A president’s un-presidential letter

LET’S start by thanking Gen. Muhammadu Buhari who chose to address a letter to Nigerians on New Year’s day. I will refrain from calling Buhari “our” president because in the five years that he has been in the saddle, he has not behaved like one. Rather, he has behaved like the president of a section of the country. Nothing in his New Year letter suggested a change. His visa-on-arrival statement made in Egypt, which Nigerians, including even some in the rubber stamp National Assembly, have condemned and rejected, featured as a policy in the New Year letter, although surreptitiously cloaked as policy meant to promote the ease of doing business for foreigners and not the murderous and sinister throwing open of our borders for straggling terrorists of the Fulani-Arab stock to flood the country and make it a home.

Conqueror-kings rarely descend to exchange ideas with conquered people. Born-to-rule people scarcely climb down from their high horse. Gen. Buhari let the cat out of the bag that he chose a rare occasion to bestow this rare gift on the prostrate people of Nigeria – he chose the beginning of a new decade, which he dubbed NIGERIA’S DECADE. What is Nigerian in the coming decade? Our antecedents inform that the decade will come and go without any of the promises and pledges of development and progress on a national level being fulfilled. In the same way, previous Decades came and vamoosed with nothing tangible to show for it: Decade of Food for All; Of Shelter for All; Of Education for All; Of Housing for all: Of the Achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); Of Vision 20: 2020, etc. These DECADES achieved great feats in other lands but failed woefully here in Nigeria. Except a miracle happens this time, the Gen. Buhari-declared NIGERIA’S DECADE may be no less different!

Buhari’s letter on New Year’s day was mere sweet talk. Using the language of our street urchins, “Buhari gbe wa mo’ra’!.” He cajoled us! And morning, as they say, shows the day. If Buhari chose the very first day of NIGERIA’S DECADE to be economical with the truth, we already know what to expect at the end of the day. The very first paragraph of Buhari’s letter was enough to turn me off. I ordered a drink and relaxed my nerves before taking it up again. He spoke of the three planks of his junta’s campaign promises; viz. security, diversification of the economy and fighting corruption; he then said he had twice been elected president on those planks!

We knew the presidential election of 2015 was tainted but we allowed it because we were sick and tired of PDP and Jonathan. Have we forgotten the blood of many innocent souls that the “winners” trampled to get into office in 2015? In Kano, the State Resident Electoral Commissioner and his entire family burned to death? Have we forgotten the humongous election figures that were subsequently declared for the “winner”? Of course, last year’s presidential election was worse. Since 2015, our elections have taken on the toga of war. Buhari was not twice voted into office. Buhari has twice been rigged into office. And witness the charade of the last governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi, which Buhari eulogised.

How dare Gen. Buhari talk of elections as the “cornerstone of our democracy”? If he knew and accepted that, why acquiesce to the perversion of the electoral process in a brazen manner never before experienced here? And how dare a man who recently said democracy was too slow for his liking say in same breath that “we need a democratic government that can guarantee peace and security…”? Yes, we do but Gen. Buhari is not cut-out for it. A driver trained to drive “danfo” or “bolekaja” cannot fly an aeroplane. Analogue Buhari, marooned and fixated military-style, is just not fit and proper in a democratic setting; he is a danger to democracy as we have witnessed since 2015. I dare to say that Nigeria will make progress with democracy not with Buhari but without him.

Is Nigeria more secure today than in 2015: The answer is a resounding “No!” Gen. Buhari promised to end the Boko Haram insurgency in months; five years down the road, BK is not only alive but doing well, executing Christians and aid workers and occupying Nigerian territories at will. Buhari and his commanders live in self-denial. Worse is that Buhari has compounded our security problems by adding murderous Fulani herdsmen to the equation. Statistics show that the Fulani herdsmen-terrorists, apart from being one of the most deadly terrorist groups in the world, have wasted more lives, destroyed more properties and caused more havoc than BK. Buhari treats them with kid gloves. Buhari’s body language encourages and strengthens them. Their leaders have been gifted top FG appointments. They brazenly demanded huge sums of money from government and some reports have it that they have since smiled to the bank. Their impunity is such that they give orders to the Presidency and threaten State governors. They bestride the polity like a colossus and their word is law. They are the beloveth son in whom Buhari is well pleased. We were safer before Gen. Buhari came. We practised more oneness before Buhari came. It will take a miracle to return Nigeria to the pre-Buhari era.

As for the economy, Buhari has ruined it all! We swim in debts; yet, we are still going about a-borrowing. And as the saying goes, he who goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing. Buhari has brought sorrow and misery like never before imagined. He has borrowed more money than any other government since the beginning of Nigeria. And he has only corruption to show for it! Buhari’s junta is more corrupt than any other government in Nigeria’s history. More corrupt than Jonathan’s; more corrupt than Obasanjo’s; and even more corrupt than Shehu Shagari’s NPN. He pretends to fight corruption but the jury is in that the most corrupt Nigerians are within his government and political party.

