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February 29, 2024

Shettima goofs: No forces want to pull down Nigeria! By Olu Fasan

China has contributed to Nigeria's advancement — VP Shettima

VP Shettima

AHEAD of last year’s general elections, I wrote a piece titled “2023: Shettima unfit to be Nigeria’s vice-president” (Vanguard, September 22, 2022). I argued that despite his education and seeming bibliophilism, Kashim Shettima suffers from negative parrhesia, expressing indecorous views freely without aforethought.

I wrote: “With Shettima’s inherent tetchiness and truculence, he would be gratuitously provocative. And with his uncouthness and indiscretion, he would be utterly divisive and toxifying.” Well, since he became vice-president, Shettima has done enough, with several infuriating comments, to validate my opinion of him. 

Last week, Shettima accused opposition politicians of attempting to pull down Nigeria. Speaking at a conference in Abuja, he said: “Forces are hell-bent on plunging this country into a state of anarchy, those that could not get into power through the ballot box. Instead of waiting for 2027, they are so desperate; this country can fall apart as far as they are concerned.” What an utterly provocative comment!

Earlier, in January, Shettima directed his diatribe at Nigerians on social media. At a function in Abuja, he said: “Yesterday, when the naira culminated to N1,500 to the dollar, instead of us to coagulate into a single force and salvage our nation’s economy, sadly, some clowns are celebrating on Twitter of an impending implosion of the Nigerian economy.” It was all contrived moral outrage, of course, but Shettima could not resist being verbally abusive, calling Nigerians “clowns”.

Allow me to quote again from the article I wrote in September 2022. “All this matters because, truth be told, if Tinubu wins next year, Nigeria would be more turbulent and divided than it has been under President Buhari. In such circumstances, a belligerent vice-president with a tendency for tetchiness would exacerbate the situation. Nigeria is inherently volatile and prone to crisis. It needs a calm and thoughtful vice-president who can help douse tension, not one that will inflame it through reckless and provocative comments.” I concluded by saying: “Shettima simply doesn’t fit the bill!”

Now, lest we forget. Here was the Shettima who wore sneakers to the annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association and bragged that he did so “deliberately” to “mock” his detractors – a behaviour that was hardly vice-presidential. Here was the Shettima who said in a viral video: “Restructuring my foot”, dismissing such a defining national issue in such an uncouth language. As I predicted, Bola Tinubu’s government will be the most unpopular and most beleaguered civilian administration in Nigerian history; a rude vice president who puts his foot in his mouth each time he speaks is tantamount to pouring fuel on fire.

One of the striking things about the Tinubu government is its utter arrogance. What Tinubu had in last year’s presidential election was a technical “win”, not a popular mandate. There was no single geopolitical zone where Tinubu had an overwhelming victory. Indeed, overall, he was rejected by 63 per cent of the electorate, and only won, thanks to a constitutional technicality, with just 37 per cent of the vote.

Such a minority government, with such a weak mandate, can only gain legitimacy by delivering prompt and tangible benefits for the people and by governing with humility, building cross-party, cross-national consensus for change. But Tinubu is ruling Nigeria as if he won a landslide victory, and his government has failed, nearly one year in power, to improve, even marginally, people’s lives and wellbeing.

During the presidential election campaign, Shettima said that if Tinubu won, he (Shettima) would be “in charge of” security, while Tinubu would be “in charge of” the economy. How well has that division of labour gone? The economy has gone into a tailspin as the naira’s value collapses to nearly N2000 to a dollar and inflation hits 30 per cent. Insecurity is claiming hundreds of Nigerian lives daily. According to the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, over 5,000 Nigerians have been killed since Tinubu assumed office. So, be it on the economy or on national security, the Tinubu-Shettima administration has, so far, failed, and blaming others for the failure insults the intelligence of Nigerians.

Unfortunately, the Yoruba tribalists, who harangued President Buhari for eight years, want to exculpate Tinubu, a fellow Yoruba, blaming Buhari for the current policy failures. But leaving aside the fact that Tinubu self-interestedly foisted Buhari on Nigeria and used him as a springboard to the presidency, didn’t he tell Nigerians that he “transformed” Lagos state’s economy “from zero”, and would do the same for Nigeria? Didn’t he say that becoming president was his “lifelong ambition”, subsequently staking an entitlement claim: “Emi lokan” – it’s my turn? Now that he is president, why is he making policies on the hoof without proper consultation, adequate preparation and real thoughtfulness? And why is his government blaming imaginary “saboteurs”, recklessly accusing opposition politicians of being “hell-bent on plunging this country into a state of anarchy.” Who are they?

Sadly, Nigerian politicians, aided by the media, get away with crass hypocrisy. For instance, when Shettima said that instead of pointing out his government’s failures, people should “coagulate into a single force and salvage our nation’s economy”, why was he not probed on how he and his boss behaved when they were in opposition? When President Goodluck Jonathan tried to remove the fuel subsidy in 2012, why did Tinubu’s then party, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, sponsor ‘Occupy Nigeria’ protests nationally against it? Why did Tinubu himself write a stinging article titled “Removal of Oil Subsidy: President Jonathan Breaks Social Contract with the People” strongly condemning the proposal? Recently, Dr Kayode Fayemi, a former governor of Ekiti State, said: “We in ACN at the time, in 2012, we know the truth, it’s all politics.” Why did they not “coagulate” to salvage the economy?

Take another hypocrisy. Tinubu recently ordered mandatory recitation of the national pledge after the national anthem at public events “to strengthen allegiance and fidelity to country.” But the same Tinubu, frustrated by General Sani Abacha’s tyranny, told ThisDay newspaper in 1997: “I Don’t Believe in One Nigeria.” If Abacha could push Tinubu to disavow Nigeria’s oneness, what moral justification does his government have to brand Nigerians “clowns” or unpatriotic for venting their frustrations on Twitter or elsewhere about how Nigeria is run? 

Yet, let’s be clear: no forces want to pull Nigeria down. To adapt a Shakespearean saying, the fault, dear Tinubu/Shettima, is not in anyone else but in your government! 

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