Buhari, Thanks For Listening to Nigerians, By Tope Fasua
Now the war against corruption has started. And it will not be fought only in the newspapers. Now, a systematic process has started. Now every public service officer must comply.
And so finally, the President and Vice President have declared their assets. As I had stated many times before, I, personally, am not interested in the content of their assets, but the fact that they keep to their promise. It is all about the principles, and integrity is the act of walking the talk.
I believe this open asset declaration was being vehemently prevented. Because there was so much unnecessary ruckus around it, up till the last moment. Actually, I expected the open declaration like on May 30th, 2005. Why not? Is it not Buhari; the man in whom we invested 100 percent of our confidence? We will never know what happens in powerful places, and around government. But the bottom line is that the deed has been done, and Nigerians are happy. The issue was never going to go away, no matter how Mallam Garba Shehu spun it. Garba is doing some very dirty jobs for this government already. What I’m not sure of is who exactly asks him to do those dirty jobs.
The real Buhari is what is now emerging. I wish he will talk to us and encourage us, directly, more often. I wish we would not have to read the lips of Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu all the time and wonder what exactly is our President’s real opinion about issues.
I knew for sure, that Baba, having declared his assets a number of times in the past, should not be afraid to repeat the process this time. Whoever then it was, that decided to kick up a storm, by telling Nigerians to go and apply at Code of Conduct Bureau? Whoever then it was, that denied that Baba ever promised to do what is right? Between Shehu and Alhaji Lai Mohammed, why were they disclaiming the document titled “My Covenant with Nigerians”, a fine document authored by the Campaign Strategy team led by Fayemi and Bolaji Abdullahi, and certainly with the imprimatur of Buhari himself. The document – a copy of which I still keep after being issued with one at one of the APC townhall meetings I attended in the heat of campaigns – has the picture of Baba in front, wearing a very regal Yoruba Agbada.
I insisted that there was nothing to ‘distance’ oneself from, while the debate raged, about that document. I read the document through and through and it contained everything Nigerians yearned for. With that document, Nigeria was certainly going to be on the right path. But those who believed they ‘loved’ Buhari more than the rest of us chose to share some clip of a speech made in Chatham House, in which Baba said ‘some’ documents were fraudulent and he wouldn’t be part of any fraud. I explained with great pains, that he couldn’t have been referring to this very document, which encompasses the hopes of Nigeria in a changed nation, spearheaded by this great man. I reminded friends that sometimes, when you really like or love someone, what they need is the inconvenient truth. Baba should never have allowed anyone put any palm oil stain on his impeccable white Babanriga, as was about to happen – until this last minute intervention.
Our people are an emotional lot. Over and above ‘performance’ in office, Nigerians still have this big issue with seeing ‘their brother’ – always their brother – in office. We know for certain that the president has only appointed his ‘domestic’ staff as someone put it, and he has a right to appoint for now, those whom he has absolute confidence in…
I believe that those who opposed open declaration of assets are such people who don’t see why they themselves need to keep to their own promises. It is not all of us who shout ‘change, change’ that know what change really means, or that, deep in our hearts, are ready to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve a new Nigeria. Even fewer understand what it will take to get to the Promised Land, or how to get there. Many Nigerians just love the noisemaking, the mob mentality, so long as they are part of the wolf pack, barking and snarling at opposition all the way, at a time when real methodical work should have started, with all of us on board, contributing our quota to the upliftment of our fatherland! I opted out of the crowd a long time ago. My humble contribution is intellectual; my documented thoughts about this country, is deep, clear, concise, actionable and well-thought-through. One day, those who matter will know.
