Change means being commonsensical enough to know that you cannot chase two rats at the same time
Change is natural and normal. Life is not static; like the sea, it is in a continuous, sometimes, turbulent flow. Since change is inevitable, it can be amazing that there are people who fear it. Whatever the case, it is futile to stop an idea whose time has come. Human beings, given objective conditions, can change their circumstance. The old, must give way to the new; that is what change is. However, not all change is progressive. Therefore, as human beings we should strive for change that results in improvement.
The All Progressive Congress (APC) which becomes Nigeria’s ruling party this week, choose change as its slogan. It will be the second time in our contemporary political history that the change slogan will be deployed to the electoral battle field. The first major use was in 1983 when the progressive alliance led by Alhaji Abubakar Rimi adopted Chanji as its slogan especially in the Kano State gubernatorial elections. The progressives coalition lost the elections, but the victors also lost as within three months, the military led by General Muhammadu Buhari booted them out of power into prison. Nigerians are simple; they are not a people who ask for the moon. Their desire is job in hand, food on the table, roof over the head and shirt on the back.
It is in this sense, change will make a meaning; they will not live by slogans alone or be contented with a diet of promises. For the APC to move from sloganeering to meeting the aspirations and needs of the people. For it to distinguish itself from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and bring true change, it has to implement the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy as contained in Chapter II of the Constitution. Part of that Chapter states that it is a basic duty of Government to ensure “that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens” The PDP has done well in establishing fourteen new universities to meet the growing demands of the people. In this case, change would be the adequate funding of education.
Real change in education will mean the APC Government implementing the constitutional provision making Universal Education free and compulsory, and making Secondary School, University and Adult Education free. Change will mean adding value to the crude oil we sell, and refining our petroleum product needs. This will be a positive change that will significantly boost our income and eliminate the need for subsidy. Change means supplying adequate electricity rather than deregulating darkness.
Change means being commonsensical enough to know that you cannot chase two rats at the same time, you end up losing both; you cannot doggedly pursue neo-liberal agenda or be a fanatical follower of the Market forces religion and also hope to create mass sustainable jobs or implement Chapter II of the Constitution. On the issue of jobs for instance, while the APC manifesto promises mass creation of jobs, its leading lights like Mallam El-Rufai are advocating mass lay-offs. The same treatment meted out to public servants in the twilight of the Obasanjo PDP-led administration. At that time, the Committee led by El-Rufai sacked tens of thousands of public servants who were promised immediate payment of severance benefits which, of course did not materialize.
This leads to the issue of change agents. Change is change, but whether change is positive or negative would depend on the change agents. Currently, many assume that since the APC advocates change, then its members are on the same page. Nothing can be further from the truth. Change fundamentally depends on who is carrying out the change, for what purpose, for whom and in whose benefit? Change is not free of interests and values. That a politician moves from the PDP to the APC does not mean he has become a progressive, and if the reverse were the case, does not mean he has become a conservative.
People cross carpet for various reasons. So while the APC platform of change is attractive enough to secure votes, it might have few change agents. Many are confident that President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, said to be austere, honest and patriotic, will make the difference. This may turn out to be true, but like the trite goes, a tree does not make a forest; while a nation can find its voice in a man, that man cannot constitute the nation. No matter how strong, tactical and strategic a general is, he needs officers and men to win a battle or war. The challenge to change may not come from the opposition, but from within the APC itself; the insect that devours the vegetable usually resides inside the vegetable itself.
•Lakemfa is Secretary-General of Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU).