Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari (Bubu) declared his intention to seek re-election as President of Nigeria in the 2019 general election and people are losing their minds over this announcement. The man has a right to contest again if he wants to. He has a right to want to live out his last days in Aso Rock if he so pleases.
He has a right to think himself the messiah of Nigeria without whom Nigeria will make no economic or social progress. He has the right to think himself the best thing that has happened to Nigeria since Independence. These and many more are his rights. But the beauty of democracy is that we as citizens also have rights. We have the right to dream for Nigeria and use our votes to actualise those dreams. If our collective dreams are in conflict with the dreams of one man and his crew, then so be it, majority rules.
In 2015, President Buhari came into office with great expectations. The rhetoric on the campaign trail was assured, and confident that Bubu and his crew could navigate Nigeria out of despair and economic freefall. Unfortunately, it seems there is confusion in the control room. The compasses of the navigators seem to be malfunctioning and no one is sure in which direction Nigeria is headed.
But they want us to give them more time to get their act together. They are well within their rights to ask us for more time, and we as citizens will be well within our rights to deny their ambition. Nigeria is like a big ship, floating aimlessly towards an iceberg. The spate of killings across the country; the insecurity; the insensitivity of government; the disregard of fundamental rights; the inequality in the distribution of resources; the lack of basic infrastructure for human development; and the disconnection from the plight of the ordinary citizen are all indicators that is time to start calling “Mayday, mayday, mayday.” We are in distress and we do not need Bill Gates or Former President Olusegun Obasanjo to tell us that something is wrong. We can feel the pain.
Some people argue that we must go through this pain to come out on the other side in prosperity. Say what now? The ordinary citizen, struggling to eke out a living and swim against the tide of all the challenges of living in Nigeria must also disproportionately carry the burden of the consequences of mismanagement of resources; incompetent governance; and lack of vision. Ordinary citizens are asked to make sacrifices while government sits on their backs, loaded with the paraphernalia of office and the fruits of incompetence.
Some others argue that things would have been worse under former President Jonathan. Well, we are not under Jonathan, are we? Jonathan was voted out presumably because the majority recognised that his performance was flawed. That chapter is closed now. We are marking the performance in front of us.
The people I do not quite understand yet are those who say that they will vote President Buhari again as revenge against those who voted for him in 2015. By all means, please vote for Buhari again if you are convinced that he is the best candidate for Nigeria in 2019, but a revenge vote does not make any sense to me. When you go to the market, will the garri seller reduce the price of a mudu of garri for you because you did not vote for Buhari in 2015 but voted him in revenge in 2019? Will the Central Bank of Nigeria sell foreign currency to you at a preferred rate because of your revenge voting? The truth is we are all in the same boat, whether you voted Buhari in 2015 or not. You might have had better foresight than the majority but the end result is the same. The consequences are the same for all ordinary citizens. Your life is still in peril the same as a person who voted for Buhari due to our poor healthcare infrastructure. We are all travelling in the same boat whether you chose the Captain or not. If the boat sinks, we all drown. Drift wood will not seek out those who did not vote for Buhari in 2015 so that they only can float to safety.
When you realise that you have made a mistake, you can wallow in the mistake or you can make plans to change it. Therein lies the beauty of democracy (where we can vouch for the sanctity of the ballot box; and where elections are truly free and fair). The wave of wins for Democrats in the United States of America since Donald Trump’s election into office is a show of how people express themselves through the ballot box.
It is not enough for us to complain and point fingers at each other over who voted for Buhari and who did not. Our duty now is to organize and strategize to get the results that we want in 2019. Organize amongst your friends, in your communities, etc. Use whatever voice you have to express your resolve for Nigeria. The important thing is that we all get involved. Are we ready to support a non-establishment candidate who is not sharing bags of rice? Are we ready to rally round a candidate who is not presented by the two majority political parties?Are smaller political parties ready to form coalitions for the public interest? It shall all be revealed in a few months.