The ‘Not-too-old-to-run’ movement in the Presidency has given Nigerians reasons to believe that their principal is fit to vie for the exalted seat, compete with younger aspirants and run for a second term in 2019. The venue of the fitness test was Daura, the hometown of the President where he was reported to have, against protocol, covered a space of 800 metres while receiving cheers from the Daura residents who lined up the road to catch a glimpse of the “I-am-fit-to-run” trek. My check shows that 800 metres is like trekking the track of a standard stadium twice but the burden is reduced with cheers.
Trekking is not new to the Buhari Presidency. Recall Hashim Ibrahim trekked from Lagos to Abuja to honour and congratulate the President when he won the 2015 election? While Hashim got to his destination, others got lost along the way. This premeditated Daura Trek, as a practical response to Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s query regarding the health challenge of the President, downplays the enormity of ill-health that the nation is currently experiencing. Even Hashim Ibrahim was reported to have regretted trekking from Lagos to Abuja to honour the President. Like millions of other Nigerians, Hashim is displeased about Buhari’s policies which he felt were making life harder for the masses.
If the President is fit to run, is Nigeria as healthy as the President – or as sick as the President? The 800 metres’ trek of the Daura Prince less than 200 days to the 2019 polls is therefore insignificant compared to the unhealthy situations and kilometres of trekking Nigerians are daily engaged in to navigate unhealthy governance experiences
One way to diagnose our health status as country is to look the health sector. How healthy is our health institution in the last three years of this “healthy presidency”? The First Family has made several sojourns to the colonial headquarters to either fix the self-caused crash of bike-riding Yusuf and of Mr President. This is not bad at all because they are entitled to the privileges of the Number One office of the land. But what is bad is that there is no effort to put in place such “healthy” health institutions back home which makes those at home to die in the absence of a caring government. It is even worse that the health sector gets abominable budgetary allocation.
Consequently, the good hands in the Nigerian health sector are being forced to undertake Longer Treks towards the Global North where better working conditions and environment are certain. It does not appear that this transnational trekking will abate soon. This means that beyond 2019, a healthy President, if victorious, will govern a much more unfit nation and an unhealthy populace.
There are also other forms of trekking that are being triggered by Nigeria’s general un-healthiness under healthy President Buhari. For instance, insecurity has made trekking a “modern” transport strategy employed to escape unsecured terror zones across the country. Narratives of those kidnapped informed us that they are made to trek distances far into the thick forest. They are forcibly removed and relocated on foot. When they are lucky to be released, people trek to the main road before help comes their way. Is the energy of the healthy President spreading to those in the Internally Displaced Persons camps? Where did their energies come from, having been forced to move midnight on foot when killer teams of either Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen visited them? Their precarious living conditions in the IDP camps show how unhealthy their lives have been and how uncaring our government has been to them.
Similarly, that Nigerians want to trek to the Global North and endure hardship on the way is partly a result of unhealthy governance that made realising life goals difficult. Even after their rescue and return to Nigeria from Libya, little or nothing has been done to properly ensure their integration beyond the first few days of media hyping of government magnanimous gestures. This is why despite the reports about hardships on the way, people still prefer to die while trying outside the shores of the country to secure blossoming greener ‘pastures on the other side’. To those in power, a trek to the 2019 presidency is far valuable than having a real healthy President watering our grasses to make it greener for people to stay.
That is not all. Yearly, over one million young people sit for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. Yearly, at least close to one million if not more students graduate into the unemployment market that is getting wider by the day. Since 2015, education funding has nosedived. Curricula in educational institutions are not healthy to equip students on self-sufficiency. After the promises and dashed hopes, unemployed graduates trek daily in search of non-existing jobs. Many more trek on a daily basis to take up menial jobs. The unhealthy situation of these young people has received less attention from a government that denies that youth unemployment is such a big problem in the country.
Living in denial and self-glorifying their government multiplies an unhealthy populace who tries to trek out of their daily unhealthy circumstances. Not all will be conformist waiting for God to do it; others detour into crime and criminality.
The unhealthy situation in the nation’s education affirms the failure of the leadership both at the state and federal levels. Recognising this fact, many have willing and cash-backed students embark on transnational trekking to Ghana, Benin Republic, South Africa and the Global North countries for a healthy-qualitative education. Public educational institutions are grossly underfunded and workers work in the most excruciating conditions. Yet, these institutions are supposed to produce full-baked products with 25 per cent funding from government! Until the situation gets worse, a ‘healthy’ Presidency will not do the needful but will compound the woes by scaling down the education budget. Little wonder, other African universities are poaching our best brains who are now open to transnational trekking to the real healthy countries.
Beggarly agents of the state (police, customs, immigration) would rather ask for what you will give them than do their job which is to secure the state. Inside the country, policemen, SARS, and traffic wardens officially or unofficially trek to demarcated economic locations to extort people. They also complain of poor funding and have to generate their own IGR to perform the job of (in)security!
Thus, the Daura 800-metre trek is not a healthy assessment of President Buhari’s fitness to rule. It shows the President is actually worried about his health and needed to prove it. A President is as healthy as the country he superintends. As it is today, the indices point to the negative; that the country is unhealthy under President Muhammadu Buhari even though he claims ‘I am fit presidency.’ Obviously, many areas critical to making Nigeria healthy have yet to be covered. The potholes in governance must be fixed, not patched to underscore the President is healthily governing the nation. Until then, the 800-metre ‘not-too-old-to-run’ trek unveils an unhealthy country.
Dr Tade, a sociologist, wrote in from Ibadan via firstname.lastname@example.org