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REGIME CHANGE: IS THE TIME RIGHT?

By NBF News
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On the morning of June 18, 2012, I looked out of the window of my bedroom to view the empty road that passes by my house.

On a usual day, a Monday, the road would have been busy and cars would have been parked on both sides of the road belonging, mostly, to the workers of a company in my neighbourhood.

Although the name of the company does not help me to know what it does, I am happy to see the smiles on the faces of the workers each time I cross any of them. I guess all of them will be in their bedrooms also facing the reality of the moment.

My thought then turned to our farm. The head had earlier called to report bird mortality of over 70 the previous night. Food was almost finished, too. Thus, over 11,000 birds faced the risk of extinction with no medicine and food supply to the farm. During the previous curfew, a similar thing happened, leaving the company having running a battle with the bank for inability to pay debt.

Then the house, food and other ingredients are running out. Almost 30 make the household in a normal day. Today, however, it's abnormal. Visitors have come for a wedding in the weekend and now trapped, unable to return to their village.

Where can we get food supplies with all outlets closed? Can I do anything about this? I asked myself. Nothing, absolutely nothing.

This micro-problem is not certainly limited to my household, the aggregate of which make the system.

But then, why are we in this mess?
The day before – Sunday- had witnessed two very sad events. One church in Wusasa, Zaria, and another in Sabon Gari, also in Zaria, had been targets for bombings leading to the death of some while many more had varying degrees of injuries. News on the site of the Reporters 365, shortly after the incident, reported that one John Odia was arrested by the police in relation to the Wusasa blast.

Three people were also reported as being behind the Sabon Gari church bombing. One of them died from his bomb while two tried to run but were killed by angry mobs around the premises.

Later that same day, in what looked like reprisal attacks, mobs set up roadblocks at two of the usual flashpoints on the outskirts of Kaduna – Gonin Gora and Sabon Tasha – and sprang into action, maiming, killing and burning people -identified as Muslims – and cars, especially on the expressway at Gonin Gora which is a gateway to Abuja.

Today – Monday – with the discovery of a farmer murdered on his farm at Barnawa – another area of the Kaduna city – the Muslim youths cried foul and vowed to take revenge. By evening the relaxed curfew which allowed people freedom from 2pm to 6pm and from 6am to 6pm the following day was withdrawn. By night youth – Christians – from Nasarawa, marching towards Makera, met a frontier of youth - Muslims, waiting to confront them, battle ready.

I must not lose sight of the need to extend my heartfelt condolences to the families that have lost their loved ones in these senseless acts. The same condolences go to the citizens of Kaduna State, of this country and the international community at large. The citizens of all the states and other nationals have died in great numbers in the last one year from the  actions of religious activists, Boko Haram sect, Niger Delta militants, common criminals and more.

Let me turn to the subject matter of the discourse of this paper without in any way being insensitive to the heavy burden and pain on the hearts of all of us over these human and material losses. In fact, it is in consideration of these that I find it necessary to share my thoughts and nostalgia.

I will start by asking a pertinent question: isn't it time President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his deputy, Namadi Sambo, bowed out – resigned – for a fresh election to hold rather than handing over  our security to the Almighty God? We know that only He gives ultimate protection but He instructs those in leadership position to provide cover.

Whether they take this honourable path to a glorious end or not, I believe 2015 will be the year of the fall of Pharaoh and the regime of the PDP.

I see five principal factors responsible for this inevitable end. In broad sense, increasing corruption and economic exclusion, alienation of the youth, past election rigging and infighting within the PDP, the general insecurity in the country and the poor management of same, and the readiness of the opposition to work on this agenda this time.

Corruption has continued to eat deep into the fibre of our society; largely due to the participatory roles of the government officials and their inability to either stop it or punish those caught.

While the president celebrated an increase in the federal revenue by N100bn in one year, he is unable to get hold of the situation wherein the office of the head of service of the federation that has over seven (7) permanent secretaries – with one of them in charge of pensions – a few staff stole over N60bn from the pensions account alone.

So, over 60% of contribution from a sizable number of law-abiding citizens, whether corporations or individuals, can be taken away by a few non-law-abiding salary earners. This service support office is not alone in the pensions scam. The police and military pension offices have their stories known to most Nigerians.

