By Douglas Anele
The success of any government effort for social reform, including anti-corruption programme, depends a lot on credibility and trust by the people. Only a dishonest person, political parasites and the crowd of sycophants around President Muhammadu Buhari would claim that majority of our people still believe that the current administration is fighting corruption wherever it is found and whosoever is involved.
To cut a long story short, Buhari, his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and political chameleons of the APC in their eagerness to dominate the political space by denting, further, PDP’s unflattering reputation through sensationalised corruption allegations, have bungled a genuine cause that generality of Nigerians enthusiastically supported in spite of their own characterological weaknesses.
It is now time to scrutinise President Buhari’s assertion that a sizeable number of Nigerian youths are unwilling to work, illiterate, and waiting for free social services from government because of oil money. According to media reports, after widespread criticism he has “clarified” his earlier derogatory statement: Buhari now says that he was referring mainly to northern youths who, I must add, have been systematically marginalised by wicked members of the northern ruling elite or establishment since independence through failure to use their domination of federal power for uplifting the downtrodden in the north, coupled with widespread adoption of antiquated Islamic education that hinders authentic self-development and entrepreneurial spirit of the less privileged youths there.
Now, some of the President’s appointees have on several occasions displayed an amazing lack of creativity and honesty in defending their principal. For example, some time ago, Dr. Chris Ngige justified Buhari’s ill-advised comment about ninety-seven percent versus five percent philosophy of justice in relation to different parts of the federation with the fallacious analogy of participating in farm work and sharing the benefits. On the remark about lazy Nigerian youths, it is amusing to read Femi Adesina, Garba Shehu and others arguing acrobatically about the semantics or connotations of the expression “a lot:” whether it means “all” or “some” or “most.”
Even Joe Igbokwe, a Buhari factotum and apologist to the core, always slavishly eager to please his benefactors, went to the extent of insulting his Nnewi brothers by saying that they are so lazy that many of them engage in yahoo-yahoo business, forgetting that it requires a lot of creative ingenuity and nerve to succeed in such nefarious undertaking. Garba Shehu and all the others engaged in hair-splitting arguments about what the President meant by the quantifier, “a lot,” and whether what he said was true or false actually missed the main issue at stake. It is not a question of whether he intended to castigate each and every Nigerian youth or about the truth or falsity of his claim.
After all, no matter how you characterise or define the word “lazy,” there are lazy people in all countries across different age groups, gender, profession, economic and social strata or any demographic configuration one can imagine – and there are also lazy Presidents and Prime Ministers, anyway. The real question is whether it is wise or appropriate for the President to be so negative about a critical segment of the population he had sworn to look after and protect, at a televised international event watched by hundreds of millions of people all over the world.
What exactly was the President thinking or hoping to achieve by denigrating fellow compatriots, behaving like a class teacher reporting unruly pupils to his superiors? In my view, his negative remarks further tarnishes the image of Nigerian youths by making them look bad in the eyes of foreigners, which is counterproductive and works against federal government’s drive to woo foreign investors into the country. Our President, just like President Donald Trump who has been undermining his own position through inappropriate utterances and tweets, tends to commit unforced errors for no good reason. Also detrimental along the same lines is Prof. Osinbajo’s constant sing-song about corruption allegedly committed during the tenure of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
The Vice President is naïve if he thinks that his constant reference to corruption will not discourage potential foreigners who might want to do business with Nigerians in Nigeria. Why would a foreign businessman or company want to invest here when our leaders are constantly reminding them about how corrupt we are and, by implication, could be? On the other hand, if he intends to make the suffering masses less critical of government for the increasing hardships they are going through now or overlook the incompetence and cluelessness of the President and some members of his cabinet, then he is making a serious mistake.
The Buhari administration, by focusing exclusively on the bad governance of its predecessor, is actually shooting itself on the foot without realising it: Nigerians are beginning to think that constant reference to Jonathan and the PDP is a clever but futile ploy to distract attention from the mounting failures of the APC because an incompetent workman always blames his tools. If we discount the probability that APC outrigged PDP in 2015, millions of Nigerians voted for Buhari believing that his government would make their lives better; they did not do so to listen to puerile sermons about the rot Jonathan left for the incoming government to clear.
Nigerians need jobs, security, enhanced income, affordable food, housing, quality education and health services, not stories about how PDP people looted the treasury, as if all the APC stalwarts pretending and pontificating against corruption did not participate in grand larceny since 1999. I can understand it if President Buhari is exhibiting some kind of vindictiveness against top members of the PDP: after all he was defeated thrice by presidential candidates from the former ruling party.
But why is Osinbajo, a pastor without the same negative political experience of Buhari in the hands of the PDP, so fixated on demonising the immediate past administration? What positive result was he expecting from doing so or is he a helpless instrument in the hands of the so-called parasitic cabal whose overarching mission is to keep Buhari in power at all cost? Whatever the answers to these questions might be, as one of the millions of Nigerians trying so hard to keep afloat in the face of very challenging economic circumstances, the blame game has gone on for too long. To reiterate: Nigerians desire, and must work for, real positive change, not repetitive “tales by moonlight” about how PDP ruined the country.
Changing the subject, for a while now the conversation between Nigerian storyteller, Chimamanda Adichie, and Hilary Clinton, former United States’ secretary of state, has been a subject of hot debate. The crux of the matter was that during an interview with Clinton, Adichie said she was upset that the latter began her biodata on twitter with the description “wife,” which seems to contradict the main thrust of feminist agitations supported by Chimamanda herself.
As a long-term admirer of the former US first lady, Adichie was curious to ascertain why a woman who has achieved so much, someone she probably subconsciously built up within herself as an epitome of feminist ideals, would put “wife” first before her accomplishments as a professional, politician and public servant, whereas her husband, Bill Clinton, did not start his own biodata with “husband.” Adichie has been severely criticised on this issue, and she has responded intelligently, although I noticed a whiff of hubris particularly in the opening paragraphs of her riposte which are distasteful but somewhat understandable considering that she is a relatively young woman working hard to actualise herself in the demanding world of storytelling and feminism, and also that some critics irritatingly do not differentiate between rational criticism and ad hominem arguments.
I think that Chimamanda Adichie would have avoided unnecessary misunderstanding if she asked her interviewee whether the order in which she presented her biodata reflected the priority she gave to each entry. If Hilary Clinton listed the items without intending that the order in which they appear reflects decreasing importance from the first to the last, Adichie’s question would be still be relevant but inconsequential.