By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, something major is happening in our dear beloved country and it is very positive. Every disappointment they say is a blessing. While we are very sad that our President, Muhammadu Buhari, has not been feeling too well for some time now and needs treatment and recuperation abroad, I now believe that God wants him to also have some time for sober and deep reflection. Someone asked me about two weeks ago, on Twitter if I have given up on the Buhari government? My answer was an emphatic NO! And the reason I gave was simple and straight-forward enough: I believe in miracles.
What has happened in Nigeria in the past few weeks, even days, can only be a testimony to that miracle I prophesised. When President Buhari left Nigeria he formally wrote to the Senate putting his Vice-President in charge as Acting President until he returns. That singular act which is merely a repetition of what was done during previous extended personal visits abroad by the President is salutary as it is stellar and itself heralded the transformation in this government that we are witnessing. It seems to me that President Buhari knew that his government needed some change in direction, some fillip, and in his infinite wisdom chose a subtle way to initiate that change without seeming to jettison his kitchen cabinet.
When I flew out of Lagos to Johannesburg last Monday, February 20, 2017, a US dollar was selling for about 520 naira in the omnipotent black market. As at Thursday, it was selling at around 475 Naira. By yesterday, Friday 24 February 2017the Naira was exchanging at about 460 Naira to the Dollar. What a difference a week makes. This remarkable resurgence of the Naira is coming on the heels of new policies and directives that the CBN has been mandated to put in place by the rejuvenated economic team that the Acting President is the driving force.
Not just that, I received a report from Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi that the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, paid an unscheduled visit to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport on Thursday, February 23, 2016, and caught the airport officials napping. My joy knew no bounds. Only last Saturday, I had complained bitterly about that unfortunate airport on this very page.
In the past seven years, I must have written countless times about that that gory airport. It was one of the reasons I disliked President Jonathan’s government because it had done a wishy-washy renovation of the place and was celebrating it as if we can now compete with some of the best airports in Africa (note that I did not mention Dubai, Europe or America). I took pictures of dead escalators, comatose elevators, jet bridges in blatant darkness, leaking roofs, cranky conveyor belts, flooded and stinking toilets, murky basements, potential structural deficiencies from a disused underground car park and generally an airport in various stages of disrepair, dilapidation and decay. We did what we could to alert our leaders to the monumental disgrace at that airport.
It is however not just the infrastructure that is wrong with the Airport. At a time when the Acting President has launched a 60-day initiative for making it easier to do business in Nigeria, it is incumbent upon him to ensure that this starts from our international airports as this is the first thing that the foreign visitor and investor sees upon arrival in Nigeria. I have never been able to understand why we must have Security operatives openly checking passports along their Immigration airports upon arrival at the Airport. In the same vein, I cannot understand why we must stick with the archaic, unhealthy and unsafe practice of manually rummaging through passenger’s luggage when they are departing and having the full complement of security agencies visibly on hand to do this to the inconvenience of passengers and other airport users. Technology has long since gone beyond this. Security and search of luggage is now automated, mechanical and above all unobtrusive. It cannot be the case that our huge unemployment rate is responsible for creating jobs where none should exist thus creating an indolent corrupt workforce. The devil they say finds work for idle hands. Despite our repeated calls for the overhauling of the International Airport, Minister after Minister have however behaved as if the place was virtually jinxed and the gods of Abuja could do nothing to sanction their rascality.
Anyway. The good news is that the Acting President has started doing some of the things we expected and advised President Buhari to do. I do not want to over-excite anyone yet but this is smelling good, like the Americans would put it. We must enter special prayers and intercede with serious fasting so that President Buhari can continue along this path of progress when he returns to office, hopefully very shortly, by the grace of God.
I had suggested in my memos to him that what he was looking for in Sokoto (the city) is actually in his sokoto (pocket). He has got a powerful joker in the pack and that is his Vice President. Professor Osinbajo is not your typical politician. He is a technocrat with the diligence, astuteness and thoroughness of the smart lawyer that he is. He has a passion for Nigeria and its great development that is uncanny and worthy of emulation. Whilst I am relatively close to Prof Osinbajo through my best friend, Prince Adedamola Aderemi, and his family, we do not meet that often. However, we once met at London Heathrow, long before he ever dreamt of becoming Vice President, if he ever did, and we discussed Nigeria for so long, almost forgetting that we had flights to catch. I remember how we agreed that running a government should not be so difficult. Our paths crossed again during the campaigns. He and our mutual friends, Pastors Ituah Ighodalo and Ghandi Afolabi Olaoye who were with him at the time, shared similar hopes for Nigeria. Our passion alone coupled with temporal faith in the Buhari/Osinbajo administration was enough to move mountains.
So, what went so wrong that this miraculous government began to wobble and fumble as soon as it came to power? It is one of those ironies of politics that a government that came on the promise of ameliorating the suffering of the people actually exacerbated the terrible situation it met on ground.
Many wonder why a government and political party that has an Osinbajo and parades several other political wizards has found it difficult to stabilise the economy? How come a President that received substantial votes from across the country without much controversy could not unify the nation? Why did Buhari decide to start his tenure with fighting on too many fronts? Here was a leader who already had his hands full from Boko Haram menace. The only reasonable conclusion was that President Buhari was programmed to fail by the same cabal that has held Nigeria by the jugular since Independence. This fact, that Baba was heavily jazzed by some principalities, was actually corroborated by an insider and no less a personage than Mrs Aisha Buhari, the wife of our President.
Truth is Professor Osinbajo is re-navigating the country in the right direction and should be encouraged to do more by President Buhari. If a man discovers a snake and a woman kills it, it doesn’t matter who did what. The glory ultimately goes to President Buhari for having the wisdom of entrusting Nigeria to such a loyal and dependable ally. Baba should ignore the demons of power who may wish to drive a wedge between them. Any parent or sibling would be proud of a child making the family great. This is what Osinbajo is doing and he should be commended and applauded for it.
Nigeria needs to make a lot of money quickly and reduce the dollar rate since most business people depend on importation of goods and even services. For the time being, our first source of income is oil. Osinbajo has done the most necessary thing by visiting the Niger Delta and offering the olive branch to the militants. I don’t know why Baba thought he could wipe them off the surface of the earth just like that. Thank God, something good is likely to come out of this timely effort at dialogue and negotiation.
The second major task for the Acting President is to resuscitate and revive our ailing companies. Many of them are shutting down and everything must be done to ensure that they resume business properly. Too many Nigerians have already lost their scarce jobs due to the stubbornness of government to free its soul from siege mentality and see businessmen and women as partners in progress.
The third major mission is to ease the palpable tension in the land. President Buhari has done very well in fighting insurgency in the North but, sadly, a new menace is ravaging Southern Kaduna where lives are being wasted recklessly. We pray that government would find a quick solution. Peace must be allowed to reign supreme and Government must be seen not to be taking sides.
The government bureaucracy in Nigeria is atrocious. Everything must be done to curtail the excesses of civil servants who are too set in their ways. The rule of Law must be enforced. No Nigerian should feel inferior to a fellow citizen on account of ethnicity or religion. No one is comfortable investing in a country full of stress and unnecessary hiccups.
When Baba returns, he should reach out more to Nigeria. Many people feel he has become too distant and a bit standoffish since achieving his dream of attaining power. I personally believe that this may not be the truth but perception counts a lot. When Baba comes back, he should be less acrimonious and reconcile Nigeria. Nigeria is haemorrhaging dangerously. Prof Osinbajo seems to be waving a magic wand right now. President Buhari will do well to own that magic wand when he returns and build on the progress made by his Vice President. That is the essence of a good team. It is what Nigerians desire and what they deserve after the darkness that they have recently been plunged into.