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Presidents and promises: Undoing of Buhari –1

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By Dele Sobowale

“He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he becomes a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900.

For me and several other people to whom I have spoken, the events leading to the release of the amounts recovered by The Federal Government by the Minister of Information on Saturday, June 4, 2016, without the list of names promised by President Buhari was an embarrassment in many ways. Only God knows how many friends and associates I have lost since 2011 on account of my total support for Buhari, who was the closest person to meet my idea of the sort of leader needed in Nigeria at this particular time when corruption killing us. I always felt that he was a leader who would keep his promises once made. You might not agree with the promise, but, you knew where you stood with him. The other person was late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.


Thus, when Buhari, on his way to Britain, where the Prime Minister had, appropriately branded Nigeria as “fantastically corrupt”, promised to release the amounts recovered and the names of the looters, it was my feeling that we are at last making real progress in the fight against corruption. Nobody prompted or forced Buhari to make that promise. It was voluntary and like most members of the “Old school”, which incidentally includes the President, I strongly hold that a promise is a debt that must be redeemed. Instead, we had been treated to a farce masquerading as leadership. It would appear as if our President has gazed into the abyss of corruption in Nigeria and the abyss had gazed back at him and somebody blinked – not the abyss, I am sorry to say.

On May 29, 2016, millions of Nigerians woke up on a day that we had been told was going to be bereft of any joy – unlike the American celebration of Thanksgiving Day. Instead, we were asked to be contented with an address by the President and State Governors. To be candid, I didn’t bother to listen to Ajimobi in Ibadan. Buhari that we know is not an orator; we listened because we wanted to hear the names of the “looters” (his own words) and how much each had coughed up. The rest of the speech could be read, at leisure in the newspapers.

Four of us, die-hard Buhari supporters, were in the hotel lobby when he started reading; the number swelled to over twenty when somebody said “he will soon announce the names of the rogues”. The utterances when the National Anthem was finally played were unprintable. A friend turned to me and asked: “Dele, do you still believe this man will always do what he says?” I felt like a man who had stubbed his toe very hard against a hard object in the dark. It hurts too much to laugh, but I am too old to cry. For me and millions of others, a strong brand was damaged, perhaps irreparably. Until that day “brand Buhari” meant someone you can believe absolutely once he uttered a statement. That mystique is gone. Unfortunately, for the President and his advisers, they forget one fact about reputation. “To murder one’s reputation is a kind of suicide….”, said Henry Fielding, 1707-1754. (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 213). When your success in life is built around a reputation for keeping your words, that success is undermined the minute you start breaking your promises. And, no amount of propaganda will help you.

Not done with failure to release the names on May 29, a spokesman again promised to get it done the following Thursday. Unlike the past, I didn’t bother to wait anxiously for that promise to be fulfilled. Sure enough, there was no announcement on Thursday. So another chip was taken off that solid rock image.  Furthermore, on Saturday June 4, 2016, Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information, talking as if he was doing Nigerians a favour, released several figures of amounts, landed properties, buildings, vehicles, farmlands, recovered – but no names. This was followed by “explanations” which should be delivered to nursery school kids because there was none that could not have been known to the President when he made his promise.  Unknown to Lai Mohammed, he had inadvertently revealed that the war against corruption being waged is indeed discriminatory and therefore inherently corrupt itself…


“Well, my friend, get me out of danger. You can make your speech afterwards”, La Fontaine, 1621-1695, VBQ p 68.

Will they go to school? Will they grow up as good citizens of Nigeria? Or will they for ever be forgotten?

The picture of some of the children of Agatu had to be published by someone. I just happen to be the one to do it because of my visit to the place. It had occurred to me before setting out that all the “do-gooders”, including opinion leaders, columnists, politicians, clergymen, and renown fishers in troubled waters, would use Agatu to further their aims of trying to break up Nigeria. They would have forgotten the people, who hitherto had been living in the Stone Age in 2016. None would do anything to assist them.

I will not apologise for mentioning that the Catholic and Methodist Arch Diocese, standing side by side at Otukpo, as well as other churches, REDEEM, TREM, WINNERS, CHRIST EMBASSY, ANGLICAN etc, situated only one and half hours drive from Agatu have not responded to their needs. Senator David Mark’s convoy was reportedly stoned on its way there a few days after the sack of Agatu. I have not read or heard of a repeated visit. Virtually all the elected officials representing the people have turned their backs. Dangote, Danjuma, Elumelu, Otedola, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Mrs Alakija, Mrs Shagaya, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, Folawiyo can also help the kids of Agatu. So should the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Let’s save the kids, who now have no school or primary health centre and utter or write our master-pieces afterwards. Those are Nigerian kids, damn it!

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