The 2015 general election, which might go down as one of the most significant in the history of Nigeria, divided friends and families by reason of the electoral choices they had to make. To each individual, it was either going to be for Change or for Transformation. While the choice for change was supposed to be easy, the prospects of things to come which remained largely unclear, with the only hope being a dark blast from the past, made the choice otherwise forced. The Change Agenda was fronted by the septuagenarian former military leader, General Muhammadu Buhari, while the Transformation Agenda was fronted by the then incumbent, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. At the end of the day, a lot of people voted what they thought to be change, while others voted for things to stay the same, or, so it seemed. The aftermath of that decision now abides with us
To the Change party, everything that had been was bad and the country could simply not afford to walk that (damned) path again. The need to repeal and replace policies of the incumbent government, which then appeared to be aimed at creating unlimited opportunity for a privileged few to siphon public funds, was impressed upon the Nigerian electorate. Simply put, the decision each electorate made would either make or mar Nigeria. And since the country as presented had been marred to some point by the unchecked corruption within the incumbent administration, the only thing worth doing to save was to elect a new government with a new vision, a new blueprint.
To the incumbent government who reckoned they had not performed too well, they pleaded for an opportunity to transform and reform their policies, build on it, and make it all better as they are beautiful, only lacking execution. The choice was made at the end of the day, and it was for change. The expectation was simple: having condemned every policy of the previous administration, everything must be made new. Everything would be made new.
However, to this end, the new government, rather disappointingly, has been short of anything new. Like the sort of NEWNESS you would expect after that much of a noise that propelled the CHANGE agenda to the zenith. All we have had are continuations of projects, of plans, of initiatives that were once said to be non-existent or aimed at siphoning funds. Old wine in pharisaic mugs.
The same projects that were described non-existent during the run up to the 2015 general elections are now the same ones being built upon by the present administration. In some cases with a change of name, in others, as they were.
The Buhari led administration yesterday on Twitter announced, for the second time, rather proudly, that they had crossed over from the side of mai chanji, repeal and replace, to continuity. The government is a continuum, as they plan to implement the plans of the previous administration. We thought you said all was bad!
The government has put a statement out to inform the public of their decision to revive Goodluck Jonathan’s YOUWIN programme: a youth empowerment initiative championed by the then Minister of Finance and the coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The programme was established in 2011 to empower youth in order to reduce unemployment, and promoting self-sufficiency in employing labour. The Jonathan administration, through the programme, empowered over 5,000 youths, each winning as much as $50,000 dollars, depending on presented business plans.
YouWin was so good, Chris Blattman, an economist at Columbia University who researches poverty and global development, described it as one of the “most effective development programs in history.”
Despite having condemned the initiative during the campaign, the new government, seeing how good the programme was, agreed to fund and rebrand the programme in June 2016.
Now, YouWin is just one of the many projects of the last administration that have now been modelled upon by the new government and stylishly rebranded. The cassava bread and Ogidigben gas city project which were initiated by the past administration have also been reintroduced by the new one. With the way Jonathan and everything his administration stood for was condemned and castigated in the build up to the 2015 election, one would not expect the new administration to want to renew what formed a vital part of the identity built by that administration
This is, however, not just about Buhari.
In the build up to the US presidential election and since coming into government Donald Trump has maintained his sentiments on Obamacare, once describing it as a terrible, imploding, pile of garbage. In describing what he had as plans, he constantly used the phrase “repeal and replace”. The use of the phrase gave the people the sense he had something better than Obamacare planned. Seeing who Trump has shown himself to be in recent months, it is almost impossible to expect a health care package better than Obamacare from him. However, we looked on until he released the plan, and unsurprisingly, it appeared to be a republican version of ObamaCare. The health plan appeared to be Obamacare all over only with exceptions to the protections for the vulnerable. To which we ask, what happened to the REPEALING AND REPLACING?
If there is a thing Trump and Buhari’s government have shown us so far, it is that change, as used in the political clime, is nothing but a façade. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
It is, however, needful to say that the idea of sustaining the good projects of the past administration is commendable. Even though it appears the projects were only too good to throw away, and in the absence of something better, they are better kept, rebranded and improved upon.