By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, by the 29th of May, two thousand and nineteen years after the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, the present government of President Muhammadu Buhari would have fully completed and exhausted four incredible years in power. It would have been four years of however you wish and want to describe if, good or bad, fantastic or useless, depending on which side of the political divide you belong. As for me and my house, it no longer matters. Truth is constant, no matter how much pretentious we may be. Is Nigeria now much better than Buhari and his team met it? The answer is yours to decide. Will Buhari perform better in the next four years, the answer again is nebulous. All I know is that Nigeria has already dashed four years of excuses and blames to President Buhari. Assuming he truly had to build a foundation for a stronger, healthier and more prosperous Nigeria, I believe he has had sufficient time to do so. But if he continues to wallow in self-pity, then God bless NIGERIA.
Anyone who says Nigeria is making good progress in the most important areas of life that affects and impacts the people, as it looks at the moment, certainly lives on another planet. On the issue of security, economy, social infrastructure, health, education and general well-being, problems abound, whether one scores the President low or high on the performance stakes. Is there a solution to the intractable problems? My answer is an unequivocal YES. Running a country, no matter how complex and complicated, is no rocket science. So, what is the problem right now. My answer is BUHARI. And what is the solution? My answer again is BUHARI. The Nigerian President wields such enormous powers that he can turn water into wine, and a man into woman, and this is no blasphemy. Even science is already doing these things, which tells us there is nothing under the sun that cannot now be achieved, except possibly the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Buhari makes up his mind to change his modus operandi, many things would change instantly.
The first solution has to do with the management. A good management team does wonders, no matter the inabilities and incompetence of the leader. Conversely, a bad management team will run the establishment aground, no matter how brilliant and diligent the leader is. Buhari must therefore agree and decide to assemble the brightest stars from every part of Nigeria for the common good of Nigerians. He can pick form any and every sphere of the society, politicians, professionals, academics or a blend of these. That is his choice. What is important is that his squad must be one of round pegs in round holes. His current line-up has been the weakest in the history of governance in Nigeria. I do not blame the President wholly for this, because some of the choices he had to make may have been foisted upon him, particularly, at the beginning of his administration, when he was in somewhat of a position of weakness as he had to accommodate several interests and pressure groups. However, as time went on, the excuses and justification afforded the President for picking the dregs and plumbing the depths in his manpower search became less and less tenable. Merit, diligence and competence appeared to have been sacrificed on the altar of the nebulous principles of federal character and ethnic balancing, as more and more lopsided appointments were made to benefit one section of the country on the false premise that they were under-represented in government. After a while, this pretence was abandoned wholesale and the Government simply proceeded on the basis of “I don’t care” and “bloody fool to you all”! Of course, this is not the way to get the best out of any government team and it is Nigeria that has suffered in the critical areas. When President Buhari decides to embrace merit and meritocracy, competence and capacity, diligence and assiduousness, performance will improve at all levels. The President must put an end to the parochialism and nepotism that is currently ravaging Nigeria. If he fails to see the debilitating effects of the way Nigeria is presently configured, then there is no hope of a greater Nigeria in sight, in the near future. Nigeria cannot continue to run on primordial sentiments and expect to catch up with the rest of the civilised world in the foreseeable future. That is the sad reality.
Next, Buhari must encourage Democracy to thrive. A system in which the President seeks to play God and control both heaven and earth is a total humbug that cannot augur well for anybody, not least the President himself. The attraction of Buhari for most of his supporters pre-2015 was his supposed simplicity, frugality and ascetic discipline, but there is nothing to suggest that he has reduced the prodigality of the past in so far as others are concerned. The Presidential jets are still crisscrossing the skies at the slightest opportunity. Buhari still can’t build or upgrade just one hospital to international standards. As I write this, he has flown to London in search of medical solution to his personal and undisclosed ailments. While it may be justified by his supporters and hangers-on that his absence has not grounded the wheels of governance, truth is Nigeria needs a more energetic, visionary, focused and hands-on leadership at this point in time. While he is on what I will call his “working vacation” – that is, until he tells us otherwise because of the unabashed desire by his aides to cling on to unbridled and wholesale power at all costs through their abuse, misuse and disuse of the office of the President – the Nation is in a somnambulistic state, which is not helped by the fact that the first term is fast coming to an end and his team has become a lame-duck one.
