled with APC’s unparalleled media machinery) dazed the PDP, and was probably one of the salient if not the sole reason(s) for the postponement of the 2015 general elections. Polls upon polls, still, Nigerians were determined to force PDP out. And so they did.

Like the game of Chess, the masses have made their move and is now the turn of those in public-funded castles to make theirs. The masses were sure they made the necessary move to usher in capacity for building strong institutions where nepotism and favoritism would cease to exist and every Nigerian would be given equal level playing ground to all opportunities…the list is endless.

These, they expect even if they had to endure similar policies that resulted in furore that nearly caused untimely dethronement of the immediate past regime.

Pickled by their triumphant move, happy Nigerians went to bed with never-before-seen enthusiasm that by daybreak at least they would begin to see the fruits of their bold move of pulling the rugs from under PDP’s feet.

Fuel subsidy came and went by unannounced like a stealth thief at night, Naira was thrown in the air helplessly to float, taxes were raised to shore up our dwindling reserves, TSA was introduced to mop up ‘wandering’ public funds, and cabinet inaugural would take half a year… cash circulation dropped significantly like a surprised rain in winter. Still, people remained hopeful, comforted by the significant improvement in security.

However, same vices that informed the decisions for voting out the past regime would persist: Nepotism, favoritism would continue to occur in few well-regarded public institutions without sanctions. Public outcries would continue to be ignored, critical decisions would continue to be delayed beyond their prime time, and impunity in certain places would rage on, incompetent officials would not be dropped, blames would continue to be thrown about, Governors and other top echelons would continue to dance at campaign rallies even if the country is in recession….

‘Recession’ might be just a word, after all. The people still remain hopeful and silent on the strength of the one they voted; they trust him to know and do the needful without necessarily disturbing his peace.

Suddenly, the Government made their move, it was a bold one: CHANGE BEGINS WITH ME! But in the game of Chess, the king, though the most important piece, is one of the weakest, and may never move himself where he could be captured. But with this announcement – of Change Begins with Me – it is exactly what the president did.

I am not misconstruing President Buhari call for convergent move in the same direction of Change but this would not just fly. Sorry! Some Nigerians are too hungry, others are just too exhausted from overdose of expectations served with unfailing disappointments that come with being Nigerian.

The masses need inspiration – practical inspiration and not verbose, theoretical inspiration sailing on public funds. That’s why they voted for Change. The Change has to begin from a specific end, and it certainly won’t be from the masses’ end. Even if it were to be, they had already played their first role by bringing this government to reality.

By the way, our current circumstance screams for top-down approach to change which would be better, faster and more sustainable. A bottom-up approach would certainly take longer to build and may ultimately culminate into uprising similar to Arab Spring in the event of unrelenting subpar governance and economic downturn. This is the snip!

If you look closely, by relative standard, Nigerians are actually one of – if not the most – enduring souls on earth. Despite poor services and near-absent amenities they are still surviving and obeying laws that are flouted daily by government officials who should be role models, and copulating and supporting their kids and neighbors. For their perseverance they deserve more – in form of deeds, not needs – from the government.

Moreover, behavioral change doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it needs to be elicited, largely, by extrinsic factors – in this case, visible changes within the government (and…erm, selling off of presidential jets is not just enough) – and intrinsic factors which serve to reinforce decision to change upon adequate and suitable extrinsic factors.

This is terribly lacking in the Nigeria of today faced with economic recession and ‘over-patriotic’ lawmakers that are in recess after having illicit affairs with the 2016 budget. The affair is now in the open but nobody’s losing sleep over it. See?

If the current level of decorum by the masses is not enough for the government at helm to execute its set-out objectives then, by implication, the president is only asking Nigerians to stand up and challenge those in the positions of power including himself to not only question their competence and their blueprints but to disgrace them out of office in future elections if they perform poorly at governance and public relation.

If this is what President Buhari wants, all he had to do is spice up his move and rephrase it to maybe “Stand up Nigerians!” Still, “Change Begins with Me” is truly a bargain worth considering!

PS: President Buhari should know that Bills don’t get passed for their credibility alone; he should approach his supporters in the National Assembly and lobby through his Anti-Corruption Bills for their speedy passage. Recovering loot is the easy part of fighting corruption, putting in place necessary hampers is more rewarding, long-lasting.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija


M. Alhaji is a PhD Candidate at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (@Baabsy_ on Twitter)


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