At a resort in Yeketome,Badagry, off Lagos, this bright and warm January morning, the palm trees rustled in the slight breeze,in a passive world of their own. Every now and then there came the sound of a soft thud as a coconut dropped.
The faint roar of the traffic along the sea road blended with the swish of the sea,breaking on the beach. The expanse of blue water,attracting the fluorescent clothing of the bright morning sun,lit softly,the golden shine cascading amongst a million waves,as it made a soothing reflection on the palm fronds woven terrace. With each breaking of the wave, my mind eye became clearer and brighter.
I know by the time you get to read this, barring any unforeseen, PMB must have gone on vacation to the UK,and the nation expects him back from his 10-day vacation reinvigorated. Here’s hoping the wearingly six-hour flight would not been irksome and irritating.
It must be a relief to see him back home; back home, to tons of loads of problems, but hopefully, with a feeling of rejuvenated body and mind, and freshness-an easy lilting smile.
Back home to the warm embrace of a desperately expectant, but, a static society he left behind,one where he’ll be fighting with his back to the wall,for a fast eroding goodwill. Yes,the nation under PMB’s watch, so far,has been ‘no melon’ spelt backwards.
A tough,reticent, hardly smiling,with a hostile and cold mask, PMB-always,had been, always would be,is a mien that is not working for our democracy under his watch;particularly, his feeble attempts to right the wrongs, and to overcome the nation’s growing economic inertia.
In spite of myself, I suddenly became bored,bored stiff about all this “network” and “arrangements”,with how people got into our political offices,but being offensive to no one.
With the rush of the wind across my face, I became calm but breathless, no calmer than a spinster who has found a man under her bed.
A sudden thumping of my pulse and a tight feeling across my chest, reminded me of my Swipha drugs (picked over the counter),which I didn’t use last night.
The nation’s situation of glum, is breathtaking, continuous, with no end in sight; what with corruption, debt crisis, hyper inflation, unstable dollar naira exchange rate;with ‘darkness’ in the land foreshadowing a brilliant Fashola’s general factotum; and suppressed tensions over the nation’s horizon that all could sense rather than see.
It is pretty unnerving and I started breathing the way an old man with asthma would, with a relief that was comic. With an incredulous gasp,as I pushed back my chair to give me a little breathing space and stared at the thatched roof of my hired tent, the lens of my reading glasses reflected the sea, the sky and the palms.A dragonfly zoomed its large wings across my face and hummed to sea,while I thought how nice it would be to get this nation moving again.
A nation big enough to more than take care of itself. But I know if we are to get it right, get somewhere (and anywhere)there are certain things that must be in place, and in our minds a new beat the nation must begin to dance. Lot’s of bigger ideas and ideals to be deployed, before everything, everything, would get ship- shaped.
We need more than the stilted conversation from the National Assembly and politicians who presently are welcome to Nigerians as an outbreak of poliomyelitis;and there’s the need to be shielded,if not finally excused from the moral burdens up there;the grand conspiracy and high wired deceit in the Land; that has gotten Nigerians who had imagined the APC led administration would be blasé enough to take the change choreographed by the Party in its stride,but hadn’t, rather it pollutes the polity with reckless streaks that often times swamps cautious judgment and optimism.
These politicians as a breed,has failed to realize that its not about what we want to do; what we are going to do; which, always often don’t get to first base;it’s what we are doing without rubber cushioning.
The moment they are elected, they often forget,that it is their duty and moral obligation,in spite of any other social investment packages, to ensure and create an enabling environment for the primary things- which includes: provision of affordable food, housing, health, and education.
It is said that a week,(not to talk of 20 months) is a long time in politics, more so in a nation with an embarrassment of riches, and a democracy riddled with clichés, but fitting – a small plus against a lot of minuses. It is easy to criticise, (as I intend to do here)you’ll say;but, then, Nigerians are getting it rough and hard,and are in a difficult position, all of who are full of oil and soft soap on all those whom the nation was showering her baubles.
With the foregoing as a background,time it is therefore, to shelter an ugly illusion; and there can never be an auspicious and better time than now, that, Mr president is rejuvenated and very fresh.