Another story making the rounds currently is the uncovered fraudulent fuel subsidy payments by the Committee of the House of Representatives to the tune of N1 trillion. Instead of getting around this, a bribery smoke scandal is introduced in order to water it down.

Also the print media have carried news of the distribution of over N176bn coming from oil giant Shell on the order of the president through a former petroleum resource minister- Mr Dan Etete – being payment from concession on the Nigeria-Sao Tome agreement.

While these are just a few incidents, the government prefers to look the other way and the national anti-corruption agency, the EFCC, is busy pursuing, temporarily, government-selected cases. Once the individuals are softened to toe the line of government, the cases become closed. These events, however, do not go unnoticed as people continue to pile up grievances.

Economically, while people steal beyond their generational post-generational needs, youth -which we shall look at separately- professionals, workers are left at the mercy of the harsh economic environment. Clearly, economic empowerment is left in the hands of a few from the Niger Delta for the Niger Deltans.

This programme of economic alienation, where all other-regions-don't-matter project is pursued, have built up an army of 'we shall see what happens in 2015'. This group includes those members of the ruling party who helped in the rigging, but got no reward or commensurate reward for the 'job'.

The youth are another factor in the equation likely to cause the collapse of the pack of cards. Our schools have continued to churn out school leavers without any future. Jobs are nowhere to be found and entrepreneurship is literally non-existent. Most factories have closed. Banks have continued to shed weight.

With greater percentage of the population below 35years and government continuously is in the game of recycling the old guards for jobs and business patronage, the young only see a bleak future. They have been denied outlets for civic and political participation in addition to the painful realisation of the fact that their votes don't count.

With new entrants en masse  into the register of voters before the 2015 election, and the fact that this demographic group that faces untold hardship and frustration of not realising their dreams - fastest-rising levels of schooling and highest level of youth unemployment (increased level of higher institutions and universities) – the Arab Spring experience and knowledge is everyone's reference point.

Their activities and relationships on the social media – Facebook, twitter and more are only symptoms of groupings similar to those that took place in the Arabian countries, particularly Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. It will be foolish to imagine that these young individuals will continue to sit by, watching their future being wasted without making effort to see that they shape their future by certain actions.

The level of insecurity in the country today has surpassed that of 1966 or any other period. While political violence in the west had its limitation in the area of coverage, perpetrators were also clear.  In the case of today, the Niger Delta militants, although obscure, operate beyond certain area and also beyond land into offshore.  The funding of the amnesty programme seems unsustainable and its management open to abuse and corruption. Already leakages are opening very wide, threatening the programme.

On the other side of the country, the Boko Haram phenomenon has grown in sophistication and coverage. Management and control are largely ineffective or nonexistent. Dialogue being called for never comes to fruition. Poverty eradication programmes similar to that of the Ministry of the Niger Delta canvassed by the United States is a far cry.

However, failure in this may not be unconnected to the speculations that government has a hand in some of the bombings taking place. Governor of Niger State may be agreeing with the claim of Okah now standing trial in South Africa where he owned up to the Independence Day Abuja bombing.

The president's instant blame of the episode on some key northerners, exonerating the claimants, speaks volumes on his connections or otherwise.  Other notable figures, including Nasir el-Rufai, have also alluded to the presidential involvement. This fact may explain the opaqueness in the handling of investigations into the bombings.

Arrests and what happens after are kept secret, thus allowing rumour-mongering to make the day. While we hear of Christians bombing churches, we see the Muslims being attacked in revenge as in the cases in Kaduna and Jos, a clear case of consequence of lack of transparency in the handling of the investigations.

Then, the activities of common criminals which are being sandwiched into the activities of either the Niger Delta militants or those of the Boko Haram. Kidnappings for ransom and other purposes have been untamed. Armed robbers, in gangs similar to pirates, attack villages and marketplaces at daytime, killing and maiming scores of people and carting away money and valuables.

These sets of people may be the recruits by highly placed individuals during election rigging, oil bunkering and assassination exercises. These events have created, or are creating, more dissatisfaction with the government as they continue to escalate.

No one is safe anywhere on the road, in the bank, in the home, in the church, in the police offices or even in the United Nations building.

Every election involves a number of stakeholders: voters, political parties, INEC, the judiciary, security and international community/observers.

