The sorry tale of the Nigerian state is such that much, if not all, the talk about the 2015 election has been how a strong man can come and fix the corruption problem in Nigeria. The debates and discussion have been constructed in terms of agreement or disagreement with this “strong man” solution. Even ardent supporters of the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan have been preoccupied with talk, albeit negative, about General Buhari.
Yet beyond the shadows the truth stares us in the face, however much we try to ignore it: Nigerians have had four years to plan, to organise, and strategise, round clear ideas and principles to move the nation forward. But yet again, we fallen back into the old habit, the 11th hour scramble for simple, nay simplistic, solution. Bring in the string man to fix things once and for all.
The logic is clumsy, even perverse: the strong man, we are told, will work with hopelessly corrupt politicians, in a hopelessly corrupt system, to fix the corruption problem. This president will, without so much as penny bribe, get the support of habitually corrupt legislators to push his programmes through. He will get the enthusiastic support of corrupt governors too. And the judiciary and law enforcement? Yes, they will see the light, as the strong man waves his magic wand.
A strong man does not a strong nation make. There is no substitute for a strong, organised citizenry. This is the story of the Magna Carta. It is the story of the Boston Tea Party. It’s the story of Bolshevik Revolution. You can go on an on. Yes, there were strong men at the head of these movements, but it was more about the organisation of critical masses of citizens around clear ideas and principles.
In terms of corruption, nepotism, and bad management of the commonwealth, there is no fundamental difference between PDP and APC. Fact. The only difference is that one, PDP, is controlling power at the centre.
Now, it an understandable matter of practical politics that citizens can mount a charge for positive change through the platform of an existing political party. Inconvenient alliances are often necessary for success of a movement for positive change. Afterall, the American revolutionaries ultimately relied heavily on the support of autocratic Louis 16 of France for the success of their revolutionary endeavour. Crucially, they were not lacking clear ideas and organising principles on how to achieve their republican aims.
What Nigeria need is a virile citizen movement organised around clear ideas and principles, outside of existing political parties. Now, using the platforms of existing or new parties, they could have moved, in the spirit and power of these clear ideas, sponsor citizens for elective posts from local government to state and national levels, both at the legislative and executive arms of government. The presidency can then be part of this organised startegy. You may even start with 20% of elective positions to start with, but that is more than enough to launch a sustained charge for the realisation of the Nigerian dream.
Instead, what we have now is this last minute quest for simple solutions. A quest that is poised, sadly, to end in another disappointment. Hopefully the lessons will be learned, and citizens can start preparing for 2019. Hopefully, there will be a 2019.