By Orange Heart
Buhari , if you ask most ordinary Nigerians on any major Nigerian city, is seen as a ‘messiah president’ not because they are unaware of the fact he isn’t one. But rather because Nigerians have literally colonialized in the last 54 years by politicians and officials entrusted with leadership and authority at all levels from the least official at a bus terminal (motor park), clerks in government offices to the police constable at a local station, and the higher up the authority an official has the more imperially-minded and exploitative such individual acts. Thus the rot runs all the way from the most unimportant positions in a obscure corner of the country to the most powerful positions especially the office of president tucked in vast, luxuriant, paradise-like, walled fort laid out on a massive expanse of land in the heart of the gleaming upmarket part of the capital of Abuja.
To understand why an otherwise sceptical mass of Nigerians as far as the government of the country is concerned appear suddenly hopeful, one need not focus on brand Buhari’s fabled incorruptibility but rather on the deified, shrine-like, some say monarchical aloofness and snobbery, which the seat of power, Aso Rock typifies. Since the military juntas of the 1990s hurriedly built Aso Rock and fled Dodan Baracks in the heat of June 12, previous governments having abandoned the once elitist, and more comospolitan, I guess less tastefully wasteful, colonial-era state house in Marina Lagos, no Nigerian newspaper, tv, or journal has published publicly a picture of Aso Rock! To most Nigerians, unlike the British and Americans, who could effortlessly take a harmless picture of 10 Downing Street or the White House in a postcard moment, merely taking a picture of Aso Rock would be suicidal as such foolishness was likely to earn such individual a worse treatment worse than the Mau Mau met in the hands of the British.
Thus, understanding the shocking psychology of political power and governance in Nigeria is key to unlocking the current wave of expectations from Nigerians. In my idyllic but dusty village, there is a cove laid out on a beautiful patch in the market place, there surrounded by tall mango trees, a few slender orange and papaya trees and dense shrubs, sat the village deity, the ogwugwu. Amidst the chaos, and noise of the market square on most days, this patch was almost always eerily quiet, detached and distant. But that is not all, the most amazing thing is the fear and dread in the eyes of most adults once they are within the perimeters of the patch, even the most fervent church goers often appear subdued the moment they are near the patch, most in fact avoid walking on that stretch of the market at all. I could remember one time a school pupil accidently dropped his puff-puff (snack) near the patch, his attempt to retrieve the delicious bun earned him an instant judo chop from his mother who quickly extracted her son from near the patch and fled across the road. The psychology behind the patch, that of fear and dominance, is exactly the same sort of relationship that exists between Nigeria’s officials and the citizens. While Buhari’s fabled personality and the way his handlers re-packaged and sold him to Nigerians may have helped, the real story lies in the fact that the way previous administrations in Nigeria have been run, especially in terms of the deity-like behaviour of officials in the last administration, including one presidential spokesperson calling the comparing the former president to ‘Jesus Christ’, and the fact that the spouse of the ex-president literally hijacked governance, and it felt at times under the last government that there was more than one president in Nigeria even though they only elected only one president, angered many Nigerians. This potentially forced most Nigerians to long for rebooting of both the mentality of governance, and the relationship between the governed and the government, and there was an almost unanimous perception that change had become necessary. Buhari was simply fortunate to have picked up the right message at the right time.
Do I think Buhari will change things? It’s difficult to say yet one could see the handwriting on the wall, it might not be business as usual as far as the tone and personality of governance are concerned, the sordid manner previous officials carried on with government business might be reformed in terms of a ‘more discreet approach to putting a knife to the side of Nigerians’, something akin to throwing a new scented linen sheet over a soiled bedding.
One thing Nigerians ought to learn is that government is always the same, it never changes, you can change the guard but you can never change the purpose of those who put that guard there. The state is like a skateboard on a slope, it has no breaks, it does not go back, it simply keeps moving, remove the skater, put another skater, push thing down hill it would be same thing.
Orange Heart made this comment on www.guardian.co.uk