By Dele Sobowale
“Yes, we lead by example…” – Buhari at Arewa House Lecture, March 27, 2021.
The speech was read on his behalf by Professor Gambari. The topic was ‘Put Nigeria first’. To that I will return shortly to demonstrate how hypocritical it all was. Let me start with the claim (or was it admission?) that “we lead by example” to list a few well-documented examples which no Nigerian will ever want to follow. We draw from facts and figures since May 29, 2015 which prove conclusively that the current leadership can never be the one to emulate by anybody who wishes Nigeria well.
Every nation rests on three fundamental pillars – security, economy and internal justice. Extreme weakness in any of them invariably results in social unrest, enduring discord and, ultimately, violence. One thing struck me most profoundly while compiling the VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ – it was how the most progressive nations were those which have managed to strike a neat balance between the three elements.
I deliberately did not include democracy as an essential ingredient. To me democracy is the icing on the cake; it is not the real thing. At any rate, to a great extent “democratic” America is more unjust than “autocratic China”. At least in China everybody is treated the same for what is regarded as “illegal”. A policeman shooting any Chinese without cause will be prosecuted. In USA, policemen shoot hundreds of Blacks, for no reason at all, and get away with it. America uses all the propaganda at its disposal to promote its self-image as the champion of democracy worldwide.
So, the focus in Nigeria, under Buhari, is social, ethnic and religious justice. Given the abundant evidence at our disposal on security, economy and justice, the Buhari administration is a serial failure – who nobody should want to copy. Economy first.
“Jobs, stupid”. That was the answer which former US President Clinton gave to journalists when he declared to run for office; and he was asked what will be his first priority if elected. He made good on his words. America experienced the longest economic expansion since the Johnson years under Clinton. More jobs were created; new industries sprang up. Clinton needed no Ministers or Special Advisers to offer excuses on his behalf. Clinton, like Buhari, succeeded the late President Bush, who was seeking his second term like Jonathan.
The US economy was already slowing down when Clinton took up the challenge.
Buhari and his party promised economic growth and job creation in 2014/15. On his first full year in office, he led us to the second recession in Nigeria’s history since 1960. Millions of jobs were lost. He was not done with us. In no year was he able to grow the economy by up to three per cent – the same as population growth rate. In 2020, Nigeria was in recession once again. The growth rate was -1.92 per cent. Cumulatively, the Nigerian economy has grown less than 0.5 per cent in six years under Buhari; population by almost 18 per cent.
The total repercussion of all these was revealed by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS. Now 23 million adult Nigerians are totally unemployed; and about 36 million are under-employed. Consequently, close to 100 million Nigerians now live below the poverty line. Serial failure cannot be better documented. So, who would want to follow that example?
PROMISES MADE AND UNKEPT
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep/but, I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep/Miles to go before I sleep” – Robert Frost, 1874-1963.
Frost was the Poet Laureate of the Kennedy administration and the poem above led off President Kennedy’s inaugural address in January 1960 making it clear that the Presidency in any country is all about promises to the people which no leader should make frivolously and fail to redeem. If I am asked to name one thing which characterises the Buhari administration more than most others, it will be rendered in two words – broken promises. Again, let me serve you a few dishes from my inexhaustible kitchen. You will soon see why the President’s promises count for very little.
In April 2017, the Federal Government launched an ambitious programme, promising things which could only have been dreamt up by fiction writers; not serious government officials. It was called the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP. By the time you finish reading some of the promises made to Nigerians, decide for yourself if you can spot the difference between that so-called Economic Plan and plain economic fantasy. Here we go.
“The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, which was launched in April 2017, is finally getting off the ground with the announcement of a huge price tag for it. “According to the Federal Government, FG, it will cost an amazing $245bn with the government providing 20 per cent or $49bn and the private sector $196bn over the next four years.
“It will constitute the boldest attempt to speed up economic growth and development in the nation’s history. FG also promised to create 15 million jobs…The ERGP promises Gross Domestic Product growth of 4 per cent to seven per cent by the end of the fourth year .”
In case you missed the point, there were at least five clear promises made by Buhari in that short paragraph. One, the FG will invest $49bn. Two, the private sector, who one would presume were consulted, would chip in $196bn. Three, resulting from the mega and unprecedented investments, 15 million jobs will be created. Four, Gross Domestic Product, GDP, which was -1.4 in 2016, will shoot up to 4 per cent in 2017 and climb to 7 per cent in 2020. Five, fifteen million Nigerians will be lifted from poverty.
