By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, I know truth is always bitter, but the time has come when we must all confront our realities and say it as it is. Nigeria is in a big mess and there is nothing a million Buharis can do to change the horrible situation around. However, maybe, things may change slightly if Mr President is ready to change his own mind-set.
I read somewhere, in the last couple of days, that our dear President confessed that he is a very sad man, or to quote the source more appropriately, that the President said he is the “most unhappy” man on earth. I’m not sure if he actually used any of those words or if his Spin Doctors did so on his behalf, in order to save face, in view of the disgraceful and disappointing breakdown of law and order in virtually every part of Nigeria, especially in Northern Nigeria, a region that has produced most of Nigeria’s military and civilian leaders and some of the most powerful humans on earth.
More than ever before, Nigeria has not only become the poverty nation of the world, it has also become one of the most insecure nations of the world, a country that is perhaps one of the few dangerous places to live on Planet Earth. Almost every news out of Nigeria now is bad news. Human lives have become like that of chickens. Nigerians are being killed per minute, per second, and it is so bad, even our governments hardly bother to talk about it again, probably because they are ashamed of the colossal waste of human lives or, maybe negatively, as some suggest, because they simply don’t care. Most of those who inform us of the deadly massacres presently going on in our country are foreign journalists. Our government and our people have become desensitised and immune to the death of their fellow countrymen and women. If possible, I’m sure the government would prefer we just gloss over it and pretend nothing is happening. But these are fellow Nigerians being slaughtered like Sallah rams and it would be tantamount to promoting evil and wickedness to ignore the seeming genocide ongoing in our dear beloved country. What is worse is the culpability of those who were once so vociferously vocal in the days of President Goodluck Jonathan but have now suddenly gone funereally silent out of fear, compromise or comfort under this regime.
What I know is that if we do not make concerted efforts to chase away the problems of Nigeria, the problems will chase us all in different directions like locusts and we do not know how things will eventually end.
Nothing has brought this reality nearer home than the lamentations of some Northern elites in the last one week, led by the powerful voice of my dear friend and sister, Kadaira Ahmed, a famous television personality, and another unusual demonstration in London, anchored by my friend and Brother, Bulama Bukarti, a PhD student and analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. These two Northern intellectuals protested in Abuja and London respectively, jettisoning their comfort zones to speak up against the haplessness, helplessness, and seeming hopelessness, of the Buhari government in tackling the menace of chronic insecurity. Both are known to be admirers and supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari. The fact that they came out publicly to demonstrate against the government at different locations is enough proof to those who thought only the “wailing wailers” are grumbling and groaning. Someone should tell the ‘demigods’ in Abuja and elsewhere that their devotees are no longer smiling. In fact, they are crying and weeping uncontrollably.
I will not bore you with details of how Nigeria appears to be haemorrhaging dangerously to perdition. The bad news is flying left, right and centre. Although government is feigning that the Nigerian economy is well, the reverse is clearly the case. The petroleum sector, which happens to be the chicken that lays the golden eggs is facing its own challenges. There are wild allegations of gross malfeasance against the NNPC. Meanwhile, the substantive Minister in charge of the Petroleum Ministry is the President himself. If it is true that massive corruption, in form of oil subsidy scams, still practically exists right under his nose, then there is hardly any hope for Nigeria. But this is not my main mission on this page today. I wish to make a few suggestions that can readily catapult our nation back to greater, loftier heights, almost effortlessly. Our problem is not as severe or malignant as it seems. Our unreasonable obstinacy and foolish attitudes are what have brought us to this sorry state.
President Muhammadu Buhari can lead us out of this perfidy by purging himself of his rigidity. First, he must accept that he is a leader of Nigeria, father of the nation, and not that of a section of it, and embrace every one of us. Unity would instantly eliminate many of our challenges. There is too much bitterness in the land. No nation can ever prosper when a large chunk, and the most productive and well-educated part of it, are treated as second class citizens. This is the main reason many people are clamouring for “restructuring.” The word means different things to different people. But I believe what needs to be restructured urgently is the pervasive oppression of fellow citizens in their own country. This has become highly amplified and too pronounced under this government. The jackboot mentality of the Buhari administration must wind down to a friendlier one. Not even kids can be brought up successfully under an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, bullying and downright commotion. Nigerians are not as bad as this regime tends to portray, but what can people do when they have brains and muscles but nothing to do with it.
