Seventeen years ago, it was a huge relief to Nigerians when the man died. Sanni Abacha Nigeria’s de facto President from 1993-1998 was forcibly ejected by death from the presidency.
Whether you were alive then or not, the images of those cruel days and crushing of lives by Abacha are tattooed in our collective consciousness. The terror in Abacha days feels so real that you’ll mistake your beating heart for helicopter blades thumping the air. In 2015, Nigerians overthrown a democratically elected president turned dictator without firing a shot.
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan governed Nigeria with faltering and fluctuating interest in the matters that run counter to the primary purpose of a government. Since he became president, a flood of words rather than deeds has inundated the very desert of our expectations.
Majority of our people sank into despair and escapism as poverty assailed the spirit and corroded initiative. Our youth became the legion of the lost. Their life became a lounging place for trivial gossip and petty gambling. Indeed, their life is a wasted human experience that withers to trivial sensations. Their life became a boat as it were, without a rudder.
For most of the Jonathan years, his presidency pursued “Transformation Agenda” that was at best an incremental cosmetic solution rather than a transformational solution. He consciously patterned a crisis policy and program. Every able-bodied Nigerians faced restricted job opportunities, poor housing, stultified home life and suppressed initiative and fragile family relationships.
Our retirees and other senior citizens are at the lowest economic level. They form the band of the poor, the chronically ill aged. Theirs is a wasting and degrading human life caused by the Jonathan’s administration of clinging to archaic thinking.
Under Jonathan, we see looters of our treasury building wealth empires on the sweat and suffering of poor Nigerians. Nothing provides the Jonathan regime with a climate for corruption than the continued alliance of Aso Rock and the men of the pulpit and their criminal associates.
Our people are locked out of the national wealth, health, and happiness. Our value system, democratic structures and institutions, and our spirituality have descended into junk heaps of destruction. Poverty like a monstrous octopus, stretches its chocking, prehensile tentacles into our lands, villages, towns, and cities.
Majority of our children go to bed hungry at night. Undernourished, ill-housed, and shabbily clad, many of them have no houses or beds to sleep in. Their only beds are the sidewalks of the cities and the dusty roads of the villages. Most of these poverty-stricken children have never seen a physician or a dentist.
Why should there be hunger, disease and deprivation in our country when we have the resources to provide basic amenities of life? We have enough and to spare. But greed, selfishness, and wickedness of those in charge of our affairs took the better part of them.
The plunderers of our wealth who have become well-off and secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in our midst. Poor Nigerians have been shut shut out of our minds: they have become invisible. Life, most of the time, leaves Nigerians bare, naked, and dejected with lost opportunity.
As the jet owners increase their fleet, so the rise of beggars and pauperism quadrupled. We have reached the deplorable circumstances where a very powerful few are in possession of the nation’s wealth, the land, and its riches and all the franchises and other privileges that yield a return. The very poor who have nothing become the object of compulsory charity. Mr. Jonathan successfully launched us back into another Dark Ages.
The much touted evangelical propaganda of Nigeria being Africa’s biggest economy shows that current theories do not satisfactorily explain the connection of widespread poverty with material deprivation of the poor. We came into collision of facts which there can be no mistaking: industrial depression, labor condemned to involuntary idleness, capital massed and wasting, pecuniary distress among business men and women, want and suffering and anxiety among the working classes. All the dull, deadening pain, all the keen, maddening anguish, that the great masses of our people are trapped are the trade marks of hard times in today’s Nigeria.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. Freedom will eventually manifests itself. We’re all familiar with the thrilling Biblical story of how Moses stood in Pharaoh’s court centuries ago and cried “Let my people go.” This was an opening chapter in the every day story of oppressed people around the world. The present struggle under Jonathan in Nigeria is a later chapter in the same story.
One of the great liabilities of our history is that more often than not, many Nigerians fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Like every society, Nigeria has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. But today, it has been proved beyond our wildest dream that our survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.
The advice President Barack Obama gave to supporters in 2012 was the script acted upon by Nigerian voters on March 28. Days before Obama was reelected he fired up a crowd of supporters at a campaign rally inside a public school with the call for them to vote out of revenge.
Voting is a democratic tool to punish enemies and reward your friends. On March 28, it was time for Nigerians to wreak revenge. And boy, Nigerians heed the Obama advice that “voting’s the best revenge” by given Jonathan a devastating technical knock out at the polls.
We gave Jonathan six years to show his mettle, to show he has learned how to be president, to show he can enforce the laws and can protect and defend the Constitution. He has failed. Jonathan has consistently ignored Nigerians’ priorities. There was no pressing desire by Jonathan for a radical reshaping of our economy, education, health care, infrastructure, safety and security. Jonathan became more unpopular than ever before. His regime can aptly be described as a “weapon of mass destruction” against Nigerians.
When a leader lies what can be done? Jonathan has lied repeatedly to Nigerians. His lies keep piling up as fast as the looting spree of the nation’s treasury. We have endured for six years a fundamentally dishonest presidency. The little people do not matter. On several occasions, when the National Assembly came close to impeach him, they would retreat like caged birds.
But he could be fired – by the people. On March 28, Jonathan’s presidency came with expiration date. Nigerians took their revenge and acted the sacred political advice of Obama: “voting’s the best revenge.” And the rest is now chronicled in the annals of political history of Nigeria.