I FELT a bit miffed at the president’s Eid-el-fitr message not because it lacked compassion or empathy but because it lacked a departure from his strongly held minimalist view of our daily reality. In all sincerity, I have made a solemn promise not to throw empty criticism at Mr. President and only lend my voice to matters in which common sense is clearly shrugged away to accommodate political vacuity.
The message read thus: “I am not unaware of what Nigerians are going through and I want to use this medium to commend the amazing sacrifices of Nigerians in the face of temporary economic and social challenges and also reassure Nigerians that my government is working assiduously towards providing basic needs and other amenities. Let me also use this opportunity to reaffirm that we will not relent in the fight against corruption and we will ensure that all appropriate and legal measures are deployed to root out this malaise”.
Perhaps the words of O Henry, Love and business and family and religion and art and patriotism are nothing but shadows of words when a man is starving, underpins the very premise of my argument. Again, Nigerians are being congratulated for their sacrifices in difficult times, what needs to be asked though, is if such burdens will climax with better days. In any case, as for me and my house, we will remain skeptics until proven otherwise by the government of the day. Of more concern, however, is the fixation of Mr. President on the fight against corruption. Without a doubt, corruption is a must kill but I also share the concern of Hon. Yakubu Dogara, that convictions have hardly been made even in the sight of overwhelming evidence of the culprits admittance and willingness to return stolen funds.
Neither the president nor his towering integrity can prosecute any war against corruption; he has no choice than to rely on the institutions saddled with such statutory obligation. The best the president can do is to empower such institutions and let the chain off the neck of the proverbial dog. It is not enough to make public declarations that merely romanticises the populace and whips sentiments but rather a case of putting your money where your mouth is. The president will be guilty of living in the clouds if he thinks that he can champion a successful fight against corruption without a reform of the Police Force, the judiciary and a healthy working relationship with the legislature to pass into law the propositions of the executive.
Hence, a continuous focus on a fight technically outside the arena of the president will be simply straining at a gnat and ignoring a whole camel, a typical case of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Someone needs to remind Mr. President that it’s about the economy, about job creation and an improved livelihood, nothing else at this junction matters. I quite agree with Olatunji Ololade in his Friday’s column in The Nation newspaper, when he said “Buhari seeks to eradicate diseased plants from the nation’s fields of enterprise even as he sows sickly seeds under the roof of the Nigerian barn house”.
One of the greatest economists of the 18th and 19th century, John Maynard Keynes argues that in a recession of significant magnitude, it is necessary for the government to intervene and actively stimulate the economy. He was famous for recommending that the government should pay people to dig holes in the ground and fill them up because it doesn’t matter what they do as long as the government is creating jobs.
Quite frankly I understand the president’s fascination, if not obsession with corruption and never will I doubt his sincere passion for a nation he fought and bled for but he must come to terms with the fact that strong nations are not built on the integrity of an individual, even if that individual is the president, but on a continuous investment in the people in whom the government derives its authority from.
I therefore urge the president to maintain his stance on corruption but give a closer attention to the economy. Mr. President also needs to remember that economic deprivation, stagnation or exclusion will ultimately lead to social and political catastrophe, the very demon he is fighting very hard to expel.
Mr. Ayodele Adio, a social critic, wrote from Lagos.