“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”. Jesus Christ (Mathew 7:3)
Before the start of the current administration, back in 2014, the word ‘change’ was so frequent that it got attached to the slogan of the opposition party. Towards the end of the assumed failed president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s era, the word was used to establish two firm statements;
1. Having experienced the hardships faced in Jonathan’s era, the word signified the need for a new government which would perform differently from that current one.
2. To pronounce a final blow on PDP’s governance, accruing support from the masses to send out of the government that government and faithfully and hopeful for a better and comfortable government embrace the Mohammadu Buhari’s APC led governance.
Before the election, most citizens (excluding Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s loyalists) were fed up of the government and resolved to wash out totally the awfully led administration, so it can be logically concluded that a considerable number of those who supported Mohammadu Buhari’s candidacy did not do so based on his ideas, manifestoes or his feats achieved during his military spell, rather it was based on the strong resolution to remove the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) out of its historical reign. There is a popular saying among the Yorubas that; obe ge omo lowo, a sobe nu, obe ti se n ti ose, that is, throwing the knife away does not heal the cut. Most citizens understood the unfortunate incidents that happened under Jonathan’s presidency; remember the massacres that happened in the hands of the blood-eyed Boko Haram terrorists, the abduction of the Chibok girls which was one of the famous incidents that landmarked the GEJ era and a host of other unfavorable incidents. Although, some believed he tried at his best but it is still true to assert that Jonathan failed the masses and the revelation of his incapability and lack of skill marked his impending exit.
The present administration is by far not better and it has left people open-mouthed considering it woeful performances. Apart from the opinions of the masses which are mostly subjective, experts, politicians, dignitaries and lately senators have expressed disappointment which has painted the PMB’s administration a failure. In comparison, some laud GEJ’s era as still favorable against the baba-go-slow’s administration. However, this article is not written to compare both rulers or attack one government in favor of another; rain will surely fall another day after today, but rather to make notice evidently the notion that ruled the minds of the people who voted PMB and what the notion has been expended to mean.
The concept of change as conceived by many ( well, the citizens in particular) is reduction in prices of crude oil extracts, reduction in prices of goods, good roads, stable electricity, better schools and the likes. This is why we need government and why we engage in voting, to provide what can make life easier. The present administration has however tag a new meaning to the change that brought it into power.
Contrary to what was promised, it took months for the president who planned to be active to provide ministers, we or most of us heard about the sale proposition of federal schools to foreign buyers that followed, subsidy on petrol and later there were excuses that the government’s account is empty, there is a huge debt on ground and all sorts that clearly explained that Buhari has bitten more than he could chew. Then, Boko Haram insurgents started their bombings, killed hundreds and rendered hundreds homeless less I forget, we also experienced a bit of a two-government administration, the Nnamdi Kanu’s led IPOB and Buhari’s majority government which almost erupted into another civil war. Lately is the Dapchi girls’ abduction. Let me end the list here. All this while, a mantra has been used- ‘Change Begins With Me’. Well everyone has to change, either we like it or not, it is constant, but there are also some changes that have to happen only through man’s effort. As said earlier, contrary to what was promised, president Buhari’s governance does not or probably has failed to include his ministers or those piloting Nigeria with him into the change business. Various ‘change begins with me’ illustrations has been portrayed in television, radio stations, newspapers and other media channels, where deductively, they end in the idea that the government is not the one to effect change but the citizens have the sole responsibility.
There is a video message of a school boy who at first intended to engage in exam malpractice, but changed his mind before proceeding to the examination hall. The message ends with the mantra, but the question is what could make him want to cheat in exams? Rather than questioning the student, how about for once we question the policies of the board of education, what have they been doing to ensure a simple, comfortable but reasonable education system where an average student would believe in himself rather than applying external illegal means to pass. There is no more self confidence in any student who studied hard and ended up with failure, what he resorts to is cheating!
Have also seen a policeman reject bribe from a car driver! But only on television, As usual, the initiative ends with the statement, ‘change begins with me’. What could make a government official receive bribe? Surprisingly, we do not always hear the Nigeria Police Commission or other uniformed security agencies embarking on strike but we all know most of them (especially officers on roads or stations) are on minimum wage salaries. These officials would not stop from executing means that could ease life in the absence of substantial treatment that could convince them from receiving bribes.
