What Does Psychiatry Say To Nigerians? Celebrating The Humanity Of Oye Gureje
By Tunji Olaopa
Psychiatry as a discipline and a metaphor might, indeed, be more relevant to the understanding of
some psycho-social dimensions and being-ness of the postcolonial context we call Nigeria than might be obvious. Indeed, the Nigerian post-colony is filled with lots of terrible pathologies occasioned by a state that is existing in denial of its significant responsibilities. And in that denial lies the emergence of all the tragic symptoms of poverty, unemployment, infrastructural decay, underdevelopment, impunity, criminality, religiosity without spirituality and humanity, and bad governance, that have together turned Nigerians into angry and bitter citizens always demanding better quality of life without getting it. I believe that between legitimate aspirations that the citizens hold and the constant denial and deferral of such expectations by underperforming governments, there is a dark abyss in between that generates unhappiness and debilitations of all kinds.
Carl Jung was critically perceptive: “Show me a sane man, and I will cure him for you.” This implies, I surmise, that there is only a thin line between the sane and the insane. Thus, sanity is not a state of mind that should be taken for granted. And that means psychiatry ought to be taken with the utmost professionalism, patriotism and passion, if we must take Nigeria seriously. With these qualities, I am attempting to describe the humanity of Prof. Oyewusi Gureje— reputed to be Nigeria’s “most influential” researcher, a professor extraordinaire of neuropsychiatry, professional mediator of mental health, and a most unique human. I am referring to a scholar whose intimidating research oeuvre has remarkably inserted Nigeria into the global scientific map deserving of celebration.
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Thomas Szasz, the Hungarian-American psychiatrist, once asked: “Is psychiatry a medical enterprise concerned with treating diseases, or a humanistic enterprise concerned with helping persons with their personal problems? Psychiatry could be one or the other, but it cannot—despite the pretensions and protestations of psychiatrists—be both.” It is definite that Szasz was being precipitate about his judgement, and even more so because the capacity of psychiatry to be both a medical and humanistic enterprise depends on the person and commitment of the psychiatrist.
Prof. Gureje is not only an outstanding researcher—the most cited researcher in Nigeria according to the Web of Science Group, he brings patriotism and humaneness to a discipline that is one of the most vilified, but whose views on mental health is fast becoming very fundamental in the world. Prof. Gureje weaves a brilliant web of research, community service and advocacy that brings psychiatry and mental health into the consciousness of Nigerians. His Mental Health Leadership and Advocacy Programme (MHLAP) has achieved the grand status of a continental initiative that draws together mental health care givers, specialists and civil society to confront the ills of mental health and its relevance. And this is all the more significant because the lack of statistical analysis and impact assessment that correlate incidences of banditry, kidnapping, infrastructural burden and the general insecurity and civil conflicts with the mental health of Nigerians complicates the situation badly. And the predicament is terrible because it implicates both the elderly and the youth.
Let us not forget that Nigeria is a youthful country, with a median age of 18. This means that 53.7% of Nigerian population resides between 15 and 65 years. With the increasing incidence of drug abuse, drugs-induced crimes, money rituals, kidnappings for ransom, etc., that youthful population that ought to be the bedrock of human capital development is compromised. And the elderly that ought to be the repository of tradition and values are equally battling multilayered insecurity as the national economy exits and re-enters depression in equal measure, and have proven to be incapable, as yet, of providing safety net to cushion their old age.
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And so, we are back, undoubtedly to the late Prof. Adeoye Lambo and his call for Nigeria’s political class to be subjected to mental health check before they contest for any political post. This seems logical given the spate of primitive accumulation and corrupt practices that, for instance, sees a person stealing 100 billion naira in a country where about 95 million Nigerians are living below the poverty line. This is further complicated by sociocultural practices by Nigerians themselves, that stretch the curve between the search for money (through money rituals) and the frivolous and wanton display of wealth (through owambe partying). There are also paradoxical incidences of seemingly fulfilled individuals and professional committing suicide. Medical doctors and psychiatrists speak about the revolving-door syndrome whereby an individual is diagnosed of mental health issue, is treated and leaves only to return a few weeks later because such an individual took her healing for granted and thus stopped taking the drugs. And so, Prof. Gureje and his associates and colleagues will keep lamenting a state of national mental health debilitation occasioned by a leadership that itself requires a mental health check.
