Getting Tough Before It Gets Better By Muhammed Abdullahi
This time last year, CHANGE was the song and Nigerians were the singers. The message of CHANGE by the APC, then in opposition, so resonated with majority of Nigerians that majority became freelance campaigners. North to South, East to West, Nigerians caught the CHANGE bug and followed their convictions with action – the CHANGE party won the election. But as it is now turning out, many Nigerians simply voted for change without reckoning with the price we all have to pay for there to actually be CHANGE in our situation as a country and as citizens.
The All Progressives Congress, APC, did not use CHANGE as a verb but as a noun. And when used as a noun, change becomes a PROCESS THROUGH WHICH SOMETHING BECOMES DIFFERENT, rather than an act of registering immediate difference. Like in all process that leads to positive and sustainable good, the process of CHANGE comes with pains and difficulties; and it is people who endure pains and hardship that always celebrate at the end of every process. We voted to have change, so we must be prepared to endure the pains that inevitably come with it.
Be that as it is, the fact that the economy is tight and there is no money anywhere is the reason why there are lamentations all over. But even in this hard period, there is also a positive CHANGE. Instead of running a government that is heavilly build on clientelism like we had in Goodluck Jonathan years; President Buhari is seriously curtailing the excesses of our elites who normally use their superior access to the political system to further entrench themselves, their families, and their friends. Today, even the supposedly rich are complaining. A friend who had no problem ‘dashing’ me N50,000 anytime I visited during the Jonathan years now offers me “thank you for checking up on me”. For me, I think the introduction of some balance and bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots is also a dividend of CHANGE we should celebrate.
It is important to understand that the problem of patrimonialism is never finally solved in any political system. ‘Reliance on friends and family is a default mode of human sociability and will always return in different forms in the absence of powerful incentives to behave otherwise.’ But President Buhari is forcing even his party members to behave and act in ways that deeply conflict with our nature as Nigerians. A lot of mockers have pointed out the mistakes and errors of President Buhari in some of his decisions, but not many have praised him for taking the decision to forestall the chances of elites entrenching themselves. Many APC members are currently out of jobs because of the President’s decision to reduce the number of Ministers from 42 to 24. Many more APC members will be further disappointed as the President equally prepares to reduce the number of government parastatals to conform with the reduction in the number of Ministeries. I am proud to call a President whose actions and decisions affect both the lowliest and the mightiest the CEO of my country.
President Buhari is surely not infallible. He has made mistakes and reversed himself too many time on critical decisions that one wonder if PMB has a ‘decision pendulum’ that swinges back and forth in his system. But then the man, at 74, is saddled with heavy responsibity. State building and management is hard, so we should all show some understanding and cut the president a slack.
Yes, America is a lovely country, but not many American citizens ran to other countries when their country was where we are now. What President Buhari is trying to achieve in ten months ( elimination of patronage at Federal level) took America more than forty years, from the Pendleton Act to the New Deal. In New York, Chicago, and other cities, political machines and patronage survived until the 1960s. Oftentimes, countries can make use of external crises, like the financial meltdown we are currently experiencing, to accelerate the process of change, especially in the area of putting an end to patronage system and cutting cost. But there are very few historical precedents for the type of permanent CHANGE we seek happening overnight. So we must be prepared to wait and be more prepared to pass through the crucible as we get the CHANGE.
However, when you apply a painful medicine to the wound of a child, you must learn to say sorry to that child so that his pain becomes a lot more bearable. Anyone who has ever led even a company of 10 staff knows that leadership is not easy. Oftentimes, leaders encountered pressure that make them talk and act in ways that put their abilities and capacities to quention. But then, leaders are expected to possess capacities that are extraordinary, including the ability to function under pressure without betraying emotion or talk in ways that unveil their own fears. Therefore, as Nigerians endure this excruciating time, those in leadership positions must talk in ways that make the pains a little bearable. A Petroleum minister who displays his helplessness before those who need his strong will and assurance his not helpful; neither is a government spokesperson who asks citizens to go confront vandals if they want stable electricity. We know it sometimes gets tough before it gets better, so we would wait. We pray that our endurance pays off and that Nigeria attains greatness during our lifetime.
Abdullahi wrote from Kaduna
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