Dear President Buhari, You Need To Be Our Superman In These Dire Times, By Femi Akinfolarin
The honeymoon period is well and truly over. It has now been about eight months since that day in Abuja when you were sworn in as the latest president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, nine months since you won the first election in which an opposition party would defeat the incumbent in the annals of our country. It’s been eight months since we parted ways with the most abysmal president God has ever inflicted on Nigeria, and his standup comic of a wife. Soon, you will celebrate your first year in office.
I used to make excuses for you whenever people called you ‘Baba Go Slow’ in the early days of your government. I would say that there was a need to carefully dimension the myriads of disastrous errors committed by the last administration; a need to address the tsunami of corruption created by the clueless Jonathan administration but those days are slowly fading into the rearview mirror as I start to worry that you might not be properly prepared for the enormous task at hand.
Sir, it’s not rocket science to hit the floor running when taking over power. I remember that each time Mr. Fashola won election as Governor of Lagos State, he would immediately inaugurate a committee to draft a strategy paper covering all the main issues to be addressed in the four-year span. The committee would submit its recommendation before the swearing in ceremony, which meant the government hit the ground running. This strategy was inherited from the Tinubu administration and meant that time was not lost in launching strategic initiatives. We have lost so much time waiting between last year and today. You need to get to move, and fast, because Nigerians are not patient people and your detractors are increasing daily.
We have now spent eight months in which it has been clear that your priorities are: reducing insecurity and entrenching institutional reform to destroy the cancer of corruption. These two things are not bad, but as Mr. Clinton once said “it’s the economy, stupid!” Mr. President, please draw a lesson from what happened during the election battle between George Bush and Bill Clinton in 1992. President George Bush had just led America to victory over Iraq and awed the world with the ‘shock and awe’ tactics of the American military during that process in 1991. The president’s approval rating was at an historically high 90 percent but by November of the next year, he had lost the election to a relatively unknown democratic candidate. Why? Because the economy was in a tailspin and the country had fallen into a recession, and voters cared more for a president that would help their personal economy than one who won a war. The moral of this story is that focusing on defeating Boko Haram and corruption is not enough. Nigerians need to see a turnaround in their personal economy for them to give your government a pass mark. You and your team need to explain clearly to us why we are in such desperate straits and then present a ‘Big Hairy Audacious Plan’ to help us get out of our present situation. The plan needs to be simple enough for everyone to understand and rally around or the people will soon revolt. Tell us that ‘Nigeria will be America in eight years’ and then lay out your plans to make it happen and we will follow you to the ends of the earth. Dream big and deliver quickly sir.
Mr. President, also can you please tell members of your administration to stop blaming the past administration for everything wrong in Nigeria? A light bulb in a government office dies and Mr. Lai Mohammed blames Jonathan; a goat in Anambra fails to give birth and Mallam Garba Shehu accuses the state chapter of the PDP of being behind it. We are tired of the buck passing. You and your people are in power now and have been for months. Accept the fact that fixing Nigeria is now your problem, fix our problems and move on.
Please note that Nigeria is a vast land and things will always go wrong; there will be natural disasters, robberies, terrorist attacks, epidemics and turmoil. Be the president of all Nigerians, comfort us wherever and whenever tragedy occurs, and talk to us frequently. It is a shame that your first media interview wasn’t until a month ago. That’s a failure on the part of your communications team. You need to engage us and show us you care and stop being quiet. The perception of action is actually more important than the action itself.
Dear President, hasten to visit the South-East, Enugu, Imo, Anambra and Abia. Go to the epicentre of the Biafra agitation with a message of friendship and a plan to rapidly develop Igboland. Produce a plan to renovate all major federal government roads in the region and present architectural plans for the 2nd River Niger bridge at Onitsha and give a commencement and completion date. Romance and woo the Igbos with a reconciliatory message on one hand and concrete proof of what separates your administration from that of the always promising and never delivering one of Dr. Jonathan, on the other hand.
Finally, Mr. President, criminal justice isn’t really only about parading crooks in handcuffs up and down, it’s actually getting convictions and jailing them. An Olisah Metuh or Sambo Dasuki, properly tried and convicted and sentenced by a court of competent jurisdiction is a clear signal to other crooks that the days of impunity and the culture of stealing are dead. The spectacle of all these criminal politicians facing the law is actually a good lesson for Nigerians, because it teaches us that thieves will be punished; however, the current denial of bail and re-arrest of people who have met their bail conditions doesn’t help to create this awareness. Let’s arrest and prosecute criminals but only under the ambit of the law.
Sir, Nigeria is in dire straits. We need a superman, an all action superhero to save us, not an elderly man in his dotage tied to the presidential villa in Abuja. We need you to be Superman and lead now before all your goodwill is drained away.
Femi Akinfolarin, a lawyer, writes from Lagos.