President Muhammadu Buhari has been upbeat this week, acknowledging God in his political fortunes. At the palace of the emir of Damaturu January 9, he said “there was a deliberate attempt to destroy Nigeria, but God did not permit it. God has helped Nigeria to bounce back.”
A few days later, he said: “In the North-East, God has helped us to clear Boko Haram….”
He also claimed that the economy has “picked up.”
It seems to me that the president was invoking God as his witness to the fact that as he put it, he has done his best for the country. Sure, he has done his best. It will remain the indisputable fact with him whether we acknowledge it or not. In any case, you do not expect a man who has done his best to do more. No man can best his best.
There will be time enough to assess his time on the nation’s top political throne against the background of a) Nigeria before Buhari, Nigeria during Buhari and Nigeria after Buhari and b) his promises and the overflow of public goodwill towards him as the man not a few people believed could bring the real, as distinct from the cosmetic, changes we crave for to the country. For now, it is important to ask the president to moderate the sound of his chest beating because in the three instances cited above, he was in error. When facts do not square up with claims, claims lose out.
Buhari was in error to have spoken about the cocktail of existential threats facing the country in the past tense. The dangers have not passed. We are not out of the woods yet. The cocktail of insecurities shows no signs that we are getting safer anywhere in the country. We are deeper in the woods than ever before. An honest admission of what we face would help to strengthen our resolve to recover our country from the backwoods to which it has been pushed.
The president was in obvious error in asserting that God has helped his administration to clear Boko Haram in the North-East and to boot, ended the security challenges he met on his assumption of office on May 29, 2015. Perhaps, no one told the president that governor Zulum of Borno State recently admitted that Boko Haram controls two local government areas in the state. I can find no evidence that the two local government areas were ceded to them. If they have been cleared, they would be absent entirely from the state.
He was in error to claim that the economy has picked up. Inflation is on rampage, deepening poverty in the country. The World Bank global economic outlook for the year is gloomy because of a slow growth in the global economy. The bank has revised its forecast for global growth rate downwards. It is going to be hard for developed economies and harder, predictably, for emerging and developing economies. The president would do well to remember that his administration has saddled the weak national economy with N77 trillion debt. The World Bank has sounded a note of warning that global recession might be upon us. We just hope the economy will not buckle under the weight and make matters much worse for the country.
The government has pushed the hard decisions on the economy such as the removal of fuel subsidy, to the next federal administration. Meanwhile, we continue to suffer the anomaly of fuel scarcity in a major oil-producing country. Man-hours are wasted at petrol stations. This is an old problem that refuses to go away because the nation is in want of the guts to make it go away. The president is the minister of petroleum resources.
Sure, God has been immensely kind to our country, endowing it with human and natural resources that other nations envy. God helped our country pull through a 30-month civil war and thus defeated the forces that sought to make the house that Lord Lugard painstakingly built history. We cannot discount God’s grace in our rise to the heights, but through acts of omission and commission, we descended to the bottom.
We squandered our riches; we now live in penury. We squandered opportunities to lift our country from being potentially great to being great. We made our oil wealth a curse, not a blessing. Take that back. We made it a blessing for the few in the corridors of power and their business compradors and a curse for the many without access to power.
Individual wealth, attested to by mansions in our major towns and cities tell but a wrong story of the true situation of our national economy and our level of development in the century that has moved from candles to the solar system. We lost our premier position as the leader of Africa and the black race. We were once the toast of the world; we are now its laughingstock.
Karl Maier, in his book, this house has fallen, wrote: “To most outsiders, the very name Nigeria conjures up images of chaos and confusion, military coups, repression, drug trafficking and business fraud.” It is unflattering.
To borrow from General Yakubu Gowon, we have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. We did not learn, let alone apply, the vital lessons of the civil war, hence the current MASSOB and IPOB separatist agitations. The ship of state still bobs unsteadily on the choppy waters of unfair, unjust, and inequitable political decisions that take us one step forward only to push us back four steps. By the nature of its colonial construction, our country was saddled with vulnerabilities easily open to exploitation by whatever forces would seek to tear it apart.
We have always been vulnerable to our two major fault lines – ethnicity and religion. We have refused to narrow them; instead, we continue to widen them because they have become veritable instruments for securing comparative advantages in sharing the national cake. We are vulnerable to our diversities, the poor mismanagement of which makes the country look like the leaning tower of Pisa.
We have piled it on, opening new flanks in our wall of vulnerabilities. Our traditional vulnerabilities have today been compounded by some avoidable national challenges that together raise serious concerns about the present and the future of our country. This once proud and oil-rich nation is the poverty capital of the world. With 138 million people officially classified as poor, our country is vulnerable to crushing poverty. When a nation is this poor, it becomes a carrion to be pecked at will by vultures.
We are vulnerable to a cocktail of insecurities. The Nigerian state has been at war with Boko Haram insurgents since 2009. In 2014, the then President Goodluck Jonathan put the number of people killed by the insurgents at 25,000. No one knows how many of our security forces and other undefended Nigerians have fallen to their superior weapons. They have ambushed our armed forces several times in the main theatres of the insurgency in Borno. They turned the abducted Chibok girls and other abducted women into forced wives and sex slaves. They make the Nigerian state helpless.
The Nigerian state has not shown a determined will to crush the insurgency. While their surviving victims are living brutish lives in internally displaced persons camps, the insurgents are molly coddled by the Nigerian state. People who take up arms against their countries commit crimes for which they must be made to answer. But not the insurgents. None of them has ever been charged, let alone tried for their crimes. Those of them arrested are kept for some time and then released to return home and possibly re-join their colleagues and continue their murderous activities. Is it right for the president to ignore the implications of part of the country being controlled by Boko Haram?Banditry and kidnapping have become major industries in the country. They remain a blight on the capacity of the government to make every part of the country safe for all the people consistent with its primary constitutional duty. Bandits control some local government areas too in Zamfara State. Insecurity is a big problem but only the Nigerian state can contain it. But let us be fair. President Buhari has done his best for the country. These problems do not constitute evidence that his best is not the best for the country.
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