One the grass root level, teachers of primary and secondary government schools have to perform two functions; attending to their private businesses and teaching the students. The sale of goods in classes has hit a massively high rate since teachers are either owed months salaries or underpaid. Whether the states are adequately funded or not, there are not enough remunerations to sustain the workers and their families.
‘Change begins with me’ is still valid as far as the present administration is concerned but recent revelations have argued otherwise. It appears that the ‘Me’ is ambiguous and vaguely used and as such, should be properly structured. First, common sense would tell us who suppose to kick start development between citizens and the voted, full of promises government. There is no change required if the government the people voted for still wallow in mud of stagnant pool. There is no responsibility required on the part of citizens if they are still faced with the same issues they tried to solve through election. I cannot go on paying my taxes if there are no good roads for the transport of my goods or stable electricity to work in my factory. To some, this might be a wrong mentality; as a father, I would rather take my child to school where he can pass easily without sweat than to continue spending irrelevantly with little or no success. By rational deduction, it suffices that it is the government that should effect change, lay example and not wait for the citizens. Although it is a business of reciprocity, the government is required to act first, and then the citizens would do their parts.
Apart from the rational deduction which explains the duty of the government to take the first step, and if it were so that action is required from different parties without specificity as to who acts first, what has been the change in the government? What are the things the government can prove to have changed to contribute to the ‘Change Begins with Me’ business?
We have of some looters publicly pronounced arrested but none is seen to have been jailed and the amounts retrieved were claimed to have been used for God-knows-what. Since the start of president Buhari’s administration, it is obvious that his kind of change is much more secretive, contrary to the conceptions of democracy.
The president might say he made a change when he moved to reduce the salaries of top government officials. Needful to know that salaries are not allowances, he failed to cut the allowances but came out in the open to tell us he had reduced their salaries. Well, an average conscious Nigerian understands that allowances are much more than salaries. Main reason why our senators never prolonged the issue after the president moved on salary slashing. A senator’s salary is not enough to purchase A-listed cars in a month. A senator can be salaried seven hundred thousand naira (700,000) per month but receives millions of naira as allowances. It is either the president is playing on our intelligence or he is ignorant of the fact that senators do not live on salaries.
Another change which has proved ineffective or largely uncoordinated is the Empowerment program (N-Power) initiated for unemployed youths. Shamefully, our government pays graduates thirty thousand naira (30,000) monthly. Maybe we could call president Buhari’s non-availability or non-responsiveness the change, his concentration on fighting political parties’ war rather than performing his duties as the president, or his unconstitutional release of the list of corrupt ex-officials which surprisingly did not include any of his party members. One more, how about his ‘assent in ignorance’ to the list of appointed officials who were later revealed to be dead? Maybe we could call that change but I strongly believe such is not expected of the first citizen of a 180 million populated country.
I reckon not to use the whole page stating the gross inadequacies of the PMB led administration as the happenings speak for themselves. The present leadership can be summed up in lies, meaningless actions, ignorance, incapacity and irresponsibility. Our president lacks the skills required in coordinating the country because he proves ignorance on almost every matter (except for his claim on the fight against corruption). As contradicting as he put his ideas of democracy, he prefers to make statements from international meetings abroad than making himself available at home. Let us not forget the massacres in the hands of the Fulani herdsmen. Till now, there has been very little or no action taken to secure the lives and properties of villagers. Religion cleansing or not, it appears the country is religiously governed. No tangible step has been taken concerning the Kaduna killings. Contrary to the way he handled the of IPOB case, it seems a set of Nigerians has unlimited freedom of action.
The mantra- ‘Change Begins With Me’ is just a statement created by largely incompetent or otherwise unserious leaders to create a mental burden on individuals. When the promises are fulfilled, the people would surely adapt to the changes. You cannot expect anyone to change without giving them reasons to. If the government wants to record successful records of tax payments, they should make the living standards better and trade transactions comfortable. To prevent bribery and corruption among government workers, they should make their works enjoyable with enough remuneration and also enact active sanctions for guilty officers. It is not feasible to change if I am not provided with opportunities and avenue where change is necessary. Change begins in and with the government but must continue with the citizens. The government should do what would require change in the individual not expecting us to come and tell them how many foreign accounts they are to have or not expecting drivers not to pay a token in lieu of a huge fine for providing invalid car particulars.
TITILOLA Babatunde Dayo Maskman
…in the service of ensuring effective publicity in youths for political liberation and development…