By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, there is so much to write about today, but first, I must quickly apologise for my absence on this page last week. My itinerary has been very packed lately, and last week was particularly jammed. I had criss-crossed Africa, from West to East and East back to West. I travelled from Nigeria, to Rwanda and Nairobi and then back to Nigeria. I returned last week Friday, and I usually devote my Friday evenings to writing this column. I arrived in the early afternoon, because my flight from Kigali was slightly delayed and got caught up in some really bad traffic on the way to the Island. By the time I arrived at Eko Hotel, there was barely time for me to start getting ready for an important wedding that I had to attend; that of Fatima Dangote and Jamil Abubakar. Of course, Lagos was naturally agog with dignitaries flying in from all over the world, including the boss of bosses, Bill Gates, and the famous African billionaire, Mo Ibrahim. They were in town to honour and rejoice with one of their own, Alhaji Aliko Dangote. This event reconfirmed the pre-eminent status of Lagos as not just a megacity, but also as the centre of entertainment and jollification in Africa. I landed in the middle of that superlative event and it became practically impossible for me to sit down and concentrate on writing my column. I took a chill and called the Editors at Thisday to pardon my inability to deliver as always. I’m glad to be back this week.
A few days later, on Thursday, March 29, 2018, to be precise, Lagos again played host to an august visitor, President Muhammadu Buhari. He had come to felicitate with his friend and benefactor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Tinubu, the former Governor of Lagos State, was undoubtedly one of the strongest forces that propelled and catapulted Buhari back to power. This was not just because of the popular vote of the South West, which Tinubu delivered to a large extent, but also because of the all-pervading conventional and social media influence and presence that Tinubu brought to bear in support of APC. This was what probably changed the narrative and gave the populace the unerringp belief that indeed APC could unseat the ruling party PDP. A feat that had never before been achieved in Nigeria. But, as they say, human memories are very short. No sooner had Buhari got the golden fleece, that he had chased for eternity, that he was hijacked by a cabal. Wittingly or unwittingly, those who starved and slaved for him were skilfully shoved aside. Tinubu was shabbily treated. And the world wondered what manner of ingratitude this was. Perhaps, Buhari and his handlers forgot that tomorrow would come so soon, and when it comes, they would need Tinubu and others again. Now the chickens have come home to roost.
Buhari wants to contest for a second term. That is not now in doubt. Everything else is shadow boxing! Politics is a game of numbers. But the figures are not adding up. They can’t add up because Buhari has not been very nice to those who showed him love and showered him with goodwill and affection. It was as if he got power by his own effort alone and the contributions of others were downplayed. To win the Presidential contest in Nigeria, a candidate needs to lock down a minimum four out of our six geo-political regions. If elections were held today, I doubt he would win more than two out of six, North West and North East. Whether he can win in the landslide manner that he won in the North West in 2015 is arguable. Such an achievement in the North East is debatable, as a win might even be unlikely. I believe that if the North East should produce a formidable candidate like Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in PDP, a spanner would have been thrown in the works. Buhari would be forced to sweat profusely. I doubt he can win 50 percent of votes in the South West as his ardent supporters are hoping. The electorate in the South West are too enlightened and do not follow any leader rigidly. It is even much worse now that they feel short-changed by Buhari. The middle-belt is equally endangered. The South-South and South East regions are no-go areas. Give or take, Buhari would have to send his scavengers to scramble for whatever votes they can lay their hands on from all parts of Nigeria. They have a miracle to perform because at the best of times Buhari had failed spectacularly in the Southern parts of the country.
This is why Tinubu has again become the new bride to be spoilt and pampered. Everything Tinubu wants, he is likely to get now. To God be the glory. Tinubu has paid his dues. And, say what you will, he deserves the best. His 66th birthday celebration forced President Buhari to visit Lagos, a State from which he seemed to have absconded, and abandoned, all this while. Let me not go into the traffic brouhaha and the unspeakable degree of human suffering occasioned during that special visit as a result. I also will not deal with the many man hours and billions of monies lost because of the unfortunate work free day that was declared in Lagos State. According to impeccable sources, the order to shut down Lagos was a Federal Government decision and instruction. That was a most atrocious act that must never be repeated anywhere in this country. It generated and transmitted public and international odium and denigration to Lagos State, which has been working hard to bring sanity back, and restore hope in the people that government can truly work for them.
