LAST Sunday came and passed as every other Sunday before it. There was no fanfare or blitz usually associated with the Democracy Day as was the case in the days of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. In fact, there was nothing to show that President Muhammadu Buhari’s government had clocked one year in office.
It was business as usual expect for the less than 30-minute broadcast by the President. Even his speech did not capture the mood of the celebration. His countenance underlined the mood of the nation: sombre, nondescript.
I have continued to imagine what has been the lot of those in leadership at the top, especially at this period of national crises! I do not envy President Buhari at all. He is going through hell at this time. I can feel his pain. I can feel his frustration. I listened to him on Sunday with a deep sense of empathy as he explained the monstrous dimension insecurity had taken in recent times, the economic downturn, the missing Chibok girls, the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers, etc. From his countenance, all I could see was frustration. But cheerfully I did not see despondency in his face. He looked rather rattled, but not subdued. He spoke with some measure of optimism that what had gone wrong today could be a thing of the past tomorrow. We are all expectant.
Amid all these, I am compelled to ask: ‘Do those who work with the President feel the same frustration? Or are they simply a party to the fuelling of his frustrations, pretending to advise him?
We are agreed that the tragedy of our national development is the scarcity of men and women who can courageously speak the truth, especially at this period of our national development when every citizen is expected to contribute his little to enable the nation to get out of the woods.
Painfully, many of those in positions of authority always want to be told what is pleasing to their ears only. Many of them rarely brook any opposition and see anybody who speaks the truth to them as an enemy or detractor. How can any leader succeed if all he wants to hear is what is appetising to his ears? That is what is called sycophancy. And our political landscape is replete with sycophants and bootlickers. They go about telling lies and painting others in bad light in order to remain relevant in the eyes of their paymasters. They have no modicum of conscience and all they care about are their selfish interests.
Nigeria is where it is today because of the antics of these sycophants and charlatans. They are the same people responsible for Nigerian leaders, past and present, not doing what they ought to have done. And when they have sweet-tongued one into making regrettable mistakes they abandon you for another person. Their stock-in-trade is subtle blackmail, praise-singing and hagiography. Like leeches and parasites they stick to their victim and suck him viciously to, even, a state of anaemia.
There is nothing like pity or benevolence in their lexicon. In the fit of their greed they can even kill to retain their earthly fiefdoms.
I recall with satisfaction that for the 8 years I was governor, I saw these infamous people in very large numbers. They came in diverse shapes and tactics. Because I was focused and tactful, I was able to evade their traps. Even now they still stalk whoever they have made a target, applying all kinds of antics and tricks to entrap you. This could be the lot of the President.
Unless one has been a player in a challenging leadership theatre it will be difficult to quantify what pain such leaders go through for the sake of the people they govern. The President may not be a perfect person but, definitely, he is not a bad person. Rather he is a circumstantial leader who emerged on the scene when Nigeria was at a crossroads.
He has beautiful dreams about Nigeria, but the challenges at hand have diminished the beauty of his dreams. This is exemplified in his Change Agenda, which has the potentialities to take Nigeria to the global economic arena. If it were in times of normal happenstances the sterling qualities of his leadership style would have shined like a million stars.
This is not the best of times for our dear country Nigeria. In its 56-years history as an independent nation it has never had it so bad. From downturn in its economy, resulting in poor living conditions, to festering political crises and, now, the Niger Delta Avengers’ onslaught Nigeria could be said to be in the doldrums. And these have left many people asking, what will become of Nigeria in the foreseeable future?
The attention of the whole world has now shifted from such countries as South Sudan, Somalia and Central African Republic to Nigeria, making some commentators and observers of global events fear the end of Nigeria is imminent. The fears are palpable. Even Nigerians live in fear of the unknown, hunted by the Armageddon prophecies by some notable global personalities some time ago.
Barely a month ago, the pump price of petrol was raised to N145 from the initial price of N87. Hell was let loose. The Nigeria Labour Congress went on strike, followed by the Association of Senior Staff of Universities (ASUU) in prompt reaction to the increase. The strike could not succeed because PENGASSAN and NUPENG refused to join. Even the civil society groups thought otherwise and stayed out of the action.
As things continue to deteriorate, I recall particularly the warnings by two former United States Ambassadors to Nigeria – Jeter and Campbell. These men have consistently written about the impending implosion and cataclysm. They had advised, as far back as 2010, that Nigeria should take measures to forestall the plots by some unscrupulous elements to cause it to disintegrate. Another American – Negroponte – was more ascerbic and pointed: He unambiguously warned that Nigeria might disintegrate by the Year 2015, if measures were not taken to stop the steady drift to anarchy.
Negroponte and the two ambassadors were correct in their observations: things are definitely not well with our nation. We may pretend nothing is happening, yet the ominous signs are everywhere.
Nigeria might have survived the 2015 date for disintegration as predicted by these diplomats. But will it be able to survive the ongoing attacks by Fulani herdsmen, Niger Delta Avengers, kidnappers, and other social deviants? Last Monday there were bloody clashes between security agents and members of MASSOB and IPOB (allegedly infiltrated by the Niger Delta Avengers) at Asaba and Onitsha, leading to the death of many people.
