Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
Nigerians are said to be a stubborn people, hard to govern. There is no empirical evidence to back this but one thing is indisputable. It is that Nigerians are hard to please. Each succeeding government is considered worse than its predecessor in the opinion of the average Nigerian – from the Shehu Shagari era down to the present time, it has always been the same. Even General Ibrahim Babangida’s regime that is considered generally as harbinger of Nigeria’s economic woes is viewed upon hindsight as being better off than what we are experiencing today. “Things were much better then than today”, the average person would tell you. Yet during his time Babangida’s government was vilified for ‘bastardizing’ our economy and polity with the structural adjustment program (SAP) and the weird two- party political system that was a hybrid of civilian parliament (national assembly) and military executive.
Subsequent administrations save for those whose tenure were short- lived, were similarly vilified only for their successors to suffer similar fate later. Consider for instance our most recent history. The Goodluck Ebele Jonathan government was viewed as not good enough for us and the general consensus was that the government should be booted out of Aso Rock Villa to halt the ‘downward slide’. So, he was roundly defeated in an election that was generally considered to be free and fair. Fast forward to the present time. There are now murmurs that the Jonathan-led administration was not as bad as thought after all, given present experiences. Indeed the country’s fault lines which were seen to have reached a crescendo at that time are now more amplified. Criminality has become hydraheaded.There are now rising complaints and in fact many are beginning to have second thoughts about our revered Mohammadu Buhari.
We shall have a new government in 2023, I mean President Buhari would have completed two terms by then and so would be out of the race. However, I can wager that whoever and whichever party comes on board would after a while also face complaints of not performing well enough. For, things seem to be getting worse and worse. Just when you think things cannot be any worse than they are or that we have seen it all, new challenges emerge while old ones take on new forms. Thus today’s villain may be tomorrow’s hero. Such appear to be the way of our world.
We appear to be fickle minded, fastidious, armchair critics. When Nigerians urge you to follow a certain route and you do, they will still be the ones criticising you for taking that path. Such a difficult people as we are often thence, confuse decision makers. Take for example, the issue of political parties. Majority of Nigerians agreed that having as many as over 80 parties on the ballot makes our manual type of voting which we still practise unnecessarily wieldy and confusing, not least for our teeming illiterate population. This came to light during the last presidential election when the party that took the third position after the notable APC,PDP did so by virtue of fact that its name/logo was mistaken for that of PDP. It was a completely ‘unknown’ candidate whom Nigerians did not see during the presidential debates. Many people called for pruning down of such large numbers of parties on INEC,’s register. This is especially as many of them do not have offices in all 36 states of the federation. In the few states where their presence could be felt, their offices are no more than a one room apartment.
Now the electoral body bowing to popular demand has chopped off a number of them using as criteria those that did not win any elections in the 2019 rounds of election. Fair enough you would say. Rather than being applauded the same Nigerians are resisting it, asserting that INEC has no such powers, mouthing ‘freedom of association’ right. They headed to the court and the judiciary has restrained INEC from deregistering any party. Thus, every Tim Dik and Harry is free to form a one-man or one-woman party; INEC is hereby mandated to register up to a thousand political parties and nobody should complain any longer about time wasted at polling booths going through the maze to be able to identity his/her preferred party.
Here is another scenario. The dreaded Book Haram sect that is causing havoc in especially north eastern part of our country has still not been completely eliminated after years of military warfare. So people are now calling for a different approach to solving it – the carrot approach – educating them and getting them engaged somehow. In brief dealing with the root causes of extremism, terrorism, hatred and their kin. This entails getting knowledgeable Islamic clerics/scholars to give correct interpretations of the teachings of Prophet Mohammed, (pboh)which is anchored on peace. Now many boko haram sect members are said to have become repentant; that is, they are remorseful, have come to the realization of their evil deeds and wish to toe a different path. And so, the government wants to ‘rehabilitate’ them, to give them a helping hand in that regard, as I understand it.
And now, many, many Nigerians are crying blue murder opposing this plan vociferously. They are saying that since these repentant boko haram people committed atrocities, maiming and killing many people, they should all be killed themselves instead. Oh no! Two wrongs that make a right. In so far as the repentance of these former fighters is from their hearts they should be helped to find some forgiveness (not total) here in their present lives. I am referring only to the genuinely repentant ones. These ones can be employed in large scale agricultural work and some of their proceeds therefrom given out to children at IDP camps or wherever they are; that is, to feed orphans whose parents were killed by them. That, is an indirect way of partly atoning for their misdeeds, through a good deed.
Some of them through being sufficiently educated can become teachers, doctors, social workers who would be working partly as volunteers in those communities once ravaged by them, to help rehabilitate, develop them- metaphorically giving with a loving hand where they once took with bloodied hand. Remember the story of Saul/Paul a persecutor of the followers of Christ turned preacher of the gospel. I gathered that one of the many children of Osama Bin Laden who was with him during his terror years longed later to be an advocate of world peace.
Those Nigerians opposing rehabilitation of genuinely repentant boko haram members should have a rethink for war has never solved any problem. The carrot, peaceful method attacking the root causes of the problem is the better approach.