TAKE this: Expectation crashes when it collides with reality. The smithereens are the hisses, sighs and, well, curses and frustrations, which follow. But we all prefer the dream of expectations to the freezing outcome of realities. With expectation, the adrenaline shoots up, the heart quickens its pace, a flush of lush freshness brightens everywhere. We dream of the sometimes impossible, expecting our fantasy to happen; our heart’s desire to manifest, our hope to rekindle and sparkle.
But, oftentimes, it is reality that moderates the euphoria of expectations. The reality sobers all up, like the drunken sailor rousing to the fluttering shades of sunlight, the morning after a rancorous binge.
Nigerians, under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, are right now trapped in the euphoria of expectations and the burden of reality. Torn between the hard, cold facts of reality and the romanticism of expectations, not a few in the moment of angst are questioning and seeking a redefinition of ‘change’ which the new order lavishly touted in the run-up to the last general elections one year ago.
Buffeted by economic vagaries, with attendant sharp drop in the citizens’ standard of living, which has even been harshly compounded by energy crisis – no fuel, no electricity, which invariably translates to being stranded on all fronts, many Nigerians, like the Biblical Israelites, are murmuring and grunting, and asking if it would not have been better to have stayed back or returned to Egypt, the land of their slavery. Something must be terribly wrong when a man prefers his robust slavery to lean liberty. Could it then be a manifestation of short sightedness on the path of Nigerians or failure of those leading them on to clearly define the vision that drives the process of delivering the expectations? Or both? We shall return to that shortly.
Indeed, expectations were high when the ‘change’ train berthed the shores. The men who screamed power to the people had rendered the people utterly powerless with their sheer prodigality in the years of the locust. Like the men of Sodom and Gomorrah, the squandering of our riches had truly hit an embarrassing and sore level. Even before revelations of the arms bazaar became public theatre, it was no secret that hoodlums, masquerading as government officials had broken into the collective till. The streets of Abuja, the nation’s capital, that represents our monument to the contradiction of opulence and flatulence; power and sleaze, presented the image of a nation on the brink of disaster, to the discerning; that is, if you ferreted beyond the giddy landscape of mansions and skyscrapers, and glittering wonders-on-wheel. How could a people revel in the grandiose with no productive base? How could there be abundant pleasure without the perspicacity of industry? The contradiction was all too glaring for all to see, except for the blind, sorry the blind at heart and conscience.
Naturally, the general elections of 2015, provided the citizenry the golden opportunity to vote out a central government they thought didn’t do much to arrest the drift in the land, symbolised by the legendary rot in the oil behemoth, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. Nigerians seemed to be convinced that the Jonathan administration lacked the will to confront the denizens of sleaze in his government. They yearned for a leader who could bark, even if he couldn’t bite, at the corruption monsters. He did neither. Chances are that if he had summoned enough balls to fire a couple of super ministers whose ministries and parastatals were perceived to be the bastion of corruption, the election could have gone either way. More than anything else, it is a possibility that if he had been seen as being a man of action in the fight against graft, if he had shown a little sensitivity to the people’s angst against the carry-on of some of his officials, especially the super women, chances are that he could have had a second chance. But, all that now remains in the realm of conjectures!
When you add the perceived cordoning of corruption in his government to the epileptic power and fuel crises under Jonathan, it was not too difficult for many Nigerians to embrace the Buharists’ change mantra, which they sold fervently across the land. March 28, 2015 came. It was a hell of a chance to consign the Jonathan government to history. And the people rolled out the drums. Expectations ran high. The man who was going to perform the magic, that word again, of changing the fortunes of the nation had come. But today, confronted with the reality on ground, the expectations of a magician who will fix all our problems overnight has petered. Today, many who didn’t moderate their expectations are punching and kicking at the air, and muttering inaudible things. The truth, and reality is, in governance there are no quick fixes; outcomes take time to manifest; governance is a slow, painful process, especially the messy situation that stares all sadly in the face. The burden of managing the crisis between reality and expectation is the biggest challenge confronting the ruling party today. How they manage it will define the entire tenure of the Buhari administration and if they would get a return ticket in 2019.
But no one can in all honesty blame the people if they are becoming impatient or irritated with the government: The APC shot up the people’s adrenaline with mountain of promises during the electioneering period. They told the people to expect so much from the incoming government. And the people took every word of theirs serious, perhaps, too serious. Now, both the government and the people are finding a chasm between expectations and reality!
Now, what next? What the leaders of the APC and government need to do is to open a robust communication channel with Nigerians: To let them know the difference between reality and expectations. The reality is that Buhari is not a miracle worker. Only God is God of miracles. Expectations can be met, but it will take time. And that’s the reality.
The people should be told in clear terms, that things are tough and will be tougher before they get better. Let that be creatively and humbly communicated to Nigerians. The town hall meetings could be helpful in this regard.
Then, let the palliatives go hand-in-hand with the communication strategy. Let the fuel flow; let there be light, let there be food on the table of Nigerians. When so many people are hungry and complaining, putting all the crooks with itchy fingers in jail, laudable as it certainly is, it won’t get all the mileage it ought to. Many years ago, the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa, told me that when a man is hungry, can’t feed his family and pay his children’s school fees, that is not the right time to preach the gospel to him or ask him ‘to receive Christ, as his lord and personal saviour.’ “What you do,” Bishop Idahosa said, “ is to give him money to solve his immediate problems, then he can listen attentively to you.”
Has Buhari lived up to his promises? Some, not all. For example, he is fighting corruption. Even if it is perceived as selective, at least, something is going on. Think of all that would have been achieved if the money lost to corruption had been deployed to the health sector, education, roads, power and other infrastructure. What we are suffering today are the evil effects of corruption. So, any leader fighting graft should have our support. He is giving Boko Haram a bloody nose. We shouldn’t down play that. Surely, he still has a lot of work to do in the economic turnaround of our country; the infrastructural reengineering. We hope he hits it fast as clock ticks fast.