The last 365 days in office almost defied the description or understanding of President Buhari administration. But, thank Heavens, we have lived through them!
President Buhari came to power and Nigerians, mistakenly, thought all their problems were over! But, reminiscent of Jimmy Carter, the peanuts farmer and a man of impeccable integrity who took over the American presidency in 1976, and to whom the agricultural sector had looked for miracles in vain, the reality of governance is not only different, it has a way of being disappointing.
So it was that a year or so after Carter took power, the lot of Americans, especially farmers, of all people, took a turn for the worse! In protest, American farmers descended on Washington, carrying placards that read: Winter gave way to Summer, Spring sprang and Fall fell. Jimmy Carter has gone to the White House, farming has gone to the dogs!
It may not be Buhari’s making, but the reality was that poverty ravaged Nigeria like never before in the last one year! Unemployment was higher than ever. Cost of living went up to the skies and standard of living, for the majority, was at its lowest. As the nation reeled under the yoke of debt, high-interest rates and dwindling national currency value, the few factories left were closing and businesses were fleeing Nigeria. With oil revenue no longer available in the quantum we were used to, the nation’s treasury was so lean it was probably bested only by the pockets of the very few citizens who had any pocket at all!
Most of the states were practically bankrupt, could not pay salaries. And as the nation moved like a reed at the mercy of the winds, those in power jostled, traded as usual, feathered their nests and said all the right things to make us believe they were with the people.
That, I can report, was the situation till yesterday!
This morning, I have no evidence that things have changed. Oh no, that word, CHANGE, again! There are no placards out there yet on the streets. But in the hearts of most Nigerians, the complaint is audible: 12 months have come and gone with all its seasons. Buhari has gone to Aso Rock, expectations have gone unfulfilled!
Certainly, the consensus, founded or not, is that his administration could have done better, the mess it inherited from Goodluck Jonathan notwithstanding.
The delay in constituting his government exposed Buhari to the suspicion of unpreparedness for a presidency he had spent more than 11 years in search of! Dithering was palpable and a clear vision was hardly perceptible. Till date, many critical offices are yet to be filled and while the government has done its best in some areas, many of the problems he was voted into office to solve have probably festered and become much more difficult to tackle now.
In various areas of national life, Nigeria needs an urgent infusion of oxygen. The national economic crisis has made poverty, unemployment and low productivity burgeon beyond comprehension.
But as the second year begins today, looking back on the first year and the endurance race it was, it is pertinent to remind the government that the years ahead need not be so harrowing if the right things would be done. And the following words should be of interest to President Muhammadu Leko Buhari and his team.
“…He deserves respect for his forthrightness, integrity and sincerity of purpose. But valour is nothing without discretion. And righteousness unaccompanied by wisdom may come to shame.”
“…Going abroad to make fundamental statements, positive or negative ones, about the country would not enhance Buhari’s image of forthrightness, discipline, honesty or integrity any more than his ability to fix the problems at home.
“Fixing Nigeria is the job for which he has been hired. Doing it is what would cement the bond between him and Nigerians and that is what would burnish the nation’s image abroad.”
“…Nigeria’s descent into the current nadir was mindlessly plotted and it is a depth out of which the nation cannot easily crawl. The way out has to be meticulously plotted and executed. Buhari must, however, let his words and deeds command a greater faith in his capacity for the job he has signed on to than they do now. He should engage the Nigerian people vigorously in the conversations about their problems or challenges.”
“…Government, especially a democratic one that presupposes the supremacy of the people in everything, is nothing without a moral meaning to its plans and policies. The greatest good of the greatest number must guide all of its deeds and utterances.”
“…It must be accepted that Nigeria has not only failed as a warped federal state, as a result of which it now has a failing economy but it cannot afford to fail at inclusion in areas that matter. And one of those is education, the ultimate leveler and guarantor of democracy’s success.”
So, in the battle to save Nigeria, the more urgent retreat should be on education, which ultimately gives everyone a chance at solutions to the nation’s many problems. Education alone is needed to create wealth and properly manage it.
In which case, the country will remain poor, even when the economic base is diversified or when oil prices rise to astronomical heights and the economy improves, because education has been de-emphasised, because inclusion is not part of the deal and, to parody Martin Luther King’s words, people marooned in the desert of poverty and ignorance, dotted by islands of material wealth, are in the overwhelming majority.
“Tragedy is: that majority in poverty and ignorance, seeing the world leave them behind with no one taking up their case, may one day overwhelm this country and upset its peace and prosperity. God, and Muhammadu Leko Buhari, forbid!
“…I am one of those who believe in the enormous power of the President famed body language to perform wonders. And I am baffled that he is not deploying it where and when most needed! Given Nigeria’s history and complexities especially resulting from dependence on oil, one gesture Buhari should have made but has failed to make, regrettably, is to show the people of the Niger Delta that he hears their cries and feels their pains. By going there!
“…His government may have all the best plans for the people. But to inspire, you need to convey a certain humaneness. To convey the message of empathy, even if you are doing your best to solve the problems, a leader must show up. Distance can make the plight of others seem impersonal to even their greatest sympathiser. And any solution proffered, however, far-reaching, can seem artificial or a mere token.
“…The tragic irony which shames Nigerians is that few nations have anything near the warehouse of material resources available to Nigeria. But no nation has exhausted the store of harvested capital as mindlessly as Nigeria has done while laying others to waste, leaving us presently scraping the floor for anything resembling a grain of crumbs.”
“As the conversation rages on how to save Nigeria’s economy, let me reiterate my position that the notion of aridity of the ideas landscape needing a special massive irrigation is one big lie. It is a lie that insults the collective memory as well as wisdom of all Nigerians, who have been witnesses to and are repositories of publicly debated diverse ways of making Nigeria great. To those in command of the chariot of change, the ideas available for changing Nigeria’s story are so many and so readily available that the richness of the terrain borders on the soggy…”
By the way, all of the above are excerpts from some of my contributions to the discourse on Nigeria within the past one year. And as we look forward to a better future, these strike me as words to ponder.
I once quoted M.H. McKee as saying that wisdom is knowing the right path to take, but integrity is taking it.
It is still not clear to me if Buhari knows the enormity of the powers at his disposal and how to use those powers for strengthening Nigeria’s unity by institutionalising maximum exploration of the country’s diversity, in political and economic terms, for the maximum benefit of all.
The first one year is gone and I do not want to brood over it. But for the future, our President has only one assignment: seizing history by the scuff of the neck and writing it differently from the past by leading the fight to mould Nigeria into a prosperous undiluted federal state.
As the current structure, warped, dishonest, supportive of indolence, corruption-energizing, dream-killing and divisive, holds Nigeria down, questions about the president’s vision and the depth of his thoughts for Nigeria automatically arise. Now in his second year at the helm of the country’s affairs, what kind of Nigeria does Buhari really want? Would he be wise enough to know the right path? Would he be humble enough to chart that path? Is his stock of integrity, that licence with which he has enraptured all for the past one year, even committing and getting away with some constitutional crimes to wit, the sort that can make him walk the path?
Suffice to say this: The year of excuses ended yesterday!