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I Am An Ordinary Nigerian

Chinedu Okpalanma

Africa News

I Am An Ordinary Nigerian

Few days ago, my attention was drawn to a publication on various social media platforms where a certain Kayode Ogundamisi posited with finite certainty that I was a fraud, and one worthy of nothing other than urgent criminal prosecution.
I have also watched with utter dismay as the days have gone by how an individual who I have never met, never had any sort of casual or formal correspondence with in any form whatsoever would be so certain about my person & character to have termed me fraudulent and then subsequently promote this vicious campaign against my character & person, all in an aim to pull down a nationalistic movement to which I and millions of well-meaning Nigerians have freely subscribed to via the affirmative statement ‪#‎istandwithbuhari‬.

It has therefore become important for me at this time to say a thing or two, not in direct response to this personalised attack & negative campaign, but to highlight a few fundamental problems we may face as a people, which in itself represents a bigger problem in our quest to get it right once and for all as we clamour for change in Nigeria.

Between 1999 and 2015, Nigeria was ruled by a behemoth of a system driven by a party known as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Throughout this reign, there were a lot of positives as there were negatives. Importantly, it gave us the opportunity as a people to wake up to a new consciousness. After the death of President Umaru Muas Yar’adua (may his gentle soul continue to rest in peace), we all remember the political turmoil our nation was almost subjected to before Goodluck Jonathan was subsequently sworn in as President. What followed was the 2011 election which he won.

From the time Goodluck Jonathan won that election, I was one of his biggest critics. I was vocal and marched on the streets during the ‪#‎OccupyNigeria‬ protests, I wrote open letters to the Presidency in anger at some of the names his government found worthy of national merit awards, I also wrote on various public platforms on my disappointment at the then President’s seeming inability to act even when it seemed there was overwhelming evidence of impunity against his cabinet members. In all of this though, I remained steadfast in the belief that things would change.

By 2014, the menace of Boko Haram had risen to a frightening crescendo where it was obvious Nigeria was under siege. Behind this backdrop was the imminent approach of the general elections. To my own understanding & conviction then, I believed that his government was more under siege for political reasons & that sabotage was a scheme being used to oust him by any means necessary. Coupled with the revolution I was witnessing in the agricultural sector & seeming revival of our railway system, I felt he was my best candidate to continue and thus I put in my whole support for his candidacy without coercion.

Did I ever meet Goodluck Jonathan in person throughout his Presidency? No. Did the Presidency sponsor my activities as i went about expending resources in trying to sensitize Nigerians to vote for him then? No. Did any of his ministers, agencies of government, friends of the President or even the NSA give me a penny or contract either to help launder money or as appreciation for political patronage? No. Did I solicit for such patronage? No. Why? Because i belong to that old school that says “put your money where your mouth is,” for in so doing no one can dictate to you what to do or not do.

So why then did I risk it all for such a cause, knowing that the general perception is that no such campaign can be championed by an honest Nigerian unless he/she is hungry & sycophantic enough to ask no questions as long as money is put forward as the blinding motivating factor?

In the said FRAUD ALERT publication, I was accused of being the initiator of #istandwithbuhari after championing a campaign for Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. What then gives me the audacity to be a member of #istandwithbuhari? Going by that mind-set, I will indulge the publishers for a minute by letting them know that i withdrew my support for Goodluck Jonathan along with my group long before the elections. My reasons then were simple. By November 2014, I was no longer comfortable with the information filtering out on how huge monies were moved from person to person in government circles. Before then, my biggest enemy was the party PDP because I refused to align my organisation as an appendage to the party’s campaigns, and consistently made it clear that the organisation was non-partisan and that I am not a card carrying member of any political party. I made efforts to reach the directors of the Presidential Campaign Organisation then to have some of my worries answered, but they all seemed as lost as I was. I also tried to reach functionaries in the government then for clarifications on my fears, to which my requests met brick walls. I concluded then that Nigeria was being sold off to the highest bidder without our knowledge, and I believed that even if Goodluck Jonathan won the elections, there were facts to suggest this same people around him fingered in various illicit transactions would continue in office with him, as it seemed he was incapable of acting to change things. By December 2014, I started a process of moving my support with that of 1.9million Nigerians who had signed up to my campaign, to supporting the candidacy of President Muhammadu Buhari. I am happy that to this day, even at the highest levels of the current government, there are individuals who can attest to this submission, who i met & who brokered meetings, appointments, and worked hard to actualise my desire to support Buhari. To cut the long story short, I stood with Muhammadu Buhari even before he won the elections.

But that said, do we now have a Nigeria where there are different categories of Nigerians based on who you supported then and now? Most of those who work with the President today, were they not at one time in direct opposition to his candidacy? Have we now created such a divide amongst ourselves that only those who supported President Buhari before can participate in any cause to support his policies now? What dangerous trend are we slowly creating in private while mouthing change as a mantra in public? Are these advocates now saying that President Muhammadu Buhari & his political party should not work with other well-meaning Nigerians who believe in this administration and are ready to sacrifice all to ensure things change for our collective good? These are the questions that we really need to look ourselves in the mirror and answer if we truly want this Nigeria to move ahead. This to me is the bigger problem the events of the past days has exposed me to in this quest for change.