Instead, what was the result? Neither the FG, controlled by Buhari, nor the private sector made the investments promised. Millions of jobs were lost. Consequently, by the end of 2020, the NBS announced 23 million Nigerians were totally unemployed and 36 million under-employed. Growth rates were 0.8 for 2017, 1.8 for 2018, 2.21 for 2019 and -1.92 for 2020 respectively. In no single year was over 3 per cent growth achieved. In 2018, Nigeria became the Poverty Capital of the World; and has added five million more poor each year since then.
Obviously, only a pathological liar can proclaim to be a follower of someone with this sort of dreadful record of promises unfulfilled. So, for me, scepticism is my armour against Buhari’s promises. The more grandiose the more they are unlikely to be redeemed. Believe them; you will believe anything.
WHEN HYPOCRISY IS PERSONAL AND GOVERNMENT POLICY
“Hypocrisy is the homage paid by vice to virtue” – Rochefoucauld, 1613-1680.
I was still writing this article on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, when my vendor brought the papers. There on the front pages of four of them was the same story. The title of one will serve as proxy for the rest. BUHARI LEAVES FOR LONDON MEDICAL HOLIDAY AS DOCTORS SET FOR STRIKE. It brought tears to my eyes. What Buhari had done amounted to a re-affirmation of the hypocrisy which had characterised his conduct in office.
To me, it was a personal blow. What attracted me to Buhari in 2010, apart from late Tony Momoh’s request that I should help with the outlines of an Economic Blueprint for Governance in case Buhari won the election in 2011, were his criticisms of government officials going abroad for medical care while the people suffer. The second was his attack on Presidents for maintaining a fleet of aircraft. I thought we had a leader who cared for the people. Buhari has, since becoming President, proved beyond reasonable doubt that he is a hypocrite. I wish him safe return from his medical jamboree; but never again will I respect him after this trip.
SEE WHO IS GIVING ADVICE TO NIGERIANS
“He that gives good advice builds with one hand. He that gives good counsel and example builds with both hands. He that gives good admonition and bad example builds with one hand and pulls down with the other” – Francis Bacon, 1561-1626, VBQ p 5.
If you add the twenty months he served as military Head of State to his nearly six years as elected President and look around, you will discover that Buhari has built next to nothing. All he has been doing amounts to completion of projects others started; and even demolition of what was work in progress the two times he took office. Late Governor Jakande planned a rail line for Mile 2 to Iddo to ease traffic on that axis in Lagos. Buhari ordered Lagos State Military Governor Mudashiru to cancel it. One needs very little intelligence to know that Lagos needs, not one but several, metro lines. But, our military leader stopped it and slowed down the growth of Nigeria’s economy.
So, when at the Arewa House lecture, Buhari urged Nigerians to “put Nigeria first”, one is forced to ask: “who is giving this advice?” It can’t possibly be the serial failure who does not have the guts to quit if he can’t do better. It can’t be the Fulani man who came into office and under who Fulani herdsmen became one of the five major terrorist groups worldwide.
It certainly cannot be the man who had “Northernised” the positions of Inspector General of Police, EFCC Chairman, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Comptroller General of Customs, DG DSS, Chief of Staff Presidency, National Security Adviser, DG NDLEA, Chairman INEC – but why go on? There is no single Christian among the list. The man’s ethnic, religious and exhibited personal bigotry has never been equalled and may never be surpassed by any other leader.
He has almost single-handedly destroyed the basis for the Nigerian unity he pretends to care about. He drew the line across the Niger and Benue Rivers in every way possible – especially appointments and the criminals he pursues.
I don’t know what others might think of your advice and the examples to which you lay claim. But, Mr President, as for me and my house, we reject them totally. We will never follow serial failures; people who make promises they don’t or can’t keep, exhibit bigotry and who are demonstrably hypocritical.
FROM MAIGADI TO MEGIDA (2)
Some readers of the article published two weeks ago want to know what followed the order issued to Alhaji by his former Maigadi-turned-kidnapper. The story was deliberately left hanging. What followed is unprintable. But, the Northern elite better wake up.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR MAIGADI/STAFF HAVE JOINED A GANG
From my discussion with the eye-witness, there are four tell-tale signs that your family might be in peril…