By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
FORMER President, General Olusegun Obasanjo, was obviously caught up in a moment of effusiveness last weekend, while receiving a delegation of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), at his Abeokuta residence.
Two months into the Muhammadu Buhari era, according to Obasanjo, Nigerians are beginning to witness the country of our dreams. Our former president was in the midst of students with their often, overflow of idealism and the old man was obviously caught up in that flow for a lot of good reasons: “When one takes a look at everything”, according to Obasanjo, “the most crucial and vital conclusion is that God loves Nigeria”.
And the former president was not done: “No single individual is a paragon of perfection…But there are still people who stick out their necks for the good of Nigeria. Thank God we have such a leader now”.
Paragons of perfection
Of course since there are no paragons of perfection amongst humans, it follows that governments led by people will have shortcomings; that is the reason the former president added that ‘objective and positive criticisms’ were welcome, ‘where necessary’.
But he had no ambiguity in his mind about the position he would occupy in the scheme of things: “I will work for the success of this dispensation”, Obasanjo added emphatically!
It is not often that I have had to agree with Obasanjo in the past. We might even add that Obasanjo’s position as stated here was a form of Mea Culpa.
Afterall, was he not the same individual that saddled us with the previous dispensation, when in the wake of the defeat of the infamous Third Term Agenda in 2007, he imposed the joint candidacy of the late President Umaru Yar’adua and former President Goodluck Jonathan?
The disastrous rule of the previous five years, but especially the incredible devaluation of governance that we witnessed between 2011 and 2015, were directly related to the choices he made and foisted upon our country.
We need to put that into the equation, even when we come to some agreement with him, in the broad categorisation he has made about the new dispensation in Nigeria, since May 2015.
There is a lot that is going on in the country today, that we can be proud of. But before we look at the very positive points, I think we must examine those aspects of governance and expectations that we are also not happy about.
President Muhammadu Buhari has made things difficult for all of us to understand, just why some basic but important appointments have still not been made since he was sworn in three months ago. Why is it difficult for him to appoint an Attorney General, given his central position in the administration of justice, especially in respect of prosecutions that will accompany efforts to bring to book, those who systematically looted Nigeria? Similarly, what has stalled the appointment of a Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), when he is always at the heart of the operations of the machinery of government?
President Buhari made a promise to PUBLICLY declare his assets in his Covenant with the Nigerian people, and he cannot now renege on that promise. It is particularly important for his reputation for integrity. And it is worrisome that some of his ardent online supporters in the lead to the 2015 elections are becoming increasingly restive and that should not be allowed to degenerate into a complete disillusionment.
It is also important, that the timeline for the appointment of ministers be kept, so as not to begin to alienate many sections of the country, including members of the political elite who have set store by such appointments.
It becomes double whammy, when even leaders of the APC, confess publicly that it is only the president that knows the people on his ministerial list! Such a public declaration can be interpreted in many directions, and many won’t be positive.
But when all is said and done, I believe that there is a lot that is true in what Obasanjo effusively stated to his student audience last weekend. Nigeria is making steady progress under President Muhammadu Buhari. It might be very subjective and an inadequate means of measurement of progress, but the “body language” of the president has become one of the most important triggers for development today.
Zero tolerance for corruption
Every Nigerian is aware that Muhammadu Buhari has zero tolerance for corruption and that is beginning to rub off in many sectors of national life. We are witnessing far more consistent supply of electricity around the country, in the same manner that the queues for petrol have considerably minimised.
On an almost daily basis, we are reading stories of the discovery of monumental levels of heist, secret loot returns and people are being asked to take responsibility for their actions. There is an indication that governance is becoming a serious expression of dedication to the services of our country.
And it is within the new context that even the Nigerian Defence Industry Corporation is being challenged to reform its act. No, it was not set up to produce furniture, as it is currently reported to be doing. What it ought to become, is a serious national institution that services the security of our country. The Boko Haram insurgency badly exposed the underbelly of our security system, with all the difficulties that emerged in efforts to procure weaponry.
Now there is a marching order to transform and become the backbone of a national military industrial complex. Related to this, is the very challenging resolve to end the Boko Haram menace within three months! This is incredible but apparently doable.
Our armed forces are getting a more professional makeover; they are becoming better led and more professional; the weaponry have been upgraded and very crucially, a sub-regional coalition was put in place in record time to squeeze life out of the terrorists! These are indicators of progress and the hallmarks of focused leadership.
On the eve of his visit to the United States a couple of weeks ago, Muhammadu Buhari penned an Op-Ed piece for the American newspaper, the WASHINGTON POST. One of the issues that he confronted head on, was the creeping frustration in many circles, especially amongst the young people, that massively voted him to power, that he was too slow in taking action.
That slow pace of events seemed at odds with the feeling of people primed for rapid changes and in some of these quarters, PMB was being described as “BABA GO-SLOW”. Buhari confronted that issue frontally: “I was elected on a platform of change”, he reminded. “I know this is what the people of Nigeria desire more than anything else. I know they are impatient for action. I realise the world waits to see evidence that my administration will be different from all those that came before”.
Having reminded that he was aware that he was a president that much is expected from, especially by the mass of the young people who warmed up to him as a candidate of change, he then cautioned: “…reforming (Nigeria) after so many years of abuse cannot be achieved overnight”.
Buhari also made a sweeping historical excursion into the nation’s governance process, arguing that: “there are too few examples in the history of Nigeria since independence where it can be said that good management and governance were instituted at the national level. This lack of a governance framework has allowed many of those in charge, devoid of any real checks and balances, to plunder”. Buhari used that article to lay up what things will look like as we moved forward: “…The path we must take is simple, even if it is not easy: First, instill rules and good governance; second, install officials who are experienced and capable of managing state agencies and ministries; and third, seek to recover funds stolen under previous regimes so that this money can be invested in Nigeria for the benefit of all our citizens”.
Green shoots of growth
It is clear to me that Muhammadu Buhari has devotedly kept at the process which he outlined, and we are witnessing green shoots of growth all around the Nigerian landscape.
To be sure, we have only arrived at the point of embarkation and the journey will naturally be bumpy and even painful on a route that is filled with potholes and daredevil characters who do not share the resolve for national rebirth. But in the long run, the Buhari resolve can only redound to the benefit of our country because we are all aware that there was no way that we could keep doing things the old way.
No country can survive as a kleptocracy and that was the main narrative of our past, especially the last five years. Under Muhammadu Buhari’s watch, we are consolidating a steady pace of progress; things might not appear as fast as we had envisaged and the fruits of the progress won’t reach us as “dividends” as urgently as we desire, but what is unfolding in Nigeria needs the buy in of all patriots so we can collectively take our country to a higher level of development.
That was the reason we voted for the change that Muhammadu Buhari is leading in the first place!
The cults killings in Kwara State
LAST week, the media reported that 16 students were killed in different areas of Ilorin, as result of clashes between members of different secret cult groups, in tertiary institutions in Kwara state. The Kwara State Polytechnic was closed as a result, while the authorities stated that none of the killings took place on its campuses.
But the truth is that cults have become the new epidemic in our community. While they had been there in the past, they became a menace only after 1999, when politicians began to use them as thugs.
An ethos of violence has also become ingrained in a society of deep inequalities where family values have gradually eroded.
These cults are centres of negative socialisation for young people who have become increasingly alienated in a state that has consolidated a perverse culture of leadership especially since 2003.
The authorities in government, schools, homes and society have a great role to play in helping to reverse these frightening descents to violence and wanton killing of youth. We cannot sustain the social structure that does not consciously orient our young people in positive directions.
Our society has become so young today, that governance must be built around the needs of the youth. If politicians remain content with using cults as thugs to protect their irresponsible structures of kleptocratic governance, all the stolen money will not protect them from the inevitable wrath. If you sow wind, you will reap whirlwind. Period!