After President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in, did I begin to sing him praises so that I will now become a full “member”? Absolutely not! As a matter of fact I have constantly & constructively criticised issues I wasn’t comfortable with in this government. At the back of my mind, I understood the challenges the new government would face, but I was expectant of certain quick results and so became uncomfortable with the constantly growing hardship. But in life, there is always a turning point to every issue. Mine was ‪#‎DasukiGate‬. That such huge amount of money could have been diverted by one individual under our noses seemed impossible to me. I concluded at the start that this must be some form of a witch hunt. However, to my utmost consternation, people actually agreed to receiving parts of this money, meaning it was true! I also learnt that the petitions against the looters did not emanate from President Muhammadu Buhari, but from ordinary Nigerians. However, the difference here was that unlike in the past when such petitions would have been thrown away due to the calibre of individual involved, we have a President who would not shield anyone but would rather go the extra mile to ensure there was justice. This to me was what Nigeria had lacked all this while: a President with the political willpower to walk the talk! As these revelations trailed in, I was also dumbfounded to see Nigerians actually defend these people who had owned up to collecting our monies. It was at this stage that it dawned on me that indeed corruption was fighting back, and the agents had the resources to win if the campaign is left to the President alone. At that instance, I knew that this campaign for change had to be more people oriented than government oriented, or it would fail. That was when I made up my mind to sign up with #istandwithbuhari.

Was i part of the founding team that conceptualised #istandwithbuhari? Unapologetically, yes. Did I single-handedly convene this platform? Absolutely not, because this platform was not convened by any one individual but by a collection of young Nigerians from all works of life and different religious beliefs & political inclinations who came together with one ideal in mind: that it is time for us as individuals to see ourselves as Nigeria and seize this golden opportunity towards ensuring that Project Nigeria does not fail, and that it will if we leave the burden on one individual. We all believe absolutely that the character & disposition of President Muhammadu Buhari is the needed catalyst at this point in time of our existence to champion this rebirth.

It is very unfortunate that we live in a society today where the majority advocate for change, but still do not understand the sacrifices associated with actualising this cause. The problems we see today in our polity are not because of the direct actions of this administration, but a representation of how far we had decayed before now. It seems impossible to move on going by the daily hardship, but what are we doing to help other than continually condemn, castigate and try to bring down any scheme put forward to shore up support so as to help move us to the next level? Are we not the government? I may not agree with everything President Muhammadu Buhari stands for, but I absolutely agree that he has an impeccable character and that he means well for Nigeria, in effect he means well for my future and that of my family. I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that things will change for the better because despite the hardship, I am seeing a Nigeria where people are now taking responsibility. It will be nothing short of criminal to leave this duty to the President alone. It is my civic responsibility to educate those who are not well informed, and likewise ensure the government is held accountable at all times. As at this moment, everything I am seeing shows me that President Muhammadu Buhari is not sleeping on the job, but doing everything within legal means to ensure Nigeria lives. To rejig a system that has completely decayed and failed needs courage, prayers and support. I am doing my bit by supporting #istandwithbuhari, not trying to bring it down. If my stand is giving certain individuals or group of individuals sleepless nights, then may they remain awake for eternity.

The rising opposition against #istandwithbuhari simply tells me that the movement has hit the mark. Believe me, you can’t hit the mark without hearing noise. Make no mistakes about it, we know we will have a lot of opposition from those who are not comfortable with this change, no matter how they seem to advocate for it. To them, they own Buhari because they started with him since 2003, therefore only them can advocate support for him. I respect that, and I honestly appreciate their courage to have remained resolute in their conviction which has culminated in his victory at the polls. But does that now imply that as a passionate Nigerian I cannot actively participate in a cause in support of my President if I believe in him? I seek no personal recognition from the President whatsoever. The organisation has no endorsement from President Buhari, nor has anyone in the organisation sought any sort of financial support from the President or by extension his government. We understand the character we are portraying, and we are ready to be scrutinized at all times to ensure we represent what we preach. I have never vied for any political position in my life (and have no intentions of doing same), nor have I ever submitted my CV for consideration for political appointment to any government, thus my involvement with #istandwithbuhari is not for political favours. I am in this because I believe in this, period.

I also understand that there are lots of people out there who feel aggrieved as a result of giving their all for the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as President but got no rewards in his cabinet. I understand that even within the circle of those who constantly advocate for change within & outside this administration, not all want this government of President Muhammadu Buhari to succeed. Will this deter us? The answer is No, because all of us who have signed up for this cause understand the challenges ahead. We have always been open to working with organisations who truly believe that this is for Nigeria, but do most of them really want to work for Nigeria or for personal political interests? The answer may be blowing in the wind, who knows.

All of us may have had our different political inclinations in the past, but we are doing this for Nigeria. On 31st March 2016, I will march on the streets with my family to tell the world that I support President Buhari’s fight against corruption and that I believe his government means well for Nigeria. This is my personal conviction and belief, and as long as the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria confers on me the rights to freely associate & choose at all times, I have made my choice and I will stand by it.

My name is Chinedu Okpalanma.

I am an ordinary Nigerian.


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