By Babajide Alabi
“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go in spite of it all,” Martin Luther King
Everyday common men and women in Nigeria are wondering if their country would ever be great again. And while at it, they are losing hope on the possibility of this once great country ever returning to the glorious days. The thought of a no way out is disappointing and frustrating.
Just a little over a year ago, these same citizens were full of hope of a better tomorrow. The tomorrow they hoped would put an end to the misery and frustrations of yesterdays. The stumbling block in the way of breakthrough and prosperity was the election of May 2015. At that time the hope in Nigeria’s tomorrow was infectiously high.
This hope was decorated in the colours of change. It is said hope is a great tonic to keep a man alive, in the face of adversities. Nigerians were confronted with failing currency, collapsing economy and a total drop in their living standard. But there was a campaign of change which heightened this hope in a better tomorrow. At this time, they easily swallowed every lie presented by political leaders as ways out of their present miseries.
Because these citizens were down already, they feared no fall by holding on to the “straws” of promises presented by the deceptive politicians. Trust Nigerian politicians, they know how to work their magics. They sold a project they knew would not fly to the masses. The politicians sang while the masses chorused “change”
What happened in the country in the countdown to the 2015 elections is history. Heaven on earth was promised citizens if they voted the All Progressives Congress (APC). There were forecast from notable Nigerians, who on hindsight now were merely seeking relevance, that Nigeria would be an eldorado once the APC candidate was voted in. Nigerians were assured that the price of fuel, a major source of concern, would fall miraculously to as low as forty Naira. There were billboard messages to remind Nigerians that a vote for Muhammad Buhari guarantees a safe landing for Naira to be at par with the US Dollar on the foreign exchange market.
The stakes were too high for Nigerians to vote otherwise. They saw hope in the change being canvassed and were not ready to let go of a not too distant future where power supply will be constant for twenty four hours, and poverty will be a thing of the past. A new tomorrow where tales of fuel queues would be impossible to tell to generations coming.
Unfortunately, while it is good to hope, it can at the same time be dangerous, as it has no time span. There are many people who had hoped through their life time only to die without any tangible grasp of what is hoped for. In Nigeria, hope can be used interchangeably with change. In this terrain, they are both futuristic.
We have heard various definitions of change from Nigerian politicians’ dictionaries. Change means so many things to different people. Change, according to some, is patience, while to others it is the ability to keep quiet in the face of deteriorating economy, citizens’ lifestyle and poverty. In Nigeria, change is a future word that has no “sell by” date. It is very elastic and can be stretched in whatever time “space” for whatever purpose our politicians desire.
We have celebrated change in Nigeria in many ways. Our politicians and their apologists are always quick to make us aware of these changes when they happen. Remember a few weeks into the Buhari administration, we were told the president’s “body language” stabilised power supply and conquered the mighty fuel queues. They claimed the currency firmed up against major currencies. On social media we hailed and clapped that the change had finally come.
But in Nigeria, no change is permanent. Months after, Nigerians could no longer read the President’s body language. The result of this was that all the “body language-induced” changes disappeared into thin air. Another change took place. What we have instead is a “cursed change” that has taken Nigerians back to pre-civilisation era when constant power supply was a miracle, when fuel queues were 10-kilometres long and civil servants were not paid for over a year.
The political apologists have been accusing the average Nigerian of impatience, rather than explain the election promises deception. They are telling us loud and clear that change is a gradual process which takes a while to manifest. Therefore if nothing is happening right now, we should not complain. It has to go bad to get better. The currency needs a few battering before it can recover. We should not panic if the exchange rate hits the all time high mark of a US dollar to 400 Naira. Or one pound sterling to 500 Naira.
Do not panic, these unofficial economic experts are advising Nigerians that whatever goes up MUST come down. Therefore, no cause for worries, as the Naira is struggling hard to find its way back down. Unfortunately their words are contrary to the reality on ground. The Naira keeps crashing and as a result sending many business owners who rely on foreign components for business to untimely death. No doubt, the Naira is definitely shy of coming down right now.
While at it, the lives of self-sponsored Nigerian students abroad are on the danger alert. Some of them have abandoned their studies midway for lack of sufficient funds to pay for tuition. For most of them, the foreign exchange situation back at home has made it nearly impossible to request for funds from Nigeria.
These students were part of the army of citizens that voted for change. Afterwards they left the county to update their education qualifications to bring more knowledge to back the change project. However, the change they have witnessed so far is not what they dreamt of.
Back at home, the cry of poverty is deafening. The prices of basic food stuffs and ingredients have sky rocketed through the roof. Folks are complaining everyday, while the government carries on as if everything is normal. Civil servants have resorted to begging for financial support from friends, and even enemies, to survive, as many state governments owe workers months of wages.
The masses are asking, what is going on? Nobody has succeeded in providing answers to them. Their so called representatives are in Abuja accusing each other of unethical practices in the passage of the fiscal budget. They sit back, watching and wondering why God has allowed these leaders to manipulate the destinies of the millions of citizens this way. They wonder at the trail of thought of a leading politician stating unashamedly that “budget padding” is no offence.
The common men and women of Nigeria are weeping, uncontrollably. Day by day, they are losing the hope for a change. The flamboyance and arrogance of the politicians coupled with seeming lack of patriotism are annoying the masses. One day, hopefully and very soon, the common men and women of Nigeria would rise up and fight back. Let’s hope it is in a not too distant future.