The 2011 elections, like those before them, were terribly rigged, especially in the PDP-controlled areas.  The international community and some observers were quick in passing the elections as credible, probably or obviously, for their self-benefits.

PDP as a party did not observe sportsmanship while INEC and the security aided it. The judiciary gave it a stamp of legality when complaints went to it. The voters have not taken these actions kindly and mostly vowed to protect their votes come 2015.

Knowing the security, as it happened elsewhere, they normally don't keep with their employer and financier when the resilience of defenders of right over wrong persist. They switched allegiance and sided with the protesters in Egypt and Libya during the Arab Spring. They are, therefore, not guaranteed to continue with their ways in 2015, more so that they are worst hit by insecurity events. The police and the military are the real targets of Boko Haram attacks.

The PDP is also unable to manage its 'success'. The presidency is still working to unseat the speaker, having failed in its bid to install Mulikat. Its party 'congresses', from wards to national, were used to settle scores. Power sharing and succession bid of the president, even though the constitution and the Supreme Court judgment on the second term governors say he cannot, are already telling on the relative balance of the party.

Having realised their inability to bring down the PDP individually in the past elections, the opposition have started talking on how to do it collectively. The ACN and the CPC seem to be in top gear to actualize a common understanding on this project.

The leading opposition figures, General Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Ahmed Tinibu, have met a number of times at various places. The general may have also accepted to run again, having failed to convince his party and supporters that his statement should be respected – not to contest in 2015.

The success story of the ACN in the south-west and part of south-south is also pushing some geo-political zones to replicate it – if they can do it, why not us? With this happening, CPC may capture the north and another party, the south-east. What happens elsewhere, your guess is as good as mine.

The 2011 post-election events or protests, tagged post-presidential election crises, are indications that all will not be the same in 2015. The north may witness convert, judging from the president's statement that the votes he got from the north were from the Igbos.

Although the statement may be true, his riggers are not happy with it. Then comes again the northern question of both marginalisation and the desire for one of theirs to fill the presidency in 2015. These issues are likely to unite the north this time on a common candidate, and certainly not from the PDP.

One may ask whether the factors outlined above are enough to cause a regime change in 2015, or even earlier. As I conclude this paper, the House of Representatives has asked President Jonathan to appear before it and address it on the insecurity in the country. If he does appear, I do believe he will have no explanations to give except, probably, to say what he has said earlier: that he has committed us to God Almighty.

Looking at these issues, however, they weigh more than the causes of the Arab Spring. Our corruption level surpasses what obtained there. Our elections are worse. Our opposition are stronger and they didn't have the level of insecurity we witness.

Tunisia's revolution was spurred by a single incident – a young man setting himself ablaze. The Egyptian revolt got underway when youth occupied the Tahrir Square in protest with demands – the main one, calling on the president to resign. The Libyan experience is not any different.

Although President Obama blamed his intelligence for not foreseeing the fall of the government in Egypt, while assisting the toppling of that in Libya, it will be foolish to attribute the fall of all the governments – Tunisian, Egyptian, and the Libyan – on the events of the preceding moments.

All the countries have some level of developments – security, infrastructure, education, healthcare and even welfare programmes. Their common problems are repression (in the name of stability which the countries of the west aided), corruption, unemployment and poverty

In our case, we don't have what they have achieved and we have all of what have led to their downfall – repression, corruption, unemployment and poverty. What is left is the fact that these have been protracted and now mature. Again, it will be foolish to look at the 13 years of PDP as a measure.

The protracted abuse affects the system and the people, dating back to the military era. When dealing with this country in 2015 or even earlier, how do we predict the international community to behave? Having observed the scenarios elsewhere, whereby the consequences of repression in the name of stability far outweighed the benefits of the 'stable' period, they will understand that it is safer for their interest to allow or even support volatility in terms of regime change than the consequences of unorganized regime change.

Italy has had 60 governments since the World War II. You can refer to that as 'cabinet instability' but the system is economically and politically stable. Even Lebanon can be considered as a safe bet in terms of how far government can shift swiftly from equilibrium. Do we then ask one last question? Shouldn't GEJ and his Vice Arc. Namadi Sambo resign now?

Sa'eed was the 2011 CPC gubernatorial candidate for Kaduna State.