President-Muhammadu-Buhari-PMB

That the circumstances of Nigerians have not changed in one year is bound to excite emotions. This is certainly not tempered by the insensitive and arrogant utterances of Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Mr. Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu. I commend the outrage trailing the comments made lately by these people. The disconnect is galling and infuriating. We should keep the pressure on because elected officials and public servants get lousy only when they think of us as political illiterates.

People make mistakes. It is inevitable that government makes mistakes, after all, people constitute government. When situation forces the government to make hard but beneficial long term choices, criticisms must be expected. What is unexpected and outrightly untenable is when decisions, mistakes and missteps are underscored by contempt and arrogance from elected officials or government appointees in response to frustration expressed by citizens.

Nigeria is a broken nation. Nigerians understand that their country was raped and pillaged for the sixteen years of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rule, most especially during the Goodluck Jonathan years. A year ago, we elected President Muhammadu Buhari. We elected him to perform miracles. Nigerians want miracles, and quick results and no one should blame them for seeking immediate relief after so much suffering. That there is no relief yet does not bode well for this administration. Nigerians are justifiably impatient and a bit angry that the change they were promised and voted for is excruciatingly slow. The government and those who are the face of it should come to the understanding that the people’s sentiments are crucial. They should appreciate the feelings of bewilderment of Buhari’s supporters, which are increasingly compounded by a strong sense of mistrust and betrayal.

If this government must stave off civil unrest, they must find a way to calm the anger and frustration in the country exacerbated by power cuts, long queues at petrol filling stations, and an atmosphere of general discontent. It is painful to bear the burden of a problem one did not cause. The vast majority of Nigerians are nursing the wounds of plunder and sustained financial exploitation that was visited on them. The masses of our people have for years lived on pittance and wages they barely subsist on. The cost of living has outstretched their incomes farther than bearable. Inflation is galloping. Power supply is epileptic. Many have no idea where the next meal will come from. Our communities need roads, water, modern health facilities and better schools. Many parents cannot afford a decent meal for themselves and their children. Nigeria has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of out of school children in the world! Many parents cannot afford to send their children to school and many cannot parent their children because they are working too many jobs or logging long hours in an attempt to feed them. Workers who spent their entire life serving the country are consigned to a life of scavenging in old age because their pensions are not paid. Some die while standing in pension queues, struggling to get their legitimate earnings and what is due to them. These salient facts are not secret, the government knows, and the citizens are on the edge having borne so much in silence.

As we mark one year of Buhari’s election, the sad fact is that this president is losing the immense goodwill he had hitherto enjoyed. Opponents of the government are renewed in their confidence that their opposition is credible. The budget furore showed that a lot of people still want to do business as usual in this country. We are happy that a clear and unmistakable signal has been sent to them that the country cannot bear any more looting of its funds. We like that Buhari is prudent but it is better if prudence and accountability are institutionalised.

That the circumstances of Nigerians have not changed in one year is bound to excite emotions. This is certainly not tempered by the insensitive and arrogant utterances of Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Mr. Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu. I commend the outrage trailing the comments made lately by these people. The disconnect is galling and infuriating. We should keep the pressure on because elected officials and public servants get lousy only when they think of us as political illiterates. We should up the ante and condemn their rhetorical insensitivities whenever it is committed. Let us put them on notice that we are changing and are wiser. We should let elected officials and those who run the country understand that Nigerians are getting more sophisticated and informed. That will send a message to them that politics should be seen as a commitment to service, and not as a career. Most importantly, it is a call to purpose and not the chasing after ambition.

When the government calls for patience and understanding, they should be seen as making sacrifices. What is good for the ordinary Nigerian should be good for their elected representatives. There can be no continued justification for the maintenance of eleven aircrafts in the Presidential fleet. The recent purchase of luxury vehicles by the Senate President and his confederates is not only unfair, it is unjust, profligate and insensitive. Apparently, they are unconcerned about the signals that are being sent to the country by their actions. Otherwise, they would have been more sensitive to the economic plight the country is in and they would have realised that there is no justification for the purchases and the big line items in the 2016 budgets, given the plight of Nigerians and the many intractable problems that are crying out for government spending.

Every arm of government should imbibe the new culture that we do not have the latitude to spend as we wish. Our spending should have a direct relationship with our earnings. Good governance is about inspiring people to a higher purpose, and this can only be done by example. A higher purpose is attained by taking a high moral path which shows sensitivity to the needs of people and the need to do everything to ameliorate human suffering.

Nigerians understand that it is not outside the remit of government to buy those vehicles but the timing is wrong! Worse was the insensitivity of the Senate President in his response when we raised questions about this. His reaction suggested we have no choice but to accept the procurement because the Senate has not done anything that had not been done before. This is certainly a lame excuse for spending N4.7 billion on vehicles when workers in the public service are being owed salaries running into months, with every sector of the economy in ruins. While we appreciate that looters are facing the law, we expect to know how much has been recovered and to what use the funds would be put. We have the right to know and we want an ordered and transparent judicial process.

As we mark one year of Buhari’s election, the sad fact is that this president is losing the immense goodwill he had hitherto enjoyed. Opponents of the government are renewed in their confidence that their opposition is credible. The budget furore showed that a lot of people still want to do business as usual in this country. We are happy that a clear and unmistakable signal has been sent to them that the country cannot bear any more looting of its funds. We like that Buhari is prudent but it is better if prudence and accountability are institutionalised. Every arm of government should imbibe the new culture that we do not have the latitude to spend as we wish. Our spending should have a direct relationship with our earnings. Good governance is about inspiring people to a higher purpose, and this can only be done by example. A higher purpose is attained by taking a high moral path which shows sensitivity to the needs of people and the need to do everything to ameliorate human suffering. Respect is earned and respect for leaders is proportional to how well they do their jobs. This administration needs charismatic and persuasive communicators to explain its steps. At this time of serious national crises, we do not need anyone to rub salt on our open wounds.

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú, a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst, writes this weekly column – “Bamidele Upfront” for Premium Times. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo