When, During the first week of September 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari launched a national reorientation crusade titled “Change Starts With Me”, many people burst out laughing because they saw it as another government propaganda. People weren’t impressed. They had valid reasons to scoff at this campaign. After more than seven years of the government failing to deliver on its election campaign promises, only a few citizens would be willing to give Buhari and his officials the benefit of the doubt.
There are now more people who doubt rather than believe that their lives have improved under the government led by the All Progressives Congress. Buhari’s motto “change”, the proposition on which he was elected president in 2015, has clearly lost momentum. It took many more than a year to realize the great chasm between the promises made by Buhari and the APC during the 2015 election campaigns and the haunting reality of the deprivations people have suffered since the government was elected.
After Buhari was elected, he demanded that he be given more time to implement the revolutionary and sweeping changes he had promised during the campaigns. Unfortunately, the longer an entire nation waited, the more people expressed their frustration, disappointment, anger and despair. Obviously, rising expectations that are ignored by the government always lead to growing frustrations. People realized that they had no jobs and the little money they had could afford little or nothing in the market.
At the official launch of the ‘Change Starts With Me’ campaign, the aspect of Buhari’s speech that offended many people was incorporated into the statement which read: ‘Our citizens must realize that the change they want to see starts with them, and that and social reforms are not a theoretical exercise. If you haven’t seen the change in yourself, you can’t see it in others or even in society at large. In other words, before asking “where is the change they promised us”, you must first ask yourself how far have I changed my habits, what have I done to be part of the change for the greater good of society”.
Essentially, Buhari shifted the responsibility to citizens to bring about changes in their lives. Yet it was Buhari and the APC who promised to bring sweeping changes to the country, if elected. What a shocking policy reversal. As I argued at the time, it is not the responsibility of ordinary citizens to play a central role in changing the nation. Ordinary people did not destroy the country economically and politically. More importantly, Buhari and the APC promised the citizens that they would experience changes in their socio-economic conditions and way of life.
As the dates for the 2023 national elections approach, federal cabinet ministers, presidential advisers and aides, and the APC have begun feeding citizens a diet of fabricated stories about the government’s tremendous achievements over the past seven years, even when evidence on the ground does not support the outlandish stories. APC officials who undertake desert fishing expeditions have a reason to do so. They are emboldened by the experience of 2015 when APC leaders sold the message that convinced voters that Nigeria needed change and that the government led by Goodluck Jonathan lacked vision, was incompetent, uninspired and lifeless.
Ahead of next year’s election, APC salespeople are on the move again. They want to replicate the magic message of 2015 even though it is a message built on the platform of lies, deceit and unverified claims that persuaded Nigerians to vote for anyone and any party except Jonathan and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The message worked. Jonathan was removed from office and the APC, a largely unknown and untested party, was mandated by voters to govern in the national interest.
In 2015, the nation was told that Jonathan had failed to improve national security, that law and order had broken down, that the country had been overrun by criminals, that infrastructure had completely broken down. collapsed, that the economy was in a coma and needed emergency surgery. , that the socio-economic conditions of citizens had declined sharply instead of improving, and that basic health care, quality education at primary, secondary and university levels, agricultural production and jobs had become inaccessible and unaffordable.
During the 2015 presidential election, Nigerians found the APC’s message of change appealing as conditions at the time were depressing. People wanted change. And the elections have produced much-needed change. What voters didn’t know was the nature of the change, how the new government would fare, and whether our standard of living would be better or worse under the APC government. The people who voted for the APC took a gamble. It turned out to be a gamble with serious consequences. Nigerians are still paying a heavy price for a decision they made over seven years ago to empower a political party.
The APC evangelists are once again on the road to test and sell their refurbished manifesto which says the government of Bola Ahmed Tinubu would grant Nigerians everything they ever wanted in their lives. Their unique selling point is that the economy, battered and bruised by the outgoing APC government – we must remember this – would be revived quickly under Tinubu’s presidency.
How wonderful to experience life under a different government. Consider this. For the past seven and a half years, Nigerians have lived a life of agony and have borne undeserved burdens imposed on them by a government that promised so much but delivered next to nothing, and still manages to manufacture insignificant reasons to defend his inability to meet basic needs. needs of citizens. We have known a government that promised to turn the country into an economic Eldorado but managed to make life unbearable for everyone. We have seen little action from a government that is committed to destroying corruption, but has seen scandals and financial scandals escalate.
In 2015, Buhari and the APC kingmakers made false promises and swore to crush the Boko Haram insurgency in the north, quell ethnic uprisings across the country, create a stable society in strengthening law and order across the country and halting the rise. youth unemployment. So far, the government has failed to deliver on any of these grand promises.
The experiments left many confused and disillusioned. When a government promises to transform the lives of citizens in meaningful ways, but makes little or no effort to meet those expectations, citizens are shocked, mentally disoriented, unstable, stressed and upset.
There is little to no debate on whether the government has significantly reduced poverty in the country or heaped more gloom on the citizens. Public opinion is categorical and unfavorable. It’s not surprising. In 2015, there was unprecedented propaganda and aura around Buhari. He was introduced to the nation as the man who would free the country from 16 years of poverty caused by the PDP government.
For the past seven years, the government and APC leaders have acted on the assumption that the Nigerian people are naïve, servile, easily deceived, uncritical and incapable of distinguishing between propaganda and truth. Certainly, many people are stressed, angry and disappointed with the government due to the state of the economy, the deterioration of the living conditions of citizens, the widespread corruption and the government’s inability to make a difference in people’s lives.
The 2023 elections will be very different from the 2015 and 2019 elections. Next year’s elections will be contested on different grounds; and they will be affected or influenced by fundamentally different factors. Things won’t be the same.