how to run a government

By Dele Sobowale

This administration has done extremely well. I had to say it because those who are supposed to say it are not doing so. I don’t know why” – President Muhammadu Buhari, September 13, 2022 in Owerri.

I dey laugh o! Buhari, in three sentences, has shown the entire world the ugly face of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Before going into deeper discussion of the implications of Buhari’s outrageous claim, permit me to make a quick diversion.

“All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies” – Dr J Arbuthnot, 1667-1735, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS p 191.

A former Minister of Transportation, in a rare moment of candour, revealed to us that Buhari does not read. He was called to order the day his rhetorical question, “does he [Buhari] read?” was published. He disclaimed it very quickly. But when bandits attacked the Abuja-Kaduna train and herded 96 people into bondage, Amaechi was forced to announce to the whole world that he had long proposed a N3 billion security network to avert such a disaster – which the President did not read.

Yet, Amaechi was/is not alone. At least five people who have held positions requiring them to send reports, memos, etc to Buhari have confirmed to me that he does not read. He prefers verbal briefings. And they better be what he would like to hear. It does not take long for anybody working with Buhari that he abhors bad news.

Apparently, he does not read Nigerian newspapers and magazines also. Being private-sector owned, most media houses are jealous of their reputations. They are aware that publishing falsehood all the time is the surest way to the graveyard. So, they join the electronic media in bringing all the catastrophes to the public. Buhari is shielded from most of them. Unlike modern Presidents who read papers directly and obtain feedback on their governance, Buhari has little time for this.

Only the few good and the absolutely disastrous, that cannot be hidden, are brought to his attention; and even then the report must pin the blame on somebody or his predecessors or unnamed saboteurs. Whatever goes wrong is somebody else’s fault. Buhari government, in his jaundiced view, is perfect.

To shield himself from unwanted bad news, it is possible that the television sets in his office, bedroom and other places he uses frequently are tuned permanently to NTA.

Who does not know that when exchange rate rockets from N199/US$1 in 2015 to N700/US$1 in 2022, out-of-school children jumps from under six million to nearly 20 million; inflation rate goes from under 10 per cent to over 20 per cent; when now it takes eight hours to travel from Lagos to Ibadan; when you inherited 28 oil rigs and only 10 are now pumping; when crude export was 1.8 mbpd in 2015 and is now 1.1 mbpd and 40 per cent is stolen, when hoodlums kidnap, kill and extort 3,000 people a month and when your government has added more debt burden in seven years than all the governments since 1960, with little to show for it, only an extra-ordinary set of people can go out and tell Nigerians that government has done extremely well.

If Buhari wants to know the truth, the people he is blaming for his failure are already thinking of life outside Aso Rock – when they will have no police escorts; when they will meet Nigerians who will be too eager to tell them off for not painting the true picture of the Nigerian situation.

And they deserve the open tongue lashing; they also deserve the open exhibition of ingratitude. To save himself from well-merited outrage by Nigerians, Buhari has thrown them under the bus. Henceforth, they must invent a better strategy to tell Nigerians that their boss is working or be forever damned for failing their oga. I dey laugh o!

From the incumbent to the aspirant

“Some great misfortune to portend; no enemy can match a friend” – Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745, VBQ p 161.

Oscar Wilde, 1856-1900, has advised that “a man cannot be too careful in his choice of enemies”. I agree; but, I think a man should be more careful in his choice of friends. This is particularly true of political friends and close associates. Nobody can, or should, be a close associate of a presidential candidate than the vice presidential candidate. Of the four leading political parties – APC, LP, NNPP and PDP – one candidate appears to have selected a running mate who might eventually run him down.

First, no sooner was he confirmed as the running mate than he gave himself assignments in case they won the election. He is going to be the war commander. Don’t ask me what the President will then do. It appears that the man does not realise that he will be reading newspapers and watching television, attending to those visitors his boss regards as nuisance but cannot tell them to get lost. He has the wrong idea of his role in the Rock – if they win.

Meanwhile, some of his latest utterances are destined to turn voters against him and his boss; if he continues making them. His address to members of the Yoruba Tennis Club (YTC), Lagos, a few weeks ago, demonstrates clearly that the fellow is totally ignorant of recent Nigerian history. He also lacks good advisers and researchers – as well as speech writers. Few people my age or a bit younger, members of the YTC, and other Yoruba people would call Abacha “hospitable”.

Quite the contrary; he (Abacha) was murderous, kleptomaniac, deceitful and he was only divinely removed in order that Nigerians can now have a chance to vote for the leaders we want. If the VP candidate’s boss had not gone into exile, he probably would not be alive today to run for office. Even abroad, I can testify that death squads were sent after him and other pro-democracy activists by Abacha. Certainly, given all the reports about the billions of dollars returned as part of Abacha loot, only a disingenious person can call such a super-thief “hospitable”. If that is hospitality in Borno State, I am certain most Nigerians reject it and people with that characteristic.

LAST LINE: A sign on the walls of a restaurant in Boston, USA read: “The world will be a safer place; if on every dangerous mouth a padlock is placed.”

I absolutely agree.

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