Few years ago, one of my student stood up in the middle of a lecture and asked, ‘Sir, who ownsNigeria?’ I was teaching a topic on colonialism and it could have been easy for me to answer, the British, but that would have been appropriate if only we were still under colonial rule. Its been decades since we exchanged the union jack for the green and white flag to enjoy self-government.The question though simple to a layman, is pregnant with meanings. First, this student having assessed the society he lives in, have come to question the principle of democracy, the mode of governance and the political power play in the process of winning election. He has come to doubt the overblown theory of self governance, independence and strength of an elected political office holder.He sees an illusion in democracy and as a world of make believe, where twisted public perception either true or false reign supreme. He sees the people as a pawn, played and tossed by some power brokers towards a selfish end.
Few days ago, Nigeria went to the poll in an election that saw the incumbent President, GoodluckJonathan losing the race for a return ticket to the opposition candidate, General Muhammadu Buhariand in an unprecedented reaction that shocked the world, Mr. Jonathan conceded defeat saving Nigeria, West Africa and by extension the entire continent from going into flames.
With the emergence of General Buhari, the word on the street of Nigeria now is victory. The people seems to have found hope, placing upscale level of trust on the war veteran to make life better as soon as possible.
Indeed, the masses have cause to rejoice. The government of President Jonathan haven’t had adirect bearing on the people on the street. He has shown lackadaisical attitude to the safety of the people, especially those in the North East and only woke up from slumber at a rather time too late. His leadership ability also shows one who isn’t total in control of government, he shows traits ofindecisiveness, more than needed patience, making the electorates get bored of his government.
But while the people continue to rejoice over what they termed ‘Our votes, counts’ it is imperative to state without holding back that the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan isn’t the victory of the electorates. Yes, the people voted for a man of their choice but the question of who/what made that man their choice remains unanswered.
The need to have Mr. Jonathan out of Aso Rock became heightened on 31st August 2013 when seven Governors of the Peoples Democratic Party and the former Vice President walked out of the party’s convention, hence forming the ‘New PDP’. It should be noted that even though the opposition parties had already merged to form the All Progressive Congress (APC) the effect of an opposition party wasn’t so impactful until the New PDP joined it. For those who understand a bit about Nigeria’s presidential power play, some of the key factors that determine the making or marring of any occupant of that position is his relationship with the ‘Five Pillars’ of Nigeria namely GeneralTheophilus Danjuma, Ibrahim Babangida, Emir of Kano, Olusegun Obasanjo and the Oil Mafias. Unfortunately for President Jonathan, all these individuals stood against him.
Some may argue that the records of General Buhari and his undoubted anti-corruption stand gave him the edge against the President but these individuals must ask themselves if these records were not in public domain when he contested and lost the election three times?
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for sixteen years has had the opportunity to govern the country not because it is well structured or so accepted but because the real owners of the country still controls the party. The moment these individuals lost their proxy grip, the party became a shadow of itself.
Democracy is about public perception, it is the ability to sell yourself to the electorates and make them believe in your plans but that’s where it starts and ends. The ability of the people to understand, accept and believe in this messages resides exclusively with some set of individuals.
The March 28, 2015 presidential election wasn’t won in polling booths and through ballot papers but at a round table meeting where the best of wine and foods were served.
General Muhammadu Buhari may seem to represent the desire of the electorates but that can only be proven with decisions he makes within the first few months of his administration.
This is a victory for democracy, it is a good step for politics but it isn’t a victory for the people per saybut rather a change of garment for the ‘Five Pillars’.
Adekoya Boladale is a political scientist and scholar on good governance, a social commentator and consultant on political and intra governmental affairs. He is the Convener, Advocacy for Better Leadership (ABEL), Nigeria.