Of Anniversaries, Speeches and Hollow Rituals
By Hon. Azibola Omekwe
Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, commemorations, heroes’ day, remembrance days, etc. are rituals that dot man’s life since time immemorial. These are days which effect cannot be underestimated. They pep people up, fire the energies of people once more for a greater commitment to a cause and so forth. Can we over-emphasize the significance of the month of Ramadan to our Muslim brothers and sisters? Perhaps without Easter, there would be no Christianity. These periods are so important we all look forward to them. Let me to seize this opportunity to wish our Muslim brethren bountiful Allah’s blessings on the occasion of the Ramadan.
As a people and a country, we are awash with so many days that are important to us. We know of 1st October, 27th May being Children’s Day, and most recently for about two decades now the anniversary of our hard won democracy, May 29th. We hear speeches from our country’s presidents. This year’s own was taken by President Muhammadu Buhari. A flash back to history would remind us that there were Independence days that were low-key, like in the days of Babangida and Abacha. In those low-keyed days nobody would broadcast anything. It was understandable. They came to power through the gun and it was up to them to tell us anything. But this time around we voted for Buhari, therefore it behooves on him to address us as a people.
For the sake of scrutiny and alternate analysis, this year’s Democracy Day speech would be treated objectively for proper perspective. For once we know this Buhari-led government is worth the siren they blow around which is probably the main reason they collected power from PDP. At the instance, we are concerned with the president’s speech. Never heard anything so banal and boring — a primary school pupil composition. Let’s travel over it. For the sake of time and space, we shall only look at what could pass as its strong points.
On paragraph 2 of the speech, the president said his government is committed to a new era of justice and prosperity. That sounds like a policy thrust of Lee Kwan Yew, Mahatma Ghandi and Abraham Lincoln combined. Such sugar-coated justice and prosperity. Three years down the line, in the stead it has been flagrant disregard to court orders and rule of law. Need we mention cases? On prosperity, let us rather take a walk to the market.
On paragraph 3, he claimed Boko Haram has relinquished large swathes of land they held. No doubt, but bombings have continued unabated. Killer herdsmen have now widened the franchise of slaughtering Nigerians nationwide unlike Boko Haram who concentrated in the north east. Paragraph 4 continued to imbue on the defeat of Boko Haram and the rescue of those they held captive. In this case, the government is only celebrating itself. The government wants us to celebrate with her in spite of the remainder Chibok girls, Leah Sharibu, mass kidnappings of travelers across the country. With this gale of celebration, it means it has done so much and therefore Leah and co should fend for themselves. Poor us!
Paragraph 7 is turbid with so many things lumped together. ‘…kidnappings, herdsmen and farmers clashes…is being addressed and the identified culprits and their sponsors shall…face the full wrath of the law. All the tiers of government are presently engaged…to restore peaceful coexistence….’ We know herdsmen and farmers clashes are not being addressed. As at this address by President Buhari, Plateau State is recording these clashes after mass burials in Benue State not too long ago. The antidote the president gave on this matter was that the farmers should learn to live in peace with the killer herdsmen and the upbraiding of the farmers by the Minister of Defense who adduced that herders kill out of provocation. The IGP called it a communal clash. And the most recent suggestion by the Minister of Defense that anti-grazing laws be suspended. That was the much that was being done to settle the clashes to the best of our knowledge. When retired General T.Y. Danjuma complained of wanton killings in the country, the government was angry. As if they were partners in progress, the herdsmen knowing the government was angry with T.Y. Danjuma visited his hometown to oblige it.
At any rate we know the local government tier in Nigeria are not capable of doing anything and so they could not have contributed to peaceful coexistence. The states also are so weak they are on life support; bail out drugs and the security apparatus is not with them. None of them is capable of settling farmers-herders clash. The federal government who have the constitutional duty to prevent crisis in Nigeria is so burdensome that herders continue their killing spree unhindered. For once, we insist on the restructuring of the country and the attendant true federalism so that the farmers and the herdsmen can key into local but effective laws of their locality.
We again know the government does not intend to identify those sponsoring and benefitting from the insurgency. How did we know? Buhari once threatened to reveal the names of those behind the insurgency, meaning he knows them and would only go to the police at his pleasure and not for the sake of the country. When will the person we voted as president be roused to reveal the names of those sponsoring and benefitting from insurgency? We are hoping fervently to hear from our president.
In paragraph 11, he said ‘…Nigerians and the international community have begun to applaud….determination to fight corruption’. This government plays the ostrich too much. Transparency International in its last report applauded the last government as it states that corruption is deepening in Buhari’s government. Nigerians can tell it in another version: the country has never been so corrupt. As 2019 gets closer those for Buhari are free even if they stole the Central Bank but those against him like Gabriel Suswam, Ibrahim Shema, and Jonah Jang, among others are slammed with corruption charges. The senators who speak against Buhari are called to answer to criminal charges. EFCC is kept busy for anti-Buhari elements. Governors Nyesom Wike and Ayo Fayose are ignored in spite of inviting EFFC to help recover state resources from the campaign coordinator of Buhari and gubernatorial candidate of APC in Ekiti State respectively. Woe betide Fayemi if he were anti-Buhari! We shall never support acts of corruption from anti-Buhari elements. But the question is, should everyone do like the lily-livered others who have jumped to Buhari so that we don’t see need for EFCC again? Lucky them!
Nigerians are not suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. We don’t have memory loss or cognitive decline. Paragraph 12 is not original. TSA is not his policy. During Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s time, there was public outcry of hardship in the land. Some Nigerians accused the government then of impoverishing the country. Since TSA was going to stop government wastage, he felt he was going to bring it to full force at a convenient time. In truth, some agencies were already being used as a pilot scheme. Immediately Buhari came to power he proclaimed TSA into full force and did that which Goodluck refrained from doing for the sake of the masses. For example, the same TSA and the increase in fuel pump price. After his INEC victory, Buhari did almost all and promises to do more no matter how the masses are inflicted with pain. A typical case of surgery without anesthetics.
The initiative to remove ghost workers from government payroll has been a long time battle of several governments in the past. The main financial instrument to checkmate that, IPPIS, was initiated by Obasanjo and consolidated by Goodluck Jonathan. A grandest institutional wipe out of corruption that cannot be equaled, or even thought of by the President Buhari regime. Granted, Buhari came to continue the process because all governments want to cut cost of governance. At any rate, the present government has exceeded the ghost workers thing to appoint dead people into government boards and parastatals.
In paragraph 18, the PDP had a better result no doubt. The current president of African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, reached that position because of the international adulation on the Agricultural revolution of the then government. In fact, all the PDP regimes had had a huge success in Agriculture. This present government is doing less on a success that had already started. The farmers/herders clash is impacting negatively on Agriculture. The herdsmen are constantly releasing war songs and war dances across villages and farmlands; everybody is afraid to go to farm now. The surest index to show that Agriculture has taken a downturn is the hunger in the land. Now police treat cases of stolen mould of eba and okro soup as if we were struck by drought for a decade.
The whole of paragraph 20 talked about empowering poor Nigerians. Under this regime, Nigeria reached the ignominious infamy of having the highest population of the poor on planet earth! This is a government insisting they brought justice and prosperity. This empowerment item is primarily the mandate of National Directorate of Employment. So far successive administrations had grappled with trying to provide non-white collar jobs to Nigerians. It has always been a far cry from expectation. One of the latent expectations of Nigerians is that an APC government headed by President Buhari would empower them. It even promised some stipends to the very poor. They have failed in providing the needed push. Granted they provided ₦5,000.00 as something to people and also a 2-year quasi employment scheme called N-power. It is all political gimmicks. These very actions by the government is neither here nor there. It is like saying they invested heavily on education with our students more often at home due to strike by academic and non-academic staff. The empowerment program, N-power, and the ₦5,000.00 stipend is on but microscopic to be referred to.
Paragraphs 21-23 talked about power generation. The present modest achievement is as a result of the fruition of investments from the past governments. At any rate, right now, there is no ‘NEPA light’ in Nigeria. The present government during their campaign promised to provide adequate electricitywithin six months of coming to power. Apparently we are still in six months in the life of the administration, we think.
In paragraph 24, the president mentioned transportation, reforms, equipment, Bilateral Air Services, etc. This is big news. Bilateral Air Services with whom? What is it anyway? Good as it may be, the present government should be wary of big things like launching satellite in space to monitor wind speed in the environment. Let them come down to our level. Bilateral things! High sounding language. Does it bring down the cost of yams or restore peace in Benue, Zamfara, etc.?
In paragraph 25, he also talked about ‘…compliance policies,…routine international audit’. Big language like in paragraph 24.
Contrary to its claim in paragraph 26, this government has not achieved giant strides in transport infrastructure in all the geopolitical zones in the country. Period. Instead Rotimi Amaechi was quoted to have given accolades to the Jonathan government in its achievements especially in the rail sector. In paragraph 32, the president said, ‘it is pertinent to also make mention of the immeasurable contributions of the Nigerian woman to national development and advancement of democracy, over the last three years. The government and people appreciate you all as mothers of our great country’.
Nigerian women are the fulcrum of the country no doubt. However, this government has no program appreciating the women. With the high cost of foodstuffs and near collapse of the health sector, women and children bear the brunt the most. Palpable insecurity soon makes wives widowed and children orphaned. Go find out the population in our IDP camps. It is an abode for the helpless women and children. It tells a grandeur story how much this government appreciates women. Who wrote this speech for Mr. President?
In paragraph 34, ‘…hitch free elections…’. That sounds like a promise for peaceful elections. We are aware of the ‘peaceful’ APC congress elections nationwide. It was so peaceful that a lot of people lost their lives, parallel congresses everywhere, spate of resignations, Imo state being a comedy of errors, court actions and the dry bones of nPDP coming back to life. Nemo dat quo, nemo dat habet. Nigerians be watchful. 2019 election might go the way of APC congresses. What you don’t have, you cannot give.
The ‘Not too young to run bill’ mentioned in paragraph 35 is not an executive bill of the government. It is the idea of the former government that was excised from its constitutional conference document. It was dusted by the National Assembly and signed by Buhari into law. The present government is notorious in appointing octogenarians into its organs. They signed what they don’t believe in.
What a speech! As earlier said, Nemo dat quo, nemo dat habet.
Hon. Omekwe is a former member of Bayelsa State House of Assembly and writes from Abuja.