That President Muhammadu Buhari’s performances or lack of it, is drawing very critical acclaim from a people expecting an immediate change of the old order,a people whose dreams of hope for equal opportunities regardless of where one hails from in the geographical divide is daily vaporising before their very eyes. Peoples all of who have a common frater cousin in poverty;and dying hungry and hopeless, in a country that has so much to offer in terms of human,natural and material resources.
Today’s Nigeria is a country where wrong desires coincide with opportunity and greed; where the mass of the people have an unending struggle for rights and survival; and, where seeing through the veil of optimism and hope can be especially challenging and daunting.
Why, because,the economic forces were no longer been made to control,regulate and or direct the attainment and continuous enhancement of the economic prosperity and social wellbeing of the citizens; and administrations after administration had made the nation to forget, that cultivating the habits of creativity is essential to our survival as individuals and as a nation.
This factors led us to the wilderness of despondency and the nation became dependent.With Nigerian economic dependence intensified, its consequences for the Nigerian people were also intensified, and the steady decline of agricultural production and the increasing dependence on food imports has plagued the nation.
The proceed from crude oil, the mainstay of the nation’s economy and substantial foreign exchange earner was no longer sufficient to meet the country’s needs. As a result, the real income of the vast majority of the Nigerian population has decreased, particularly burdened are the poor of the people who depend on “subsidised” basic services. Manufacturing capital has been crippled, especially in enterprises that rely on the constricted domestic market.
A credit squeeze pervades the financial system. Unemployment increases rapidly- the country further integrated into the global capitalist system as a marginalised, peripheral and subservient member.
Thus, the nation found itself where it is today, with the struggle for economic independence postponed. In fact, the popular base for it is being increasingly further weakened, and in the eyes of the third world and the progressive forces, Nigeria has remained “big- for- nothing”, and carry an alias, as a nation that is inexorably squandering its potential for greatness.
Slowly and consistently,as a cistern with a pinhole ,the nation is draining away,while our leaders are erroneously thinking we had the world on a string. Consequently,the Nation’s influence within AU, ECOWAS, or what have you, even with its neighbours has dwindled, so bad, that insurgencies in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger use the country’s northern borders as training and fishing grounds.
The fear of Nigeria’s might which used to be the beginning of wisdom for African leaders, nay,world leaders is no longer there.
These and much more have escorted the nation to increase in senseless, violent acts, mindless fleecing and corruption in high places. It meant something was seriously wrong with society, and a leadership, chronically tensed like a motor that stays revved up. The cameo by insurgencies, like the Boko Haram, the Niger Delta Avengers,to mention but a few,was because our leaders failed to recognise that undetected apathy was every bit destructive to the very fabric of society’s personal safety and neighbourhood morals.
Actually, the real tragedy that travails Nigeria today is not Boko Haram,ND,NDA,IPOB,MASSOB, or whatever,those suicide bombers are far from being our real problem, as their existence and growth into phenomenal horrors are only an effect of certain fundamental problems, which,peripherally, do not appear as what they really are.
Stating the fact as known, soberly and without hysterics. What moral suasion would convinced a people that has been deceived and goaded into belts-tightening, that in the middle of recession, some 21 States in the federation spend a staggering #37.4 billion on pension for only 47 ex-governors.
This and the bare knuckled facts above speak volume, and has brought Nigerians a customized smile, that smile you see on Nigerians and imagined as a smile, is just the kind of spasm you see on someone’s face when they have a sudden stomach cramp.
Not many of our shifty and fringe people who are finding life and living harder, who expected an explosion but got no expression are laughing. The experience is like that of a nation just coming out of a war not a mere change of guard.
Then cameo penultimate week, the government’s economic team, with PMB’s ‘magic wand’ tagged ‘ERGP’
-Economic Recovery and Growth Plans, with a debonair, distinguished, handsome looking man with the touch of the elder statesman about him; a cool aloof expression, always immaculately dressed and a razor sharp legal brain, Minister for Budget and National Planning as its arrowhead.
Looking at the paper dispassionately, one comes away with the impression that the policy’s espousal of monetarism is merely putting the nation on; a nation that,is always and for now,will always be a marginalised,peripheral and subservient member in the global capitalist system.
This may mean that the hopes of a quick economic recovery, even in government eye, has vanished like a fist becoming a hand. Too Bad, for a government that has promised so much, in fact, a whole panoply of social and economic improvements.
As part of its economic recovery plans, the sale and or divestments of national assets has a prime and pride of place. The sale and or divestments of national assets to raise funds needed to combat recession, as stated in the ERGP,is but another invitation to chaos and a disequilibrium, using the nation’s recent history and experiences therefrom; simply put, buying up the commonwealth,is the administration’s own style of creating its own nouveaux rich class,bourgeois tastes, attitudes and ideas; supporting the interests of capitalism; not a socialist economy.
It went further among other rhetorics, stable oil production; restoration of crude oil production, these as policies,are rather puerile and dead on arrival. Nigeria’s economy heavily relies on oil revenue, the slides in its prices, due to the world oil glut; low output due to renewed hostility of the insurgents in blowing up the NNPC oil pipelines; and the criminal neglect and poor maintenance of the local refineries have plunged the nation into recession,let the economic team think outside the box. Think agriculture.
To increase oil production, but can Nigeria unilaterally increase its share of the quota in the crude oil cartel,OPEC?
To increase production of yet to be identified volume of oil is to promote bunkering and make a few opportunists richer. One may ask,when are we to commence the inventory, to determine and know for sure,the exact figures of barrels per day produced.
The ERGP set out to provide breakthroughs and a way out of the nation’s present economic logjams and social lockdown, but only succeeded in fabricating with overweening arrogance, a utopian paradise,(and it would be great to wakeup to a transcript of all our dreams). In the process, it fashioned out a policy that’s fit for the rich and idle, not one for a hurting generation,surving on mere instincts and without placating palliatives.
If indeed we are in a democracy,then, the Nation cannot accept this ERGP as a fait accompli,when it is witnessing a great depression that has seen businesses and families go through worst experiences, perhaps for the first time in their lives, with young boys and girls,fathers and mothers sitting on their stoops under broken verandahs, hungry.
Conversely, the government by its growth plans has shown itself to be truly over whelmed by the enormity of the problems and the misery the people has had to cope and endured therewith,that it copiously left out taxation and other taxes. In any case,with the growing rate of unemployment,retrenchment and downsizing,all over the lengths and breadth of the nation, who is left to pay the taxes? With no industrial base,manufacturing concerns and or production, where do you expect taxes to come from, and this are mere elementary submissions.
Torn between morality, Law, common sense and semantics, the nation needs an uncommon common sense to get out of the quagmire it has found itself,not this tried, tested,and tired policies/agendas,that often serve as a reminder to us,that, we’ve passed through this pass before,it didn’t work then, and if it wasn’t working then when we were vibrant, the possibilities of it working now that we are disillusioned is remote.
In my humble opinion,I feel the government and whoever the authors of the PMB’s ERGP were,shouldn’t have relied practically on their own perspective alone,not at a time the nation has to its references, such a large scale,enormous, widespread and incontrovertibly true inconveniences.
Everyone is had it tough this days,save, public servants and their ‘the job is rotten,the pay is good’ existence, that has come down on the nation like a ton of concrete;and who will never advice PMB on pay cut;even when the nation is proposing, going a borrowing in its 2017 budget, to the tune of #2.36trillion (foreign)and #1.05trillion (local). With the budget deficit of the past years ,and still unrelenting, the recurrent debt servicing, what future lay ahead!
Poverty, lack,privations and misery, widespread deprivation caused by unemployment and an expectant nation waiting on government to come out with a policy that should guarantee that the poorest and most deprived people will receive special government help; but this ERGP has succeeded in further throwing the people in the throes of confusion and insecurity.
Hence,as different as the patterns in kaleidoscope : the retired, single mothers, angry young men and women fallen on hard times and insecure, watched helplessly, how the soft facadè of lofty ideals of a nation shattered like stained glass windows pelted by rocks.