Most unfortunately, Nigeria’s elite nationalism has occasioned morbid symptoms that complicates her developmental trajectory, especially the urgency of birthing a democratic developmental state that will take good governance seriously. The theories and rhetoric of Nigeria’s development failures keep mounting abysmally. We have heard of the wasted generation, the characteristic of Nigeria as a crippled giant, as well as the tragic horror of prebendalism and neo-patrimonialism. And yet, these terrible epithets do not discourage a profligate leadership from its tragic course.
Nigeria’s leadership quotient seems devoid of creative governance initiatives. I should know because I have struggled for many years to champion institutional and governance reforms that could help nudge the country toward a development progress. Nigeria has not been fully integrated into the fourth industrial revolution, not to talk of being ready for the fifth. And the source of the trouble lies in the predilection of the leadership—administrative and political—to favor mediocrity at the expense of meritocracy, and the lack of critical attention to those Nigeria’s human capital development requirements that lead to an uncaring attitude about the state of higher educational development. No wonder the brain drain phenomenon is truly draining the critical mass of competences and skills that could have been deployed for Nigeria’s progress. As Cassius says to Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “Men at some times are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
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The leadership of the Nigeria state has so far failed to take charge of the fate of Nigeria and Nigerians. And this in itself, from a psychiatric perspective is a mental health issue. And so, we begin to understand the predicament of scholars like Prof. Gureje who are patriotic enough to stand with the task of treating Nigeria’s psychosis. There is a point in scholarship that scholars like Gureje gets to that it becomes clear that more is required beyond research and scholarly visibility. The way Professor Gureje has mediated that relevance is to continually maintain large collaborative networks involving students and colleagues to facilitate broader academic capital and public education. Much more than this, Gureje also ardently curates his research findings and outputs to policymakers across Nigeria and beyond. This is a significant strategy by which he seeks to maintain a firm touch with his environment. In 2009, for instance, he facilitated a meeting of health ministers from across Africa to brainstorm on the relevance of mental health and how to keep increasing the consciousness around mental health services.
Now, Professor Oyewusi Gureje has achieved a septuagenarian pride—he has just added the hoary grace of age, as an àgbàlagbà, to the whole list of his overall excellence. The number seventy carries abundant sociocultural and theological significations. Even as the scripture pegs the normal span of human life at seventy, Prof. Gureje has filled that span with enviable values of being a worthy human blessed with a heart that reaches the very depth of sacred and providential enablement. But then, seventy is just the beginning for a man who is relentless in doing good, from scholarship that bends tradition and orthodoxy to the demands of necessity, to mentorship that raises millions to keep passing the baton of the excellence of outreach, advocacy and patriotic assistance to the nation that made him possible.
One can imagine the pain of someone who has made the diagnosis, epidemiological studies and prevention of mental health crisis his life-long endeavor, now waiting for the government to respond to many years of scholarly research and policy initiative to be backed by the political will that will attend to the psychosis of the Nigerian society. And yet, the Mental Health Bill has still not seen the light of the day, as a sort of crowning patriotic reward for someone who has given so much effort to redeem the mental stress of Nigerians. And by still oscillating over the status of that bill, we arrive at the height of Nigeria’s neurological imbalance—this is a nation that has a host of critical minds and intellects working around her mental health issue, and yet the nation prefers to languish in that situation. Nigeria is deeply enmeshed in the revolving door syndrome!
There is no doubt that, in the mystery of providential wisdom, God has blessed Professor Oyewusi
Gureje, like he blessed Bezaleel in Exodus 31. It remains for the leadership of the Nigerian state to heed the character value and professional excellence that God has deposited in this extraordinary human being, and harness it for national development. The first place to start is to pass the Mental Health Bill as a testimonial to the excellent effort of Prof. Gureje and team to deploy psychiatry to the understanding of Nigeria’s underdevelopment and arrested progress and national health.
Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies
(NIPSS), Kuru, Jos .
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Buhari: Four Unforgivable Sins
By Toyin Falola
Life and everything within it are transient, including power and authority. What started with hopes and high expectations in 2015 has come to an end, bringing with it lessons and leaving the people less animated and less hopeful than they were eight years ago — little wonder that Buhari’s successor will ride in on the wings of a Renewed Hope campaign. Bola Ahmed Tinubu said he would hit the ground running from Day 1, continue running on Day 2, and not relent on Day 3. As Nigerians at home and in the diaspora will strive to pick up pace in this new run, this piece marks my second and last comment on the Buhari government.
Accountability in Nigeria is comatose. What makes it not dead yet are the little efforts by concerned columnists and journalists that keep to the work of critiquing the government and holding those in power accountable, although knowing that there might be little to nothing to show for their efforts. President Muhammadu Buhari gave his farewell speech — a 38-point speech with aspects that further solidify the defiance of those in power to the truth and transparency with citizens in a we-can-do-as-we-wish move. In response, or more befittingly, as a way of signing off on writings about the past administration, I chose to write two pieces. The first focused on the most prominent promises that Buhari failed to fulfill — the promises that were the highlight of his campaign and the major reason people voted for him.
These past few days, there have been audacious claims by the government — claims of leaving Nigeria in a better state than in 2015 and fulfilling all promises made during the 2015 campaign, among other claims. In the past eight years, I have interacted with many Nigerians from different age groups and societal classes — professors, businessmen, politicians, young students; you name them. And no matter how you choose to review the Buhari government’s years in office — whether by benchmarking them against his campaign promises or comparing Nigeria in 2023 to Nigeria in 2015 — the most important way of gauging this government will be in the overall well-being of Nigerians.
The last eight years have been taxing in one way or the other for every Nigerian I have engaged during the period, and this is only a testament to the fact that the government did not succeed in making its citizens’ lives better. A lot has been said by many; a lot has been written about the achievements and failures of this government. It is why I have chosen this second piece on the unforgivable sins of the Buhari government — that is, the things that, if summed up, pushed Nigeria into the current state that it is in, regardless of whether the 2nd Niger Bridge and some railway lines have been constructed or some money paid out through the TraderMoni scheme.
The Sin of Contemptible Complacency
Complacency is perhaps the biggest sin of the Buhari government. It set the tone for the spiral and reared its head often during the two tenures of the now ex-President of Nigeria. First, it was complacency in appointing his cabinet members in 2015. For someone who rode into power on lofty promises to the people and a lot of goodwill and expectations of change, Muhammadu Buhari was slow to appoint his team members — as the swearing-in dragged on to his 6th month in office, thus adversely affecting the goodwill of foreign investors, the stock market, and the economy in general. Perhaps Buhari took his campaign mantra of “focusing on security, while Prof. Osinbajo focuses on the economy” too far, forgetting that running a government cannot be the function of just one person. This same complacency came into action in Buhari’s self-appointment as the Minister of Petroleum, a move that spelled little good for Nigeria’s petroleum affairs, as ridiculous expenditure continued in the oil sector right under the president’s nostrils.
The Sin of Deplorable Impunity
From the leadership point of view, impunity is one of the strongest problems militating against the country’s success. Under Muhammadu Buhari, impunity was displayed by the direct people in power and their family members — from the president to Mrs. Aisha Buhari, to the wife of the DSS Chief, to the APC Majority Leader from Kano State. The audacity to do as one wishes among elected officials in the country reached never-before-seen heights under Buhari. It was perhaps because the ex-president was complacent and largely unconcerned — so much so that the people knew they could get away with their deeds — thus having the perfect motivation for their impunity.
Impunity is devilish in a democracy; it goes against the foundational concepts of democracy and laughs them to scorn. It is unforgivable for those in whom the people had placed their belief and mandate to emerge as leaders and then begin to see themselves as more worthy and in an untouchable position than the electorate. The power belongs to the people in a democracy, and impunity says otherwise. The impunity under the Buhari government spilled over to his other sins — the sins of failed promises, violating court orders, and implementing policies that only made the country bleed.
The Disgraceful Sin of Rights and Law Violations
During Buhari’s tenure, there were pockets of human rights violations — both by the federal government and some state governments — for which the president and his team were complicit in their inaction. A young Nigerian was arrested for tweeting in abuse of the then First Lady, Aisha Buhari. There were arrests of outspoken media people like Daddiyata, the arrest and detainment of Agba Jalingo, the ill-treatment of Omoyele Sowore while flouting court orders for his release, the refusal to follow court orders in the case of ASUU’s grievances, Jones Abiri’s arrest and detainment, and the bullying of media houses like Premium Times, Daily Trust, AIT, and AriseTV, among others. Closer to home was the arbitrary arrest of a prominent journalist. One of the biggest things that will forever dangle above the Buhari government is the October 20, 2020, incident at the Lekki Toll Gate. The sheer number of human rights violations, arbitrary arrests, and prolonged detainment of citizens against the provisions of the law is a body of sin that no level of atonement can wash off Buhari’s eight years in office.
The Outrageous Sin of Miscalculated Policies and Wrong Implementation
There is no denying that there were instances when the Buhari government meant well for the citizens and kicked some policies into place. However, many of those policies were moribund, as they lacked a lot of things — a proper assessment of the realities of the people and whether or not the policies would succeed and a lack of a proper timeline. First was the border closure policy, for which many Nigerians will continue to blame Buhari. No matter how well-meaning the government could have been with this policy, refusing to gauge how impactful it was on the people and the need to relax it — thereby leaving it for a prolonged and unnecessarily adverse period — was catastrophic for the economy. It is foolhardy to embark on an audacious and full closure of the country’s borders when the circumstances surrounding the in-country production of food have not been perfected.
The second prominent issue was the case of the cashless policy toward the end of the Buhari government. This policy was concocted on the corridors of power — heavily distant from the realities of the average Nigerian or their plight. While the people suffered and died due to a highly unnecessary and frustrating policy, the Buhari-led government was bent on prolonging the policy to make a statement to the people. TraderMoni and N-Power have been poster names for initiatives that have been fronted as the government’s means of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, although the reality pales in comparison with that — the reality being the uneven disbursement of small and unsustainable funds to people.
In the closing days of the government, the official propaganda machine was full of the achievements of the Buhari government, especially in infrastructure. His media advisers and assistants tried to push out the scores of things that Buhari had done in eight years. Buhari himself spoke more in his last days. Some projects were the highlight of the government — after all, no matter how woefully a government has performed, it will have some things to its name.
However, in the context of where Nigeria is currently as compared to where it was or where it was headed as of 2015 (when it was adjudged one of the fastest-growing economies in the world), in the context of the promises that were made and what was eventually achieved, in the context of what Nigerians’ overall well-being is now as against 2015, in the context of how safe and secure Nigerians feel in their homes today as against 2015, in the context of how un-Nigerian Nigerians feel today as against 2015 — there is no applauding the Buhari-led government. For, it sinned. Its sins were many, and history will remember the past eight years for what they were. I am sure many readers will add to my list: the sin of corruption, the sin of insecurity, the sin of insensitivity.
When you sin, it must be followed by punishments. Buhari’s sins are reprehensible and shameful. Is the escape to Daura and onward to Niger an escape from punishment? Niger is a wise choice, with loving relations: sin-forgivers who have benefitted money from their Godfather in power. Niger is a unitary system where the president rules as a general, a fellow sinner. Farewell!
Africa Reckonings And Futures
By Toyin Falola
Africa, a continent full of diverse peoples and fascinating history, has struggled with several social, economic, and political problems during its existence. Despite its recent development, it has suffered from a number of wrongs stemming from its pre-colonial history and its tangled links with other continents, especially Europe. There is a school of thought amongst certain African academics that the trans-Atlantic slave trade was the high point in the West’s systematic plunder of Africa, resulting in devastating cultural, social, and economic losses on the continent. The transatlantic slave trade was a cultural and social calamity for Africa, ripping apart communities and erasing centuries of history. Peoples of African origin, including those living in the diaspora, continue to feel the repercussions of this pernicious trade, leading to internal conflicts over their own identities. But the slave trade and the brain drain are not the only issues the continent of Africa is contending with. Many problems plaguing the continent call for fresh approaches and changes in perspective. These problems range from insufficient socioeconomic growth to governance worries. Environmental concerns and the effects of climate change pose major risks.
Let’s take global ecology and Africa’s exposure to environmental crises, for instance. Regarding the world’s environment, Africa is about to get some hard truths. The effects of climate change are and will continue to be felt most acutely on the African continent, where the majority of the world’s poor live. Climate change is real and has serious consequences for Africa, as seen by the continent’s warming temperatures, higher sea levels, shifting rainfall patterns, and increased frequency of droughts. It is not enough for Africa to just adapt to this problem; the region must also be creative and rethink its connection with the natural world. The effects of global warming on Africa’s agriculture industry are emblematic of the problem. Many African economies rely heavily on agriculture since it provides a stable income for millions of people. The difficulty of farming and livestock raising is growing due to climate change. Crop failures and decreased yields have resulted from changes in rainfall patterns and the increased frequency of droughts. Because of the severe weather, some farmers have given up and moved on. Given the significance of agriculture to Africa’s economy, this trend is cause for concern.
The effects of climate change aren’t limited to agriculture. The shift in weather patterns is threatening the continent’s ecology and biodiversity. For example, melting glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro threaten to deplete the water supply for millions of people in East Africa. Loss of biodiversity will likely have significant effects on food security and health while rising sea levels endanger the viability of coastal populations.
To effectively address the global ecological issue, Africa will need to use a variety of strategies. New and creative approaches are needed. Sustainable agricultural strategies, such as crop diversification and conservation agriculture, may aid farmers in dealing with the effects of climate change and shifting weather patterns. In addition, governments may support renewable energy by investing in it and enacting regulations that encourage the use of cleaner energy sources like solar and wind. If such sustainable practices are enacted, Africa’s total carbon footprint could be significantly lessened, thus considerably contributing to the fight against climate change.
Away from climate change and its effect on the continent, we turn to the complicated positions of African Studies. As the continent has become more diverse and complicated, so has the study of Africa. African history, culture, politics, and society have all benefited from the work of academics and researchers from all over the globe, who have contributed to a growing body of work on these topics. There is, however, a continuing discussion over the boundaries and potential of African Studies, with some suggesting that it is time to think both inside and beyond the norms of the field. A critical examination of the underlying assumptions and methods of African Studies is required for both “going with the grain” and “going against the grain.” This perspective acknowledges that the field of African Studies was formed by colonialism and imperialism. Consequently, African Studies frequently reproduce the same power dynamics. African Studies is interested in expanding its horizons and discovering novel approaches to learning about and interacting with the continent and its people, and thinking with and against the grain of the discipline is one method to do just that.
Getting beyond Western scholarship’s hegemonic, oversimplified, and reductionist perceptions of Africa is a major challenge for African Studies. For a long time, colonialism and imperialism were justified by depicting Africa as a land of darkness, ignorance, and cruelty. Even though this viewpoint has been debunked, it is nevertheless often presented in academic literature, where it reinforces inaccurate generalizations about Africa and obscures the region’s complexity. Academics need to interact with the nuances and contradictions of African cultures to think both with and against the grain of African Studies. To do so, we must abandon oversimplified conceptions of “African culture” and “African politics” and instead acknowledge that the continent is home to a wide variety of civilizations, languages, and political structures. Likewise, it requires appreciating the initiative and inventiveness of African people, who have played crucial roles in forging their own histories and cultures.
Extending the reach of African Studies outside the confines of the field is another crucial problem. Despite the field’s expansion over the last several decades, researchers from the Global North remain preponderant, contributing to the maintenance of existing power disparities on the continent and among its people. The best way to think with and against the grain of African Studies is to have conversations with academics and researchers from Africa and the diaspora. Critical introspection and questioning of one’s own assumptions are necessary outcomes of both “going with” and “going against” the prevailing winds of African Studies. We must be ready to examine our methods critically, accept both the field’s limits and its potential and welcome other viewpoints. This is the only way to get a more complex and accurate picture of Africa and its people.
Africa’s potential in the 21st century is a growing talking point in both academic and wider public circles. Despite this positive trend and the rich cultures and histories of the continent, Africa has been typically seen through a pessimistic and static viewpoint. However, in recent years, mainstream discourse has shifted toward a more optimistic and positive assessment of Africa’s future prospects. The realization of Africa’s enormous potential for economic growth and development is a major factor in this shift. African nations have seen tremendous economic development in recent years despite numerous hurdles, including political instability and violence. Due to this growth, many economists believe that Africa will soon become the world’s next economic superpower.
The expansion of Africa’s communications networks is another reason for hope for the continent’s future. The continent of Africa is more interconnected than ever because of developments in technology and transportation. Trade, investment, and cross-cultural cooperation have all benefited from this heightened accessibility. But, Africa still faces some difficult obstacles. For instance, many African nations are still hampered by pervasive violence and political instability.
More communication and cooperation between African nations and the rest of the globe is crucial if the continent is to overcome its current difficulties and fulfill its future potential. More money spent on infrastructure and technology, together with programs encouraging cultural understanding and cooperation, may help bring this about. Poverty, inequality, and political corruption are all major contributors to the instability and violence plaguing Africa. Africa is frequently presented as a victim of external factors rather than a player in the game of life. A more nuanced knowledge of Africa’s complicated reality and a shared commitment to a more fair and equitable future are possible via attentive listening to and through the sharing of African viewpoints.
Coasting home, colonialism, globalization, and wars for independence and sovereignty have all left their marks on Africa’s rich and varied history. Notwithstanding these setbacks, African nations have been remarkably resourceful, imaginative, and resilient in their pursuit of social justice and economic progress. Several nations in Africa have seen steady economic development, technological innovation, and social revolution in recent years, propelling the continent to a prominent position on the international economic stage. However, many problems, such as poverty, inequality, war, environmental destruction, and political unrest, persist across the African continent.
Africa must tackle issues like reducing poverty and inequality, which are stumbling blocks to their continent’s future. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reports that Africa is home to some of the world’s most unequal countries, with over 400 million people living in abject poverty. Corruption, poor leadership, and inadequate provision of necessities like education, healthcare, and clean water all play a role in exacerbating the problem. Social safety nets, job creation, and entrepreneurial training are just a few of the efforts and programs that African nations are engaging in to combat these issues. Regional integration, which seeks to encourage trade, investment, and collaboration among African nations, is also gaining prominence.
Africa must also face the need to confront environmental concerns such as global warming, deforestation, and biodiversity loss. The continent is especially at risk with so much riding on agriculture, natural resources, and healthy ecosystems. Droughts, floods, and food shortages are just some of the ways climate change is already threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people throughout Africa. To combat these issues, African nations must fund projects and programs in areas like renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and ecosystem restoration. International collaboration should also receive more attention as a means to foster climate-resilience, adaptation, and mitigation.
Conflict, terrorism, and human rights abuses are also some of Africa’s political and security issues that must be faced head-on. To solve these issues and advance peace, justice, and human rights, many African nations must work to establish democratic and stable institutions. External meddling, resource rivalries, and ideological divisions only fuel the fire. To face these difficulties, African nations should put resources into programs and efforts, including peacemaking, conflict avoidance, and rights advocacy. Regional and continental integration, which seeks to enhance collaboration, solidarity, and collective security, should also gain prominence.
Notwithstanding these difficulties, Africa has a wealth of untapped potential and prospects. The continent’s youthful and energetic population, varied and significant cultural legacy, and plentiful natural resources make it an important and influential part of the world. Several African nations are becoming centers of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship due to their growing ties to the global economy. Several African nations are investing in areas like education, innovation, and infrastructure building to use their continent’s abundant resources. In sum, Africa is weighing a number of options as it strives to determine its destiny. The continent must face its own realities. Africa’s future lies in its ability to capitalize on its young population, rich cultural traditions, and plentiful resources to create affluent, equitable, and globally integrated communities. Getting to these futures requires African nations to keep questioning everything.