I, as a person, have warned several times in the past 8 years for us to beware of the evil people who go about spreading hate stories about Nigeria and whipping up undue sentiments, which run antithetical to our national interests. I have also empathically called for total war on corruption and other ills that threaten our national existence. Unfortunately, on many occasions such clarion calls have been taken for granted. The enemies of democracy and progress take such innocuous calls to bizarre heights to curry favour and denigrate my person.
For anyone who cares to know, I have never made a comment on any national situation for personal aggrandizement. Whatever I write or say is always guided by patriotism and personal convictions. This is why I can look at anybody in the face and tell him the truth. Truth in itself is bitter. And it takes an honest and selfless person to speak the truth.
President Buhari’s one year in office was a mix grill. It was one year characterised by numerous positive measures, which only time will bring to fruition. The economy may not be doing too well. Agreed, but at least we are getting somewhere.
My only worry is how the naira will be able to navigate through some of these fiscal measures. As I indicated earlier, Buhari was unfortunate to come at this time of our national development when the global economy faced recession. Managing the naira against other foreign currencies remains one of the most difficult challenges the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has faced. Only last week the official exchange rate between the naira and the dollar was removed to make the naira compete freely within the market. How effective this strategy is will be known in due course.
Provision of infrastructure did not witness any serious impact in the last one year due to some reasons such as the late passage of the budget and the steady fall in the price of oil in the global market. The sharp fall has also led to diminished incomes to states from the federation account.
There have been other challenges facing the Buhari government. They include ghost workers, epileptic power supply, low productivity by industries, rising cost of food stuff, poor health facilities, and trans-border crimes. These problems are enough to weigh down any government. Surprisingly, Buhari has managed to keep the nation afloat.
Now what can be done to steady the ship of state in the face of present challenges? This is where prioritization comes to play. We need to prioritize our challenges and tackle them with equal intensity, honesty and vigour. There is no way we can resign ourselves to fate and wait for Nigeria to disintegrate.
I have written in this column countless times about the need for Nigerians to show greater love for our fatherland. When things turn sour we are expected to rise to the challenge. Evils thrive in our nation because those expected to speak up in the face of adversity have chosen to keep silent.
There is no challenge – no matter how intractable – we cannot surmount if we pooled resources and energies to confront it. I have stated clearly numerous times that those who engage in evil in our society are often people known to us and who live among us. They are no spirits. What happens is that if we failed to expose them then we, ourselves, become victims of their devious escapades. That is why a famous British poet and statesman, Edmund Burke, says: All it takes for evil to thrive is for good men to do nothing.
Definitely, many of us, have failed to stand against the forces of oppression and suppression for fear of chastisement.
Imagine what is going on in Nigeria: How evil men have run a ring around a once-beautiful country – making life unbearable for Nigerians! We are held in bondage by some of our fellow citizens whose only weapon is brute force, while their major agenda is to destroy that which they could not get or control. They leave blood, agony and desolation wherever they go. These agents of darkness roar like hungry lions looking for who to devour. Is it not high time we came together to confront these monsters and enemies of progress? See how the international community has taken over our problem as if they were the cause! Women and children, young and old all over the world have taken up the gauntlet to fight for the release of our sisters abducted by terrorists in Chibok. The whole world is outraged!
What have we done as a people directly affected by the incident? We walk about as if nothing had happened, instead of sharing in the global grief. What we do by our seeming apathy is to entrench evil and make it blossom.
The President and his cabinet, the military and other security agencies cannot fight the monster that reared its ugly head at these perilous times alone. They need the support and cooperation of all of us in our own little ways. There is no way evil will not be banished from our society if 200 million Nigerians unanimously say, ‘No’ to it.
I listened to the President’s broadcast last Sunday and was attracted to the information he divulged that the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture would reel out the names of those from whom large sums of stolen money was recovered. We are waiting.
The world is attracted to our present problem, because of the lurking consequences. Look at Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo! They are passing through terrible times in the hands of rebels. The refugee problems they have created have rattled the world. It is the same sordid situation they are working to avert in Nigeria. The United States, Britain, France and other world powers know the grave consequences of allowing Nigeria to fail. The humanitarian problems it will create will be monumental. Not only that, their investments will be imperilled as well.
The surest way to save Nigeria from annihilation is for all of us to do something today to stop the drift in our economy, expose evil people, make personal sacrifices, work harder at whatever we lay our hands upon, stop the destructive activities of herdsmen, continue to fight institutional corruption, eschew ethnicity and religious bigotry, ensure justice and fair play in the sharing of resources and political offices, discover ways of shoring up our foreign reserve, reduce waste, and devote more resources to capital projects. These are the surest ways to make Nigeria recover quickly from the hubris.
If we fold our arms and do nothing to stop this madness, then all of us are asking the inevitable question: Nigeria: To be or not to be?