Belated Open Letter To A ‘Tired’ President by Nkannebe Raymond
Presidential greetings your excellency, I’m sure by now, you must be getting used to your new residence and also adapting quickly to your new routines as the leader, some say supreme leader of Africa’s most populous nation (if a nation really subsists within it).
Let me quickly, before I proceed with this letter of necessity, congratulate you on your historic victory at the just concluded elections, even though critics and cynics have said it was stage-managed to confer advantage to you and your party through the genius of the electoral umpire, the handsome, white-bearded gentle man from Kebbi State prof. Attahiru Jega.
But whatever it was that transpired, all those are behind us now and left before the court of posterity to judge and exercise its discretion of punishment. More so, since our latest idol of democracy, Oga Jones in his equanimity had understood the transient nature of power and the vainness of life to have conceded victory even before the ‘referee’ called it a day for the outing, I don’t think much energy should be dissipated in endless debate that often derive from sentiments and blighted by emotions.
Let me also make it clear that you never had my support in the period leading to the elections. Not because I hate the fact that you are from the Fulani stock, or because you are a northerner, nay a Muslim but rather, because I had the conviction that the former president, meant well for the nation and was determined to get things right despite the mountain of obstacles here and there putting wedge to his efforts. It was my considered opinion that he be cut some slack, despite his administrative gaffes (who said leadership is a tea party anyway?) so he could be able to oversee a second term where it was hoped the Agenda of Transformation would bear fruits.
I was also of the opinion that he had the edge age wise, with the educational component as a plus to move us further from where he met us unlike you, who is already deficient in age and who ordinarily ought to have retired were you to be in the civil service of the nation. Having being once in the saddle of the country especially during the Military junta, I didn’t see any justification why you should be lurking around our political corridors, where you once took flats.
More so, it was the popular sentiment at the time, that despite your sanctimonious posturing, you were part of the league of persons whose leadership ineptitude and financial profligacy brought us this low and hence why new hands must be brought to the effort and the old hands sit back to watch from the stands and advise from time to time.
Were it not that I became a victim of Jega’s ‘abracadabra’ which saw my PVC as well as those of many of my kith and kin suddenly missing like the Chibok girls (no pun intended) even as I write, I would have voted for Oga Jones whom you and your propaganda machine labelled ‘clueless’ even though with the benefit of hindsight, it is apparent my singular vote wouldn’t have altered your victory at the polls.
However, all those are in the past now. The mantra of change was loud enough, perhaps it reached the heavens and so they obliged their precursors so they can have their peace and today, you are already fifty-five days old as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the federal Republic of Nigeria and the discourse have changed from how we are going to get there, to what shall we do, or are we doing now that we are here? as expected.
I have observed keenly like a hunter observes the game, your government so far and I have seen the hollow within, hence, while I am constrained to write and warn you before I come back again to spite you when our counsel is ignored. Perhaps there is nothing that I will say here, that would not have been told you already but I must lend my voice nonetheless as a leader is not drowned by a sea of counsel but is destroyed by the lack or shortage of same.
I shall address you in the key areas of: Security, the Economy, Eeducation, the Rule of Law, Party Politics, Power and the need for restraint by your league of Arewa supporters as to me, how you handled these issues will shape your first term in the saddle and will be the result sheet to determine whether you shall be “promoted” or “repeated” (apologies to Mama Peace) four years from now.
On security, I know you are already at a transfix on how to deal with it. I am not given to your antics of assurances and reassurances of government winning the war, neither are Nigerians. I am sure we got a dose of that from Abati and co. and shouldn’t be regaled any further with that. You cannot win the war on terror merely by buying more sophisticated weapons than the terrorists have. You know why? Because they have the most lethal of weapons, which is the readiness to die. I heard you have just ordered the release of $1 Billion to the end of procuring military hardware to combat the insurgents. This is good for image laundering and to earn support for the administration but trust me, at the news of the next explosion, they will quickly forget all those and the ceremony of abuses continues. I am of the opinion that we spend more money in fighting terror forensically. Effort should be made to unravel the source of Boko Haram’s funding and their communications tapped into. This is the better way to go. It is only a thing of embarrassment that we still do not know who funds the murderous sect. It is a mockery of our intelligence gathering system to put it mildly. While we need more sophisticated arms and military hardware, we need more of intel to counter terrorist plans before they are hatched; by so doing we save much of our ammunition.