. (Excerpt of Keynote Lecture, Canadian African Studies Association, May 29, 2023).
Buhari: The Illusion Of Hope
By Toyin Falola
Leadership is pivotal to development; as such, every election is taken seriously, and the transition of power is especially given attention in Nigeria. Nigeria is coming from a place where its leadership has been in question because of the failure of past leaders to remedy several of the problems it faces. So, in every election circle, with May 29th as the handover of power, there is so much expectation, anticipation, and delight, except for the current one. But over the years, those anxieties are met with disappointments.
Nigeria saw a new semantic twist to the word “change” from its mantra in 2015. The year was supposed to be the beginning of hope; the citizens thought Buhari, the messiah, had come, not knowing that things were just getting messier. It has been a long eight years, and the nation has taken two steps backward in several ways, an inch forward in some while the others stay in their stagnant, deteriorated states. It has been a long ride, and the score sheet is quite discouraging in the spirit of speaking the truth to power.
One of the selling points of the change mantra was the readiness to fight any corrupt practices in the country. The citizens had expected that many politicians would have been put in jail or get several of their properties confiscated. Well, for those not on the good side of the President and the party, those promises were made regarding them, but the big-bellied politicians eating from the pots of corruption and sitting in influential political offices have become saints that stack away national treasure. The list of those that got their sins “forgiven,” as stated by the former chairman of the All Progressives Congress. No one hears of David Umahi’s alleged N400 million naira diversion of public funds, Godswill Akpabio’s N100 Billion alleged diversion, Stella Oduah’s alleged N9.4 billion, and other accusations, Orji Uzor Kalu’s N3.2 billion accusation, Adebayo Alao-Akala of blessed memory’s N11.5 billion allegation before his death, Lt. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika’s alleged connection with the Sambo Dasuki’s $2.1 billion, and several others after they have moved to the ruling party, the fount of foundation that all sinners can come. The corruption rate in the country reached a record rank of 154 in 2021 and has become the 150th least corrupt country in the world. One would have thought that the nation was ready to fight corruption under Buhari’s tenure seeing that there was a report that there was a possibility that the country would lose about 30% of its GDP by 2025. We are edging toward this problem, and Mr. President and his appointees indulged the causes too much.
One needs to check whether the poverty rate has been reduced as promised by the change mantra, but the country is in a dreadful situation it has never been before eight years. The margin between the rich and poor grew, while citizens were left with no buying power. The past eight years have left one wondering if there has truly been the availability and access to supposed public goods and services with “a united, peaceful and secure nation,” as the president had stated in his farewell speech. As expected, the supposed global recession and economic downturn, as the president alluded to, would never be enough excuse for the incapability of at least giving the citizens steady lives. First, Nigeria is not the only country that faced the challenge, but the propensity of its effect seems higher than in other countries. Secondly, the administration has been in place since 2015, and laying claim to the incidents of 2020 and 2022 is outrageous.
One of the reasons Mr. President showed more enthusiasm toward the nation’s petroleum sector was first to ensure that there are sustainable changes to its different problems and reduce the corruption rate in that sector. Despite all the various promises to revive the sector and the refineries and make things easier for the citizens, the petroleum sector continued to worsen. The fuel prices now are not just ununiformed in practice but have increased almost 200% more than before the administration’s commencement. The refineries have remained in their state while we export crude oil and purchase petroleum products in an inconsiderate state. The subsidy has not been removed, but prices are still not favorable to the people. Mr. President as the Minister for Petroleum and those who served as Minster for State for Petroleum Resources have found themselves in limbo while millions of Nigerians still queue to buy petrol at high price year in and year out. Fuel scarcity is no more a phenomenon; it is a festival people are not surprised it happens.
