The Promise of Change or Change of Promise? By Adamu Tilde
There is no regret (at least not yet) in ousting President Jonathan from the Aso Villa- the seat of power in Nigeria- in the last year’s election. So, to the unrepentant ‘Jonathanians’, spare us the rhetoric of “we have told you”, “this was what we were afraid of” or any incomprehensible babble you are capable of conjuring to push us to the ditch of sympathy for your Master. Come May 29, Muhammadu Buhari will be one year in office as the substantive, democratically elected and sworn-in president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. One year isn’t one month- enough ground to make use of our binoculars to x-ray the journey so far.
Unlike the sojourn of Nasir el-Rufai into public service which was accidental [?], President Muhammad Buhari came to govern Nigeria (for the second time as a civilian) willingly, and passionate about ‘emancipating’ Nigeria from the shackles of corruption that strangulate and hinder its breathing. The impression was (not any longer after breeching with the reality), President Muhammadu Buhari has a full grasp of the problem at hand, by extrapolation, he is in possession of the tools to put Nigeria on its road to becoming the next Singapore of the 21st century.
Ordinarily, one will expect the president to, as the popular cliché goes, hit the grounding running given his three attempts and twelve-years preparation to govern Nigeria. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, he hit the ground ‘cat-walking’ by taking solid five months to assemble the team that will help him run the affairs of the country. This isn’t bad in itself if it was purposely delayed to study the trajectories of events and how to tackle them.
Last year’s election was unambiguously believed to be the most polarizing moment in Nigeria’s sojourn in a democratic dispensation. Nigeria was literally on the brink of disintegration. Nonetheless, the country’s unity triumphed over the lack of it. Nigeria has perfected the act of dancing on the brink without falling. So goes the argument of former ambassador of the United States to Nigeria, John Campbell.
A strategist general, after inheriting divisive platoons- each with its peculiar understanding of why the command is not functioning- should, first of all, develop a mechanism of unifying the warring units and understand the various contending social forces and their grievances. S/he should make them see the importance of working hand-in-hand to salvage the comatose battalion. S/he won’t be off the grid by reminding them of Benjamin Franklin’s timeless warning:” We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately”. That should be the first call of the newly posted general.
Unfortunately, President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired general, couldn’t make use of this simple strategy. Instead, from the onset, the presidency displayed an unparalleled and unenvious lack of sensitivity to the other warring fronts perception. A deficiency Pius Adesanmi has repeatedly called the attention of the presidency to in his many essays on optics.
In a total disregard for optics- optics as defined by Pius Adesanmi to means perception, how things are seen, how things are nuanced- the President’s appointments so far fall short of addressing, first, his disposition of an unrepentant tribalist (a trait whether true or not which halted his dream of leading Nigeria on three consecutive attempts), and, second, assuaging the feeling of alienation in other parts of the country. Blindness to optics or a crude disregard for it can have serious consequences in the arena of culture and politics as argued by Pius.
Spare me the nauseating excuse of ” it was so-so-and-so in GEJ era” and its other cousins in illogicality. I didn’t vote out mediocre only to be replaced with another sophisticated one (pardon my French, would you?). It’s a great disservice to the personage of the ‘incorruptible’ Buhari to be gauged on the scale of the former president’s [in]actions.
It’s of no surprise, consequent to the utter disregard for optics, that we are witnessing a growing number of group of people (being felt disenchanted, alienated and left out) displaying their grouse by bombing pipelines (as seen with the Niger Delta Avengers); Shia processions and demonstrations (one can only imagine what is in their heart going by their pronouncements); IPOB continued demonstrations in and out of Nigeria.
Calculated indifference to the lives of ordinary Nigerians (as seen in Agatu killings, IDP bombings, unjustifiable killings of [erring?] Shia members and many atrocious activities of ‘Fulani Herdsmen’) is the chapter one of the instruction manual of the Nigerian Presidency. All his predecessors have been guilty of this offense – Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan and don’t even mention the military rulers. President Buhari was supposed to be the one who changes the course but he has apparently decided not to rock the boat.
Lest one is charged with see-no-good in this administration, and to be fair to the current government, credit must be given to the administration in the way it contains the Boko Haram terrorism. President Buhari has really done pretty well in that dispensation. But before we begin to count our chicks before the eggs get hatched, a quick note of warning must be passed to the administration on the risk of not containing the Niger Delta Avengers threat while it’s still at its infant stage.
One of the greatest challenges inherited by President Buhari’s administration is the dwindling oil price and depleted Federal Reserve. It’s no longer news that the former administration has squandered our foreign reserve recklessly. But great leaders usually emerge in periods of crisis. The challenge for the Buhari regime is to find creative ways of reviving our economy onto the right footage.
It’s unfortunate, as argued by Sen. Ben Murray-Bruce, the administration has a number of noisemakers in the guise of spokespersons and assistants on media than a robust economic team that will help the President in making informed decisions. No ocean is full in itself. Much as president Buhari is erroneously believed in his independent ability to steer the country to the promised land, he needs, like never before, a robust and pragmatic team of economic experts that know the nuances of 21st century economic challenges and are able to proffer realistic and salvaging solutions.
One more thing, enough of this corruption narratives. Spare me the silly excuse of “it’s only because corruption is fighting back”- a modern (read Buhari regime) brand of fighting corruption. We’re just tired of it. If you want to bite, bite but don’t bark!
Despite the never-ending media trial (an exercise much like humiliating those in the opposition), there’s only a single person has been reported to have been found guilty. By the way, why should a government literally ‘waste’ precious one-year fighting what it knows for sure it cannot win? Tell me a corrupt-free government and/or institution and I will show you a herd of whales in the Sahara Desert of North Africa.
It’s beneficial to note that nations aren’t built on the presumed integrity of a single person, no. The right task is to build a strong, robust and independent (with checks and balance) institutions, and corruption will be reduced to the minimal. Before closing, credit must be given to the idea of Treasury Single Account (TSA), notwithstanding.
We already have enough excuses that go round. Brace up for the challenges, our dear president, as you enter the second year of your stewardship. Things are in bad shape. Electricity. Economy. Unemployment. Prices have gone mountain tops. Salaries are no longer rights but privileges and favours. There is suffering in the air. Guys are not smiling (as we say in the Nigerian parlance). It is my fervent prayer that the present hardship is merely a redemptive suffering, a necessary penance before we can start enjoying the dividends of change.
Adamu Tilde writes in from Budapest, Hungary and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org