They have been forced to defend themselves with arsenal of angry words, and spoke in a tone devoid of creed, tribe or religion.
The youths and children not left behind, as they are within their pitying limited talents are learning to be streetwise to fend off predators eager to exploit them, childhood itself a casualty of our troubled time, robbed of childhood, and a deformed and ill-equipped future; girl -mother in their teens,pregnant for equally green and inexperienced boys, results of broken homes, with foster care creeping on us as looming shadow. They all, cursed the voice of Change that echoed across the Niger and in the creeks.
The inattentiveness to this sordidness is what would prompt one to make an educated guess,that, the economic team did not stretch, widen and grow their views beyond what they feel or imagined; or if they did at all,they only managed to scratch the surface. There is nothing strange or new about that,even, the great Isaac Newton’s,”Principa Mathematica”contained a simple calculation error that went unnoticed for 300 years.
The government,therefore, has to start doing what needed to be done based on the reality on ground,which,are quite different from what its economic team know or based its recovery and growth plans on. That can be humbling! But then,humility,is a secret of an enduring popularity for any politician. Somebody said, “To be humble to superiors is duty; to equals, courtesy; to inferiors, nobility.
In any event, it’s foolhardy to ignore the beacons that warns you of danger. It’s likely they’ll have to ask questions further, conduct real and empirical surveys and opinions polls of those outside their neighborhoods,comfott zones and in remote places,outside of their sphere of influence and for more than once,before they’ll be able to come up with a policy that is truly representative of a truly Nigerian wish that would match our aspirations and the Nigerian Dream, with the current policy, for me, it’s a no- no.
The government should therefore not be timid to approach nor afraid to ask,so that they could do things better and differently from its predecessors. Anything contrary, the PMB administration would give an impression for the world to come to a conclusion that he knows no more of what has happened to our country than the previous government does-which is exactly nothing.
The coterie of advisers must note that the song and jubilations that heralded Buhari’s victory in the last general election has drowned and the soaring spirits quickly had to settle under the weight of responsibility. What in a nation with a backpack full of complications. In a nation with a freak economy and myriads of other daunting social and political issues.
The President have to hasten slowly ( no pun intended), and deliberately turn things around, to wash the fear from our system, of being alone in the wilderness, to be combative with hearts and minds of unflinching granite that brooked no contradiction.
PMB has not been able to pull in the reins, and all manner of things have been let loose. He may feel less constrained, but, the economic team policy , notwithstanding,he still has to contend and deal with what’s come out of the experiences of the last Twenty months or so;and the coming weeks and months, would be such a very busy and interesting one for the nation’s great white hope.
With PMB’s laid back approach since assumption of office last May,it is one’s hope that PMB & Co knows what they want. Who says life gets dull when you get what you want. Put your feet up and enjoy the soaps – soaps after all are supposedly a reflection of real life.
In the ensuing serial drama, (ta bá lè dúró wòótán),if we can wait and watch to the end,the APC would not be in a position to be able to label anyone,those we invited to dine and take exceptions to our complaints about their table manners. One thing is clear,though, this alliance of strange progressives and strange bedfellows is beginning to look unnatural.
Everything looks fuzzy, at the moment, but, Nigerians should not be worried, because that was how dreams were sometimes, especially when one is close to wakefulness. In dreams you run desperately like a mouse running on a treadmill and never getting anywhere, but dreams disappears in the morning leaving your thinking and reasoning intact. Is PMB, nay, the APC itself not a dream, in a dream or on a dream.
The nation knows that “Change” is inevitable and for Nigerians it has become somewhat very necessary, but PMB has to be more careful of trying to change itself to earn acceptance. The truth is, he already has it, just that the people can no longer accept and excuse all the things that are wrong with the nation and its politicians.
That his administration has truly squeezed life out of the people, so much, that life has become harried,the people exasperated and downhearted with a life that has turned stale,all fizz and no taste,is not in doubt.