Anyway, President Buhari landed in Lagos on his two-day official visit. One of his first duties was to commission the Ikeja Bus Terminal. Perhaps, out of deep frustration, and to some extent mischief, many Lagosians lambasted Buhari for coming to commission a bus terminal, when he should be commissioning modern metro-lines. That may well be so as commissioning projects go. But to the credit of Lagos State Government and Governor Ambode, the Bus Terminal project is a very good and methodical way to modernise Lagos. You cannot climb a tree from the top. The strategy is to start from the most basic things and upgrade to the most profound. About a dozen of such terminals are being constructed. These should hopefully reduce the menace and lawlessness of Lagos transporters. They should also ease the pain and suffering of commuters and motorists who face nightmares caused by gridlock, arising from buses misbehaving on our roads. It is usually difficult to appreciate the beginning and ultimate destination of a visionary leader. I’m reasonably convinced that Lagos needs to be repackaged from scratch and this is what is being done meticulously. My advice to the government is to ignore distractions and remain focused.
President Buhari was also the Special Guest at the 10th edition of The Bola Tinubu Colloquium which was held at the Eko Hotel Convention Centre. The well attended event turned out to be more of a campaign launch for Buhari’s bid for a second term as President, than a true birthday celebration of the Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The organisers seized every opportunity to sell Buhari and his vision. The Chief Marketer turned out to be the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who delivered his best speech ever and took the PDP government under President Goodluck Jonathan to the cleaners. He spoke eloquently from the heart and quoted copiously from a compiled data of the misdeeds of the PDP regime. For his powerful delivery, the Professor of Law received a standing ovation. Even his boss, the President, was very impressed and everyone could see him blushing with pride. For the erudite scholar, it was his glorious moment.
The Vice President sounded more convincing than all others who had previously tried unsuccessfully to say and show that the APC government and its leader, President Buhari, is far better, and doing much more, than the PDP administration, and President Jonathan. But I hope the damage has not been done already to this Buhari government. Many wondered why Osinbajo had not been used more productively and effectively in the past. How can a reasonable government refuse to put forward the brightest Nigerians? There are many Osinbajos wasting away within Government in Nigeria. There are even many more untapped talents outside of Government. These need to be harnessed if we are to make any progress as a nation. Instead, what we have are woeful mediocres, and, sometimes even, complete ignoramuses being pushed into positions where they can never achieve anything tangible.
For the first time, I listened to the sermon of Professor Osinbajo and almost got carried away. I had to pinch myself to remind me about the different reality out there. While it is true that the PDP government fumbled stupidly and brought us to the sorry pass that we are now in, the APC government has had, and is still having, its terrible moment. The Government should realise that if PDP had performed well, Nigerians would not have resorted to the APC. Further, APC must never forget that more than 45 % of Nigerians also voted for the PDP in that election and that the margin of victory was just about 2 million voters. Therefore, there was always bound to be those who would support APC and criticise the new Government. Most people would have ignored these “wailers”, as they would have been properly characterised, if the APC Government had covered itself in total glory. However, that has not been the case. APC has been trailed by endless scandals almost on a parallel scale with that of the PDP Government that it sacked. This is sad and distressing. What is even more unforgivable is that the ruling APC has protected its sacred cows with everything, while harassing some members of its own party and those of the opposition parties merely because they offer a dissident or discordant voice. Apart from this being undemocratic, it is morally indefensible. There should be no person who is beyond reproach, simply because he belongs to a cabal that has got our country in a virtual impregnable headlock.
It is good that Buhari looks and acts penitent, but he should be held to his promises, this time. Before giving its blanket support again, Tinubu should drive a hard bargain for greater recognition and development of the needs of the South West. For example, with respect to Lagos State where the President has just concluded his State visit, Tinubu should ensure that the State receives approval, and instant execution, for the requests made by Governor Ambode on the transfer of the National Theatre and the National Stadium to the State. These important national monuments are presently an eyesore, just wasting away, when there is so much Lagos can do to revamp them to their old glory.
We must always remember that it is our culture and heritage that distinguishes us from other people and countries. We cannot progress as a nation if we do not showcase that cultural complexity that makes us uniquely Nigerians. We must first do so amongst ourselves before we can sell it to others. We have been complaining about the current wave of disunity that is sweeping through our nation and eating away at the very fabric of our society. These National treasures could begin to assist in the healing process that the Presidency must embrace if we are not to be torn apart. We have long known that our diverse traditions and sports have always been able to bring us together and bond us. But in recent times we have neglected and relegated them whilst pursuing fruitless and damaging ethnic and religious agendas. If Lagos State is prepared to help nation building by restoring these edifices to their lost glory, then the Federal Government should only be too happy to oblige and encourage the State.
The Presidential visit, hopefully, would bear fruits, and not just be a mere jamboree!