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Pendulum: Why Are Our Leaders Hiding Behind One Finger?

By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, permit me to borrow one of those wisecracks popularized by Chief Moshood Abiola, “no one can hide behind one finger.” He should have been here today to see how our leaders are struggling to hide behind one finger. His initial complete confusion would have been replaced by subsequent total amazement!

I don’t know if you have noticed the jamboree going on between Abuja and Daura, this Sallah season. Visitation upon visitation by both the high and the lowly, the rich and the poor, even the military Chiefs have joined the fray, with one thing in mind to fawn over a leader that has been turned into a swan! It is becoming sickening for those who realise and discern that we are now living in a circus and making merry when the serious business of nation building is in abject neglect and the country is generally unravelling and falling apart at the seams. Indeed, any visitor to Nigeria is likely to be instantly dazed about the parlous state of our nation and our national ethos and progress juxtaposed with the reckless, comical and jejune behaviour of our leaders when they should be serious and sober. This leads me to think that the strategy of our politicians is borrowed from the aphorism, “if you can’t convince them, confuse them.” Terrible.

How can a nation bedevilled by some of the worst disasters known to mankind continue to live in fool’s paradise? How can a President we once adored for his simplicity and frugality encourage these flights of fancy and comic relief? How can a President threatened with a barrage of Law suits and under siege by the scourge of fratricidal and secessionist talks, terrorism, insecurity, unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, poor health and failing infrastructure fall for scammers who are only out to deceive him and his band of merry makers by treating him like an Emperor and them as his courtiers? It is astonishing and unbelievable!

I am beginning to subscribe to the view that there must be some irredeemable and incorrigible demons inside the Aso Rock Presidential villa, walahi. Is it that Buhari is not aware that Nigeria has virtually collapsed under his watch? Is it that Buhari is blinded to the fact that the people are groaning under the weight of poverty and famine in the land? Is it that Buhari believes he has performed so wonderfully that everyone must come to worship at his feet for doing Nigeria a big favour like none before him? Too many questions begging for answers. Let me tell our President what my unlettered but intelligent Mum used to tell anyone who cared to listen, “if someone is deceiving you, please don’t deceive yourself.”

Unless Buhari lives on another planet, our dear President should know that Nigeria is haemorrhaging dangerously on many fronts and may actually bleed to death if all hands are not on deck to salvage what is fast becoming a monumental disaster. The nation is running adrift, rudderless with seemingly no pilot or captain at the helm. Instead, the President is furiously fiddling, plucking violently at his violin, whist the nation is consumed by a conflagration of epic proportions. It is time for President Buhari to be told that he should please, in the name of Allah, stop this frivolous crap of behaving like all is well with Nigeria and he can, therefore, copy and replicate the Hollywood style of the American President. He should know that the politicians who, on a good day, have been looking for opportunities to misbehave and go on a binge, will go all out, ostentatiously, with little encouragement, such as that presently being offered by the President and his government. The few reflective, sincere, hardworking and cerebral members of the Government are being made to look like fools as they helplessly watch the debacle unfolding around them knowing that the hound no longer seems to hear the whistle of the hunter. This is not the end. This cannot be the end. We may be at the precipice, but we can still be pulled back and saved. There is only one human saviour on this ride to perdition apart from God. That is the President himself. He must be prepared to do what it takes to shear his government and himself of the deadweight, the cankerworm, the jetsam and flotsam if indeed Nigeria is to survive the gathering storm.

What the President needs to do, speedily, is to climb down from his high horse and face the job he’s been asked to do by Nigerians. What I see is a clear validation of Paulo Freire’s thesis in Pedagogy of the Oppressed; tempt a man who was once poor by elevating him to a higher status and see how he will scatter ground. No serious-minded soul can defend the current abysmal profligacy and recklessness that we are being assailed by.

Rather than wait at home for his acolytes to come and pay obeisance to “he who must be obeyed” President Buhari should take time out of his gilded cage and go around Nigeria to see the desperate, desolate, disastrous and despicable state of things. He should muster the same or a higher amount of energy than he expended on his national campaign and speak to his people. They yearn to hear from him. Such a simple gesture will again endear him to the people who loved him because he appeared to be one of them. It would dispel their current belief that he has sold out to the rich and the powerful. It is not too late to rekindle and find the love and support of the people. This second term offers President Buhari the last chance to do what is right and what is just. It offers him an opportunity to stamp and etch himself positively on our minds and give him a legacy that he would be proud of. I proffer that there are seven basic tasks ahead of Buhari if he is to change the present narrative that portrays him as a ceremonial President intent and content with only the pomp and pageantry that attends his lofty position.

