President Buhari has just about six months to write his name, not in gold as that is almost unreachable now, but legible enough for forgiveness from the common man who puts so much trust in him in 2015. He would be blamed for failing but perhaps would be remembered for waking up to do what is right in his final six months in office – even when it seems obvious to him that he may not win a re-election.
Never has it been this difficult to clearly decide on the option before serious voters in Nigeria. On October 5, 2018 when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) decides on its presidential candidate, it will be a big date in the history of Nigeria, as this candidate will face incumbent President Buhari, the sole candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The PDP will probably choose its candidate from Abubakar Atiku/Bukola Saraki/Rabiu Kwankwaso/Aminu Tambuwal, and so we can really begin to look forward to a competitive election, or not?
President Buhari has performed poorly, disappointing many of his admirers. He would barely get a pass mark when graded through the established criteria of good governance over the last three-and-a-half years. He has been a “nice guy” who presents himself as not being sure of how to handle the challenges before him. He has thrown away the massive favourable climate and goodwill that he enjoyed at the start of his tenure and the hopes of the people in his capability have been wiped away. People are hungry, angry and aggrieved. People look at the future now with despair and they are not sure of how to proceed given the looming choices.
It is true that this administration inherited massive challenges, but to be fair, that was to be expected. Nigeria has just never really moved forward since independence. It has been one step forward and several steps backwards, with each succeeding regime. Nearly all previous administrations have been in similar circumstances, with the tales of doom at the start of their regimes. It is the business of government to solve problems and not to complain about them. The argument that three years is not enough to solve Nigeria’s enormous problems does not fly, properly speaking. The weight of evidence before us makes that argument untenable. For a meaningful engagement with Buhari supporters, let us concede that Nigeria’s problems cannot be solved in three years. Yet, at this point in the life of the administration, we should by now be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. We should be seeing signals that the future would look better. We should be seeing progress, which is what we were promised in 2014/2015. We should by now be seeing Nigerians with hope and smiles on their faces. Hope that this regime is on course and that it is only a matter of time for the country’s problems to be surmounted, and that this government is on top of things.
With every budget, government learns to make a better budget the following year. But we have had an administration for nearly four years that has not had a single smooth budget year running. This successive poor implementation of budgets have been the bane of this government. I concede that the National Assembly has been deliberately sabotaging the executive and that barring one or two members, the entire membership of the two houses are thieves, rogues or clowns – although that is the subject of another discussion. It is not the business of citizens that the National Assembly is frustrating the executive’s plans; it is the job of government to solve the problems it faces and deliver on its mandate. The people gave this government and political party – the All Progressives Congress – the majority in both houses. It is therefore the responsibility of the party to clean up its house, to eliminate, remove, impeach or side-track party members who are making it difficult for the party to be successful and get the job done. If a party and its leaders are unable to do that in nearly four years, it is a sign of failure. It means they cannot manage their own house and put it in order. Why should we trust such party with the country’s resources and the country’s future going forward?
If a political party flies the flag of an anti-corruption struggle and hinges its campaign on a promise to tame the monster of corruption, especially with the knowledge that corruption is difficult to fight, and that corruption will fight back, then in four years, we want to see some semblance of success and forward movement. What we have been seeing is a fighting of the menace with kid gloves. We are seeing compromises and the government’s complicit. We are seeing a government that seems afraid to fight the fight. We are seeing people who love their stay at Aso Villa and, therefore, will rather tread carefully than step on toes. We expect toes not to be merely stepped on (literarily) but to be crushed, uprooted and amputated, if that is what it will take to move us forward. The so-called corrupt cases on trial seem like one big joke, as nobody is in jail after three years. These wicked people who looted billions of naira are waiting for this government to lose the next presidential election, so that everyone will be free again. It seems clear to me, maybe just me, that this government is a strong member of this corrupt triangle. Its style seems to be: Let’s pretend to the public and win their sympathy and then we would let everybody go eventually. May I repeat that the job of government is to stop problems and not to complain about them. I am tired of the argument that the judiciary is not helping matters. Seriously, this doesn’t fly. There must be something we can do about the judiciary, about the judicial system, to make it work better and quicker. When this government promised to fight corruption, didn’t it know the state of our judiciary or its workings?
