By Dele Sobowale
“Buhari to citizens: Don’t vote politicians who will drag Nigeria back to “Dark Ages'” – VANGUARD, Friday, January 27, 2023, p 9.
I was slightly depressed on account of the Nigerian situation. Work was at a standstill; new currency notes were hard to find. My niece’s wedding was coming up the next day; and no cash to spend during the ceremony. I needed a lift. After all, I learnt long ago, from Walpole, 1717-1797, that “This world is a comedy to those who think; a tragedy for those who feel.” Ordinarily, I should be among the last people to be surprised by the level of backwardness to which we descended as a nation since 2015. Yet, I never cease to be worried, not only at how far we have receded into barbarism, but, because of the nagging feeling that we have not reached the bottom yet. Buhari has set us back in seven years and eight months; he can still do a lot of damage in the four months left for him to go.
Then I saw the report by Elizabeth Osayande; and it was obvious that we are witnesses to one of the greatest comedy shows on Earth today. The stand-up entertainer was quoted to have stated that: “It is by integrity, respect for the rule of law, due process and genuine patriotism that we will make Nigeria the nation of our dreams.” I read the story three times to be sure that it was Buhari talking. What could be responsible for this? Was this what one of my sages calls “wisdom on the eighth day of the week”? Has Buhari got wiser? Maybe. But, a more plausible reason is indicated. Buhari has not changed. He remains true to himself and untrue to us. His way of joking has always been to utter truths to which he does not subscribe. Let us look at that statement and interrogate some of it.
“Integrity is a hundred per cent thing”; that is according to a former President of an American university. I totally agree. The acid test of integrity is acting according to your pronouncements. Permit me for repeating the facts that follow. But, Buhari will not stop talking about virtues he has demonstrably renounced several times by his conduct. He is a hypocrite; and hypocrisy and integrity are two parallel lines which will never meet.
One, he promised to disclose his assets – if elected. He was elected in 2015 and he promptly broke that promise. Two, he declared several times during his campaigns that fuel subsidy was a fraud. He has paid more for fuel subsidy than any President; and has even borrowed to fund the fraud. Can a man with honour fund fraud? Three, he swore on oath to uphold the rule of law. He has bluntly refused to release IPoB leader Kanu after the young man was acquitted of trumped-up charges by his government. No integrity on display here.
“The [President] himself ought not to be subject to man, but subject to God and the law; because the law makes him [President].” (Bractor, VBQ; amended).
Buhari’s breach of respect for the rule of law and due process and genuine patriotism easily indicate that he has so far failed to demonstrate any of those attributes. His government, in collusion with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has now almost brought the nation to a halt on account of serial violations of laws governing operation of Ways and Means, W&M, instrument for public finance. To top it all, his lawless FG sent a proposal for the repayment of the N22.7 trillion W&M debt through a scheme unknown to law. Where is the respect for the rule of law, due process or, for that matter, genuine patriotism?
A President who tramples on the law and encourages others to do same easily brings to mind the quip by Dr Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784, VBQ p 182: “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Hitler, until he pulled the trigger to commit suicide, also considered himself patriotic. Buhari’s statement was however revealing in one way. It tells us where we are now with regard to contemporary and comparative history. Read a few:
Education signposts a nation’s distance from the Dark Ages. With about 20 million kids out of school; and millions more who never attended school, Nigeria is now home to more illiterates than the world had during the Dark Ages. In 1960s, there was never a time power failure was total for three days in a row. In 2015, the average daily power supply was 3600MW. Nigeria has added at least 25.6 million more people; and the average daily power supply is still about 3600MW. Per capita power supply is less than in 2015; far less than in 1960. Certainly, we are edging closer to the Dark Ages under Buhari; but, he is the last person to realise it. Leadership combines intelligence with integrity and physical and moral courage. Nations return to dust when their leaders are badly educated and inept – depending on absolute falsehood and propaganda as communication tools of their governments.
