13 February 2013

Nigeria: New Dawn


February 6, 2013, was a magnificent day for Nigeria: our Super Eagles thrashed Mali's Les Aigles to reach the final of the African Cup of Nations in South Africa, and our most significant opposition political parties formed the All Progressive Congress (APC). This new coalition not only gives the vast majority of worn-out Nigerians a tremendous sense of achievement, it gives millions of people new hope that their cause was right and new determination that change will finally show its face in Nigeria.

For many of us, this week has been a time to be proud; a time for reflection on the possibility of a new dawn, a time where our country has the chance to sow the seed of success in overcoming the great turmoil that our electoral and political process has thus far represented. Now, as Nigerians look towards 2015, it is beginning to look like we may be standing at the beginning of a new chapter in our history, one that will hopefully be defined by a prosperous democracy incontrovertibly built upon the will of the people.

Nigerians have really been put through the ringer. Apart from dealing with the dearth of security, employment, health care, education, and striving to provide for our families and rising crime, to name a few, we have been lumbered with a political leadership that is solely focused on personal interests rather than on solving our widespread problems. And even though there are over one million and ninety-nine thousand things that Nigerians would ideally like to see done differently, the one consensus of what people want right now seems to be a change of government.

A very smart man known as Albert Einstein once described insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". It would be difficult not to agree with him. If having the same party in power since 1999 translates into a reality where we still have no stable electricity, no unity, no security, no peace, no job opportunities, no development and hardly anything good, then, how on earth can anyone expect a different result in terms of the way the country is governed if the same party keeps hoisting itself into power? It would naturally follow that, in order for our life to change from the nightmare we are living into a more structured dream, we must change; the country must change and government must change. And for the first time in a very long time, a vehicle with the ability to translate that nightmare into a dream and then into reality is being presented to Nigerians. That vehicle is this newly formed APC.

However, now that the first leg of the task has been achieved, this marks the point at which the real work needs to be done. To consolidate the exceptional success that the merger represents, the APC must now pass the crucial test without allowing the demons of the past to re-emerge -- the demons which defy stepping up to the challenge of putting personal interest aside in order for the party to operate in the interest of all the people of this nation. The party must set the objective of making Nigeria a place livable for the right of the many. The coalition must work in partnership with each other to create a dynamic, broad and competitive platform for progressives, for minorities, for women, for children, for the poor and for every interest. The party must be fashioned as an entity that seeks to restore trust in Nigerian politics, cleanse Nigerian politics and decentralizes it so that people can once again have hope that politics can be about the service to the public.

The APC should be a party entrenched with solid ideals -- the ideals of integrity, impartiality, unity, honesty and development. And it should also be a party equipped with the valour to welcome new ideas required to make those standards a reality for Nigerians; a party of practical process in pursuit of a gallant cause and the solemn obligation to act accountably, transparently, and impartially. These should be at the core of APC's intention for Nigeria.

True democracy has never been a concrete box that isolates the political leadership from the people. And if it's true democracy we are interested in, then the party leadership must embrace that fact. Leaders of APC have the obligation to use their positions of power to earn the people's trust because that is what will primarily impact the public's confidence in the party. As the governors and leaders of the opposition gathered in front of the residence of the Lagos State governor to announce the merger, they must know all too well the enormous responsibility that they have undertaken and the great trust that the Nigerian people may be willing to place in them. More than anyone, the leaders of the APC know well the change that Nigeria desperately needs. They know that this country is anxious to step away from its past, and desperate to get those things done that need doing for the future.

No less important, the parties that have come together to form the APC must each individually get their act together. The ongoing internal wrangling and court cases that litter the corridors of most of the opposition parties have to stop immediately. If the APC is to have a chance of success and have a chance of being inclusive and nonpartisan in its internal decision making, then, the different entities that form it must find a way of letting bygones be bygones, cooperating and actively seeking consensus through compromise and dialogue. Each of these parties is responsible for cooperating fully with the ideal and unity necessary to establish and promote the APC.

Let me state a simple truth: public faith in the political process is extremely low. Many people are still pessimistic, especially given the fact that a number of the strong players in the new coalition were once part of past governments. Part of the APC's challenge is to earn the trust of the people by avoiding political trickery, standing up to the PDP, abstaining from inflammatory behaviour, working together and convincing the public that the party really is ready to be the fresh new change Nigeria needs despite some of the personalities that make up the party.

If managed well, the APC has the ability to bring Nigeria together once again, to unite people as one nation in which our hopes for Nigeria corresponds with a sense of consideration, decorum and responsibility. Let us be hopeful and optimistic about this chance. One can only shape the opposition and make it what they need it to be when they participate in the process.

As Nigeria prepares to embark on this new chapter in its political life, one element of change seems to rise above all others in terms of importance: specifically the need for our politicians to show love for Nigeria. Love for Nigeria means putting public interests above personal interests. It means doing everything possible to keep partisan politics fair and clean. Love for Nigeria is not about the words that politicians speak but about their actions. It's about putting nation building above everything else. Leaders of APC must display their love for Nigeria.

With 2015 approaching, we have a chance to start a new chapter, to put aside individual and party interests, to insist on accountability from the political class. More than anything, we should all accept individual responsibility for making this happen because only individual Nigerians putting Nigeria's interests first can build the just, democratic society that will make present and future generations of Nigerians justifiably proud. As this new dawn breaks, the APC is giving Nigerians a platform to do just that.

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