By Ik Muo
It is usual to extract lessons after a person has concluded his tenure; it has always been a part of the valedictory process. However, PMB’s quest for power, his momentous and historical ascent to power and the 1001 events and experiences since 29/5/15 make it imperative to document the lessons learnt so far, hoping that he and his government should also learn some lessons from these lessons. Of course, we all remember that this is the first time a sitting government and party was ousted peacefully, when the loser, who was also the incumbent, accepted the result in peace, when nobody went to the tribunal at the presidential level and when we were promised hit-the-ground-running CHANGE ! We also remember that ministers could only be nominated after 6 months and they were all the usual faces, and that the other appointees were from or of Daura, aged and had most likely been with PMB during his first missionary journey.
The good BOOK says that everyone, no matter how firmly he thinks he is standing, must be careful that he does not fall(1 Cor, 1:2). That goes to President Jonathan and PDP and everybody who is occupying any position today. No condition is permanent and every guest shall definitely leave for home one day. This is a lesson for everybody. Going straight to the lessons that are for, of and from PMB, we have learnt that it is not good for man to go back on his publicly declared position, for a dog to go back to its vomit. In 2011, GMB wept openly and swore never again to go for the presidency. In 2014, he did a total U-turn and contested for the same post, which he eventually won. Giving his experiences in office, especially the depreciation of the Buhari brand, methinks it would have been better for him to have kept his promise, even though it may well be good for the opposition to upturn the applecart so that we can see the other side of life. We have also learnt that emergency alliances, especially based on Machiavellianism, do not last. The silent and loud schisms within the APC since 2015, and even its inability to fulfill some of its realistic policies, have been due to the agglomeration of desperate and disparate strange bed-fellows in the inordinate pursuit of power. A situation in which APC defeated PDP, and blames all our travails on the evil years of PDP, and yet, all its stars are PDP in soul and spirit, is far from ideal. The difference between APC and PDP is so vague that some people argue that what we have today is the government of APDP! Of course it has been reaffirmed that in politics, there are no permanent friends and enemies, but permanent interests!
We have also learnt that indeed, you cannot teach an old dog a new trick. When PMB was here before as GMB, he was a dictator, never believed in the rule of law, had disdain for consensus, persuasion and consultation, practiced a strange economic model and of course, did not believe in democracy. Decades later, some political charlatans, dressed him in democratic robes, marketed him as a repentant autocrat and Nigerians bought the old wine in a new bottle. And since one cannot straighten a dried fish, we are back to where we were: War Against Indiscipline, war against the youth (through unbridled gerontocracy), war against devaluation, war against the judiciary, and war against everything. Once a soldier, always a soldier and as a soldier, everything is war because a carpenter with a hammer will always hammer everything. We have refused to learn from the past and we are paying for it, even when we were warned by Machiavelli that whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past!
We have also learnt that there is a wide gulf of difference between opposition politics and real governance; that talk is cheap and that when the come comes to become, all those things that make for good opposition lose their utility and relevance. Of late, Lai Mohammed has been complaining about the damages done to the government of change by the abuse and misuse of social media. Yet, a few months ago, he was fanatically in love with these invisible media! Propaganda cannot survive the war against reality because there is a limit to it. Now, it is clear that the Adam option (excuses, blame-trading) does not work. We have seen that fighting-and even winning- the war against corruption may be necessary but not sufficient for development. One has to know where to take the corruption-free economy to, and how to do so. The period in which we fought corruption hardest also coincided with the period of our worst recession in recent years. That does not mean that corruption-war is inversely related to economic wellbeing though. We have also learnt to be conscious of the Buhari effect; a situation of apparent success not based on any fundamentals(like improvement in electricity and favourable exchange rates immediately after 29/5/15). And when a product believed to be good and enthusiastically accepted has been tested and found incredibly wanting and not-fit-for-purpose, there is nothing PR, advert, propaganda can do about it. But Nigeria is also an unusual country because despite the unquestioningly woeful performance of the change-master, APC won(?) in Edo and Ondo states!
Another major lesson is that whatever goes round comes round because history has an uncanny ability to replicate itself. Sometimes ago, Nigeria was on the brink due to the health condition of President Yar’Ádua. We did not know whether he was dead or alive and it was a general consensus in the open market that a CABAL had hijacked the government. There were stories of visitors to S’Arabia, those who saw him taking a walk or playing with his grandchildren or went to drink tea with him at the Villa. Suddenly, a strong voice arose from the North calling on the NASS to operationalize the impeachment process against the sick man of Nigeria. That strong voice was that of Buhari who was then in the opposition. That was about 7 years ago. Today, PMB is sick and on an indefinite sick leave in a foreign land. Members of his government, apart from repeating the tactics of Yaradua era, are asking for our understanding and prayers and refuse to tell us what is wrong with him, or the cost of his Medicare and they do so with unpardonable arrogance. Our people say that tomorrow is pregnant and that a corpse looks like a log of wood to those who have no stake in the dead person.
Furthermore, the Director of Research, Amnesty International may have been vindicated. Recently, he declared that the track record of populist leaders across the globe in tackling corruption is dismal, because they use the corruption message to drum up support but have no intention, or cannot tackle it seriously. He gave examples of Turkey and Hungary which have slipped in the corruption index since they elected populist strongmen, and Venezuela which has remained first from behind despite the elections of populist leaders Hugo Chavez and now Nicolás Maduro.
I have highlighted these lessons as I perceive them and others may also have another set of lessons, and even from divergent dimensions. I have done so to enable us learn from the past because whenever we refuse to learn from the past, we pay for it. This is in tandem with the view of Hagel that Nations and governments have never learned anything from history or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it and that of late Peter Abrahams, that we don’t learn from the past; we wipe it out and so we are forever beginning anew. What a self-made handicap? It is my prayers that we apply the lessons of the past two years to governance in the next two years so as to come out stronger and better in 2019. Surely, Nigeria go survive!
*Dr Muo teaches at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye