Navigating Buhari’s Change Manifesto

Navigating Buhari’s Change Manifesto

Tuesday, July 28, 2015 4:59 pm

By Osuolale Alalade

President MuhammaduBuhari’s piece published in the Washington Post last week may be considered his first publically expressed articulation of the depth his change manifesto. In his pronouncement that there are too few examples in the history of Nigeria since independence where it can be said that good management and governance were instituted at a national level, he acknowledged that the informal and formal bargains among political forces that had driven the operating procedures of the Nigerian state and society since independence until now was odious.

His open lamentation distilled the very wide scope and dimensions of the prevailing national anomie and the upended ethical system that have characterized the Nigeria that we all know too well. Nothing reflects the sad readings at the nadir of the national morality gauge or even the entrenched unethical standards of governance than the current debacle in the Senate over unsettling allegations of theforgery of the Senate Standing Order to facilitate the emergence of a particular orientation at the helm of affairs of the nation’s law givers. On reading the modalities of the latest abridgment of the integrity of this national institution, I sought the meaning of a banana republic from the encyclopedia. This obvious reactionary counter orientation violently assaults and questions the legitimacy, or even superiority, of the national will that was unequivocally expressed in the last elections.

President Buhari

President Buhari

As if that was not enough, it emerged again from the trip to Washington that just one minister, under the last administration, cornered as much as $6billion for him/herself alone. Even the mere speculation of the possibilityof such a deed is an indictment of the nation. That is a national record that should make envious record holder Sani Abacha’s monumental graft.We are informed thateven by Washington standards, this latest feat is considered as earth-quaking. These nightmarish snippets of class infamy reveal the magnitude of the challenge to the Buhari change mandate. It also provides indicators of the extent of the resistance, overt and covert, that the change manifesto would face from the scions of the lords and masters, defenders of the decadent status quo. The stakes are very high. There is a chaotic helluva of a hurricane landing ahead. For this coming confrontation, a strong coalition for the public good is required.

Given the profundity of President Buhari’s change manifesto, with hindsight it can be acknowledged that it was prudent to have spoken largely in coded accents during the campaign. We can now begin to interpret the practical implications of the change manifesto as he consolidates power. It is a troubling enterprise to undertake. Given unfolding revelations of the scope and depth as well as the overall massiveness of the national decay, it is now incontrovertible that the political settlement that has so far driven the logic of the Nigerian state and its operations were founded on a conspiracy of the elite based on a collective agreement not to jeopardize their class interests. Accordingly, the regime of protocols of governance agreed to by them first had to torpedo any notion of ethics, decency or morality in the public realm.

This crass regime has permeated even ourprivate lives. This naturally led to a massive alienation of the peoples from the rulers and the exacerbation of the contentions driving national society apart. These exacerbated contentions were reflected in the immoral and ungodly use of the pulpits and the minarets during the campaign to obfuscate the real challenges facing Nigeria. It is now crystal clear that the interactions that constituted the national process emanating from the political bargains were fashioned to consolidate the collective role of the rapacious elite as entrenched and immovable patrons in a systemic patron-client pyramidal arrangement in false pacification of the many disparate contesting constituencies through these local champions. When the situation demanded, they drummed up their differences along ethno-regional and ethno-religious lines as bargaining points for their personal ambitions.

Worse of all, a part of the clergy and imams became egregiously compromised as part of the odious national bargain of the political class against the people of Nigeria. The defrocking of the nation to its moral and ethical nudity was complete and broadcast to the nation in sanctified praise-songs and empty hosannas intoned every other second in the chapel at Aso Rock. There was no informed consent of the governed when this one partisan aisle of the crusaders for national salvation in blood hijacked the cause of the decadent status quo in His name-Some body say Amen!!!. This macabre spiritual dance was a bizarre defense of the nation in the cross. The other extreme side, the unapologetic butchers of the national soul- repudiated the whole system in its cuddling unletting blood flow that continues.

In essence, the common understandings that drove interactions among the prebendal elites drawn across the different constituencies offered the chance of freezing ad interim the fundamental challenges to the legitimacy of the construction of the Nigerian state space and its internal dynamics and workings. But the terms of the settlement were not founded on any consideration of the welfare of ordinary plebian Nigerians and were accordingly elitist as they were not designed to advance the interests of the Nigerian state and its peoples. It was to protect the personal interests of the Nigerian ruling class. The dominant order therefore accommodated the inanities of this class and entrenched their mindless corruption, blind pursuit of power, crass sinfulness, indecent opportunism, unholy theatrics of the lord spirituals, intellectual renegades, brother Jeroboams in the state house, andmaterial wastefulness as the norm in society. These were all undertaken at the expense of the Nigerian people.