The first task would be for him to unite Nigerians. This is probably the most important task because he would otherwise be infamously and ignominiously known as the man who set the country ablaze again and divided Nigeria for good. I believe I know the President, who fought in the last civil war, to the extent that this would be the furthest thing on his mind. Despite his current posture, it is my feeling that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable to the President for all manner of reasons. However, the reality is that the President has offended most of the regions outside his own. His policies appear designed to curry the favour and further the interests of only one section of the country. His appointments are lopsided. The few that seem fair are in the end merely tokenism and crudely patronising.  The President may be told that there are no complaints from the generality of the people and that the shrieks are coming from the wailers on whose feet he has cruelly trodden. However, the President should not believe all that he is told by lackeys and charlatans. He should not take the silence of the usually rambunctious Nigerians for acquiescence or stupidity, it is just that they are tired, frustrated and weakened. They have been pummelled into submission by the harsh and bitter vagaries of life that the government regularly serves on them as slop for the condemned man. Nigerians are wounded externally and hurting internally, like victims of an accident and ulcer respectively. They may not wear it on their faces and visible body parts, but the indelible scars are there when the covering and layers are removed. Baba, simply put, Nigerians are going through excruciating pains. They live in hell on earth. These glee, boisterousness and rumbustiousness that we daily witness from your flunkeys, hustlers and mountebanks are totally reprehensible and unjustifiable.

The second task, even if it sounds simplistic in the midst of the major problems facing the country, is for him to take off his babanriga dress some of the time because it makes him look too ceremonial when worn on a daily basis, like someone who is simply enjoying the good life, not busy at all, and certainly not in a hurry to fix the myriad of problems afflicting Nigeria. As a retired Major General, he should treat the security challenges, especially, the cases of terrorism and herdsmen menace, wherever they came from, as a declaration of war and should roll up his sleeves to show seriousness and purpose in his determination and effort to deal decisively with the peril that threatens to engulf us. There is nothing more disdainful and disgraceful than the sad reality that we have a hawk in power who cannot catch chickens in his territory, notwithstanding the fact that they are in his eyrie and thus within reach for him to deal a deadly blow.

The third task is how to persuade his foot soldiers to take it easy on Nigeria in the manner of their spending spree. As poor as Nigeria is right now, our leaders should work and look more like those old communists and not like people on fashion parade. Their lavish and ostentatious lifestyle beggar’s belief when the rest of the country are impoverished and lacking.  President Buhari no longer has the excuse that he was surrounded by enemies in his first term. He now controls heavens and earth in the form of both the legislature and the judiciary, in addition to the executive. He should now be able to get things done easily, readily and cooperatively. A leader who controls all the different tiers of government should know that the days of flimsy excuses are over.

The fourth task is for President Buhari to make up his mind about his cabinet. Even if he was waiting for the Oracle to return the list of Ministers to him, it should have been done by now. After the backlash received in 2015 when he could not assemble a simple cabinet for approximately six months after his election, there is no reason or justification for the same scenario to play out again. One tends to go superstitious by concluding that there is a spiritual problem in the affairs of our Leaders. It is again about six months since the elections took place and we are still in limbo, even after the National Assembly that used to be the scapegoat has confirmed the Ministers. I cannot fathom why the Ministers need to be sworn in after an induction course. To make matters worse, they will not even know their portfolios until the conclusion of this new-fangled adult education. What then is the essence of this rigmarole? Where is this ever practised? A grave error of judgment at a time when only solemnity is needed. Methinks it is just another avenue of jobs for the boys!

The fifth task is the President should give the nation a clear blueprint of what to expect from him and his cabinet in these next three and a half years plus commensurate milestones for targets set. The people need to know what to expect and the basis for assessing the President and his performance. A situation where the nation is just floating and gliding, relying only on gossip and guesswork for governmental policy and direction cannot augur well for the country. What we will get is half-baked, ill-thought and sometimes highfalutin ideas which cannot take us out of the dense inhospitable woodlands that we currently find ourselves. All these are preposterously inimical to progress and development.

The sixth task is that President Buhari should act urgently on the rule of Law. Nigeria seems to have descended further into anarchy since 2015 to date with no hope or sign in sight that a miracle may happen. Courts are ordering the release of detainees and the law enforcement agencies and the Attorneys-General are refusing to obey them. Courts are mindlessly granting bail in staggering sums and demanding that public servants put up this sum in a banal endorsement of corruption. Pray tell, how is a civil servant meant to have saved even 25 million Naira that he would frivolously imperil as bail for another person? Yet bail is being set in multiples of hundreds of millions of Naira. Properties are being summarily seized with reckless abandon and no regard to law or lawful court orders on the whims and caprice of some anti-corruption czars! To worsen matters dog is now eating dog and soldiers are beating up, shooting and killing their own colleagues in the Police Force to facilitate the escape of hardened criminals. Why? Their body language suggests that they feel protected by one of them who happens to be the President. And truly nothing has happened to the irresponsible culprits. The harassment of our hapless citizens must stop before we have a mass rebellion in our hands.

The seventh task is the President must urgently reverse the ugly state of our infrastructure. It is just too archaic, especially our healthcare, education, power, transportation systems and roads. A country that neglects its infrastructure or does not even maintain them has nowhere to go.

Nigeria is in its dying throes. The President must now awaken from his slumber and jollification and live up to his responsibilities. Nigerians are not asking for too much.

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