Nigeria: 19 years of democratic vanity, by Taju Tijani

Nigeria has a weakness. That weakness is our obsession for ugly and narcissistic self-congratulations at the drop of a hat. In terms of democratic experimentation, this nation has nothing to celebrate

On May 29, 2018, this nation celebrated yet the 19th anniversary of democracy Nigerians are yet to enjoy and be proud of. Today, I will do a robust, rebarbative and analytical democratic audit of the last 19 years and see if there is any space for self-celebration. Nigeria has a weakness. That weakness is our obsession for ugly and narcissistic self-congratulations at the drop of a hat. In terms of democratic experimentation, this nation has nothing to celebrate. Ours has been a messy democracy where we lie to each other and at every turn we love to reaffirm the simpering narrative that Nigeria is a giant in Africa’s socio-economic-political-cultural life. Really?
Welcome to a messy democracy that has disfigured and defiled the noble status God originally bestowed on Nigeria. In a messy democracy anything can happen. In a nation that harbours pathological impatience for its leaders, agitation for miracle can happen. In a nation like Nigeria that is fixated on the tribe of its leaders, ethnocentric hatred is the order of the day. In a nation where politicians are driven to public service for personal gain, that society is doomed to servitude, poverty and despair. In a nation where laws and orders are designed to shield the rich and powerful from prosecution, that nation will have to grapple with lawlessness, confusion and violence.
As a writer, public commentator and opinion moulder, I have my list of disenchantment with the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. Millions of his supporters also hold different opinions about his successes and failures. One man’s opinion of his success is another’s opinion of his failure in the pursuit of the Nigerian project. All these opinions have now coalesced or crystalised into some form of disillusion and hopelessness for the manner he has handled the endless challenges facing Nigeria. To some, Buhari has failed. To another, Buhari is a success. To some, Nigeria is a work in progress.
For the past three years, there have been public discomfort with so many decisions and indecisions of President Buhari. The chorus of regrets is ever becoming louder and Nigerians are wondering where the old chutzpah mythically associated with Buhari has gone AWOL to? Also, I have to remind my readers that the narrative that Nigeria is a great nation has remained the most enduring script crafted by our elites to inflate our egos and encourage a sustained self-glorification that has no basis in reality. The question is: if Nigeria is that mythical land of Eldorado, why would you and I still recoil in ongoing horror at the mayhem, confusion, insecurity, hunger, unemployment, lawlessness, kidnappings, killings and inaction of our government over many manageable aberrations? What has been the life and blood gains of 19 years of democracy for millions of Nigerians? Why is agitation for a new order so strident under Buhari if our democracy is working? The sobering truth can now be revealed: Nigeria has been practicing democratic vanity expressly designed to enrich the rich and pauperise the poor.
Only last week, the President revealed that the money stolen by the Jonathan administration is so much that they may not be able to recover all the loot in the life of his administration. The subtext is this: for 16 years, the Peoples Democratic Party violently and rapaciously raped and looted the wealth meant for Nigerians under the name of democracy. This is the reality we all shy away from. We practice democratic vanity on a grand scale. The politicians have cornered Nigeria and her resources and, sad to say, even Buhari cannot fight and win the war against despoliation.
Check this out. The cost of maintaining the vanity-oriented rogues in both our National Assembly and House of Representatives has become the burden and misery the Nigerian state has to carry on its fragile shoulders. It is intellectually absurd and morally repugnant to think that the same petrol-dollar being used in feeding our parasite class – politicians – is denied to the poorer mortals among us. Why would a supposedly rich nation like Nigeria continue to waste resources on the vanity of its senator-politicians, who, according to President Buhari, have contributed nothing to national rehabilitation for the past 19 years?
Why do we need to be feeding the vanities of hounds and scoundrels we call lawmakers? Believe me, we have accommodated 19 years of wicked, vanity-driven and profligate democracy that had bankrupted Nigeria before a rescue came in May 2015. When Buhari entered office in May 2015, there were sound of collective hosannas from all Nigerians. Then the harsh realities of governance and the discovery of monumental stealing configured his CHANGE agenda. Today the mood has changed from a messiah to crucify him. The hosanna has given way to cries of pain or even horror as we watch daily how his government is foundering on the rock of inaction over insecurity.
The cold miserable truth is that 19 years of democracy has succeeded in producing political lechers who wear their new badge of billionaire status without shame, fear or sense of contrition. I will like to repeat and re-assert President Buhari’s famous argot: In 19 years of democracy, where is the light? In 19 years of democracy, where are the jobs? 19 years of democracy, where is the peace and prosperity for Nigerians? In 19 years of democratic journey, where are the sober, conscientious, humble, just, sincere, transparent and public-spirited politicians we can all be proud of? In 19 years of democratic tutelage, where are the patriotic, avaricious-averse, dedicated, morally upright and integrity-driven politicians who will alter the contour of our shame, disconnect us from corruption, retune our moral values and recover our stolen paradise from thieving politicians whose sole aim is to steal, kill and destroy?
Who will unbundle the cost of democratic governance? Who will cut out fat allowances, benefits and salaries of our lecher-senators? Who will ban politicians from driving around in darkened SUV and convoy? Who will puncture the bubble of ostentatious and profligate lifestyle of Nigerian politicians and align their expectations with the wishes of the Nigerian people? After 19 years of profligate democratic interrogation, the question is who will be martyred for a New Nigeria? Who! Who!! Who!!!
. Tijani writes from [email protected]

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