By Donu Kogbara
I have received several complaints from Vanguard readers who feel that President Muhammadu Buhari is moving too slowly. And I must admit that I too have been very concerned about the fact that he has yet to appoint ministers because I believe that he will not get the best results until he has a good team in place.
The APC’s symbol is a broom; and Mr President needs many broom-wielding hands to help him sweep away the rubbish that the Jonathan crowd left behind!
But it’s hard to find ideal hands that can handle tough challenges competently and honestly, so let’s be patient and give him time in which to choose well.
Another complaint I keep hearing from Vanguard readers revolves around the fact that most of Buhari’s appointees so far have been his fellow Northerners.
Again, I urge patience. I am sure that he will eventually balance the books and dish out lots of senior jobs to people from all four corners of Nigeria.
As for the widespread dissatisfaction about the fact that nothing is being done to key individuals from the previous administration who are strongly suspected of having committed major economic and other crimes: Let us please remember that this is not a military regime and that it is necessary to acquire concrete evidence before any fingers can be officially pointed at alleged miscreants.
I’m in London at the moment and my UK doctor has advised me to eat less and start exercising regularly because I’ve put on a lot of weight in recent months.
An English girlfriend who lives near me has just received the same lecture from her doc. So we decided to exercise together, to give each other moral support.
“Let’s swim for at least 30 minutes every other day,” she suggested.
“Great idea,” I agreed. And then I wryly smiled to myself.
I’m 55 and she is 57. And neither of us owns a private pool, so we’ll go to one of the public pools in our neighbourhood. And the thing that made me smile wryly was the thought of the disapproving reactions that women of our age would inspire if we were seen in swimsuits – half-naked! – in a public pool in Nigeria.
One of the things I love about Europe is the freedom I enjoy out here.
Nobody will bat an eyelid when we show up. Nobody will say that we are embarrassing ourselves or our families. We will just blend in, quietly and anonymously, with the many other unyouthful swimmers we will meet there.
Rumours are rife about former President Goodluck Jonathan employees quietly buying themselves out of trouble by returning, behind closed doors, money they have stolen.
If these rumours turn out to be true, I will be very upset indeed because one of my reasons for voting for Buhari was his super-strict reputation.
I am tired of greedy, ruthless, selfish dignitaries who betray our trust, stunt our country’s development, deprive us of vital facilities like decent roads/hospitals, etc, and transform themselves into billionaires at our expense; and I certainly don’t expect Buhari to blithely let all manner of crooks off the hook, simply because they may agree – under duress – to secretly refund vast amounts of ill-gotten cash that never belonged to them in the first place!
They should be rounded up, one by one, and arrested, named, blamed, shamed and jailed…NOT provided with cushy, cynical, clandestine amnesty deals.
And before you accuse me of being partisan, let me say that I will be delighted if errant APC personnel are punished as harshly as errant PDP personnel.
Eliminating wanton extravagance
There is a British saying that if you take care of the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves; and there are SO MANY ways in which Buhari can claw back the zillions of pennies that the Federal Government has been wasting every day for decades, thereby releasing plenty of pounds for worthy projects.
Drastically reducing the travel costs associated with privileged public servants is one of the many ways in which Mr President can save significant sums.
As things stand, senior government officials and their top aides are entitled to First and Business Class tickets when they travel within Nigeria or go abroad.
Having personally benefited from this largesse myself on numerous occasions – when I was Special Assistant to a Minister, when I was a member of a presidential committee and when I was a non-executive Director of a Rivers State Board – I am not in a position to be sanctimonious about this issue.
However, our economy is ailing; and we’re still a developing, essentially poor country that has serious infrastructural problems and not enough indigenous industries…and suffers from power outages, etc; and it’s time for Nigeria to quit being delusional about its finances and Get Real and live within its means and spend less on the pampered individuals who inhabit the corridors of power.
UK Ambassadors – such as Sir Andrew Pocock, the British High Commissioner in Nigeria – humbly and uncomplainingly travel in Economy Class cabins unless there are special circumstances, such as the flight being over 10 hours long.
If distinguished foreign diplomats – who represent Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, and do valuable work for a highly developed nation that once controlled (via its extensive Empire) a quarter of the earth’s surface, now heads the Commonwealth and is much richer than Nigeria – can cheerfully tolerate cut-price travel options, why can’t our dignitaries make similar sacrifices?
I have long felt that Nigerian VIPs have an inflated sense of their importance and are way too obsessed with luxuries and need to come back down to earth.
There are good people in the PDP and the APC and bad people in both parties; and I have long felt that the only real difference between the APC and the PDP is the fact that the APC is headed by Buhari – a famously unmaterialistic gentleman who abhors theft, doesn’t own much, has exceedingly modest tastes and isn’t interested in crude wealth acquisition or conspicuous consumption.
Quality leadership can work wonders; and I am praying that Buhari’s mindset and behaviour patterns will have a miraculous impact on his foot soldiers and Nigeria…which will continue to flounder depressingly until it is forced onto the right path by a true patriot who has the integrity and guts to say “enough is enough” and refuse to be sidetracked by those who do not share his Vision