It is the 56th year of Nigeria’s independence today and political leaders are assuring of an end to the economic recession the country is going through. In spite of open hiccups within the ruling party over the conduct and outcome of its Ondo State governorship recruitment process, the chieftains are one with each other in calling on Nigerians not to lose hope but rather line behind the government. That is what Odigie-Oyegun, Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu in particular are all saying.
However, the APC government has come under heavy criticism from individuals and interest groups recently over policies or lack of policies believed to have led to the suffering Nigerians are going through. The president has additionally been criticised for imbalance in appointments as well as stuck in criticising the past administration.
The president has hit back by saying he would continue to criticise the past government as far as economic crisis that has engulfed the state is concerned. He appears to believe that today cannot be accounted for without linking it to what happened yesterday, which would be a sound argument. Whether that also answers the question of a crisis of policy direction is a different case. The president is seen generally to have shifted in economic conviction even as his rhetoric is still attacking the market economy.
The implication is that any hope of structural attack on the Nigerian economy in favour of rapid social change is now a wasted effort. Although President Buhari has declared commitment to manufacturing, nobody observes any coherent processes in that direction. He has also joined his predecessors in trying to unhook the state from the economy at a time foreign investors have their own global investment destination list in which Nigeria is not privileged, contrary to the president’s belief that other countries are falling over themselves to make it to investing in Nigeria. Every other president before him said the same thing. His belief that no country can be an island in the 21st century presents the possibility that, all said and done, the best that might come from the present regime may be no more than barely managing the status quo to 2019 before fighting very hard to get re-elected or be voted out like Goodluck Jonathan, his predecessor the way the emir of Kano has hinted.
If that happens, an era would have come to a close in Nigerian politics: the era of hoping that the country would achieve social transformation via a strong individual presiding over the bureaucratic state. Both Obasanjo and Buhari who embodied such potentials have all turned against them once in power. The end of that illusion might also end the illusion of the bureaucratic state itself as an instrument for managing change. The illusion in there lies in expecting a set of the elite to hold political power and create the security conditions for another set of elite to be the investors or the ones who would make money. That has turned out the exact opposite. The elite on top of the bureaucratic have turned out richer than those expected to be the investors. In fact, what has happened is whereby those expected to be investors became the investing face of the top players of the bureaucratic state. Unfortunately, analysts of corruption in Nigeria do not trace the phenomenon to this illusion. Not surprisingly, none of the anti-corruption wars have made any significant progress and none would.
The reconstitution of the state might, therefore, actually be what the promoters of restructuring are after, not the reconstitution of the country back to regions which would create more confusion with the current accumulation mode of the power elite.
With neither of the political parties organisationally coherent or discursively deep and with the Buhari strong man not as forthcoming in terms of anything near social transformation, the question some African peasants are reported to have asked about when independence would end will keep defining independence anniversaries in Nigeria till God knows when.