By Dele Sobowale

“In times of crisis; facts first.” CNN Advert, March 2020.


Nigeria and new economic status in Africa

Nigeria, like all nations in the world today, faces an economic and a health crisis. Unlike others, our nation is burdened by three other major problems. The first is crisis of leadership at the topmost levels of government in Nigeria. The second is the stark reality that there is no ruling political party – as it is known in all democracies. The third disaster, which is inextricably tied to the first, is what can only be described a President who has no luck. Just before Buhari’s army of sympathises, led by his loudspeakers in Aso Rock, think that luck is irrelevant at this time, or one is insulting Buhari, permit me to take our readers, especially the young, through African history.

Sir Milton Obote would be remembered by those of my generation, or older, as the man who led Uganda to independence in 1962 during the “wind of change blowing through Africa.” (Sir Harold Macmillan, British Prime Minister). Like most first generation African leaders in the 1960s, he was overthrown by the military in 1971 and went into exile in Britain. When military rule went out of style late in the 1990s, Obote was recalled to lead Uganda. History has recorded that Obote was kicked out a second time by the army in 1985. No reason to bring other examples from Europe and Asia. Some individuals are just unlucky. No reason why some of them cannot be Nigerian leaders.

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“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
Harvey B Mackay, 1994. VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 146.
It is necessary to take the matter of luck first in the situation in which we find ourselves now. I am aware that those who benefit from our national distress will not want us to consider facts that are embarrassing or inconvenient. For a man who makes his living from hauling human waste, a tragedy occurs when there is no sh*t to carry. Many Buhari’s sympathisers are in that category.

Since independence in 1960, Nigeria had experienced two recessions, in 1984 and 2016 – both of short durations. The third is underway and inevitable in 2020. All three will be debited to the account of one Head of State – President Muhammadu Buhari. That is a fact which his loudspeakers in Aso Rock cannot deny. They can only offer explanations; but cannot alter the facts. By contrast, General Gowon, in 1973-5, had such an unprecedented deluge of dollars, that Nigeria donated $100 million to the African Development Bank to help poorer African nations. Obasanjo returned in 1999 to see crude oil prices surging upwards. His administration was able to leverage our improved economic future trends to get us out of the debt trap in which we found ourselves. He also established the Excess Crude Account, ECA – which was finally run down by Buhari’s government this year. Goodluck Jonathan was really the good luck President. Crude oil prices went up to $100+ and stayed up for four of his five years – as the Age of Oil went into the twilight zone. Under Gowon and Jonathan, the economy grew at averages of six to eight per cent. Those were our finest periods from the standpoint of economic growth. Only Gowon’s regime took us to full employment – meaning anybody who wanted a job could literally get one.

While Buhari cannot be held totally responsible for the recession of 1984, because he took no part in the coup which brought him to power, the fact remains that he was ill-prepared for it and he had no clue regarding how to manage an economy in distress. Virtually all the measures he introduced made the situation worse. When failure stared his regime in the face, he and the late Major-General Idiagbon resorted to authorised violence. Grandmothers and housewives were whipped by twenty-year old soldiers while on queue for essential commodities – sugar, salt, detergents and soaps, baby food etc. The scarce commodities returned to shop shelves and markets after he left in 1985.

The recession of 2016 should not have caught Buhari and the All Progressives Congress, APC, by surprise – if they were really embarking on ruling the nation instead of just seizing NNPC and CBN for whatever reason. Buhari ran for President in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. He lost three times and won in 2015. The least that would have been expected of anybody aspiring to leadership in any country is that they should have a good grasp of what they are likely to inherit – if they win. That explains why effective leaders elsewhere appoint their cabinets within days of getting to office instead of five months as Buhari did in 2015 and 2019. He was unprepared. Any half-decent economist could have predicted that a recession was coming in 2015/2016 even if Jonathan had been re-elected. But, GEJ had Dr Okonjo-Iweala who could have foreseen that possibility and the government would have taken pre-emptive steps to minimise its impact. Mrs Kemi Adeosun was not and can never be in the same class as her predecessor. Nigerians paid dearly for it. We failed to learn our lessons.

“The APC government has dragged our country down the gutter. This was not what we promised in 2014/15 when we campaigned vigorously for a Buhari Presidency.” Dele Momodu, THISDAY, March 28, 2020, last page.

Dele and I have two things in common. We both worked our hearts out for Buhari. I toiled like a galley slave in 2011 and 2015. In 2011, I actually developed an outline for Economic Governance if Buhari won at my own expense. It took two months of 2015 to realise I had made a grave blunder. Buhari is not worth it. Dele still believed in Buhari and, on March 21, 2020, he wrote about his encounter with the President – who massaged his ego by telling Momodu that he reads his columns. I have been hearing that story since 1987. Reading the two articles, it is clear that my namesake is almost at breaking point with regard to Buhari. He even tried to advise the President on March 21. Pure waste of time.

“Advice is seldom welcome; and those who want it most always want it least.
Earl of Chesterfield, 1694-1773, VBQ, p 5.
It is doubtful if Buhari reads newspapers himself. Most likely, he reads only what his aides cut out for him. I never flatter myself that he reads my articles. He might not even understand them. I will suggest to my fellow pen-pushers to forget Buhari as a reader – unless they write articles that flatter him. At, any rate, it is impossible to advise a leader, who in the midst of our worst crisis, retires to “the other room” and only addresses the nation through loudspeakers.

It is a fact that stewards are not hired for their intelligence but their reliability. Buhari, hunkered down behind his loudspeakers, cannot hear what Nigerians are saying. A President, whose Vice President, Ministers and heads of Departments and Agencies, as well as party leaders cannot access except through a fence – called Chief of Staff – has already deliberately cut himself off from the people he rules and is about to ruin irredeemably. And, now the “fence” is temporarily broken.

“Every country has the government it deserves.”

Joseph De Maistre, 1753-1821, VBQ, p 80.
Since his first prolonged illness during his first term, Buhari has been governing by remote control. He emerges occasionally to make totally forgettable utterances. There has been nothing inspiring Nigerians to make the great efforts and sacrifices necessary to reverse out head-long descent into crushing poverty and anarchy. We already summarised the legacies left behind in relatively short periods by others. In two months time, Buhari would have spent five years in office. His first four years were characterised by excuses and failures. When he chose to re-contest for office and ran with the slogan TAKING NIGERIA TO THE NEXT LEVEL, an article was published on these pages titled THE NEXT LEVEL IS PURE ANARCHY. I was under no illusion that Buhari would allow a free and fair election to be conducted. He would win. Not because of a great performance but because of his cynical reliance on the almajiri votes. He got the votes and now the almajiris are being driven off the streets of Kano and Kaduna states which gave him second term. And, pray what had he done for the millions who voted him into office? Nothing.

Unfortunately for Buhari and Nigeria, he failed to heed the warning in another article titled THE REVOLT OF THE ALMAJIRIS – in which he was warned that male young almajiris are joining bandits and kidnappers in droves. They are no longer satisfied with the pittance dropped into their beggar’s bowls. They want more. All it takes is the first successful operation fetching thousands of naira at once and a bandit or kidnapper is born. A senator (name withheld) told me that his kidnapped wife recognised one of the beggars who came to their gate for alms. The beggar-turned-bandit had not been seen in the community after his gang collected N5 million as ransom. The North has hundreds of thousands of them now. Premature abolition of street begging in some Northern states without making provisions for their livelihood will certainly add thousands more to hardened criminals in that region. That was before COVID-19.

“Anger supplies the arms.” Virgil, 70-19 BC, VBQ, p 10.

If anyone in Buhari’s government thinks that the pandemic has provided all the excuses for abandoning Nigerians to their disastrous fates, then that person deserves to have his head examined. COVID-19 will certainly add millions of Nigerians to the number of people with nothing to lose. Even the village idiot knows that a hungry man/woman is an angry person. Unprecedented millions of Nigerians face imminent starvation in the months to come on account of recession, COVID-19 and poor leadership. They will acquire weapons. Depend on it.

At a time we need a visible leader to reassure us that efforts are being made and measures put in place to minimise the awful impacts of the challenges facing us, an announcement was made by one of the loudspeakers that what other world leaders do – including Africans – is not necessary. We deserve the President who has no luck.

But, he will also deserve the anarchy that may follow any time soon.
“We have no other country…. We must stay here together.”
General Buhari, January 1, 1984.

COVID-19 has done ordinary Nigerians a favour. All the countries of the world have slammed their gates in the faces of our political leaders. Nobody can hope to escape this time. Yes, we must stay here together now….

“I never quarrel with those I don’t respect.” US President Richard Nixon.

I am not on twitter directly. But a lot of my friends and my PA on it drew my attention to ex-President Jonathan’s post in response to my published apology to him. His comments portray true nobility of spirit seldom found in people who have achieved great heights in life. I cannot thank him enough for his broad-mindedness. Like all our leaders, he was a victim of his close associates while in office. It might be of interest to him to know that I was tougher on Babangida in 1985-1992. One fateful visit to the Ministry of Justice Library in Lagos in 2018 altered my views about IBB. The same might still happen to GEJ.



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