Looking ahead – The Nation

  • 2021 is consequential. The president and the political elite must not make it an era of the locusts

This year will not form suddenly, but for those who understand the causal dynamics of societies, the horizon beckons bleakly. We know that histories are not judged necessarily by a year or years but epochs or eras. An era is not determined even by a few years but by the wave of events that coalesce into themes. The themes are determined by leaders, especially personages of consequence.

Some eras take significance in a certain year. For instance, the Nigerian civil war may have exploded in 1967, but historians know that a series of events snowballed to that bloody hour. The date of crystallisation often takes a consequential character because the major players could have exercised personal choices at the moment of climax, either towards violence or peace. Hence historians disavow the concept of historical inevitability. They have emphasised this point about other major watersheds in the past, like 1914 when the world plunged into a war, or decades later when the Berlin Wall fell.

Many have predicted that 2021 may bear a potential as a year either of promise or derailment, or even seeding the germs of catastrophe. The reason is that this is the year when the main wheel horses of our political society will start positioning themselves for major perches in 2023.  Hence even some of them predict it is chock-full of perils.

From the activities of 2020, whether it is the polls in Edo and Ondo states, the internecine boils within the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), or the rumbles in the top brass of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), this year holds the hint of catharsis. Is it going to be a lot of hot air that will blow away like the harmattan gale, or will it be a big, howling pot that eviscerates anyone thrown into it? It is a puzzle, given the fiery zest of ambitions, and the stakes we see in the horizon.

It is important to emphasise that patriotism should trump any tendency to excess. Individuals should understand that politicians mean nothing if they do not aspire to be statesmen. To win a party’s nomination by skewering the tenets of decency or subverting party rules only poisons the body politic. If any bullies his way to the ticket and gets away with it, it may give a temporary triumph and even swagger but, in the long run, the party suffers because it has enthroned the gangster over the level head. The party becomes an endorser of impunity. The party may look robust, but democracy weakens into poor health. That is how this country has suffered for over two decades of this republic.

We know that the issue of ethnic and regional power play may become the rubric of muscle flexing. But Nigeria as a dream should come before tribe and tongue, and even region and religion. Such consideration can strengthen the choice of where the next president comes from rather than flick out the knife of discord. So, as parties move towards their new executives and their gladiators rumble for their tickets, let us know that the paramount interest is the man who cannot afford three square meals a day, the family seeking a home, the school fees not paid, the classroom without a chalk board, the jobless crowd and the thief that got away.

Hence we must also note that this is not a time for politics to kick governance to the back seat. President Muhammadu Buhari should note that he could become a lame duck easily this year. But he must note that he is the only one who can determine that. He can do well, and work towards accomplishing important landmarks. In spite of the attacks, he has worked steadily on some major infrastructure work like the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. He is set to launch the railway project from Lagos via Abeokuta to Ibadan. He must encourage his two ministers in this regard to accomplish them, as well as quite a few road and rail networks going on across the country.

He cannot do much or be said to have done enough if he leaves the country under the sway of the militants, kidnappers and robbers, especially in the north and federal highways across the country. The nation will never forget major bloodstains in 2020. The northeast, especially Borno State, was a butt of terror. We witnessed the governor of the state, Babagana Zulum, engage the Federal Government in many episodes of conflict, showing up the military’s ineptitude, aloofness and sometimes collapse in the face of the onslaughts of the Boko Haram. We saw absurd chapters in the last quarter of last year when scores of natives were slaughtered in the throats. The image of their bodies wrapped in white funeral cloths still haunts a bewildered nation.

Of course, we know the episode that even fiction writers would have described as melodrama in which, within hours of the president arriving his home state, the hoodlums whizzed into a  boys school and carted away over 300 students in a long trek and placed on the dreary diets of potatoes, unknown vegetables and grubby water. Not long after – after their return – a bevy of school girls almost fell into their hands, a la Chibok girls.

They have not spared anyone, north or south. The nation cannot say it is well-governed when its citizens dread where they travel, where they sleep and where to eat. It is the existential threat of the nation, and the defining task of the Buhari administration. The president has promised that insurgency will end this year. We will hold him to his promise.

After security, the next most important matter is the question of the economy. COVID-19 has become an excuse for governments all over the world for hunger and a groveling economy. We understand it. The pandemic has been destabilising, and the world has not seen such a plague in a century. But it is no reason for paralysis. This administration has advanced its humanitarian policies whose success has been questioned because of the preponderance of poverty. Welfare is important, but the statistic drowns any hopes. It is either the programme is fraught or it is non-existent, but certainly it is falling far short of expectation.

This is no year to dilly dally; it is time to swivel into action. The poverty and fear in the land call for no less.

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