By Owei Lakemfa
NIGERIAN Presidential spokespersons behave like people who stumble out of a bar, spew things at the public, and return to their seats to continue their favourite pastime.
The country is in the grip of serious security crises with some 800 students abducted from five locations within four months, bandits laying siege on many states in the North West and Middle Belt, the Boko Haram terrorising the North East, staff residences being attacked at international airports and our highways and forests infested by bandits. Various parts of the country are restive with some demanding for a redrawing of our geographical map.
The insecurity is so bad that like in ancient times, people are beginning to think of securing themselves, their families, neigbourhood and towns with their private armies. This is what happened in Somalia. In the midst of all these, including grieving parents demanding the release of their abducted children, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, on Thursday made an appearance on television bragging that: “Nobody can bring down the government because this is a government elected democratically.”
Then he lectured Nigerians that: “Government in a democracy come through periodic elections and if we have a government in office as we have, sponsored by political parties to win the elections, it is telling you that that confidence of the public is still there.” How wrong and self-conceited he is. First, democracy is not necessarily about periodic elections; it is more about good governance in accordance with the Constitution, the will of the people and the wellbeing of the country.
In other words, just as the hood does not make a monk, elections, including the fatally flawed ones in Nigeria, do not make a democracy. In any case, even if a government were voted, does it give it the licence to misrule? Do elections dictate that a government be clueless and irrational? Do these President Buhari spokespersons read? Do they know basic history? Do they think Adolf Hitler overthrew a democratically elected government like President Buhari did when he was a general?
No! Adolf Hitler won democratic elections, but that did not stop him from bringing his country to ruins and dragging the world into a second, more ruinous World War in which 70-85 million people were killed. Let us assume without conceding that this government was democratically re-elected in 2019, does that give it the right to ride roughshod over the populace when the Constitution specifically states that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria? The Buhari government is like a candidate in an examination with two parts each carrying 50 marks.
It performs woefully in one part and does not even attempt the second part, yet yells around that its performance is outstanding. Chapter Two of the Constitution directs that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose and responsibility of government”. On the issue of welfare, the Buhari government has performed woefully, while it is virtually absent on security. But having marked its own script in disregard of the examination body, the government pays its propagandists to shout about claiming a perfect score.
Contrary to Garba Shehu’s verbiage, the issue is not whether nobody can bring down the Buhari government or if anybody is even interested in doing so; the fact is that the government is already down, but not out. It is merely wobbling and fumbling to the 2023 finish line when it would become part of a painful history; a nightmare which Nigerians wake up from and need to quickly forget.
The worry of patriots who see Nigeria as a great African promise is not whether the Buhari government is down or not, but that it should not drag the country down with it. The same day, Shehu was revelling that the Buhari Government still has… “two more years to go to election…” implying that the party goes on, the media reported that some soldiers at the warfront with the Boko Haram terrorists were again protesting on the streets of Maiduguri, shooting sporadically into the air.
Their grouse remain the same: nonpayment of their allowances, lack of adequate arms and poor equipment which turn them into cannon fodder. This is not surprising. On Friday, March 14, 2021, the National Security Adviser, Major General Mohammed Babagana Monguno (retd) let it slip that billions of naira meant for the procurement of arms and ammunition under the past service chiefs were unaccounted for.
The NSA who is supposed to coordinate the security architecture of the country said: “It is not that we are not working to end the security challenge in the country. The President has done his own part and allocated huge amount of money to purchase weapons but they are yet to be here. We don’t know where they are.
“I am not saying that the past service chiefs have diverted the money, but presently we don’t know where the money is…I am sure the President will investigate this. As I am talking to you now, even the Nigerian Governors’ Forum has started questioning where the money is…I can’t say the money was stolen but we didn’t see anything and even the new service chiefs said they didn’t see the weapons. It is possible the weapons are on their way coming.
Maybe from America, England and other places but as at now, I didn’t see anything and the service chiefs too didn’t see any weapons too.” When public responses followed with calls for the investigation or trial of the ex-service chiefs, and unfavourable reactions coming from his clan, Monguno tried to beat a retreat. His office issued a statement claiming he was misquoted.
In claiming to situate Monguno’s statement within the correct context, the statement said: “In the interview, the National Security Adviser clearly informed the BBC reporter that Mr. President has provided enormous resources for arms procurement, but the orders were either inadequate or yet to be delivered and that did not imply that the funds were misappropriated under the former Service Chiefs.”
This is semantics. In any case, if the NSA and the new service chiefs have no clue on the arms purchase and have not seen them, how did his office conclude that the arms could be “inadequate”? Nigerians are living through the Buhari nightmare complete with unprecedented inflation, continuously higher prices for basic goods and services ranging from food to electricity and petroleum products, mass unemployment and out of school children made worse by the mass abduction of school children. No, this government need not worry about anybody bringing it down; nobody needs to kill the monkey, it is the monkey by its antics that will kill itself.