Wednesday 1 June 2016

#MustRead: Dear Mr. President, Before Your Time Runs Out

President Buhari
by: Joel Oseiga Aleburu

“You cannot get a four-year mandate, do rubbish for four years, become desperate for one month and expect to be returned. Na home you dey go” -J.J. Omojuwa

Nigerians all over the world are known to be remarkable achievers. You may consider that a highly over-rated statement but if you take your time to look into that statement critically, you will discover the truth and simplicity hidden in it,

Honestly, it takes a lot of wisdom to achieve great things internationally and takes even more wisdom to dupe a fellow man. So, from whatever angle you have had to deal with a fellow Nigerian, you will agree with me that we are a bunch of very hard-working, intelligent and strong-minded people who love to achieve things even if it is just so we can put it in the faces of our children while growing up, or for the after party. The reasons for hard work vary from person to person but one thing is sure, whatever the reasons may be, Nigerians just love and take glory in achieving feats. We are a country of intelligent and smart people who would never allow ourselves to be cheated perhaps due to the “Nigerian” blood that flows through our veins. That we are blessed with extremely rich human resources and also, a functioning brain, is altogether, a no-brainer.

Over a month ago marked exactly a year since Nigerians marched out in large numbers to stand against what I would describe as 55 years of bad governance. We had had our own share of misgovernance and were tired of years of total waste, missing public funds and the recent monumental corruption codenamed “Transformation Agenda”. Years when Nigeria sold her oil barrels at very high prices and still had nothing to show for it since those spearheading her “transformation” chose to siphon a chunk of it and feed themselves and their family fat with our collective patrimony at the expense of the average citizen. Years when money allocated for the purchase of arms for our gallant soldiers were diverted to private accounts and used to fund totally unnecessary extravagant lifestyles while our lands got soaked with the blood of those that defended it. This heist in high places was so bad that it reflected directly on unarmed and innocent Nigerians. The reflection was so vivid that it showed in the “stealing” of a group of young girls from their school in Chibok while the nation watched helplessly.

Indeed, it was against the foregoing backdrop, that May 29, 2015, would forever be regarded as a historic date. Nigerians finally had a reason to dance in the streets and smile again as we did on the eve of Independence, or so we thought. We were all excited at the sweet rhetoric of Change and total transformation which was good music to the ear; the promise to slay the Larnean Hydra of corruption; to provide a transparent government, bring our “stolen” girls back home, give us light and to improve the economy of our great nation. We were all in high spirits on that fateful day like little kids waiting to see Santa Claus at Christmas. We danced, laughed even bought free beer for random people in celebration of what we assumed to be the rebirth of Nigeria, the beginning of a better life, but it appears we were disillusioned.

Having said that, it is so unfortunate that since you came into power, there has been an unexpected drop in the price of crude oil, a free fall in the value of the naira and an increased global economic tension. Now, that was just unlucky as many people would readily agree! There is no better word to describe your predicament but, the truth is, only one out of 10 Nigerians actually know or even care to know how much a barrel of oil is or how much a dollar costs either at the official rates or the parallel market. To the average Nigerian, if a new President is sworn in and suddenly, he can’t afford to feed his family again, fuel suddenly becomes scarce and the price ridiculously high, the electricity he wasn’t enjoying before drops to almost nothing , life just suddenly gets harder for him, notwithstanding how much corruption you fight or how many thieves you put in prison, you are a bad man. Of course, I personally think you are not a bad man and I strongly believe you mean well for us as a nation but honestly speaking, that’s not what it looks like on the street. Nigerians are broke, we are hungry and we are stranded. I am sure you are aware, Sir, that not too long ago, universities in Nigeria started to shut down because of the harsh effect the economy was having on their students. We want you to continue arresting these thieves but not at the expense of our daily bread. There is no point dedicating your entire administration to the cause of chasing thieves and fighting corruption if it doesn’t reflect on our day to day lives. If anybody in your cabinet tells you that we Nigerians are solidly behind you just as we were last year, Mr. President, not only should you dismiss him, you should ban him from ever entering your presence forever because that person hates you! We know you are probably having sleepless nights over the State of the Nation and I can only imagine how angry and disappointed you were with the kind of things your SSA on media and minister of state petroleum resources came on national television to say recently. Maybe, they need to be thought how to handle sensitive matters so they don’t end up making you appear like a very insensitive President who doesn’t care about the welfare of his people.

As regards our economy, like I said in my opening paragraph, Nigeria is blessed with big brains. Highly accomplished and very intelligent economists, some may even be willing to render their services for free. I wonder why we are going through such hardship when we have highly skilled and experienced economists who have achieved a lot in their lifetime and also have a track record of integrity and standing for what is right. These people can be fished out and brought together to make a wonderful economic advisory team. I strongly believe that if an advisory team is gathered, we will be saved from this economic mess we are in as a nation today. Let me also use this medium to suggest that you take a look at how Plateau State which is majorly a civil service state generates revenue internally. Everybody pays their personal income tax; the multinational companies, the small shops in front of houses and even to the cart pushers. Instead of shooting outside the country to plunge us into more debts, we can come up with ways of raising money from within. If people are taxed with amounts that can actually be paid and can see what the money is being used for, then Nigerians will happily go to the banks to pay what is due. Also, you spoke about diversifying the economy and agriculture playing a major role in this diversification but then, with all due respect, Sir, I don’t see any seriousness in that. The amount allocated to the agricultural sector in a 2016 budget that wasn’t signed into as of April 2016 does not show any seriousness at all. That amount is even too small to run the agricultural sector not to talk of making it a major source of income for our country.

Mr. President, we love the fact that you are traveling all around the world in order to attract more industries and trade to our great nation but, Sir, who wants to invest in a business where you just might lose? Nigeria has a ripe market, yes I agree but we don’t have the electricity which is the soul of any industry. In fact, of recent, electricity has become so bad that I am tempted to ask what Mr. Babtunde Fashola is doing at Abuja. Words cannot even explain how great our sufferings are as regards the scarcity of fuel until recently.

- Joel Oseiga Aleburu is a cybersecurity specialist based in Jos, Plateau State

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