Buhari cannot, in all honesty, deliver on much of the myriad of problems bedevilling our beloved country, in his present state, no matter how much he and his handlers pretend and suggest that all is well. I said it in the past that I saw no reason Buhari can’t make the ultimate sacrifice by handing over to one of the younger folks in his ruling party. That ship has since sailed with his re-election. However, it is distressing that a man who was so willing to do so, now seems incapable of handing over to his able and veritable deputy, even on a temporary basis. I wonder aloud what really goes on with men, especially when they grow older. They appear to be more stubborn and recalcitrant. In as much as it pleases God, it has been possible for President Buhari to fulfil his life ambition not just once but now twice. God has been too kind and generous to him. He brought him back from the jaws of death, like the Biblical Lazarus. What more can a man ask from God? Anyone can be sick. It is not a crime to be under the weather, but it becomes offensive when a man’s personal problems lock down the combined potentials of fellow citizens. No man is an island. Buhari is not perfectly fit, so be it. We’ve witnessed the same scenario before when President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was very ill. This same Buhari suggested at the time that Yar’Adua ought to pity Nigeria, by resigning. Why is it now so hard for Buhari to heed his own advice as freely given to his kinsman? In addition, anyone who loves Nigeria would readily admit that our challenges are too grave to be abandoned in the hands of someone whose medical records are far from being perfect. Nigeria needs a healthy virile man at the helm of affairs to complement an intelligent, talented and hardworking executive. Patriotism demands that everyone should put nation above selfish interests. I have no doubt that Buhari is a Patriot. He has served this country well in the past as a soldier and even as a politician. That patriotic zeal and fervour that endeared him to the nation is now being put to the ultimate test. It is up to him to decide what his final legacy will be on this matter.
Buhari has been a great servant of his nation and has served commendably in many capacities. The country has been grateful for his services. Like all mortals, he has his faults, but he should know that he lacks the capacity to take Nigeria to the much-vaunted next level. I really don’t see how a man can give what he doesn’t possess. Without mincing words, the generation of Buhari is not just dying, it is long gone, and totally out of vogue. I should say that the same goes for most of his traducers of the same or similar age. They simply have lost touch with the times and are living on past glory. That is not what the present generation of Nigerian technology driven youths want or need. Most of those goading the President on are only doing so for their own personal interests. Using a sporting analogy, the best sportsmen must retire when the laws of diminishing returns begin to slow down and affect performance. My appeal to Buhari is a sincere one borne out of my genuine concern for the direction Nigeria is headed.
The biggest appeal of Buhari in 2015 was the expectation that he would improve security, help save Nigerians from incessant and reckless killings wreaked by hoodlums and demonic souls and stamp out terrorism. But this has not been the case. If relative progress has thankfully been made in tackling the menace of Boko Haram, although we are not yet singing Uhuru, the qualified victory has been wiped out by other insurgencies, lawless militancy and wild extremism. And it is clear that Buhari has become so obviously incapable of dealing with them and the scourge they represent. Sadly, in some instances, like the herdsmen imbroglio, the administration seems complicit, especially in the manner it seems to condone their excesses. So, is Nigeria going to watch, helplessly, with arms akimbo, while the country continues to haemorrhage to death? The conspiracy of silence is so apparent in the critics that used to harass and terrorise previous governments. Now, suddenly, everywhere is quiet, those strident voices and cacophony of noises have decided to go on holiday, even though not much has changed. I keep asking myself, why? Whilst it is true that the President has been re-elected and handed another four-year mandate, it is not every right that must be enjoyed without other considerations. There must be dissent, as there must be assent! When the vocal critic silences itself and cultivates self-censorship as its philosophy, the immolation of both the critic and the leader is nigh. History will always be kind to any leader who can resist the allure of power and act in a way that many others won’t.
Assuming that my plea would not be heeded, and that the next four years would again be a game of seat-warming, one should set some agenda for this government. I have touched on a few critical areas. But there are several more, where issues need to be addressed if indeed, we are going to the Next Level of progress, and not regress!
The priority areas should be how to tackle the spate of senseless killings, improve the economy, upgrade our educational systems, break the jinx of power outages and work urgently on healthcare. The poverty level in Nigeria makes it easy for young ones to become desperately disillusioned and take up arms against their fatherland. This has been compounded by the ritualistic four-year election cycle of abandoning youths employed as thugs once elections are over. The devil finds very bad work for idle, fitful hands!
Lastly, unless we reduce the excesses of government and its operatives and make funds readily available for those with talents, we will find out that we are sitting on a tinderbox. The devastating consequences for our country can only best be imagined. Let it not be the case of the Emperor who fiddled while his country burnt.