1999-2023: THE CYNICS AND THE SCEPTICS
Prof. Pat Utomi once granted an interview in the early 2000s, practically lamenting that when General Abdusalami Abubakar announced in 1998 that he would hand over power to a civilian government within 12 months, he and other “good” folks were cynical and sceptical about it. The military under Gen. Abubakar (rtd) delivered on the promise in 11 months, and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s second coming started on May 29, 1999.
But the cynicism and scepticism continued. Signs of some of Obasanjo’s misrule, already evident ahead of the Nigerian General Elections 2003, further fueled these. Many of those “good” men and women that Prof. Utomi alluded to, continued to stay back. They didn’t warm up to become president, governors, federal lawmakers and state lawmakers in 2003. They stayed back, believing that somehow the PDP controlled government will mess the country up, and soldiers would once again seize power.
OBJ got re-elected in 2003. Ahead of the 2007 polls, the sceptics and cynics felt that though OBJ was bound by the constitution to quit office after two terms, the country won’t be able to survive the political rowdiness on hand at that time, characterized by a growing, and often deadly, in-fighting inside the ruling party PDP. Yet, against all the odds, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua took office on May 29, 2007.
On account of the unfortunate ill health of Yar’Adua, the naysayers were already begining to see Nigerian politics crumbling. His hospitalization for so long and his eventual demise gave plenty of fuel for cynicism and scepticism about the survival of our democracy. Thank you Senator David Mark for leading the National Assembly to help stabilize the ship of state and ensure the transmission of power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan who completed the term of the deceased president.
Jonathan then got elected afresh in 2011 to continue leading the country. Ahead of the 2015 polls, the naysayers, still largely staying away from running for office, felt that PDP had practically turned the country into a one-party state: a sure recipe (in their mind) for the coming political disaster. Yet, out of the blue, APC emerged, and (like play like play) defeated PDP in the 2015, offering President Muhammadu Buhari his own second coming as the Nigerian head of state. In 2015 we successfully transited from PDP to APC, with our democracy intact. A new threshold had been reached: transition from a ruling party to an opposition.
This was a first since the country’s independence in 1960. It was a big victory for Naija.Many of those “good” people of 1998/1999 who stayed away from politics out of fear that the thing would not work or that it would not last are still alive today. Utomi is alive and kicking. They have seen with their own eyes six presidential transitions in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. For me, this is a HUGE national victory especially when you remember the failures of the country’s 1st Republic (1960-1966), 2nd Republic (1979-1983) and 3rd Republic (1992/1993).If, deep down in your heart, you don’t believe in Nigeria, how in the world would you be a part of those helping the country to move forwards, against all odds (even if many of these odds are self-inflicted)? We will get it right, once again, come May 29, 2023 l’ agbara Eledumare (by God’s special grace).
One day, sooner than most cynics and sceptics think, we shall achieve a major turnaround on the political front. Political growth, maturity and progress is usually sluggish, even for well established democracies like America. The general malfeasance that characterize Nigerian politics today will one day give way to far better governance at the federal, state and LGA levels. That day is coming. That new day.