Terrorism is a serious menace and fighting it, is not a cocktail. I can imagine how it must be for you, now that the explosions won’t stop going off. The whole world grapple with the fear of terror and now that it is neck-deep here, you must do all that is within your power to bring it to an end. The how, I must tell you is what Nigerians least care about not after you promised them a manna rain during the exhaustive campaigns.
On the issue of the economy, it baffles me that we still do not have a finance chief to decide which way, we shall with the raging economic crisis. I have read countless articles justifying your snail approach to appointing ministers especially, a minister of Finance and the weakness in their arguments rise above their logic. Some have said you need to think it through, consult widely and all sought of balderesh lest you end up the nation in an economic landmine with wrong appointments as though you were suddenly woken up one night to come take charge of the affairs of the state.
From the date of your victory at the polls to this day, it is approximately one hundred and fifteen days to discountenance their arguments. If I were you, I would have assembled my team and immediately hit the ground running on the 30th of May, after taking the oath of office. One wonders the sort of damage the economy might have been through as a result of your obvious confusion and disturbing fidgeting. I only hope and pray that at the end of your consultations, you would wake up Alfred Mrashall (The Father of Economics) from the grave to turn around our comatose economy. One man said with the lateness, Nigerians will accept nothing short of a perfect cabinet. That is the price of indiscretion and a justifiable one at that. Away from the appointment, Nigerians have cried and yearned for a total diversification of the economy away from oil which price continues to be at a free fall at the global market, which unstable price still shows propensity for steeper decline, hence the need to get to work today and make hay while the sun still shines.
It has been chorused that our economy has great potentials in agriculture and solid minerals; this is the time for such calls to be heeded for within it lies the massive industrialization the economy needs to create direct and indirect jobs for an army of unemployed youth roaming the length and breadth of the Niger constituting potential threats to social peace. All loopholes must be plugged to cut wastage and divert funds previously plundered and pilloried to economic programs with vistas or potentials for economic growth. The private sector must be bequeathed with a fair economic climate to allow for ease of business as in the womb of private sector lies the baby of economic growth.
One area that government over the years have ignored, is the Education sector. Short of worshipping at their feet when the organized union within the sector embark on strikes, successive governments have given a blind eye to our classrooms. Starting from elementary level, the commercialization of primary and secondary schools for purely economic interest must be looked into holistically. Primary and secondary schools have become business enterprises run with pure economic interest and disregard for knowledge and nation building. The reason for this is not farfetched. The failure of government to invest in the future of the next generation through good primary and secondary schools backed up with a robust Economic policy have through up quacks and misfits into the sector who invest with purely economic consideration and substance in the learning process thrown to the winds.
At the tertiary level, corruption literary sits on the throne and worshipped by the administrators of tertiary institutions who have become lords of the manor. Sir, I am a product of the University system and I can tell you with a high degree of certainty that there is more corruption in the university system more than there is in the NNPC, FIRS and National Asembly combined. Insensitivity towards duty has become the rule rather than the exception and lecturers carry on as pseudo-diplomats. The ivory towers of learning have lost its glory, the sanctuary of episteme desecrated only vestiges of its threshold remains.
If you have your way, let there be a probe of our universities and other institutions of higher learning from the dawn of democracy to this day; the result of the panel will vindicate my position and earn you administration national acclaim. Sir, No nation which toys with her classrooms can be taken seriously in the comity of nations, this is because education is the engine of nation building. It is therefore necessary to give a facelift to the sector.