While you preached democracy, even in your farewell speech, I am not certain all its tenets were well kept or practiced as they should have been. Maybe the president does not know that the practice and presence of democracy is not the absence of military or despotic rule as it was in the first administration of the General but the recognition of the people’s sense of belonging in the leadership, the obvious practices of the system, especially in the face of antagonism. What are the tales around elections in Nigeria, what has happened to freedom of expression, and how best can one describe the prevalence of the tenets? Nigeria has seen one of the worse levels of suppression of human rights under the Buhari administration in this democratic dispensation. Police brutality has increased to incite a high rate of citizen resistance to the police. The government’s body language has been more of beating a child and beating him when he cries. The advent of the EndSARS protest was not just the youth showing readiness for a better Nigeria, but it was an expression of the insults of oppression of the injuries of lack of facilities and low standard of living.
I believe those that thought the President was a reformed and repentant democratic would be close to disclaiming such assertions. The government institutions have become elements of witch-hunting and the hands of political strategies to intimidate those that are in the way of the government or anyone at all. Should one refer to the popular Twitter ban from June 5th, 2021, to 13th January, 2022? The killing of several EndSARS protesters and the darkened truth about what happened on that fateful night at Lekki Tollgate. And if elections alone are what Mr. Buhari understands as democracy, I am not sure Nigeria can boast of the 2019 and 2023 elections conducted under his administration. A report stated that the DSS, the Army, and other security operatives were used to intimidate voters and several other intimidations from children of the dark worlds during the 2019 elections. The 2023 elections were worse, with different public intimidations and obvious rigging, violence, and other vices during the electoral processes.
One may need to ask where the jobs promised or seemed to have been produced are, who are employed, and who are the employers. While there is considerable progress in this instance, the conditions have not changed, as most of the steps taken are not sustainable. With an unemployment rate of about 33%, those who try to establish themselves face a toxic environment. A report shows that about 80% of Small and Medium Enterprises failed in Nigerian as of 2020. While efforts, even where they are not sustainable, are still efforts, the Buhari administration forgot to provide more enabling society for businesses to thrive. In the name of business interventions, the momentary Christmas gifts are mostly embezzled by the officials and gotten by party members and associates; they are not enough if self-subsisting systems are not built around them to ensure they serve the purposes for which they are given out.
The argument of certain people during the pre-election change mantra before the 2015 election was that because of the military background of Buhari, the nation might have enough hold of its security problems. One of the great sins of Goodluck Jonathan was his inability to combat terrorism and the growing security challenges. Of course, a General was coming, and it was reasonable to see people with some comfort level. The Buhari agenda and propaganda were sold to the nation, and security was the weak spot of many of the citizens. The ride for the past last years has been worse; while the news about Boko Haram has become normal incidences that do not even get to make newspaper headlines in the country, other forms of insecurity have become strengthened. The anxiety or fear on an average Nigerian road is enough to give one high blood pressure. Prisons are broken in most undignified ways, mass massacres and kidnappings, and several other unspeakable disgraces. Mr. Buhari, Nigerians never see you coming.
When the common and seeming colloquial saying, “What is worth doing is worth doing well,” is said, it is a big message that even Buhari should have learned from. There are excuses that the anticipated rot was worse, as almost all governments say when resuming after an opposition predecessor. And where it seems that the Water of Nigerian problem is fast becoming more than the Garri of your power, it would have been an honorable thing to step down for others to try; well, the phrase, although never reflected, “politics is not a do or dies affair,” does not extend to while in office. But Yoruba would say, Akukuu joye, o san ju enu mi o kalu lo.
While Nigeria has been on fire, it seems the president had more enthusiasm for tourism than the nation’s state. From 2015 to December 2022, our Ajala president spent not less than 225 days on medical trips, aside from other summits and official trips. This is against the promises of ensuring the President and other politicians explore local medical options. But most importantly, if a president could spend such several days on unofficial journeys at different intervals, there is little to say about how settled and ready he has been for the job.
However, it is my message to the next president of Nigeria that the nation needs real change and that the duty is to at least make things stable. He should take clues from the mistakes of Buhari and other past leaders to make wise decisions that will transform the nation. More so, the 2023 election has threatened the nation’s unity, so he must rule with this consciousness at heart. I say “Amen” to the oft-repeated prayer:
May Buhari Never Happen to Nigeria Again.
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