EDITORIAL: Containing this Deepening National Division
Nigerians are entering the last year of the decade deeply divided with those supporting and opposing the status quo unrelenting in their entrenched positions.From the political elite to the economic operators,the differences are palpable and the gulf deepening.Is elite battle in anyway in the interest of the masses?
The Buhari administration had posited that previous leaders were irresponsible in their handling of national resources.Protagonists of the administration insist that diversion of huge public fund into private pockets denied the nation requisite developments with many key infrastructure still undeveloped or abandoned despite huge payments. The society needs a fundamental re-orientation to stop treasury looting,to stop parasitic living,to force people into productive living and to spend more on infrastructure deficit.
The above implies a deliberate restructuring of the economic state of the nation,leading to disruption in subsisting economic relations ,the submerging of old economic players,the emergence of new economic hubs ,the wiping out of cheap fund from public treasury and a temporary if not permanent dislocation in the economic life of the citizenry.Supporters of the administration argue that all these are neccesary for the nation to get back to real business,to regain lost ground due to years of maladministration,mismanagement and irresponsible leadership.
To the antagonists of the status quo,the administration has only destroyed decades of achievements left by previous governments,positing that the Buhari presidency has succeeded to set back the clock of national development. Such critics cite data and statistics which they claimed support the assertion that the status quo is worst than the past. Here,a lot was made about wrong economic policies,alleged sacrifice of merit in public appointments and what such antagonists referred to as fake war on corruption.The common trends of arguments within this group is that the status quo is not only divisive but pursues ethno- religious partisan tools in pursuit of her agenda.
In-between the two divisions are many fence sitters who nonetheless are also not objective umpires but rather sympathisers of either of the camp. Analysing the division can raise further questions which directly and indirectly indicted the two camps.
To start with the antagonists of the status quo,there is no doubt that failure to initiate or successfully complete many critical national infrastructure under previous administration was a pointed negative.This is especially as the nation earned enormous resources which facts now showed ended up in private pockets.The looting of treasury,the hyper inflated contracts and general carelessness exhibited by previous governments are nothing to be envious of.Many had expected the then ruling party to apologise to Nigerians for those years of locust.
But till date ,nothing of such has happened.It was wrong to want to paper over what were obvious bad governance in many critical sectors in the previous governments.That singular factor undermines the moral authority of those protagonists.
However ,the incumbent caucus also err in many areas. No doubt ,there were many wrong choices economically. There is excessive emphasis on tribal and religious issues which led to charges of zonal partisanship.Included is the question of lack of coordination within the ruling family.It is so shocking that the worst of indictments against the administration came right from the first family through the First Lady.Opposition appeared empowered by sensitive negative statements.That economic hardship is biting hard was also not well managed as a denial appears like adding salt to injury for the poor and the masses generally.
The above said,the status quo scored many positive points which cannot be wished away. The completion and initiation of many national infrastructure is laudable and a subtle indictment on the previous administrations.The local rice policy is almost a success and the targeted sectoral financing handled by the Central Bank of Nigeria has raised strong economic players across the sectors. The disruption is real and the expectation is that the positive outcomes of the many policies will create economic boom.
Yet,the administration may erode the gains by its handling of issues of rule of law.To the antagonists of the administration,its greatest weakness is the perceived intolerance of rule of law.Here opinions differ.Critics are quick to paint a picture of a nation fast moving on the lane of dictatorship.Examples of non-observance of court orders among others are cited.The situation was not helped by statements from some government functionaries suggesting need for a curb on democratic rights.
The administration was however quick to defend her records.Here ,the government said it has never locked up any journalist. Fact checking ,this is largely true as our colleague,Omoyele Sowore was already a politician by the time of his arrest.Additionally,it can be added that all governments from 1999 to date have had cause to act euphemistically in defence of state,an action largely tagged violations of human rights of the citizens.
It must be emphasised that respecting the court system is imperative to sustain a law and order society.Concurrently,an incorruptible judiciary adjudicating speedily is a condition for a thriving democratic society.
On both side,blames of various degrees can be established.The confrontation is however expected to expand as the core of issue at stake is control of state power.It is not expected that the tempo of intra and inter – elite battle will wane. Those clamouring for elite consensus may not get it because the actors are deeply entrenched with many wounded on both sides.
Starngely,those who felt most painfully touched are those who previously supported the incumbent to assume the seat.For the PDP elite ,the loss is clear and attributable to their bad choices while in government and in the last election when the party like an incorrigible son retained her cash and carry politics.That was why it is easy for PDP operatives to switch camps. It is not about principle ;it is about survival in political battle. In any case,politicians are never that ideologically different here in Nigeria.
But for previous Buharists,it is deeper than those of Buhari critics from PDP. Reading antagonists of the President mostly raises questions about the type and brand those ex-Buharists are made of. For one,is it that they dont know the man they marketed to Nigerians in 2015? Are they not aware that the President is a lifelong rebel within a hated establishment? Is it that they have an agenda they expect the man to implement that he has refused to?
Is it that they belong to the mainstream of the establshment which was in trouble under Jonathan Presidency and which they thought they can use the incumbent to stabilise? What exactly are the signature marks of such previous leaders in and out of government?
Asking the above questions is to determine why the most vociferous of critics today were the best of Buhari marketers in 2015. They possibly had poor judgements;they possibly think Buhari is converted to mainstream establishment and will therefore be a tool to sustain the old system.
Sincerely,the old establshment had been unfair to the nation. Imagine Itakpe -Warri under construction for almost 25 years before completion last year? Think of Gombe power plant started on 1984 only to be completed this year? What of Mambilla power plant on which several billions have been spent without completion? Why the gross infrastructural deficit despite trillions of oil earnings in the past?
But is the Buhari administration on the right path? That is a question still too early to determine. The administration has many shortcomings and drawbacks.It will do well to improve its accommodation through urgent judicial reforms of rule of law.The issue is key as it may wipe out whatever gain is recorded on the economic plain.
We must however acknowledge substantial achievements on the infrastructural sector. The completion of airports,roads, power and railway projects is laudable and the initiation of new ones deserves support. Also,deserving mention is the sectoral interventions of the Central Bank of Nigeria .This is yielding positive results.And more critically is the social investment programmes which are now domiciled at the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. This World Bank supervised schemes directly touch thousands of Nigeria.It is a commendable steps towards state support for vulnerable Nigerians.
But the national division is too deep for any rational and objective analysis of government performance.The critics are many and the administration suffers from internal in-cohesion to allow for any united articulation.
The privileged elite on both sides may intensify their struggle in 2020.The poor and the downtrodden can only hope that the elusive elite consensus emerge sooner than later.
Last Note-Mutually assured destruction is never the ultimate goal of power struggle.