I suddenly had this distraction in my mind of a John Locke essay, that seventeenth century English philosopher, who in that essay made a case against the dogma of innate ideas and successfully proven that experience is the key of knowledge.
He must not interprete our humble correction and convincing conviction as rejection. Indeed, he should be concerned about the absence of it. So,let him,fix his mind on the problems and his promises,not his feelings, and get the nation back on track to the paths of recovery, growth and progress.
If it is soothing music to the ears of the PMB led government,let’s play the refrain here. It is true the last PDP government, caused frost and brought forth plagues of snail and caterpillars to destroy our seeds and fruits. Yes! But,speculation has reached such a peak and a pitch, that 20 months after,we should by now have known where it all went wrong and off the beam,and a decisive decision be made
immediately as to what we are doing to correct and or right the wrongs,and equally,should have learnt how PMB intended to alter the “norm”.
But for now,what we do have, is a nation that’s been consigned to go through numbing pain, that hurt so badly, that words cannot describe,but it shows on the weariness etched in our deeply circled dark eyes. Sincerely, Nigerians have gone through such a roller coaster of worry, despair, insecurity, hunger and grief.
To navigate out of the morass and decline, we need the good and value judgment and those who know more about life. These seeming wild, frustrating bouts of confusion and dithering, must be followed by leaping brightness and warmth.
Mr president’s primary duty is to acknowledge the deplorable conditions under which Nigerians live and die. This in itself is enough impetus for an awareness of danger,that should make PMB aware of the weapons and strategies and the nature of the enemy- poverty, second only to religion, which between them had perpetrated some of the worst and most terrible atrocities that have scandalised history.
To be successful in the daunting task ahead,as the good people of Nigeria,feel and hope he will, PMB will have to be truthful and honest to himself, as the bucks end on his table. He can no longer afford to isolate the truth and the reality.
He must begin to prove to all that,though, a good education is invaluable,there are uneducated millionaires and that fortunes are found in everyday pains.
To be able to so do,it’s important to focus on understanding the people,their moods, be open and authentic so that the people can understand him.
Today, there wasn’t anywhere in the world that AK47 and force could raise people up.Even if we had the bullets, what good would the revolution be to a people who hardly know how to use toilet paper, not to speak of a pen or pencil. They have to be taught. They have got to learn what the choices are before they can make them. otherwise, (as PMB could testify with his experience in 1985), could make him vulnerable.
The unwillingness on the part of some leaders to be transparent and keep people in the dark, to maintain a measure of control is outdated, secrecy spawns isolation, not success. Knowledge is power,yes, but what leaders neeed is collective power and that requires collective knowledge.
Whatever the condition,Nigerians should never waiver nor go on a downward spiral into a mire of bitterness, self-pity,wounded pride that had led us to a life of debauchery, but, set Nigeria and the islands of people free from the excruciating burdens of mental, emotional and financial lack and make attempts by joining hands to protect all we have striven to achieve both as a nation and individuals; the hopes,the years toiled in the oasis of dreams and hard work.
We must not sit around like the Maytag repairman, stop watching our harvest on the field. The nation’s problems are as old as the nation, and all it probably would require were a new set of personnel and the
assurance that the hopes to find perfect and lasting happiness is just a will-o’-the -wisp,but, knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things. It is not a vision we lack but resolve.The APC and PMB’s tenure would be measured by its effectiveness and impact.
Homewards bounds, at about 1840hours,I noticed the sun turn to a red ball,as it sank slowly into the sea. Long shadows crept up the deserted and lonely beach. The palm trees were black against the rose and yellow sky. Cars continued to crawl at breakneck speed along the sea road.
Now my exit line: to Lagos this was just another hot evening with a dark night to come,unaware of the problems of the future.
But I see a big picture of a big future for the nation, if only we have the right leadership orientation. For now,it’s important to keep the nation, its leaders and politicians thinking on the right lines and to make sure the president uses such soft powers his office guaranteed him in the right way and for the greater good of all,then we can all wear a brass halo.Sweet dreams.#
Jimi Bickersteth is a public affairs analyst, blogger and writer.
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