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NIGERIA: THE DARK CLOUD OF 2023

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By Ussiju Medaner

The year 2023 eventually winds down to an end in a couple of days. It is filled with its ups and downs, the good, the bad and other shades. As a people and as a nation we have actually had a jumpy bumpy ride through almost 365 days to get to this point. And on virtually every front, it has not been very smooth for us; and even in some cases, heightened uncertainty and crisis. We entered the year on the back of the heat of the electioneering campaign that almost tore the country apart as politicians tossed caution to the air and voraciously engaged religious, ethnic and regional affiliations to garner support to win elections.

Then, we had the unexplainable need for the national currency redesign and the torment that came with it for Nigerians. We spent a little over a month grasping and gnashing in the difficulties of accessing cash to transact business across the country, for needless reasons. Some say it was a political calculation to stop the strength of the then APC presidential candidate – now President – from winning the election; others were of the opinion that it was high time the nation went cashless, while some appreciate the need to redesign the currency to halt the continuous unproductive hoarding of the old currency and aid the struggle for naira appreciation against the dollar and other international currencies. Whatever it was, the summary is that Nigerians had a rough time scaling through the harrowing period.

Looking back in March, among other things, were the hullabaloo of the elections, the emergence of winners, the cries and outbursts; followed by the rejections of results, the commencement of litigations and finally the swearing in of new administrations and governance dispensation across the state and at the centre.

The May 29th 2023 “the fuel subsidy is gone” part of a long presidential inauguration speech and the chain reaction it began would for a long time be a part of Nigerian history and one not to be forgotten in a hurry, particularly by the present generations that witnessed it.

The nearly 240 per cent increase in the pump prices of PMS, regardless of the projected gains to the nation, represented the major contributor to the hardship felt by Nigerians in the second half of the year.

The year and the beginning of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Administration represent a point of inflexion for the country. Very bold policies that came with attendant short-term hardships, hopefully, saw marked inflation across virtually all products and services and most importantly staples and energy, just as the naira continued to slump against the dollar.

What the people felt first was the apparent heightened hardship, and that made it nearly impossible for them to pause to recognise any possible long-term gains in the choices made by the new government in the interest of the country and the people of Nigeria.

Yet, as I ruminate over everything, only one occurrence appears to me to have mostly shaped the outlook of Nigeria in the year 2023, and that is politicians-induced citizens’ apathy to Nigeria and issues of national consequences. In 2023, what we lost most as a nation is citizens’ patriotism. More Nigerians have become uncaring about Nigeria, all thanks to messages and rhetoric credited to politicians. We got to a point that furthers a deadly precedent of weaponising the delicate lines of religious and ethnic identifications to divide and rule the people of Nigeria.

While we should be coordinating national development and prosperity on the back of technological advancement and infrastructural growth, we were busy still, all year round, dwelling on religious and regional differences.

We had an election that was not about the country per se, but about regions and worrisomely about religion. Peter Obi, very clearly, was for the Southeast, and then the Christian candidate; our brethren from the East could not hide that, and the campaign was clear, the election result was obvious, and Peter Obi’s presidency-to-be was but an alternative to the Biafra agitation. And we saw it all; the entire struggle for Biafra actualisation was paused for Peter Obi’s campaign, the sit-at-home order was paused to allow the region to troop out and cast their votes for him and the over 90 per cent victory he recorded in the region was enough evidence that the election was not about Nigeria but sectional interest. And this is not limited to him alone.

But more worrisome is the fact that both candidates of the Labour Party and PDP, having lost the election, made the stiffnecked decisions to reject the result of the election; which to date, has made the current Administration unaccepted to a large section of Nigerians who still choose to continue their support for their respective candidate of choice during the election.

From all indications, and objectively, the 2023 presidential election was keenly contested and the outcome was fair enough to all concerned.

The result might not be favourable to all,
understandably, but that does not change the fact that it was fair to all.

The surprises tossed up by the elections would forever remain the evidence of the fairness of the election and the authenticity of the final results.

But the decisions of the PDP and Labour Party duo of Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi to reject the outcome of the election and continue to spread the news of a rigged and stolen election have done more harm to the country in the last seven months than at any other times in the nation’s democratic journey. Democracy is all about cut-out electoral cycles, marked by pre-election issues and activities, Election Day events, emergence of winners and losers, acceptance of election outcomes, and the cycle continues. In a democracy where the cycle is broken, the state suffers the consequences of falsely created illegitimacy of government; stark division among the people, disregard and loss of trust in established government and agencies of the state.

That is the current situation of the United States of America and Nigeria. What Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi chose to do is exactly a replica of the madness Donald Trump is playing out in America. Today, American society is sharply divided, to the point that the House of Representatives has become non-performing over the conscious need to tow the path of a created division. Trust in the judiciary wanes and the country is nearly at the precipice of a democratic decline, if not a total collapse.

This is exactly the case with Nigeria in 2023, as we cannot come together to agree on issues of national relevance. INEC and the judiciary have been apparently demonised as enemies of the national system because Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar said so. It is so pathetic that these leaders would choose to take advantage of the gullible followership they command to the detriment of national cohesion and growth. In America, Trump insisted the election was stolen from him in 2020, stirred up an insurrection against the soul of the country, and had every litigation to overturn the election result turned down by courts across almost all the states of America, yet, till date, would stick to his unproven claim. And we all see the America of today; broken, divided and nearly incapable of holding it together internally.

The damage done to the soul of Nigeria in 2023 by politicians is worse than the economic woes, we seem to be more fixated on. How do we resolve our economic challenges if we remain a socially decimated entity? How do we address our problems if we cannot come together as Nigerians; if we continue to regard our religious differences and ethnic affiliation above our national identity? How do we go from here if we have respected, influential leaders who after seven months into a new government still reject the election results and continue to urge their followers to do the same through their rhetoric? Overall, 2023 was not a great year for Nigeria; yes, we survived, but we would have done better if the politicians had cared just a little bit for the wellness and sanctity of the country

GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA!

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