As Nigerians awaited President Muhammadu Buhari’s Democracy Day broadcast on Monday, I could almost tell what the speech would look like. And it was not just because of the delivery style. For the President reads his speech, he does not really deliver it. Of course, he did not disappoint on that score.
I expected that he would avoid getting too deep into the herdsmen imbroglio and dwell more on Boko Haram and Dapchi, where we rescued all, but two, of the kidnapped schoolgirls. Unfortunately, we cannot discuss Dapchi in isolation of Chibok, which has not been such a huge success and, of course, the pesky Amnesty International report.
In all, I did not expect a hate speech. And, thankfully, yesterday’s speech was no hate speech. PMB did not also talk down on us, which is a relieving departure from what we were beginning to get used to. He did not devote the speech to bashing Goodluck Jonathan and demonising the PDP. And he still made all the points – like reminding us that our foreign reserve had grown “to $47.5 billion as of May, 2018, as against 29.6 billion USD in 2015.” He needn’t mention names. We all know who left it at $29 billion.
It did not seem to offer a new solution to the problems, as we know them, but that is not saying he has not offered any solutions in three years.
However, he used the opportunity of the broadcast to market himself for 2019. He will get another opportunity to do it again on October 1. And, probably, on New Year’s Day.
But, as nice as his speech was, the ‘armchair critique’ in me still picked a few lines for special consideration viz:
PMB said, “It is pertinent to also make mention of the immeasurable contributions of the Nigerian woman to national development and advancement of democracy, over the last three years. The government and people appreciate you all as mothers of our great country.”
And my redhead asks: Were these ‘immeasurable contributions’ in the kitchen or za oza room?
In paragraph 33, the President said: “My dear countrymen and women, as we all celebrate our democratic experience, let us resolve to avoid hatred and intolerance; we can only achieve our objectives in an atmosphere of harmony and peaceful co-existence.”
And I cannot agree more with the President.
But my redhead raises its mischievous head again: Wasn’t the original plan to achieve a few selfish objectives by sustaining the current peace of the graveyard – both within and outside of the APC? Yes, much of the peace we enjoy today is actually attributable to the suspicion that many of those politicians opposed to the President have, as we say in my part of the ghetto, ‘borrowed themslves brain,’ and kept their mouths shut (especially, as we approach 2019). Yes! If you don’t have anything nice to say about Buhari and his re-election bid, you’d better shut up!
Now, don’t ask me if this does not amount to accusing PMB of vindictiveness. I don’t know anything o! The only thing I know is that I know a handful of otherwise outspoken persons who are now too scared to open their mouths.
Of course, I wouldn’t know if this ‘sidon look’ is not because the guilty are afraid. But, whatever it is, the fear is real.
And now that the President is preaching tolerance and peaceful co-existence, who can help us translate it to vernacular for the herdsmen? Their farmer brothers? Amaechi and Wike and Magnus Abe? El-Rufai and Hunkuyi and Shehu Sani? Shetima and Modu Sheriff? Okorocha and family and the other Imo APC chieftains? Ajimobi and Shittu? Fayose and Fayemi? Ganduje and Kwankwaso? Dino Melaye and Yahaya Bello? Dogara and Mohammed Abubakar? Lai Mohammed? Abubakar Badaru? Ali Ndume? Ovie Omo-Agege, the cabal, APC chieftains? PDP’s Wadata Plaza and all?
In paragraph 34, PMB says: “Finally, the upcoming months will usher us into another season of general elections. Let me use this opportunity to urge us all to conduct ourselves, our wards and our constituencies with the utmost sense of fairness, justice and peaceful co-existence such that we will have not only hitch free elections but also a credible and violence free process”
Now, that sounds nice. But the redhead has one request: Can we, please, start with the Ekiti election, to practise what we’re preaching about free and fair elections?
Let us pretend we did not see what happened during the congresses. Let us assume that the botched recall of Dino Melaye, which made us abort the ones allegedly planned for Senators Shehu Sani and Enyinnaya Abaribe, was really because their constituents no longer wanted them. Let us also assume that the travails of Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu are because they are the only ones known to the establishment as having houses with discomforting origins. Let us believe that they are the only ones ‘foolish’ enough to leave trace of their loot. Let us all agree that it is mere co-incidence that only those who run their mouths (or show the slightest interest in higher elective office) that suddenly run into legal hot water – and get prosecuted for as ‘little’ as lying to the police, even when lying to the populace has since become an official policy of state.
Well, if, in spite of all these signs, the President is still hopeful of free and fair elections in 2019, who am I to lose hope? I hereby join my faith with his. Like the not-too-good Catholic that I am, I’ve already immersed my rosary in water, hoping and praying that the seeds we sow today do not yield the fruits we know. Let us pray that the blighted cassava sticks we are planting in 2018 would yield pricey tubers of yam in 2019. Can I have a loud Amen!!
Of course, I won’t say anything about the ‘addendum’ on the “Not Too Young to Run” Bill and the President’s promise to sign it as soon as it comes to his desk. That one is like telling the youth what they want to hear. Or else, how do we place that promise side by side the fact that nearly all of the five front runners for the 2019 presidency are either 70 years and above, or are threateningly close to 70? I rest my case.
Bayelsa and NDU politics
I wouldn’t know what Bayelsa State governor, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson, went to do in Kaduna last week, but I suspect that he must have compared notes with the man whose opponents love to call Hell-Rufai, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State.
Back in Amassoma, Bayelsa State, Dickson is carrying out a revolutionary reform similar to what el-Rufai is doing in Kaduna. The only difference is that Dickson’s reform cuts across the entire Bayelsa civil service. It is a reform that needs guts and a generous dose of political will. But the Countryman Governor is determined to see it through, just as his political opponents, who have since politicised the matter, are determined to ensure it consumes him and, probably, obliterates his indelible legacy.
Dickson is said to have inherited a civil service whose monthly wage bill was a little lower than Lagos State’s. At the very first interrogation of the anomaly, it turned out that there was not only an army of ghost workers (outnumbering legitimate workers), but, in some instances, people as old as 80 years were still in service – making it impossible for the youth to find employment. There was also the issue of the indefensible number of Level 17 officers – Bayelsa being one of the few states with that grade level in its civil service. Things just had to change. And it was that reform that got to the peculiar Niger Delta University in Amassoma and degenerated into what the police and several youth groups in the town described as a cult war.
Protesters shut the school, locked the gate and welded it permanently. It remained shut for over a month. Politics soon crept in. And as the authorities moved to restore sanity, having discovered that no real stakeholder (staff or student) was with the protesters, all hell was let loose. The rest, as they say, is history. But claims and counter-claims of who did what are still flying around. Some people even want to make political profit from it, evoking the spirit of Alamieyeseigha and generally dancing on the grave of the dead and toying with the future of Bayelsa children. Unfortunately for the politicians, the revolution is still on. Almost unstoppable!