When the All Progressives Congress unveiled its campaign on Sunday, one of the issues that quickly arose was the plagiarism of its so-called Next Level logo. The logo itself has to be one of the most unimaginative concepts ever launched for a presidential campaign: It depicted President Muhammadu Buhari, with his blinders resolutely on his face, leading a group that included his deputy, Pastor-Professor Yemi Osinbajo. All of them sheepishly walked behind him, and both leaders’ positioning in the frame suggested detachment from the people they were supposedly leading.
Beyond the aesthetic shortcomings of the logo is the choice of the slogan: Next Level. Why a patois that has been clichéd to death in Pentecostalism?
Buhari’s campaign could not even demonstrate they respect Nigerians enough to put some rigour into their hustings. If they cannot put enough effort into the more straightforward aspects of governing, then what guarantee do we have that they will fulfil all the ambitious promises they are making to Nigerians all over again.
Just four years ago, Buhari’s APC launched a manifesto wherein the very first promise on the list was to “Initiate action in order to amend our constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments to entrench true federalism and the federal spirit.” Today, they have not only strayed from that promise, but they also pretend they never had anything to do with it. Recently, when Buhari addressed some Nigerians at the Paris Peace Forum, he referred to the call for federalism as “lazy” and asked his audience to ask those who promise them “restructuring” what they meant! Could be that he is genuinely oblivious of his own party manifesto? And if he was, why should we trust him again now that he is back making a new set of promises?
Buhari and the APC came into office with high expectations, promising “change” only for them to cede that responsibility to beleaguered Nigerian citizens by launching another version of ethical revolution called “Change begins with me.” The same people who claim that Nigeria will change for the better if we the people master certain ethics are also the ones who flip flop with every political tide. In 2015, they promised to fight corruption but by 2018, their door has been opened wide enough to accommodate all the alleged looters from the Peoples Democratic Party, some of whose deep pockets make them worthwhile allies for the funding of the 2019 elections.
The APC is full of men and women with barely tolerable reputations, and they hide under the tattered umbrella of Buhari’s mythical integrity. For instance, their poor handling of the bribery scandal by the Kano State Governor, Umar Ganduje, showed the farce that is Buhari’s so-called integrity. Also, watching the video of Buhari defending Ganduje, I was struck by the shiftiness of a man who likes to tout his virtue as his greatest public asset. So, why should anyone still take him seriously as he promises to take us to a nebulous Next Level? Even the party’s chairman, the socialist turned socialite, Adams Oshiomhole, has racked up enough scandals to be asked to step aside from his job until a proper investigation is conducted but no, he still goes around braying “anti-corruption.”
The APC’s narratives of triumph also never quite line up with reality. One day, they claim that Nigeria produces so much rice that mills in Thailand are shutting down. During his visit to the US, Buhari also boldly declared that we saved a significant amount of money by cutting importation of rice down by 90 per cent. Conversely, more credible reports list us as the biggest importer of rice after China (whose billion-people population has rice as their staple food!). Nigeria’s rice imports are still projected to rise in 2019 by 13 per cent, but our leaders keep declaring premature victory for themselves on rice production. Also, till now, they have not been able to explain the odd issue of fuel subsidy satisfactorily. They once called it a scam, but how come they have retained and even multiplied those massive payments? Under their watch, 11million Nigerians have lost their jobs, and 13 million children are now out of school. Data after data suggest that Nigerians, especially the young ones with some professional training, are eloping from the country.
These days, when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo goes to the market to distribute $27 TraderMoni to the impoverished masses failed by their administration, one wonders if he is bothered between the yawning gap of what they promised and what they now deliver. They might argue that they made their promises like typical politicians and were not entirely aware of the enormity of the task ahead of them. However, there is virtually no one in power in the APC that can claim to be a political virgin. If they were astounded by the reality of governance at the presidential level, it is because their subpar administration in the South-West had never been subjected to scrutiny before now. They have benefited from years of construing themselves as the “opposition,” an underdog whose faults could (and should be overlooked). Now that they are at the centre, and those odds are out of their immediate control, we can see clearly that their party is full of mere blabbermouths, empty suits and agbada.
When the 2019 electioneering kicks off fully, it is almost certain they will not engage Nigerians on issues of general concern. Instead, they will bleat their wearying boasts about having to wipe the PDP’s mess until they exhaust our spirits. While they genuinely might have had to deal with the previous administrations’ sloppiness, and they also did not have enough financial resources at the start to fulfil certain high expectations, the APC has no excuses for not carrying out parts of its promises that did not require financial resources. They promised more transparency in their spending; electoral reforms, although the Ekiti and Osun elections said otherwise; constitution amendment to remove immunity for public service holders, but their handling of corruption cases has been more of showmanship; employment of the “best and brightest” into public service, instead of naked nepotism by Buhari’s government; job creation policies, instead of massive job loss the nation has experienced; reduction of the bloated civil service; environmental-friendly policies; gender equality, etc.
The moment they won the election, the first thing they did was to forget their promises and they fell into the same pattern of unproductive governance that the PDP had established. Not only did they lazily reach for the habits of administration that made previous governments ineffective, they never summoned the will to improve on the art of governance. That is why one of their poorly-conceived projects like Air Nigeria was aborted before it could ever even take off. Given their blunders and the level at which they failed expectations, do they deserve another four years?
Buhari should not be rewarded for his underwhelming leadership by slapping him with another term. He has severe ethical challenges, and those who think that he has any more surprises up his sleeves are going to drag all of us down with such gullible delusions. Buhari is a Nollywood film without a Part 2. What we have seen in the past four years is all there is to him; there is no promise of self-reflexivity that will lead improvements and transformation to their techniques of governance. If Buhari wins in 2019, we will be worse off as a nation given that there is nothing at stake for him – no third term tenure – to propel his waning energy. The man will lifelessly spend all his days behind the curtains in Aso Rock, outsourcing all his responsibilities to the power mongers and lying spirits that surround him in Aso Rock until 2023. For those of us who genuinely care about Nigeria, that kind of fate is too dreadful even to imagine.