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Nigeria @ 57: Teething Problems, Clutching Straws and Deceiving Self

‘The most significant appeal of President Buhari’s candidacy in 2015 was the national consensus then that he would be principled, decisive, firm and precise on matters of public morality. Sadly, his failure to act promptly and decisively at critical moments when the public expected clarity has dulled his original appeal and cast doubts on his sincerity. In the process, the dividing line between right and wrong in our nation has further blurred. Therefore, the burden for the president at this most critical period is twofold: first to salvage the credibility of his wobbly administration and, most importantly, to restore public confidence in his personal integrity as a genuine national leader and moral beacon.’
- Segun Adeniyi (ThisDay 28th September 2017).

As the nation ushers in the routine pomp and pageantry that accompanies her Independence Day anniversary, the mood is dampen by a collective frustration and national disappointment. I had culled the above from Segun’s article on the backpage of ThisDay newspaper to aptly capture the country’s mood today. The jury is still out on the final say of this administration’s first term but a consensus has been reached on a few things. President Buhari has lived short of the massive expectation that attended his triumphant entry in 2015. Even his biggest apologist cannot deny the fact that we could have been further ahead with over two years on. As Simon Kolawole puts it ‘Nigeria is 57, going by the year of independence, and the consensus in every corner is that we can be, and should have been, better than this.’

Perhaps, one of the most fundamental problem with Nigeria is the dishonesty posture we take, even to ourselves. We lie to ourselves about how far we have come. We find solace for our incompetence and make comparisons that makes us ‘look good’ in the grand scheme of things. A few contexts will suffice. With over two years down the line, the Power sector has been a failure. Certainly, there are plausible explanations to validate the excuse; but they will remain mere explanations. From the volatility in the creeks that have forced epileptic gas production, to the unavailability of proper gas turbines, to the nightmare that is the transmission companies, the progress has been at a snail’s pace. The campaign promise to deliver 20,000 megawatts of electricity was not hinged on favourable conditions. It was the job of this administration to ensure the conditions are right not heave a sigh and throw their hands in despondency as if to say ‘it is not our fault o’. Word on the street is that this is the worse we have ever had it with Power.
At the crux of President Buhari’s agenda, was the fight against corruption. In the eyes of many, he was the ‘poster boy’ of this fight; a man whose greatest asset was his integrity, both perceived and real. However, for all the razzmatazz that have greeted the anti-corruption drive, there is a genuine feeling that it has largely been a façade. Monies have been recovered but that is just about it. The anti-corruption war is not won on the pages of newspapers or at the head office of EFCC. The war has been fought haphazardly and largely uncoordinated. While the media trials have been successful, there has been no notable court conviction made since the inception of this agenda. It gives a sense that we are playing to the gallery on this one. Speak of the ills of corruption all you like, but if you don’t close the loopholes, strengthen the controls and follow through on court convictions, then you are a glorified nimrod full of sound and fury only. The establishment of dedicated corruption courts is coming over two years late. Suffice it to say, the anti-corruption fight will also remain lopsided if it continues to be selective. This government have missed opportunities to make a statement about a holistic approach to this war. A case in point is what has become of the report of the Osinbanjo led panel to investigate corruption claims against the suspended Secretary to the Government, Babachir Lawal. The report has since been submitted but the silence has been deafening in this regard.

No nation makes progress without choosing to go the path less travelled and take the tough decisions. Divorcing the Nigerian marriage might be a pandora’s box many are unwilling to open but it is a no-brainer that restructuring, realigning and renegotiating the terms of this marriage is the way to go. It is great to quell insurrections whenever they arise, but to always do this without unearthing the reasons for the insurrections is to specialize in ‘self deceit.’

It is a barely two years until Nigerians return to the polls, and while there is hardly an opposition party worthy of the name, the feeling towards this government is largely one of derision. For President Buhari, it is an opportunity lost. All the goodwill post the 2015 elections have now been spent and it is his government that is in red and must repay the national mandate. Yet, it is not yet gloom and doom. This administration has gotten a few pass marks but they are in very insignificant subjects. It is like scoring A1 in Yoruba language, Food and nutrition and Music, while you have F9 in Mathematics, English, Chemistry and Physics. If the last few days of this administration must surely count, then they must return back to basics. Fixing Nigeria is not in big promises but in the little things. It is the fundamental things that this government must tackle. Fix the roads, get Power right, promote equity in political decisions/appointments, follow through on corruption cases, create enabling environment for businesses to thrive and revive the bloody economy. This is the ‘what’, we pay them a fortune to figure out the ‘how’. Fixing Nigeria is not rocket science!


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