Nigerians have a right to ‘change of government’

On Monday, October 10, 2022, the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress, Bola Tinubu, said, “If they say they want a change of government, just tell them ‘we like to be polite but shut up your mouth.’” This is another sign among the many we have already seen that Nigeria’s democracy is endangered. This is not a matter of political parties but the general political clime in Nigeria. That aside, it is more disheartening that this kind of statement is coming from the platform of a party that benefitted from the agitation of the Nigerian masses for ‘a change of government.’

A change of government is the beauty of any democracy. So, I am bewildered at the call by the APC presidential candidate for people wanting a change of government, the same mantra they sided with in 2015, to shut up. Should people not call for a change of government if the current one has disappointed them? Is that not what democracy is all about? The APC must have somehow forgotten that the performance of any administration has consequences on their next outing at the polls. Or maybe they have perfected manipulative techniques to subvert the will of the people. In government, only a good turn should deserve another. Bad performance in government should never be rewarded, no matter the ethnic or political group anyone belongs to. Until we all get this right, our democracy will never mature. The people must trust and keep the faith that with their votes, they can displace, in the next election cycle, any administration that has failed them today.

Speaking about government failure today, the regime of the President, Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) comes to mind. Nigerians used their votes to affect a ‘change of government’ in 2015 because they thought Buhari could fix our three most pressing issues; economy, insecurity and corruption. These three things were what Buhari was elected to fix not any other thing his regime appears to have distracted Nigerians with today. Examine those three things today, have they been fixed? In any organisation, the performance of any member of staff is accessed based on the goals they were employed to achieve. For instance, it doesn’t matter if a member of staff is the most punctual at work, if the goals are not met, it is a failure. The statistics of how far President Buhari has failed in what he was employed to achieve are there. For instance, our unemployment rate has moved from single to double digits under him, the debt profile has hit N42tn, there is a mass exodus of Nigerians from home, he will leave a debt of over N50tn when he leaves office next year and many other indicators of his regime’s failure.

Why should anyone, despite the hardship Nigerians have gone through under Buhari ask Nigerians who want a change of government to shut up? I ask again, why? Is it by force? Must the APC rule again? Why do they always seem to be anti-democratic? Nigerians must put ethnicity and political differences aside and speak loud and clear with their votes to make the ruling elites know that there is a price for failure in government. We must make them aware that we saw their shortcomings and that we will be changing government whether they like it or not. Politicians will sit tight if they know that their actions today could cost them or their party in the next election.

Winston Churchill is widely regarded as the greatest British Prime Minister of all time. His extraordinary leadership during WWII cemented his place in British history. He led his country through ‘its darkest hours.’ But guess what? He lost his re-election bid. Voters respected and liked his wartime record but were more cynical of the Conservative Party’s domestic and foreign policy record in the late 1930s. Also, his political campaign was generally considered to have been poor in comparison to Labour. They wanted more than a war leader, they yearned for someone who could lead a real social change. The Labour Party’s emphasis on social reform clearly appealed to many voters, who gave Labour a landslide victory at the polls and a clear mandate for change. There were no emotions. Churchill, a man with a public approval rating that never dropped below 78%, paid the price. That was democracy at play.

Also, the 31st President of the United States, Herbert Hoover, was the most preferred in his time. But electoral consequences kicked in in the 1932 election. He was booted out of office for Franklin Roosevelt of the Democratic Party. The only significant issue in the 1932 presidential campaign was the Great Depression. The American people were forced to choose between the seemingly ineffective policies of the incumbent Hoover, who blamed the depression on external events and claimed that Roosevelt would exacerbate the disaster, and Roosevelt’s hazily defined New Deal programme. Roosevelt clearly articulated that his plan for economic recovery would make extensive use of Federal Government power. After winning by a landslide in 1928, Hoover was defeated by another landslide in the November 1932 election, winning only 6 of the 50 states. The people got the change of government they wanted. No one asked the American citizens to shut up.

Let’s come back home. Our own Goodluck Jonathan was rejected because he was generally perceived to have poorly handled the economy, corruption and security. Those were the most important reasons he lost his re-election. Why do the same people that benefitted from his removal want Nigerians to shut up today? Are they afraid of their performance in the past seven years? Nigerians, who want a change of government, please don’t shut up. Only a good turn should deserve another.

  • Francis writes from London and tweets via @olamidefrancis

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