On the need for the enthronement of the rule of law, I need not say much as you rode to victory on the wings of same, therefore, you must not be told on the essence to dignify the law and allow the springs of Justice to shower the waters of equity and Freedom in the system. The judiciary must stay independent and judgment of the courts respected without qualifications. Over 25 centuries ago, Aristotle said the Rule of Law is better than that of any individual. Baba, that should be your watchword!
Sir, it is your party that brought you to power, in the same manner, their actions and inactions have the capacity to send you and the party packing at once. How you handle the wrangling within, will be a pointer to how you shall manage the affairs of the stage at large. Be wary of party stalwarts who flock around you like bees, they might be the Brutus wielding the knife behind your back tomorrow. The present odoriferous smell oozing from the National Assembly proves to be your first test of handling the inevitable problems of party politics. While you handle same, we warn that this a democracy where the collective wish of the majority is close to deified. It is unarguable that the APC brought you to power, but Nigerians pulled the stunt. Without all the 1.9 million voters (some said rams too queued up) who defied the sun to vote for you in Kano and other strongholds of your party, the entire APC senators couldn’t have done it. It follows by corollary that, it is the sentiments of Nigerians that matter most and not those of power drunk and disgruntled party members in the different levels of government.
You said in your legendary paradox at the inauguration speech that you “belong to everybody and belong to nobody”, Baba, events of the recent past, seem to contradict this powerful apostrophe of yours as you have been gravitating towards party sentiments not minding who is peeved. I shall be watching closely to see how this particular issue of principal officers pans out and the role you play in it and I’m sure many Nigerians have opened their Balance sheets ready to score your performance on this one. Please be careful, and if possible, be beyond reproach as much as you can.
On the epileptic power supply, we have decided that it will be a matter for another day as the issues are too numerous to be exhausted within this effort.
Finally, we warn that you beg for restraint from your court of Arewa supporters who in most cases believe that you are a sort of messiah sent from above with the blessings of a super power and hence can do no wrong; and even when he does, must not be criticized. Many of them have interpreted all strictures directed at your policies so far as being actuated by emotions and not in any way objective. To this folks, you must let know that your presidency is not for a particular region of the country but the nation at large and that criticism is an essential ingredient of great leadership. They might love you so much at the detriment of alienating you from other regions of the country which is not good for your image and the nation at large for obvious reasons. The practice where they are quick to justify all your actions, even before they are completed is worrisome. Such solidarity is not good for a secular haven as it was one of the greatest undoing of your predecessor which culminated in causing him the seat you now occupy. You have in him a lesson to learn from and so it is either you choose to repeat the mistake of history and be visited with like judgment, or be dynamic in your own approach at issues of this nature. In any case the choice is solely yours.
On the burning issues of the appointment so far not federally inclined, I will urge you to first consider merit before looking at the map. The nation and its success must not be slave to a bogus federal character principle that serve the end of bringing along misfit and quacks in most cases.
In sum, looking at your age and the problems you have taken upon yourself, I can only shudder. Were it that I have the means, I would take a trip to the shore of Zimbabwe to ask our father, Rob how he manages to look after the nation under his saddle with such burden of age.
Leadership is a very onerous task I must admit. In this clime of ours it is even worse. Having to accommodate divergent interests and idiosyncrasies within the system is not chewing pie, Mistakes must be made but please take responsibilities for them when they happen. Play soft on the blame game and desist from comparing your administration with the previous one, as doing so will be an attempt to justify one wrong with another. Great leaders take responsibility, they do not give excuses for non-performance. Nigerians want it to be sunk in their consciousness that they elected a leader who understands what is at stake, who admits that solving them will not be a work in the park and who physically and vocally seems to be right on top of the situation every time, like agent Mahone the controversial character in the Prison Break thriller.
I wish you Godspeed in this great task you have earmarked for yourself. I shall be writing to you again as events and circumstances warrants. Thank you for your kind consideration.
Nkannebe Raymond (Onu’Kwube) is a public Affairs analyst. He can be reached via: