“On the face of nearly every Nigerian today, there are bold expressions of despondency and disillusionment”- M. K. O Abiola
One does not envy those who had the task of coining the campaign slogan for the APC in 2019. There was virtually nothing they could have come up with that would not have been torn apart the way ‘Next Level’ has come under a barrage of assaults. They first seemed to have settled for ‘continuity’ as the campaign slogan. But continuity of what? All previous catchy phrases and slogans attempted before ‘Next Level’ lack a notable and visible foundation for the Nigerian masses to buy into as a reason to vote the ruling party again. The charm of ‘Change’ had also spoilt and could not be used again.
The ‘change’ slogan participated greatly in influencing the massive victory of the APC across Nigeria. Nigerians have wanted a change with different definitions of what and how to change albeit there existed(and still exists) a general consensus that something needed to change for Nigeria to be better. The APC bought into this slogan and by so doing rallied the votes of people who wanted ‘change’ but had no clear definition of what they wanted changed. The APC thus shortchanged the Nigerian masses riding on their votes and confusion at the same time.
Whenever political commentators and public analysts had to say something in the media pre-2015, they all anchored the crisis in Nigeria to the need for change repeating the term for grammatical and not political uses when they were not supporting the APC in some cases but merely expressed their desire for change. The voting public assumed the change was in voting the APC nationwide in the 2015 elections as they had already worn the cloak of ‘change’ and everyone thought the change was here. Change we wanted, shortchanged we are.
The ruling party in Nigeria tries to portray in the media that it is encountering economic difficulties and cannot perform as expected due to this. Where this is not the narrative, the narrative is that 16 years of PDP explains the failings of the APC (despite the fact that the barrier separating both parties is thinner than a thread). They also lay claim to having fought corruption(kindly ignore the fact that one of the leading opposition candidates Atiku Abubakar who they now claim is very corrupt was not corrupt as at when he participated in the party primaries of the APC and could have even become President under the party banner had he emerged at that primary). The change the APC lays claim to having created is not visible for the average Nigerian. Before we move to the Next Level, we must still ask for the change.What has changed?
The same way the APC slogan for the 2015 elections was ambiguous. It now is too with ‘Next Level’. Change has turned an undesirable negative with veritable facts from international and credible local bodies which reflect 42 million in poverty, 492 shiites killed and several pro-Biafra protesters, massive unemployment, serious brain drain especially in the Health sector, continued(but reduced) security concerns, severe dropout and out-of-school rates with the figures hovering between 10 and 13 million children(the children in school have access to terrible facilities, teacher shortage, teaching equipment shortage or outdated and several other shameful).
There is an unblockable stench of poverty across the nation that has striken traders who find no customers if they do not trade in essential commodity such as food, artisans who find no use of their labour and are quickly switching to transportation business because it seems to guarantee at least their daily survival, students who are gripped by hunger and lack of resources as a result of irregular salaries and renumeration for their parents. It is a terrible national condition and any attempt to whitewash the situation especially with internet branding and social media image projection is conscienceless.
The APC claims some change exists through the welfare schemes such as TraderMoni and theschool feeding programme. It is interesting that TraderMoni is supposed to give 10,000 to 2,000,000 Nigerians in the first phase. At least 20billion will be expended on the scheme by this simple arithmetic. It is incontrovertible that there is a need for a social welfare scheme that will cater for the poor such as traders but Tradermoni(like N-Power) seems headed for a long jump and a hard crash. The loans are too paltry to achieve anything with. There are concerns if these loans would ever be repaid by those taking them even with the promise to be given more upon repayment.
Tradermoni is reminiscent of a political patronage scheme built around waste collection and disposal in Lagos. Remembering the people suddenly during election and campaign periods to give them handouts is fishy and is obviously tailored more towards getting votes than solving the real problems of the dust poor that 10,000 naira cannot address. The idea of entrepreneurship without equivalent government responsibilty and societal development is an idea headed for a cliff. It will not work.
The school feeding programme like Tradermoni cannot really be measured in terms of the cost implications. How much is being spent to fund the scheme? How many schools do the children get the meals? The figure of 8,567,000 being bandied around as the total number of students being fed is a figure that raises fears that some persons are submitting falsity to the government as facts or fears that the government itself is carrying out corruption through the scheme.
The change is also visible in the sainthood of corrupt APC politicians such as the responsible man in Kano whose high level of responsibility made him take over the function of the banks in keeping state funds. The change is visible in the votes bought to win elections. Some apologists of the ruling party argue that the opposition also indulges in vote buying, the money the opposition uses to finance vote buying is usually raised independently and from sponsors who want to lobby for future interests. The money the APC uses to buy votes by virtue of being custodians of the national treasury makes one suspect that Nigeria’s wealth is being used to finance the independent ambition of individuals from the national commonwealth of everyone.
The menace should be condemned for both ruling party and opposition. The mere fact that another does it too does not mean we should exonerate the other party but rather address as enemies of democracy all those involved in the act which continues to manifest results because of the great level of poverty and the attendant need of the electorates for instant survival.
The change is visible in the frequent visits of the President to foreign countries for healthcare. It is strange that Nigeria is losing Medical Doctors to brain drain as young graduate doctors and established Doctors with their own clincs or employment are scrambling to Europe. At the same time, rich Nigerian patients and those who manage to raise funds by begging are going to Europe for Healthcare. If our Doctors are running away and our patients are running to meet them there. Is something not wrong? Is all well like the APC and her supporters portray in their Tweets?
Going to The Next Level is a good idea when the previous level was favourable. If we have not seen change, what Next Level is there?
The Next Level of?
Koye-Ladele Mofehintoluwa writes from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org. He is an advocate of good government and governance. He is a frequent opinion writer with several reputable media.