The entrenched Nigerian dispensation practically foreclosed the possibility of an inclusive social contract of all for all on the terms of governance of the Nigerian state until, hopefully, the last 2015 elections. In this situation, the prevailing political settlement merely put in an interim abeyance the critical dilemmas, including the security dilemma that is pervasive in most culturally heterogeneously constructed postcolonial political spaces.It has therefore been a long season of anomie. Redressing this normlessness is not a fight for only one MuhammaduBuhari, no matter how muscular or ram-rod straight he is, physically and metaphorically speaking. It is a big fight ahead.

A second relevant point to this is that the All Peoples Congress (APC) would arguably be the first coalition of political forces mobilized on a progressive plank that seriously has credibly penetrated across the length and breadth of the country and effectively transcended the historical poles of national antagonisms. The dominant political orientation at the national level such as the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and its more contemporaneous reincarnation in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) had all been vessels for the conservation of anti-people retrogressive conservativism at the center. At the national level, all attempts at the installation of progressive tenets of governance or fundamental realignment of the national ethical plane have ended in tragic truncations. Often these clashing systemic orientations or ethical dichotomies have coincided more at the philosophical level than as ideological bents. The decadent conservatives, both as expressed in the political class and in the military adventurism of conservative opportunists, have in the entire course of our national life managed to overwhelm the system throughthe deployment of all manner of instruments, both conventional institutional instruments of the stateand also through unconventional methods, including cruel assassination of progressive challengers of the retrograde state.

In fact, one may speak in terms of a project of periodic strategic cleansing since 1960. The seasonal cleansing project of the implacable guardians of Nigeria’s stagnation seems to reflect an unspoken consensus around the periodic removal from the scene of articulators of progressive vision for the country. This strategic cleansing took on an institutional character during the era of military presidency that was hatched to frustrate a certain movement to national probity. It was consolidated through the days of the maximum ruler and peaked during the first post-Abacha national trauma in a caricature of contriveddemocracy that was unleashed on the country up till now. The Yar’adua and Jonathan administrations were mere clones of this sinister dispensation. Prominent victims of the cleansing project includedMurtala Ramat Mohammed, the Dele Giwas, Alfred Rewanes, KudiratAbiolas, Bola Iges and the Harry Marshals, among many unsung other matrys.

Some who radically disagreed with the foundational axioms of the Nigerian state were luckier than others. They suffered but escape ultimate martyrdom. These include Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Malam Aminu Kano. Sage Obafemi Awolowo, who has become personified as the national iconic representation of not only good governance but also moral compunctions in the public sphere, andAminu Kano,undoubtedly representing the unquenchabletriumphant spirit and will of the talakawa, may be seen, perhaps paradoxically, as the glorious forebears of the current national moment of rectitude and accountability as elements of a comprehensive progressive vision for Nigeria. In the longitudinal span of national political evolution, the current movement towards national sanity and the paradoxes are still not lost on us, have so much in common to the life struggles of the two iconic figures in our national history.

The paradox is that the disarray in their political families has thrown up tragic defenses from their disciples of a decadent system by those who claim to be the guarantors of the legacy of these moral titans in the life of our nation. The joke of the gods is on thosewho allow episodic blots in the conundrums and contortions of the Nigerian historic process to distort their appreciation of the import of the momentous moment of change. These distortions, it may also be hazarded, reflect the projection of the human ego and narrow sensibilities in definitions of the complexities of life itself. These were manifest in the cleavages and in the robust discourse, especially in the South West, on the best recourse for the Yoruba in the presidential elections.

It is in this context that Buhari’s the change manifesto, as in his first coming, is even a more dangerous gamble considering the outcome of previous attempts at realigning the Nigerian system. The fact that the old coalition for the public good in Nigeria has been dissipated means that some of the traditional constituencies associated with progressive politics in the country have gone kaput. Many are simply too tired at this stage for the rigor of critical intellectual navigations that the complex moment may require. A new national progressive coalition, with its roots perhaps in the APC, has to be institutionalized now. This is more so in light of proven pervasive malfeasance in governance and the corporate world, both very exaggerated in Nigeria,as an accompaniment to the complete and absolute abandonment of the moral compass in politics across the board.

These have elicited increased public demand for transparency and accountabilityin national processes globally. In Nigeria, the concept of change adumbrated in its holistic understandings is the struggle to create an enabling space to attempt to better restructure the normative and ethical fundamentals that impel the appalling horrendous existential expressions and conditions of daily life. It is the attempt to employ smart and sharp strategies to ring-fence and protect the fragilized state and society against an expansive and destructive ethical and normative environment all too capable of imploding Nigeriaas an existential reality of all times.

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