Fellow Nigerians, let me openly express my secret fears all this while about this our beloved Change Government which so many people supported and used all their might to midwife. Most of them did not belong to the All Peoples Congress (APC) but they were armed with a common faith in the incorruptibility of one man, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), and his ability to arrest Nigeria’s supersonic slide into eternal perdition. The election was thus fiercely contested and keenly monitored. After 16 incredible years in power, with little to show for it, most Nigerians were palpably bored with the petulant, profligate and pernicious rulers in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and badly wanted a change.
But this change was not going to come on a platter of gold. Nigerians, and indeed the world, were scared stiff of the dangerous possibility of the ruling government refusing to hand over power even in the face of glaring defeat. We must salute the intervention of a few people and their various peace initiatives. Many probably forgot that two of Africa’s all-time greatest diplomats, Dr Kofi Annan (former Secretary-General of the United Nations) and Chief Emeka Anyaoku (former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth) with Senator Ben Obi (former Vice Presidential Candidate to former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar) joined forces to activate the original peace initiative that gave birth to the Abuja Accord signed by both President Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari.
We must never forget the influential roles played by foreign powers led by the Americans, the British and others. President Barack Obama took more than cursory interest. He dispatched the Secretary of State, John Kerry, to Nigeria to meet and plead with the highly volatile dramatis personae to embrace peace. The peace accord designed and brokered by the troika of Kofi Annan, Emeka Anyaoku and Ben Obi and signed by Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari helped in no small measure to ensure that an incumbent African President voluntarily accepted defeat and after having conceded and called the winner, Western-style!
I have gone through this preamble to remind us of our contemporary history which some people apparently forgot as soon as power changed hands. A country that sat precariously on tenterhooks needed to be careful and magnanimous in victory. Even if there were terrible elements to be tackled, corrected and punished, the new government should have taken its time to study, plan and ultimately launch its offensive. Nigerians should have been allowed to enjoy their rare moment of giddy adulation. The last time we experienced such was after the Presidential election of June 12, 1993, won by the generalissimo, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, but was recklessly annulled by the military government for reasons never disclosed and for which full apologies are yet to be offered.
Unfortunately, the new ruling party mismanaged its hour of glory. The APC came to power seemingly only prepared for war against everyone including itself. They forgot to learn useful lessons from the uncommon example of the Madiba, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who immediately embraced his enemies after spending 27 years mostly in solitary confinement. Mandela must have discovered the wisdom that no nation can ever thrive in a perpetual state of chaos and mayhem. The hawks of Nigeria are used to feeding on corpses and would never forgive any sin of commission or omission.
The hawks were more interested in resurrecting and sustaining Brand Buhari of old – a military dictator and not that of the born-again Democrat we sold to the people during the political campaigns. They studiously ignored the fact that Buhari no longer had dictatorial powers of life and death and would now have to bow to Constitutional authorities in the National Assembly and the Judiciary. The acolytes gave him no time to even think of how to make the economy a priority or upgrade the Obasanjo methodology of fighting corruption. They were convinced all the masses wanted to hear was the sing-song of CRUCIFY HIM. They were definitely averse to the traditional Yoruba philosophy that explained the fickleness of the human thought process: Enu ti won fi pe Adegun naa ni won a fi pe Adeogun (the same mouth that hailed the crown would later abuse the crown).
Those who suggested caution were labelled as supporting corruption or worse still as corrupt elements fighting back! They were called wailing wailers and such nonsense. But we knew from the knowledge of Nigerian history that whatever war would be fought must be carefully considered, orchestrated and balanced with stabilising the country financially and economically. Starting the war precipitately was bound to destabilise our financial equilibrium. “Before you promise to donate dresses to someone else won’t it be nice to see what you’re adorning yourself”, according to a Yoruba adage. We sought to kill corruption and told the citizens to endure while the politicians continued to swim in opulence.
In the midst of all the confusion, somewhere in the country’s South-South region, the Niger-Delta Avengers began an unprecedented assault on Nigeria’s oil installations, decimating whatever was left of Nigeria’s oil wealth in the wake of a global oil crisis. An already ailing economy came crashing down to its knees. Observers of the scenario have described the fresh crisis in the Niger Delta region as a revenge mission targeted at what was largely perceived as a ruthless offensive by the Buhari administration against the PDP and key figures who served under the Jonathan administration which largely benefitted Niger-Delta politicians. I had warned nothing should be done to humiliate Jonathan who spent five out of the 16 years of PDP in power. The surrounding circumstances remain unclear, but one thing is clear; the cookies have finally crumbled.
The leader who listens to genuine advice will certainly succeed. It was obvious that the initial Buhari approach would not fly. We must retrace our steps and it is not too late to check how and where we got lost in the wilderness. I will summarise my previous suggestions.
Let us reconcile with every Nigerian regardless of ethnic, political and religious backgrounds. Let us do a comprehensive audit of what has been stolen from Nigeria and do a forensic search of the loot. The exercise should not be discriminatory or excessively punitive since it is retroactive. Those who have engaged in primitive accumulation of wealth without explanation or substantiation of sources should be asked for heavy returns, compensation and contributions to the State coffers. Those who are recalcitrant or unapologetic should be jailed!
A meeting of senior politicians should be arranged speedily. The agenda should be to get every public office holder to agree to a budget reduction of at least 50 percent on cost of governance. Those who want more can return to whatever business they were doing before offering to serve Nigeria. The Presidency is still outlandishly ostentatious. Same with the National Assembly and State Governments. Nigeria will never prosper under the current arrangement. If we do not commit to a major surgical obliteration of unnecessary government expenses, Nigeria will suffocate and collapse under the weight of greedy profligacy and probably bleed to death.
I’m happy to note there are signs that President Buhari is listening and responding to our humble admonitions. He should please continue. The token gesture of selling a few aircrafts pencilled down for sale by the previous administration is a good beginning. More should go very soon. There is no reason why we cannot charter Arik for long haul flights and keep the airline growing. It is never a sign of weakness to change bad decisions and wasteful flamboyance. Buhari’s greatest qualification for this job was his frugality and simplicity. Those dressing him up in borrowed robes are setting him up for monumental failure. Most of them and their associates did the same jobs for those who failed in the past. We lack the resources and the infrastructure of Great Britain yet we are more ceremonial than Her Majesty and Her Government. It is time to let the world see that we are serious for once by stopping our practice of capitalism without capital. If we are broke we should not be ashamed to admit it and adjust accordingly.
President Buhari should discard the toga of nepotism and chauvinism by reflecting Federal Character in all appointments. Nigeria has suffered too much under the yoke of ethnic cleansing. No leader can be in power forever. It is always more rewarding to do what is right and just knowing God will protect the leader. Promoting mediocrity in the name of tribal and parochial preference is already outdated. There is so much to achieve in an atmosphere of peace and cooperation and there is no better time than now when we are all groaning under the weight of recession. Our President has been awarded the greatest privilege of leading Nigeria again after being forced out of power over 30 years. He cannot afford to fail.
May God bless Nigeria through him.
– This article was first published by ThisDay Newspapers