Towards May 29th: Reflections On The Current State Of The Nation, Some Critical Matters Arising By Jaye Gaskia
Two clearly interrelated issues are currently agitating my mind, as I am sure they are also agitating the minds of many compatriots.
These are the two issues that I intend to focus briefly on in this piece. The electoral victory of the APC and its candidates across the two tiers of our federation, and the imminent transition to a new federal government to be formed by a new ‘governing party’ that this victory has called into being on the one hand.
On the other hand is the transition and passage of the late compatriot Oronto Nantei Douglas, coming as it is at the end of the ‘Niger Delta Presidency’ of GEJ, and the implication of this for the fate of the Niger Delta land, peoples and struggle in the post May 29th period.
TRANSITION TO TRANSITION? WHAT MANNER OF CHANGE?
Let me begin with the first of the issues, the Victory of the APC and its presidential candidate General Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 general elections.
This electoral victory has been made possible by a number of significant factors; the most significant, the most primary of these factors lie in the antagonistic nature of the intra and inter class struggle in response to the global, and ultimately national economic and political crisis of the last decade.
The most graphic manifestations of the character of these contradictory responses to the global and national crisis were to be found in the January Uprising of 2012 on the side of the popular masses; and in the break down of the existing national ruling consensus which was dramatized in the implosion of the PDP, hitherto the national platform within which this national consensus was mediated; alongside the merger of the opposition and its accommodation of major power blocs from the disintegrating PDP as a new national consensus was being negotiated by the ruling class, and a new national platform was being put together to project and manage this new and emergent national ruling class consensus.
Furthermore the 2012 January Uprising led to the radicalization and politicization of the citizenry in general, and a new generation in particular.
This radicalization and politicization provided the context for the Change Mantra of the opposition APC to catch fire in the minds of a significant number of citizens, and against the background of the cumulative failure of the ruling PDP over the last 16 years, ensured that the idea of change took on material reality and helped to propel the opposition APC to power.
But now herein lies the major problem. The idea of change propagated by the opposition and now soon to be ‘governing party’ was able to capture the imagination of ordinary citizens precisely because it was wooly, not defined, ambiguous, and thus could mean different things to different categories of people.
This wooliness and ambiguity enabled the opposition to get away with not telling us clearly what it meant and what it means by change beyond the general sweeping pronouncements made on the campaign podiums.
So what does this change mean to the APC? What does change mean to the incoming government at Federal and state levels?
More than 30 days after the resounding electoral victory, and less than 30 days to the inauguration of the new government we still do not know in concrete terms, much less in clear outlines what the change program of the governing party and the Buhari presidency looks like.
What Nigerians are expecting from the incoming government is clarity of purpose and action after 6 wasted years of cluelessness; A robust well thought out, written, documented and accessible Change program of action and strategic direction, in place of a transformation agenda which remained unarticulated for the 6 years of the life of the GEJ presidency.
We expect by now to have in the public domain a robust synopsis, if not a detailed and fleshed CHANGE STRATEGY Document, outlining the APC’s understanding of the National crisis and challenges facing our country in its political, economic, socio-cultural and security ramifications. We expect this strategy document to give us an indication of the APC’s prioritization of the problems and challenges; we expect it to show us clearly the three, four etc areas that the APC government will focus on; we expect it to show us how the APC government intends to deal with these problems and overcome them; and we expect such a document to outline the policy options and policy reform processes that the incoming government will be considering.
What is the APC’s understanding of the challenges of the power and energy sector? How does it intend in four years to make significant differences in these areas, ensuring improved availability and accessibility of power and energy to ordinary citizens?
What economic programs and policies will it consider putting in place to tackle chronic and pervasive unemployment, while ensuring infrastructural development and directing targeted support to MSCEs?
For the moment, just as with its foundation and consolidation, the APC leaders have been more focused on the structure than on the program; the mergers of the legacy parties and with the New PDP faction happened before the development of the party’s manifesto; and now the structuring of government is being prioritized over the development of a governing program!
The APC only have to look to the emergence of the Xenophobia phenomenon and the recent Arab spring to understand the nature and extent of the potential crisis they are sitting upon should they fail to meet the expectations of the ordinary citizens.
Should there be a crisis of unrealized expectations the party in government should expect a massive backlash that could present as an uprising with flashes of Ethnophobia interspersed with it.
It is against this background the current situation amounts to a ‘Transition to transition’; and one in which popular forces can play a decisive role on steering towards a victory for the masses.
OUR NIGER DELTA [OND]: YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW;
The second issue closely related to the first is on the fate and likely trajectory of the Niger Delta struggle in the post May 29th period.
The death of one of the most significant instigators of that struggle in modern times, Oronto Nantei Douglas, should present us with an opportunity to reevaluate our struggle, reflect on the missed opportunities, assess the current state of the struggle and make projections for the future.
Hopefully the passage into history of a Niger Delta presidency and the consequent lifting of the delusional blindfold over our eyes in the last 6 years should encourage an honest assessment.
Where did we go wrong? Was this the Resource Control we fought for? Six years after a Niger Delta Presidency our physical, economic and political situation remains the same, and in very significant ways actually seem to have declined.
The Niger Delta environment is more devastated and the livelihoods of ordinary citizens more undermined than it has ever been at any time in our history.
And whereas we have managed to bribe 30,000 youths in an amnesty program, we are still confronted with the unemployment and unemployability of millions of our compatriots.
As we mourn the passage of Oronto Nantei Douglas, and reflect on the end of a Niger Delta sojourn in the presidency of Nigeria, it is time we come together, old and new activists, young and old, to reassess our struggle, chart a new strategic course for our struggle, and position ourselves to drive the process of enunciating a robust post amnesty development program for the Niger Delta.
And as we embark on this task, it is inevitable that we undertake a process of identifying how and why we failed, while also admitting the precise scope, scale and contours of the betrayal underpinning this failure.
As we lay OND to rest, as we prepare for GEJ’s exit from Aso Rock, it is important that the interests of our ordinary people who did not benefit from, but who bore the burden of the last six years is neither allowed to be laid to rest, nor to be exited from the national agenda.
JAYE GASKIA IS NATIONAL COORDINATOR OF PROTEST TO POWER MOVEMENT AND A MEMBER OF THE HISTORIC NINE – THE FOUNDING LEADERSHIP OF THE CHIKOKO MOVEMENT OF THE 1990S NIGER DELTA STRUGGLE.