Buhari applies double standards. He treats himself laissez faire but applies draconian rules to Nigerians. To earn more money so that he can service his huge debts, he is prepared to tax Nigerians to death. All manner of taxes have been proposed by Buhari. Nigerians are being commanded to tighten their belt while Buhari loosens his so he can further enjoy the goodies of the land. Buhari is not touching the heavy burden he places on the head of suffering Nigerians with a finger. He does not keep promises either. Buhari has not sold the presidential fleet he said he would sell while campaigning for office in 2015. He has not built the first-class hospitals he promised Nigerians but he instead junkets abroad for treatment. We don’t know what ails him and how much of our money he has spent treating himself and members of his family. He has not built the Ivy League schools he promised but his children attend the best schools abroad. The ramshackle and rag-tag institutions they are building here have been shared out among themselves. If your village does not have a big man or woman in Buhari’s junta, nothing will be allocated to it. This is Nigeria’s most nepotistic regime ever!

We borrow now not for capital development but to pay interest on previous debts. Like the ostrich, they deceive themselves and not us when they lay down projects they can never find the money to execute. Corruption will not let them. Rub-my-back-and-I-rub-your-back will not let them. Imagine the N37billion they voted to refurbish the National Assembly, a building built with N7billion! If they pour that money on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, it will boost the economy and save travellers the unmitigated suffering experienced on that road. The international community is wary to lend them more money because it is obvious they won’t be able to pay back. With the heavy load of indebtedness they are carrying, it is obvious their back will break very soon.

Where are the jobs they promised? They have instead added more unemployment! We all see how the few jobs they create are shared among themselves! Only the children of Presidency staff, Ministers, governors, party top brass and NASS members get the handful of jobs there are. No jobs for the poor man and the sons and daughters of the poor man. You must be connected to get even a decent place to do your NYSC in Nigeria! The police recruitment that Buhari spoke about in his letter was twisted to rob Peter (the South) to pay Paul (the North) and Buhari supported it! They say we are self sufficient in food (rice) production: That lie from the pit of hell flies in the face of statistics! A bag of rice which was N7, 000 when Buhari came sold for over N20, 000 last Christmas! And in many places the minimum wage is still N18, 000 as recriminations persist over the “new minimum wage” of N30, 000.

But Buhari’s letter did not disappoint in two very critical areas which the retired general is now famous for: the blame game and denied promises! Hear him: “…I am determined to help strengthen the electoral process both in Nigeria…” He did not give the help in the last general election. He did not give it in Bayelsa and Kogi. “I will,” “I will” is Buhari’s Credo! “…We are doing now what should have been done a long time ago” Blame game! What we should let the General know is that so many things he is doing today will have to be reversed when a patriotic Nigerian president takes over from him in 2023. Many of his antiquated ideas will have to be thrown out of the window. And woe betides any of his “man-know-man” appointees if they wait a moment after Buhari’s term lapses!

Buhari’s promise of taking 100 million Nigerians out of mass poverty dangles in the air. Take his “commitment” for it, though! On power supply; it is the same blame game. “…Power has been a problem for a generation…” What dent have you made on the problem in five years? Ordinary pre-paid meters, you cannot give us! On oil and gas development, it is promise upon promise again! “…The next 12 months will witness the gradual implementation…” He knows that before “the next 12 months”, a cascade of events would have rolled over the promise. This is a country of one day, one trouble. A man who detests democracy because it is “too slow” prefers slow action on gas and oil development that needs fast tracking if other nations will not continue to overtake us and we will  not have to drink our oil and flare our gas!

Buhari’s letter did not inspire confidence at all. Pity! That was the best they could offer! He should have told us our debt profile and income-to-debt servicing ratio. Will he lift the never-ending subsidy on petroleum? Will he re-jig his failed security architecture? Will he give every section of the country a sense of belonging by trying to be the president of all? Will he stop removing Southerners from office only to replace them with less qualified Northerners? Will he reverse the degrading treatment meted out to the Vice President? Will he stop the humiliation of Southern leaders while their Northern counterparts get soft landing? Will he be more open, transparent and accountable to Nigerians seeing that he is the servant and not Lord of the Manor? Will he stop his disobedience to court orders? Will he hallow the rule of law? Will he henceforth allow free and fair elections? He recently threatened to frustrate desperate politicians in 2023 – and I laughed. Pray, which politician has been more desperate than Buhari? Who has ever made the kind of hate speech Buhari made in 2011, leading to the massacre of hapless Nigerians, including scores of youth corpers who were the hope of their families? Not Buhari but the Nigerian electorate will decide who to elect in 2023!

And where is Leah Sharibu, Buhari? You promised to work for her release. So, where is she? Where is your progress report on her? Because Church leaders have pitiably neglected to hold your feet to the fire is why you think you can conveniently ignore the issue. You think it is a dead issue, enh? You think the blood of the martyrs shed during your tenure as a result of your I-don’t-care-attitude; nay, connivance and complicity even, will not cry out like Abel’s? Their blood will speak! It will be atoned for! Sooner or later their Daniel will come to judgment!

And not one word on restructuring, Buhari, not one! Nor a word of remorse concerning the butt of cruel jokes your squabbling family had made the entire country, not one! Buhari heard that presidents were writing letters and decided to write one: it was hogwash!

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