I am personally tired of all the prayers and praying for Nigeria. I think God is laughing at us. I think God is not listening to us. I think God can see through our deception. We should stop praying at government meetings by the way. Let people pray at home and do the business of government when at it. We should stop wearing all these fancy cloths. We should stop these massive entourages, with loads of people around our leaders – sending them off and welcoming them back. We should stop all these commissioning and tape cuttings. Our people are furious. People work hard, yet they don’t meet up their monthly commitments and obligations because they receive wages nobody can live on. The Nigerian Labour Congress recently declared and then called off a national strike over the minimum wage. Many graduates are roaming the streets. Those who get government jobs are not getting paid. People are being owed several months’ salaries. Even the private sector now owes salaries. Why not? We can all take a cue from government, and if government can owe, why not us? Many people are losing the will to live. Yet, government officials are just taking pictures regularly to post on social media and newspapers. We see government functionaries with big grins and wide laughter; yet there is nothing to laugh about regarding the state of Nigeria.
Some will argue, rightly so, that I have not bothered about the few achievements of this government. Why should I? Such acclaimed achievements are too little and too inconsequential in the face of what has been left undone. The only way one can fight one’s opponents, many of which are real enemies of Nigeria, is to be firm and brutal.
Nobody gets appointed to become president of Nigeria. People solicit the position and only get elected. Candidates seek this office by campaigning hard, putting in a lot of effort, and spending a lot of money. Putting oneself forward is a choice made as an individual candidate. If the problems of the nation were hidden before seeking this position, we would all understand that individuals may have been misguided. But NO, these problems were clear and obvious enough. Many self-selecting candidates speak of how much rot pervades the system and how much knowledge they have of it. This job is not for the chicken-hearted or lily-livered. It is for the strong, brave and knowledgeable. I am not strong enough, so I wouldn’t dare put myself forward, but it is frustrating to see mediocres gallivanting with arrogance all over the place. Some just dance, some sing, some make statues, some just do nothing!
President Buhari, like former President Obasanjo, has the honour of having served as a former military leader, so he knows and should know Nigeria’s many problems. Now, Mr. President, you need to change your approach to solving these problems and hence start solving them. If you can’t, as it seems presently, then there is no shame in resigning, confessing that the tasks are overwhelming, and apologising to the people for underestimating the problem and thereafter going home. This is what President Buhari needs to do – to reflect and decide. Nigerians did not beg him to become president. Popular as he is in some parts of the north, with the so-called cult-like following, he was not begged to become president. He opted to try his hands – again. He had tried three times and failed before succeeding through a coalition the fourth time. However, over the last nearly four years, he has shown up as compromising on too many issues. He has showed up as weak. He has showed up as too slow. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine. A nice guy cannot be a successful Nigerian president or of any other country for that matter. Governance is not for nice people, as there is no sentiment in it. Mr. President, if you cannot find the fighting spirit in you, then you should get out now and keep what is left of your dignity.
Some will argue, rightly so, that I have not bothered about the few achievements of this government. Why should I? Such acclaimed achievements are too little and too inconsequential in the face of what has been left undone. The only way one can fight one’s opponents, many of which are real enemies of Nigeria, is to be firm and brutal. The enemies of Nigeria who brought us to this sorry state have become stronger over the last 18 months. They hibernated in the first 12 months of this government, collected information and planned in the following six months. Now, they have reorganised, they are fresh and energised, and almost united and ready to deal the final blow on the country. They have been enabled by the inactivity, inaction and incompetence of the current administration. Consequently, my personal anger with this administration is the betrayal of trust. How can we as a people trust them again? Why should we?
Let us now turn to the alternative party and its candidates. The PDP as a political party had 16 years of uninterrupted governance in Nigeria between 1999 and 2015. Countries like South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore were turned around by progressive leaderships to their relative successes today well under 16 years. What did PDP do with power in 16 years? Party members, officials and leaders got very rich. They refused to build any infrastructure. They neglected what was on ground. They helped themselves to the bank, created a culture of impunity and created value for corruption by sharing crumbles from what they have amassed of the commonwealth to the people around them. Now that an APC government has failed, they are laughing and ready to pounce back on power. As it stands presently, they stand as good a chance as the APC. Some argue, even better!
