Friday 3 June 2016

#MustRead: Can Buhari Truly Deliver?

President Buhari
by: Fola Ojo

Once upon a time, a man was tapped to deliver his people from oppression. The oppressed were excited when the deliverer showed up. They saw light at the end of a deep, torturous tunnel. The deliverer formed a rescue team. After many duels and dogfights with a reluctant cruel and callous king, the people were released into freedom.

Relief from oppression is not the same as fulfilling happiness. The path to the land unknown through the wilderness was both pathetic and apathetic. When the deliverer couldn’t quickly deliver on his promises, the people rebelled: “We hate you! You should have left us in the hands of the cruel king who killed our children and raped our wives.” The heart of man is so feeble; and so bewilderingly unpredictable. The deliverer lost momentum. He did not make it to the land of freedom. Throughout history, men who shoulder too much of people’s problems usually don’t make it to the land of freedom.

Momentum is the power that allows something to continue or to grow stronger or faster over time. In physics, momentum is real; but in politics, it is a metaphor. In the purlieu of politics, it is generated out of the goodwill of the people. It is the heartbeat of what keeps a leader going. Momentum helps win an election; it also helps rack up political capital. But, it is a phenomenon that can be lost when the candidate out of ignorance and intransigence squanders goodwill. When elected leaders fail to meet the needs of their people in a timely fashion, momentum plummets. Is that now the case in Nigeria?

2015 was Annus mirabilis for Muhammadu Buhari. Men danced; and women hailed when he won the election. I was one. Many believed he was the deliverer. Although Buhari may have his heart in the right place about a re-engineered Nigeria, his head may be tucked away deep into his soldiering self. That’s why today, he has lost momentum! But, why that quick? Many believe Buhari is applying analogue solutions to digital problems. Pain and suffering may be part of Divinity’s prescriptions for humanity; but man detests suffering and pain.

Are Nigerians suffering now? You may be living in Paradise here on earth with easy access to your choice food and drinks; you may be privileged to be driven around town in your jeep and jest at others from your jet; you may be getting cash with no limits and sleeping sweet on your water-bed with no qualms. If these are your stories in today’s Nigeria, you are one of the very few playing in that big league. Nigerians are suffering and not smiling. To profess otherwise is insensitive, unfair, and can be called man’s inhumanity to man.

The Presidency recently threw out some figures about its accomplishments: 11,595 people rescued so far from the grips of Boko Haram; the implementation of the Treasury Single Account has helped the Federal Government collect N3tn between June 2015 and April 2016; the opaque accounting structure of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has been reconstructed to be more transparent with the closure of more than 40 accounts. These and more are true accomplishments! Only an unfair man will declare that Buhari has folded his hands in the last 12 months. He is doing his best. But the price of tomato has gone up; and rice and beans not affordable. Inflation is spiking, and pervasive poverty, hunger and a general state of despondency continue to thrive. That is what the people feel. And many don’t understand why. The optic of the insalubrious state of the economy is awful. That’s why the momentum has muffed for Mr. President.

Iberia Airline stopped being a bearer of debt burden. It dumped Nigeria. Virgin Airline lost its “virginity” on the bed of debt we refused to pay. United Airlines will disunite from Lagos June 30 because foreign exchange has been depleted. Brutish Airways, sorry British, is considering doing just the same. The destiny of our economy is being exchanged through the mechanics of a lousy foreign exchange system. Dollar sells for N355! These developments are scary! The domino effects are unsavoury. The people have to directly feel government touted progress to believe it. Very few feel the breeze of ease now. This may or may not be as a result of what Buhari has or has not done. But, that’s where we are now with the “deliverer” as President.

Of course, we still remember that the corruption heat wave Buhari has to contend with has not come in a derisory, piffling or piddling measure. It is huge. With a treasury stripped to the bones and till looted lean, he picked up the bits and pieces. A castle of chaos and confusion for Nigeria was built through monstrous midday and midnight ignominious round-robin robbery. In billions, monies that walked out of the coffers under the cover of darkness are reportedly now finding their ways back. It is true that this President did not have much to work with when he came on board. With stern sangfroid, applaudable aplomb and equanimity, Buhari is cruising through tough times. But according to one of my pastor-friends in Chicago: ‘…na that one we go chop?”

The President promised to name names of thieves on May 29, but he reneged. His media aide, Garba Shehu, said on Channels TV earlier this week that the much anticipated list will be published “latest Thursday.” As of the time of fine-tuning this article by Thursday evening to go to bed, there is no sign of any list from anywhere. We don’t know why; and we don’t know who stole what. Is this a paper tiger government? Why promise what you can’t make happen? Any government which fights corruption in speeches and press conferences alone is only a maker of noise. But a government that’s able to convict criminals and keep them in the coolers is a maker of history. Which one do we have now in Nigeria? Let Nigerians be the judge.

A majority of Nigerians are tired of hearing stories of corruption. They want relief. They are too hungry to be harangued daily of tales of corrupt men who stole so much but still walk around throwing fiestas for family and friends. The tart prescriptions from the government for the insalubrious state of the economy and the perceived quandary are concerning. Nigerians are stupendously hardworking; prodigiously creative; and with resilience, they refuse to have their backs pinned against the wall and kayoed by troubling circumstances. All that they ask for right now is to have governments at all levels fulfil their own parts of the bargain of democracy.

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo recently said Buhari was frugal to the hilt! But frugality is not a virtue where men are dying of hunger. Mr. President must deliver himself from the mindset that frugality automatically begets prosperity. No one is asking Mr. President to be reckless and ostentatious; but he cannot lord over his personal frugal nature on Nigeria.

Did I hear someone say Nigeria is broke? You can tell it only to the birds, not to brainy beings in Nigeria. We know that even if a barrel of crude is sold for $15, Nigeria will still thrive in affluence. Nigeria is not broke; wealth is just lopsided. With the vast wealth she’s been sitting on for years, she cannot be broke in 500 years! We only need sanity in the way priorities are set in government business and strive to eschew mismanagement and greed.

Nigeria needs about $14.5bn per year alone to bridge the infrastructural gap. Investing heavily in this sector will create thousands of jobs for angry young men blowing up pipelines. Money in circulation helps small businesses grow. They are the heartbeat of Nigeria’s economy. Can Buhari still deliver? Yes; if he recalibrates his style. Nigerian government business is overwhelming. This 74-year-old President may already be overwhelmed. May God strengthen this President.

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