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Buhari on Independence Day: A speech most divisive

Always proving even his most ardent supporters who are incurably optimistic about his ability to unite Nigeria and stir the ship of state in the right direction wrong, President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to demonstrate a gross capacity deficiency in diversity management of a nation with multiple complexities. From his appointments to his close associations and public statements, Buhari leaves no one in doubt of his unapologetic sectional and extreme partisan tendencies.

Once again, these sectional and extreme partisan tendencies were in full expression when the President delivered his Independence Day speech on October 1st ; a speech that was thematically misplaced for all times on such occasion as the national day of a nation, making it the worst independence speech ever delivered by a head of state in the history of Nigeria. Unfortunately, the speech was not only divisive it was characteristically full of blames and reeking with falsehood as mob narratives were clearly elevated to presidential speech.

An occasion that was expected to be about the unity, love, peace and renewed hope in the limitless promise of a better future for the union of the Nigerian federation was not to be as be. The President of the federal republic chose to go partisan when he elevated his campaign rhetoric, which is full of innuendoes, half-truths and outright lies to a presidential statement when he claimed ‘’we should remind ourselves of the recent journey from 1999 – 2015, when our country happily returned to democratic rule. However, in spite of oil prices being an average of $100 per barrel and about 2.1m barrels a day, that great piece of luck was squandered and the country’s social and physical infrastructure neglected. We were left with no savings and huge infrastructure deficit. The APC Government’s Campaign rallying cry to restore security, re-balance the economy and fight corruption was not all rhetoric’’.

The consistent lamentations of President about the failure of the predecessors without doing much to change the situation are worrisome. More worrisome are the inaccuracies and recurring falsehood in his claims. While it is not in doubt that previous administrations could have done better than they did, it is equally not true that nothing was achieved in the absolute terms of the President Buhari. Contrary to the claims of the President, crude oil price didn’t average $100 in the period in review and the immediate past administration of Goodluck Jonathan left a sizeable amount of money in savings for his successor. The price of crude oil in 1999 hovered around $17 per barrel and didn’t exceed $69 by 2007 averaging at about $37 per barrel. By 2008, the price of crude oil rose to $94 per barrel and peaked at $145 in the month of July but fell to $77 per barrel in 2010 with an average price of about $76per barrel under the period in review. The only time in sixteen years that crude oil prices exceeded the $100 threshold steadily for more than twelve months was between 2011 and 2013 when prices went up as high as $109 per barrel. However, by 2014, the ever volatile international crude oil market experienced a decline in the price the commodity to $96 per barrel and reaching a record low by 2015 with prices crashing to $49 per barrel. The cumulative average price of crude oil between 1999 and 2016 was $40 per barrel and not $100 as claimed by the president.

As bad as Nigeria may have been in 2015, President Buhari Inherited a better country than Olusegun Obasanjo did in 1999. Unlike Buhari who inherited a reserve of $25 billion, an excess crude account of $2 billion, a remittance from the liquefied Natural Gas Company of $2.1 billion and about two hundred billion naira savings domiciled at the National Sovereign Wealth Authority, the Obasanjo administration inherited a $3 billion reserve with zero savings and a country without efficient institutions of state management.

The President’s claim about the total neglect of the nation’s social and physical infrastructure by previous administrations gives the impression that nothing was achieved before his coming to power. While much more was expected, there were modest achievements that are worthy of commendations by a head of state on the occasion of its national day. Between 1999 and 2015, the federal government of Nigeria increased the average minimum wage of workers from about three thousand naira to eighteen thousand five hundred naira monthly with embargo on public service recruitment lifted. By 2015, it required about 1.8 trillion naira to service the personnel cost of MDAs out a total annual budget of about 5 trillion naira. There was a substantial expansion of road and rail transport infrastructure by several kilometers with Airports getting upgraded and renovated.  Several trillions of naira was expended on interventionist agencies in Health care, Education, Agriculture and Poverty alleviation.  Agencies like UBEC, TETFUND and PTDF have imprints all over the country through physical structures and award of scholarships to students. By 2015, every state in the federation was endowed with a federal government funded university. One of such universities in sited in Dut’sinma, Katsina state, the home of President Buhari.  While a chunk of Nigeria’s resources was frittered away by corruption in government, it is not true that such practices are the exclusive preserve of any political party or administration. The attempt to project his ruling party APC is the rescuer of Nigeria only exposes the President’s ignorance or dishonesty or both. All monies that accrued to the nation were shared among all tiers of government, whose political heads were drawn from both APC and the PDP. Even now, the ruling APC is dominated by former PDP members or their opposition collaborators from the Vice-President and ministers to the leadership of the national assembly down to state governors and local government chairmen. Therefore, the president must begin to realize that those whom he claimed ‘’squandered our piece of luck’’ are leading figures in his government and ruling party.

As the greatest beneficiary of Nigeria’s liberal democracy where in political freedom saw a series of loses for the ruling party at all levels and tiers of government beginning from 2003, which eventually culminated into his own victory over an incumbent in the 2015 presidential polls, President Buhari was not truthful when he said ‘’In the past two years, Nigeria has recorded appreciable gains in political freedom. A political Party at the Centre losing elections of State Governor, National Assembly seat and even State Assemblies to the opposition parties is new to Nigeria. Added to these are complete freedoms to associate, to hold and disseminate opinions. Such developments clearly attest to the country’s growing political development. But like all freedoms, this is open to abuse’’.

By far the most divisive part of his speech was his reference to the Nigeria-Biafra civil  “As a young Army Officer, I took part from the beginning to the end in our tragic civil war costing about 2m lives, resulting in fearful destruction and untold suffering. Those who are agitating for a re-run were not born by 1967 and have no idea of the horrendous consequences of the civil conflict which we went through.

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