These are all the weapons Buhari has deployed in the last year of his misrule of Nigeria. Despite the overwhelming evidence at our disposal, he continues to claim that his government has lifted millions out of poverty, made road transportation easier and provided better security. He has never openly acknowledged borrowing N22.7 trillion under Ways and Means in contravention of the law because that will contradict his posture of a leader who respects the rule of law. And, he ignores the fact that Nigerians are poorer now than we were in the 1980s. In my readings in history, the Dark Ages were characterised by leaders discouraging learning and knowledge acquisition. This administration abhors knowledge and truth. Our recession to the Dark Ages is now sure.
Buhari should have the courage to read comments in newspapers and listen to television commentaries next October 1 when he would have left office. He will be shocked by how few his defenders will be. Even Lai Mohammed and his Senior Special Advisers will desert him as unpleasant truths unfold about how badly he has performed as President; how he took us back to nature.
WHAT MORE DOES AKPABIO WANT IN PUBLIC SERVICE?
“You’ve had your share of mirth, of meat and drink. Tis time to quit the scene; tis time to think” – Elphinstone, 1779-1859
Elphinstone, Scottish historian, must have detested sit-tight public figures as much as I do. He wrote the short sentence quoted above in an essay which summarised the lengthy public service of a British colonial officer in Afghanistan – who refused to retire from public service. I kept the statement for an occasion and person such as this – for those who refuse to leave public service.
Senator Godswill Akpabio was an obscure lawyer in 1999 when some people brought him to Governor-elect Victor Attah, begging on hands and knees that he be given any appointment. Attah made him Commissioner; and he served for eight years. Leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, then decided that with Ibibios constituting 67 per cent of Akwa Ibom State, they would continue to produce the governor – unless some rotation arrangement was introduced to allow the Anangs and Orons to govern. Anangs were given the first shot at it; and Godswill Akpabio was the lucky fellow. So, he became governor for eight years. It will require a whole book to recount what he did to the Ibibios. By the time he finished, Ibibios have repealed the rotation agreement for ever.
As incumbent governor, and leader of the PDP in the state, he had no difficulty getting nominated as candidate for the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District; which he won by overwhelming majority. He served four years as Senator from 2015 to 2019. In 2019, he defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC; ran for re-election as Senator and was defeated by a landslide.
Fortunately for Akpabio, President Buhari was re-elected. Akpabio was appointed Minister; until he voluntarily resigned to contest for the presidency in 2022. He lost to Emilokan; returned to Akwa Ibom State, AKS, and snatched the ticket from the APC candidate for Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. Akpabio will be thrashed again. In fact, if there is one good reason why he will/should lose, it is the need to stop the sit-tight syndrome.
If a fellow has been in public office since 1999 – Commissioner, Governor, Senator – and is still selfish enough to want more, the people should have sense to say “ENOUGH”. Is public office private property?
The recent visit of Asiwaju Tinubu to AKS, during which he called Governor Udom Emmanuel, “Boy”, not only epitomises what is wrong with the current campaign; it guaranteed Akpabio’s defeat. Nothing can save him now.
LAST LINE: It is for the same reason that I am happy that Senate President, Lawan, will not be returning this year. The man has been there since 1999. Time to go. I also hope this is the last term for Femi Gbajabiamila; who has been there since 1999 – with little in Lagos to show for it. Selflessness says “tis time to quit.”
HELP SUNDAY THIS SUNDAY – 2
“You can easily judge the character of a man [or woman] by how he treats those who can do nothing for him [or her]” – Johann Goethe, 1749-1832.
Sunday can do little or nothing for you – unless you are in Lagos Island and need a Keke ride. He is crippled; but he is not a beggar. He works and he just won four medals at the Delta Games in his first attempt. His coach, also crippled, thinks he can win medals for Nigeria. He needs a leg up from you and me. As an economist, I know the hardships people experience. But, I also know that you can spare N1, 000 for Sunday. That is all; N1, 000. Please get in touch. God will reward you accordingly.
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.