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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Nothing is New and Nothing is Changing, Part 1



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By Tochukwu Ezukanma

Recently, a minor event took me down memory lane and I felt nostalgic to the point of tears. In that my nostalgic mood, a song from the past came to my mind. It was a song by Candi Staton. I do not remember the title of the song. However, the song sang about, “nothing is new and nothing is changing. All have been the same for memories”. As I snapped out of my nostalgia, I mused. Wow! What an apt summation of the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration?

His administration has not distinguished itself in any way from previous Nigerian governments. As such, it is marked by mediocrity and moral degeneration. On his own, the president does not cut the image of a leader, thoughtless of a transformational leader. He is not known for his brilliance, vision, powerful ego and personal magnetism. He is not an eloquence and versatile public speaker. Therefore, he cannot, like most successful leaders, stir and uplift the public with his speeches.

Interestingly, for his presidential campaign, Goodluck Jonathan cast himself as a transformational figure; he trumpeted his objective to transform Nigeria. Hoping to glean something new or innovative in the style and approach of this self-proclaimed reformer, I scrutinized the candidate and listened closely to his campaign speeches. There was nothing original or trail blazing, in either his message or proposed programs. His speeches were platitudes laced with trite promises on energy, education, health, etc.

Watching his campaigns, you are forced to wonder what is wrong with Nigerian politics and, by extension, the Nigerian society. The campaigns were fanfares – colorful, corybantic fashion shows replete with politicians in party uniforms and swaying to the sound of music. They looked more like socialites decked out in Ashuwebis for an Owambe party than politicians campaigning for the leadership of a country.

A typical People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) presidential campaign involved series of speakers leading up to the presidential candidate. Every speech began with the speaker reeling out the titles of the important party members present at the venue of the event. It generally went: Your Excellency, the President, Your Excellency, the Vice President, Your Excellency, chairman of the party, Your Excellency, the President of the Senate, Your Excellency, and the Speaker of the House, Your Excellency, members of the Working Committee and Board of Trustees, Your Excellency, the State governors, etc.

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Each speaker, including the presidential candidate, after recognizing this litany of party and government officials, had little time left for the actual speech. But what could have been expected from the candidate and his political party? After all, they lack both political ideology and explicit political objectives.

Instead of waving his hands as politicians and other celebrities do as they acknowledge cheers from supporters, he clinched his fist and punched the air, as he strode, rhythmically, to the sound of music, to the podium, to deliver his speech. That was different. Punching the air and swaying to the sound of music seemed more like the swagger of a soccer fan, reveling in the victory of his favorite soccer team, or the pre-fight showmanship of a boxer than the deportment of a presidential candidate at a campaign rally.

I wondered what punching the air meant or was to portray. It occurred to me that, may be, it was to indicate youthfulness and vivacity. In that case punching the air was good, even impressive because it was indicative of qualities that are new among the stock of recent Nigerian civilian presidents.

Even, if we accept that Olusegun Obasanjo is only as old as his younger cousin whose date of birth he appropriated, he can not pretend to be either youthful or exceptionally energetic. Umaru Yar’Adua, though not old, was weighed down by illness. He therefore could neither exude youth nor energy. So, a youthful and exuberant presidential candidate punching the air, with his clinched fists, was a refreshing departure from the past. While it seemed comical, it was noteworthy and reassuring. After all, youthfulness and not senility and liveliness and not moribundity are necessary weapons in the arsenal of a transformational leader.

Again, he said that, in the past, he had no shoe. But now, it is obvious that he has many pairs of shoes. That was poignant and encouraging. It encouraged my hope in him and revived my optimism in his promised transformation of Nigeria. I figured that having no shoe, in the past, but now having many pairs of shoes was transformational in itself. It was therefore reasonable to expect that the transformation his own life personified will invariably rub off on Nigeria with him as the president.

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Which means that down the road into his presidency or, at the very worst, at the end of his 4 year term, Nigerians, in their glee, will be enthusing that, in the past, power supply was erratic but now it is consistent; we had terribly dangerous roads but now they are fixed up and are in good condition; the academic standards in our school, including the universities were despicable but now they are impeccable; lawlessness reigned supreme but now the rule of law is established; corruption was tearing the social fabric of the country but now, it has been reduced significantly to a manageable level; etc.

But then the characters that propped up his candidacy discouraged me. They are the old guards: Olusegun Obasanjos, Tony Annih and a bunch of terribly corrupt businessmen and financially dishonorable governors. They seemed disconcertingly reminiscent to the cabal that propped up Musa Yar’Adua and made it impossible for him to carry through most of his well intended programs. How can you reform the system whereas your political godfathers and sponsors are those who benefit from the chaos that is rending the country to pieces?

Well, I found solace in the Chris Ngige option. After all, did Chris Ngige not wriggle out of the stranglehold of his unscrupulous and rapacious godfathers? As Goodluck Jonathan has styled himself a transformer, I figured he should be able to, not only break loose of the hold of his godfathers, but also put them in their place as Chris Ngige, an earlier reformer, did.

Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.


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