A third political party could have been our alternative – not APC or PDP – but that is dead on arrival. The last two governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States, as well as the supplementary parliamentary elections in Katsina and Bauchi States should have been an opportunity to test such political alliance of a third force at the polls. However, greed and naivety make it impossible for our people to talk, reach compromise and come together in any form of alliance. For our politicians, it is always difficult to think of the national interest above self-interest. These so-called “third forces” are non-starters as far as the Nigerian political arena is concerned, which takes us back to our initial choice between the devil and the deep blue sea or is it the rock and a hard place? PDP or APC – how did we get here? A choice between six and half a dozen!
Yet our values as a people have become so rotten. We worship money. We worship our pastors and Imams. We worship our greed and personal desires. We compromise and sacrifice everything good for our self-aggrandisement. We have become like a “see through blouse”, so transparent that the politicians see through us and use this lack of values to get their way with us. They rape us repeatedly. We actually come to the party undressed, already asking for money, asking to be raped!
…President Buhari can take this counsel and he will need to do less campaigning over the next months. His work will campaign for him as the people will see that he means business. The political jamboree called electioneering campaigns is about to start and we are about to see all sort of shenanigans all over the place promising us “miracles” publicly and laughing behind us.
Where do we go from here? President Buhari has just about six months to write his name, not in gold as that is almost unreachable now, but legible enough for forgiveness from the common man who puts so much trust in him in 2015. He would be blamed for failing but perhaps would be remembered for waking up to do what is right in his final six months in office – even when it seems obvious to him that he may not win a re-election. He needs to “come out smoking”. Since, he has failed with the National Assembly, he can still rally the people around him through several policy initiatives.
First, he needs to speak more directly with the people. Why can’t he grant more interviews, speak directly about his challenges and efforts, and provide evidence in this regard? Why can’t he speak from the heart? We are tired of reading statements from his incompetent team and some of the sycophants around him. Nobody can hold him hostage, unless he chooses to hide behind a finger. Second, he needs to rejig his government immediately. There are too many people he needs to fire around him. Nobody is indispensable. It will send a signal and make others sit up – hopefully. Third, he is a politician and now he needs to play politics. He needs to get up from his office and visit people that he should be seen visiting from way back. He needs to build new alliances across the Niger in the South-East and South-South. He needs to rework his relationship with the Middle Belt. He needs to rekindle and strengthen existing ones. Fourth, he needs to identify existing programmes and policy initiatives that he started, and which can and must be completed in the next 3-5 months and throw money at it since he may not be coming back. He would be able to point at some of these in the future.
Fifth, so much has been said about security and the need to do some things differently in Nigeria. The secret service (DSS) is particularly in shambles. The organisation is always in the news for all the wrong reasons. This is an organ of government that should not be in the news at all. Security services worldwide are neither seen nor heard, they are just there doing serious jobs. In Nigeria, we see them, we hear them and they even disrupt lives, including during the shameful drama of the recent National Assembly shutdown. Interestingly, there has been some semblance of slowing down with the herdsmen brouhaha, but not so much, with Boko Haram’s sporadic attacks. Now is the time for President Buhari to tweak his security apparatus to demonstrate he is a listening president.
Sixth, the minimum wage discussions should be urgently finalised and implemented. This president must find a way to “coerce” all the States to pay their backlog of workers’ salaries at all levels before December 2018 and to keep up payments forthwith. If governors of opposition parties will not cooperate on this, those of his party should at least be discharging this responsibilities admirably. I concede that the federal government does not have oversight responsibility over the States, and most of our existing States are simply not viable anyway. Yet, workers in distress are simply not interested in making a distinction between one level of government and the other, especially when they belong in the same party. This coming six months should be a call to duty and we need some life back in the Presidency!
Finally, President Buhari can take this counsel and he will need to do less campaigning over the next months. His work will campaign for him as the people will see that he means business. The political jamboree called electioneering campaigns is about to start and we are about to see all sort of shenanigans all over the place promising us “miracles” publicly and laughing behind us.
Gbolahan Gbadamosi writes from the United Kingdom and can be reached at email@example.com