The next thing to invest in without any shade of doubt is education. There are too many ignorant people all over the country. A properly educated citizenry would live and act more responsibly. They will be more employable and have better chances to think creatively about setting up their own businesses. In other to achieve this, both the Executive and the Legislature must rejig our unrealistic budgets. The Nigerian Presidential system, as presently configured, is just too profligate. Nothing has changed in the last four years to showcase the fabled frugality of President Buhari and his disciples. Rather the Presidency seems to have been on a binge, if we consider the atrocious budgets his government, ministers and their lackeys have been presenting. A conscious and substantial sacrifice must be made to drastically reduce public spending. The recent scenario where governments funds are being tossed in the air like confetti, and as if money is going out of vogue, leaves much to be desired. The government can’t be spending money so lavishly and expect that the ordinary citizens would become less attracted to material acquisition, by hook or by crook. The outlandish ceremonials and celebrations of this government appear contrary to promises made pre-2015. Its sincerity of purpose remains to be seen.
President Buhari needs to shake up his new cabinet as soon as he is sworn in next month for a second term. I’m not one of those who would subscribe to many frequent reshuffles, but it is obvious that this cabinet has not sparkled much since it was constituted in 2015. Apart from the few members who resigned for different reasons, none has been fired in a government bedevilled by abject incompetence. President Buhari should please replace those he removes eventually with more accomplished people. If he brings some deadwoods again, the result should be obvious to all in advance, nothing but monumental failure.
If I were President Buhari, I will worry less about controlling heaven and earth and face the main business I was voted to fix. One of the biggest afflictions of this government is its obsession and proclivity to be in charge of the different tiers of government. Buhari has spent the better part of four years fighting all manner of enemies, real or imagined. In the process, he dissipated too much energy and squandered resources on many fronts. He should try something different and allow all organs to function independently. If he pursues the same agenda like he did these past years, he will receive the same result and certificate of failure.
President Buhari should interact more with his people. He is just too aloof and standoffish. If he could travel round Nigeria and speak to Nigerians regularly during his re-election campaigns, he should not stop doing so now. Love can achieve what war can’t. It is unfortunate that he does not personally sympathise or empathise with the bereaved families involved in the disasters ravaging our country. There is no country where 10 dogs would be killed and life would continue as normal, not to mention 10 citizens. The President should make it mandatory for his Ministers and their aides to visit their States of origin regularly. It is totally unacceptable that they are all comfortably ensconced in Abuja while they claim to be the representatives of their people. Also, as they say, all security is local, so if the President won’t support State policing, for reasons best known to him and his advisers, he should ensure no head of security should be posted to unfamiliar terrain. Even if they are not posted to their own States, they should be sent closer home, to their Regions. The system of sending soldiers to crush Nigerians like millets is totally provocative and unhealthy. No Igbo soldier would go to Igboland and order his own people killed summarily. Since ethnicity and religion are too volatile in our country, the President should never send complete strangers to quell riots in any part of Nigeria.
Finally, I wish to respectfully suggest that President Buhari should find time to study what made the extraordinary and amazing Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola win the most remarkable election ever in the history of Nigeria. Abiola’s likeable personality, built on his love for humanity contributed in no small measure to his success. Abiola made strenuous and meticulous efforts at reaching out to different parts of Nigeria and their people. He employed people without any sort of discrimination on grounds of ethnicity, religion or sex. He created opportunities for people in different communities. He built mosques and churches. He established schools and donated classrooms and libraries. He gave scholarships, endowed professorial chairs and donated funds to all Nigerian universities. His emergence as a pan-Nigerian Presidential candidate was not a fluke. It was a destiny that he himself had helped to shape.
The life of that departed hero and martyr is worth studying when it comes to issues of uniting our country. We lost Nigeria the day June 12, 1993, was killed. With a man like Abiola in power, there would never have been the kind of stupidly irrational divisions we have today. Insecurity would never have been this rife because he knew how to create jobs and encourage entrepreneurship. Abiola would have paid attention to the continued unity of our people and the diversification of our economy. He would have worked hard on improving our institutions. Political systems can’t work well if the institutions are useless. Abiola would not have tolerated individualism above institutions. That is largely responsible for the failure we are experiencing today. Notwithstanding the cult following the President appears to enjoy in a section of the country, he and the people who surround him in power today don’t seem to have the commendable ambitions of an Abiola or indeed his antecedents and pedigree. Our current crop of leaders have simply displayed limited, myopic vision in handling affairs of the State.
It is not too late to pick useful tips from 1993. However, sadly, what I see today is a return to 1983. We can do better. Even, President Ibrahim Babangida’s electoral system can help us, despite his personal flaws. The Option A4 of that time was a stroke of genius. Our political parties have become too unwieldy. Two major parties should be the only ones that can contest Presidential elections while there may be smaller parties in the States and Regions to contest local elections. That has been the only impact and relevance of parties like APGA, Labour Party, Accord Party and others. Electoral reforms should take care of this.
I have disseminated many of my views in this missive consistently, but I won’t be surprised if this government chooses to stick to a failed system that leads nowhere. Whatever the outcome, let it be said that I played my part…