Between half-full and half-empty cups, By Zainab Suleiman Okino

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I consider it a national tragedy to compare the disastrous government of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan with President Muhammadu Buhari’s highly over-rated and disappointingly under-achieved government, but in the last few weeks, many have journeyed to the past in retrospect and came up with damning similar indices.

The other day, three young ladies, having a heated argument over Jonathan/Buhari’s tenures confronted me with the papers on the lips of everyone today. How did Jonathan’s government impact on the welfare of the citizens? Is poverty more prevalent today than it was some years back?

And to underscore their knowledge of issues as aspiring leaders, they said their enquiry was about the generality of Nigerians especially the lower class and not necessarily about elite whose consumption pattern can be exotic and luxurious, and who are also finding it difficult to adjust to the hard times.

Although, the answer is obvious, it is, however, not as simplistic as that, as other issues may have to be factored in to underscore the choice of Buhari in 2015 as it were, despite the so-called ‘prosperity’ of Jonathan’s era compared to the rising poverty level of today. If Nigerians are now benchmarking the current government with Jonathan’s, considered to be the worst chapter in the nation’s history, then, we are in trouble.

The answer to the poverty level as enquired by the young ladies couldn’t have been palatable, not after NBS’s statistics of 4.3M and 3.7M job losses in 2017 and 2016, respectively, with concomitant consequences, under the watchful eyes of a government that promised to create 3M jobs every year.

The reality is, sadly stark. The main duties of government are welfare and security, but these have taken a flight in Nigeria.  Although we must reckon with the effort of the Buhari government to initially nip the Boko Haram challenge in the bud, their resurgence, and the general insecurity all over the country, especially headsmen-farmers’ clash is worrisome. Just like Buhari now, Jonathan dithered and allowed Boko Haram to fester; he attributed an insurgency with international dimension to politics, assuming erroneously that the North unleashed Boko Haram on his government, after he, a Southern minority took over from the late Umaru Yar’adua. By the time the terrorist group took the war to his home-front in Abuja, killed hundreds of military, para-military personnel, ordinary citizens, abducted over 200 girls from a Chibok school and put Nigeria on red alert and terrorism map of the world, it became too late for Jonathan, and losing the election even as an incumbent was only a matter of time.

The Jonathan scenario played out with Buhari on his (mis)handling of the herdsmen-farmers’ incessant altercations until it deteriorated to the level it is today and can even get worse if the president does not act fast. Allegations against Fulani herdsmen in the Benue killings and their effrontery in the kidnapping ring in many parts of the country are not proactively addressed. A government that held so much promise because of Buhari’s cult following as a man of integrity, and promised so much, by now should have investigated and get the murderers jailed, whether Fulanis or anybody at all,  while attacks/killings of herdsmen should be meted/treated with the same measures.

The similarities in style of governance in Buhari and Jonathan are becoming unsettling indeed.  Buhari’s defenders are won’t to say the president is being misled by his advisers and cronies, the cabal and scoundrels who surround him; hold him hostage and take decisions on his behalf without consultation, the very excuse Jonathan’s buddies used to justify his monumental failure. In the current dispensation, all bad decisions and outcomes come from these bad guys, while the good ones are attributed to Buhari. In order words, he is a captive president just like Jonathan who was said not to be in charge of the affairs of the state; who while he drank his life away, appointees and aides like the Diezanis, the Oduas, the Orubebes held sway and determined the direction of government, while Nigeria burned.

Just like Buhari is doing, Jonathan made importation of fuel a state policy because importation gives immediate gratification to friends and cronies instead of massive investment in fixing the existing refineries and building new ones to meet local consumption, but Buhari even compounded our woes further. In over 20 years, no president, dead or alive has hiked the price of fuel with the margin Buhari did without having to face the wrath of Organised Labour and contend with the people’s wrath. Buhari did it without a whimper of protests, again underscoring the measure of the goodwill he enjoined and the confidence people had in his government. The cookies have since crumbled and I wonder if this government can recover from the blow and loss of ground considering the barrage of criticisms and the groundswell of anger in the land.

Lack of capacity and ability to show statesmanship has been the lot of our successive leaders. Leaders who held so much promise and squandered the goodwill they had. Leaders who came in a blaze of glory and left in ignominy. Not even military leaders like Babangida who took Nigerians’ tolerance of his dribbling tactics for granted until he dribbled himself to a point of no return, is immune from this sad phenomenon.

Buhari’s inaction, aloofness and delayed response to issues are affecting his government so much that Father Mbaka had to come to judgment once again. I don’t want to go into the spiritual realm, but millions believe in prophesies and are holding their breath, to see whether Father Mbaka actually communed with God over Buhari losing election in 2019 if he runs and if he does not change his tactics. When the going was good, and with the bandwagon effects that followed Jonathan’s rejection in 2015, APC sympathisers and even non-political actors ensured Father Mbaka’s prophecy of Jonathan’s impending election doom went viral on the social media. Now that Father Mbaka has returned with vengeance, with bad news for Buhari, his message is being rejected by the remnants of Buhari’s die-hard supporters. Not forgetting Rueben Abati’s demons and evil powers in the villa assertion. Buhari’s men are also blaming diabolical marabouts for being responsible for our woes. It is only in Nigeria that failure of governance is attributed to cabals, witches and wizards, evil spirits and demons.

Now everyone is apprehensive about 2019. Opening this year with bloodbath has not helped matters. In the final analysis, Nigerians are asking: have they been duped? Were they hoodwinked and deceived to believe that the grass is greener on the other side? In fact have we been collectively short-changed? As painful as it is, our lot under Jonathan and now Buhari, can be likened to a half-full cup and a half-empty cup analogy that has left the country economically depraved, socially disoriented and derided by the world. Therefore, from a half-empty clueless government of Jonathan to a grace-to-grass half-full government of Buhari, Nigeria is once again on tenterhooks, and the people, more than ever before are the biggest losers.


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