Now the war against corruption has started. And it will not be fought only in the newspapers. Now, a systematic process has started. Now every public service officer must comply. There is nothing wrong in being a rich man, but of late we hear stories about Nigerians being caught in Niger Republic with $4million, and at our airports with huge sums trying to escape, and it is apparent that many Nigerians, especially those who have been in public ‘service’, cannot defend what they have and were there simply to ‘service’ themselves. I don’t believe all the crazy figures we’ve been hearing from people like Oshiomhole and the rest, including that Bala Muhammad’s ‘houseboy’ stole $300million from Bala’s stash, or that Labaran Maku’s maiguard did not know there was dollars packed full inside their water tank and then went and opened the valve, flooding the streets with dollars. I think the corruption war until now was powered by rumours; the staple food of beer-parlor frequenters, and pedestrian analysts. But now the war has started.
The other matter that we are happy the president will listen to Nigerians despite the posturing again of those who believe they are giving him support, is in the skewness of his appointments so far. Again, it’s about subtlety, balance, emotional intelligence and a good knowledge of the country he governs. Our people are an emotional lot. Over and above ‘performance’ in office, Nigerians still have this big issue with seeing ‘their brother’ – always their brother – in office. We know for certain that the president has only appointed his ‘domestic’ staff as someone put it, and he has a right to appoint for now, those whom he has absolute confidence in. No leader will appoint a total stranger as Aide De Camp, Private Secretary, of Chief of Staff. These are also tough, crazy times.
But going forward, we hope and expect that the balance will be shown such that every Nigerian will know that truly, our Baba belongs to all of us. For instance, it was announced at some point that Tolu Ogunlesi will be the Special Assistant on Social Media. But we stopped hearing about him. That could have shown the youth that it’s not all about old MEN. Till date, all the appointees are older than 50. And people are wondering where the fresh ideas will come from. No woman has also been announced lately – apart from the INEC Acting-Chair, Amina Zakari. The ‘supporters’ are telling Baba to ask the complaining constituencies to ‘go to hell and back!’ Some are talking of ‘merit’ and performance in a nation where we still have discriminatory JAMB and WAEC requirements which are lenient on the north – and a position which some of us have defended.
Baba reserves the right to form a team of his dreams. It is not easy to be a president and with the time on his hands, let him paint the picture that he believes is right. We on this side will also guide him right and not merely shout his praises. We will also counter anyone who believes that the president should not be questioned, including our friend Garba Shehu, who said the president is like Lee Kuan Yew and Narendra Modi, only that he is better than them because ‘he will not micromanage’.
I cannot remember how many times I have heard in the last few weeks that “Haa, don’t mind them… these Fulanis are like that with power. Wait and see what will happen in the Petroleum Ministry and Finance… The Hausas are very provincial… They are very greedy with power… Buhari will take everything for his brothers; that is why he came in the first place…” And so on, usually said in a thick Igbo or Yoruba accent. It breaks my heart because I fought people who spun these types of stories in the run up to the elections. It depresses me, because the Hausas, Fulanis and northerners in general are some of the fairest people I’ve personally met, in business and normal human relations. Many of them whom I know not from Adam, have given me opportunities in business and allowed me prove my mettle, since I migrated to Abuja. If I say anything bad about that group of people, God himself will punish me for being an ingrate! So, I’m still hanging on to what I know, despite the flood of dissent and angst.
Baba reserves the right to form a team of his dreams. It is not easy to be a president and with the time on his hands, let him paint the picture that he believes is right. We on this side will also guide him right and not merely shout his praises. We will also counter anyone who believes that the president should not be questioned, including our friend Garba Shehu, who said the president is like Lee Kuan Yew and Narendra Modi, only that he is better than them because ‘he will not micromanage’. I was like Haba! Where is the sensitivity in that statement? Modi gets involved directly in cleaning up India; he hoes the ground himself, sweeps at dumping grounds, shows examples. That economy is ‘flying’ today, give or take. Why drag down his image in Nigeria? Are we back to the era of Goodluck, who is better than Obama, MLK, and FD Roosevelt put together?
Or are we trying to create a Kim Jung Il of North Korea instead? Allah ya kiyaye.
Tope Fasua, an economist and consultant, is CEO of Global Analytics Consulting.