What goes around comes aground, By Banji Ojewale


Reading Time: 5 mins read

The universal principle is that what goes around must come around. It’s not so in Nigeria. With us, when what goes around goes around, it does more than coming around. As it makes its return trip, it comes aground, grounding us, leveling us, merging us with the miry mud. That’s been our history, extinct and extant. We create institutions and leaders from this back-and-forth process to form an endless cycle of assailable links in governance that remind us of the famous lines of the late poet, Christopher Okigbo: “AN OLD STAR departs/ leaves us here on the shore/Gazing heavenward for a new star approaching;/The new star appears/ foreshadows its going/Before a going and coming that goes on forever…” (“Path of Thunder”).

It is a villainous star, a kind of abiku that gives ephemeral excitement to the home where it surfaces at birth. Our present is nothing but a horrid replay of unpleasant encounters with the past. We sowed the wind yesterday; but today we’re reaping what’s greater than the wind. What goes around comes aground.

It’s tragic that we always go back into forlorn ages for deliverance from present woes. In 1984, we all stood in awe of Decree 4, and to differ from officialdom was to court doom. We were mortally pummeled by the demands of that law under military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. His days recorded some of the worst breaches of human rights in the annals of Nigeria. There was a retroactive application of edicts that outraged Nigerians and the international community.  Yet, more than three decades later when we wanted a president to free us from the “clueless” hold of Goodluck Jonathan, guess who we went for? Buhari, the figure of a discarded dispensation! We dug him out of his sepulchral abode, to sit over the affairs of the living; he couldn’t but bring the nation to a level where we landed in a grave crisis from which we haven’t emerged. He grounded the country and bequeathed an economy which, experts warn, won’t yield to a quick fix. They say a lot of dead debris would require to be washed away first now and in the years ahead, to make way for the real business of economic resuscitation, which would take a much longer time. We aren’t reaping the wind we sowed; we are going to be harvesting a killer hurricane.

It’s no surprise that President Bola Tinubu, Buhari’s successor, is inheriting a country left in funereal straits. What else did we expect from a predecessor he exhumed and installed as our leader? As we all can see now, Buhari didn’t remember to take the pall over him back as he receded after his eight-year reign; it is still with us, overshadowing the entire land of the living.

Tinubu is also under the guidance of Okigbo’s cursed star. He is planting seeds certain to grow into labyrinthine forests with the potential to ground us. He’s going his predecessor’s way, throwing free cash at challenges on the ground, when, according to experts, he could use this money to address strategic needs of the weak, who make up the majority. Those who came before him also walked this pseudo-welfarist route of easy cash solution and flopped. There was/is little to show for the billions they spent as reliefs.

This approach is set to inject more ‘multidimensional’ penury into the system, as revealed by local and independent international figures. First, what does the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) say, even after we have released raw money to the so-called poor? The body issued a report late in 2022 where it said the number of compatriots “living in poverty stands at 133 million.” This is about 63 per cent of the country’s population. There was no indication of any impact of the various levels of the direct cash interventions initiated by the successive governments. Now the World Bank. Its recent publication says “extremely poor people in Nigeria (have) increased from 95 to 104 million.” Again, there is nothing to reflect the success of the cash transactions between the authorities and the underclass.

So, why would Tinubu ply the same unprofitable path? It’s because he’s tragically trapped in Nigeria’s halfway capitalist frame that promotes the deployment of capital (raw cash) to tackle the needs of the indigent masses. Otherwise, why not address these issues by applying the massive funds under his watch to build critical infrastructure: schools (along with free education for all at all levels), health centres, modern roads, employment-generating agro-ventures in the rural regions, aggressive human capacity building projects, etc.? Ready or ‘uncreated’ money in my pocket or in my bank account won’t bring about these fundamental changes in the polity. Rather, it will lead to individualistic misadventures and illusory perceptions of prosperity. While the government would assume it is pursuing popular interests, it would wake up at the end of the day to face acute mass misery, hunger, depression, inflation and poverty among those we pretend we want to help. We seem not to be decoding this five-word maxim: what goes around comes aground.

What the leaders are giving out by way of so-termed palliatives is opium sedatives from which you would wake back into the reality of your excruciating conditions, sooner or later. They offer temporary comfort, when what we need is a base on which to erect lasting social and economic justice. Isn’t it heartless not to go the whole hog of dealing with the problem of the poor, whom we have plunged into avoidable suffering through the ill-conceived displacement of the fuel subsidy? Throwing N35,000 monthly remittance to a very small percentage of the population for a limited period, offering ‘13th’ month bonus to civil servants, halving charges on public transportation or delivering free train rides during festive seasons, asking workers to cut the number of office hours to beat high cost of commuting, etc. all amount to a will-o-’the-wisp in the face of the real, long-term overwhelming concerns of the society. They don’t outwit the challenges. We’re only trying to tame a 21st Century plague with the concoctions of 13th Century alchemists.

Thus, all Nigerian governments, military, diarchy and civilian, have trodden a predictable trajectory. As our leaders step into office, we hail them and proceed shortly to the next stage of hauling them unto our laps. It’s never a long romance. For, just a few months after the citizens release their leaders into the performance field to fulfil their campaign pledges, the administration and its agencies begin to traumatise the people with policies that whipped us into destitution in the past.








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