If my memory hasn't declined in its aggregation of honest sentiments against the outgoing government and the suffering it intensified recently, time has never been this slow, a sense of anxiety never this high and national life so frustrated since this return to democracy. The period between April 11 and May 29, the presidential elections to the inauguration of our new President, must be remembered as the season of a locally designed economic recession and documented as the eruption of the loose structures let be by an administration of frauds and deceit.
The fuel scarcity that has now brought our economy almost to a standstill, with all sectors seemingly breathing their last as they send out mayday messages to customers and patrons, isn't an honorable exit for a President whose pre-election stunts suggested he was setting a new standard for posterity and one who was almost endorsed, post-election, as Nobel Peace Prize-deserving statesman by pitiably amnesic citizens for merely conceding defeat.
Among the many "achievements" of President Jonathan now is this, earned in his last days in office: economic sabotage. The fuel scarcity, said to have been as a result of discord between the government and Oil marketers, and of course the fuel subsidy that was once "partially removed" with nothing to show as evidence of allocating the gains for the growth of Nigeria, is a reality that could've been prevented by a frugal government.
The #OccupyNigeria of 2012 may be against oil price hike, with some dismissing the idea of subsidy as scam, but a number of campaigners were involved just out of obvious distrust of a government headed by a man whose managerial wisdom understood public finance in a way that defied conventional logic, eventually declaring that "stealing is not corruption", justifying reports of his cluelessness studied from his antecedents as Yar'adua's polarising successor.
Nigeria isn't at an economic crossroads because of subsidy, Nigeria is here because we have a President that isn't clever, under whom corrupt practices of unjustifiable magnitudes were overlooked, and the culprits given a license to exhibit their avarice in higher degrees: N196 Billion pension scam, and Jonathan responded like a collaborator; N33 Billion Police Pension fraud, and John Yakubu got away, paying a paltry N750,000 bail; NNPC missing $20 billion, and citizens are being insulted by Yam and Goat analogies; Stella Oduah's car purchase scam and Abba Moro's NIS recruitment scam fertilized the weeds of corruption in this administration.
And while these were happening, while ministers and their children were instagramming their loot and private jet junkets, with Jonathan praising the acts and culprits to appeal to the sentiments of his Yam and Goat ideologues, our universities were closed for five months, polytechnics for ten months, hospitals for three months - in fact, in fact, the country was practically on strike. Even military pensioners, veterans who had "wasted" their life guarding this country, were still owed 56-month arrears!
The fuel scarcity is a legacy of clear mismanagement, and this would've escalated into wild protests if not for the shadow of a new government already in sight. A conspiracy theorist friend even matter-of-factly observed that the scarcity is the President's last hope, after election postponement meant to provoke the citizens, to set the country on fire, forestalling scheduled transition "for security reasons!" But we all know why Mr. President chose to sign out of this responsibility he couldn't deliver as a saboteur - he's stopped being the President from April 1, when their bogeyman was declared winner of the elections. So, he's stopped taking Panadol for what he thought was already Buhari's headache!
Nigeria of the past two months reminded me of the portraits of 1930s America, with Buhari coming in to supervise the search for solution for a country literally in economic shambles, the same way Franklin Roosevelt assumed duty as the 32nd President of the United States on March 4, 1933, also meeting a country at economic crossroads. Reading Roosevelt's inaugural speech this week, the strings of words rang of what incoming President Muhammad Buhari ought to say on May 29, for the American, highlighting features of an economy horrified by the Great Depression of the 1930s, which couldn't be worse than Nigeria of the past few weeks, gave the people a hope, a guarantee of salvation:
"This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that of understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days."
Further, Roosevelt said, "Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment." And solidly, Roosevelt laid a foundation for a new America, this America that now dominates the world.
This isn't the first of Buhari's interventions to redeem a failed country, and this also isn't the first time a government inherited a bad economy—Obasanjo's second coming in 1999 was also to rescue a crashed economy, oil-price fall and a Naira that had lost 80% of its value. But this is arguably the best time of great expectations in our checkered political history. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda on Twitter