Fellow Nigerians, I often wonder why an average Nigerian politician is so squeamish. They love and crave power but eventually prove too timid to do the needful. The comfort power provides seems to be what matters most to them, but, certainly not the pain it may attract. God bless all those who fought for the democracy we seem to be bastardising today. It is difficult to pick out the Obafemi Awolowos, the Sir Adesoji Aderemis, the Nnamdi Azikiwes, the Anthony Enahoros, the Funmilayo Ransome-Kutis, the Wole Soyinkas, the Aminu Kanos, Abubakar Rimis, the Alfred Rewanes, the Waziri Ibrahims, the Fela Anikulapo-Kutis, Gani Fawehinmis, the Moshood Abiolas, the Kudirat Abiolas, the Abraham Adesanyas, the Alani Akinrinades, the Bola Tinubus, the Bolaji Akinyemis, and such others in the crowd today. These were men and women who were not afraid of tyrants and tyranny.
The reason for the poser on this page this week is simple and straight-forward. I never imagined that a day would come, at this time and age, when supposed democrats would voluntarily throw away their freedom, like many of our leaders seem to be doing at the moment. Less than two years to the next Presidential elections, only three aspirants have demonstrated the guts to come out in the open to express their ambition publicly, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Ekiti State Governor, Dr Peter Ayodele Fayose and former Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido. The fourth person who has expressed his intention privately to me is my friend and brother, Mr Alistair Soyode, the Chairman of BEN Television, United Kingdom.
I really don’t care if they win or not but I salute their audacity to challenge the status quo. You can never, and will never, win if you don’t try first. There would have been no President Barack Obama or President Donald Trump if they failed to throw their hats in the ring. I know so many over-qualified Nigerians who want to contest but are being bogged down by trepidation or abject fear. They only express their dreams in hushed tones. I call them jelly, lily-livered beings. I feel sad anytime I read in the newspapers about full-grown men abdicating their God-given inalienable power to demi-gods with feet of clay.
Let me say categorically that Nigeria will never change unless we change our style of doing things. How can we do the same things repeatedly and expect the same failures to evaporate and vamoose? I’m now convinced that we need our whizz-kids to step out and leap forward to grab power as soon as possible. No one would say we have not been patient enough. Our serial experiments have not yielded the desired results. We had our fair share of coups. We fought a most atrocious civil war. However, despite all this and when given the opportunity, we choose to largely vote for the dregs of society above visibly talented candidates. We have recycled leaders. Former Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo departed in 1979 but resurrected in 1999. Now Major General Muhammadu Buhari who was sacked in 1985 catapulted himself back to power in 2015. Even President Ibrahim Babangida who stepped aside in 1993 attempted to sneak back in 2003 but President Obasanjo bullied him into submission and he perished the thought without as much as a whimper.
Recall, that the man who took over from President Obasanjo in 2007, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who was already the Governor of Katsina State, was the brother of Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, and his emergence was to ostensibly compensate their family for the death of Shehu in prison, under the Abacha regime. In short, it has been a relay race by military Generals and their acolytes and cronies. I’m happy that Buhari has fulfilled his own dream. I voluntarily supported him and owe him my love and prayers till 2019 when that contract would expire. I pray that God will grant him the wisdom to understand and appreciate the treacherous nature of politics and politicians. I see how Governors are falling over themselves to visit him and pay homage to HE who must be obeyed and worshipped. I wish to admonish Baba not to believe this monumental scam of the highest order.
If and when tomorrow comes, Baba will be stunned at how these same latter day disciples will turn against him 360 degrees. I can place a bet on that. Everyone is afraid today because of the palpable fear of EFCC. No more. No politician wants to be roughened up for any reason. Their strategy is to pretend like rattlesnakes and pounce on the prey without warning. I foresee Buhari as one such quintessential prey. These guys are not going to extend this regime of fear by another four years. Buhari would have to go on a blistering offensive to come back to power in 2019. I’m sure, he’s going to be cajoled into believing that he’s the Messiah Nigerians have waited for all this while, until they pull the rug from under his feet.
I remember one of Chief Moshood Abiola’s favourite wisecracks “aponle ni ‘foreman’, enikan o le se ise eeyan merin” (the appellation of Foreman is a mere exaggeration, no man can do the job of four men). There is a limit to what Buhari can achieve in less than two years to come because time flies at supersonic speed. By this time next year, he must be on the campaign trail if indeed he wants to return to power in 2019 and his Party has nominated him as candidate. Since politics is a game of numbers, he would have to travel round Nigeria and plead for votes. You can force people to support your tenure in power but you can’t intimidate people to vote for you because you will never see the minds of voters. According to a popular political song in the First Republic, “boo roju mi, o rinu mi, demo ni mo wa…” (You may be able to see my face but you can’t read my mind, I’m a member of Demo (National Democratic Party) …]. Such is life.
The truth I want to tell today, as a major supporter of Buhari in 2015, is that his goodwill has weakened and waned drastically and dramatically. Minus the favoured members of the inner caucus of this government, things are no longer at ease within the ruling party. Is there anything Baba can do to redeem himself, his party and floundering government? Of course yes, I believe in miracles. He must listen to the cries of the people. He should concentrate on building institutions instead of pursuing handpicked individuals. He should unleash the talents that abound in every part of Nigeria instead of seeking to please any section. It is always better to be a national hero than a local champion. Nigeria is too divided at the moment and this is not good for national development. I still have faith in Baba’s ability to do the best for this country. It is clear to me that this is the legacy that he wants to leave behind albeit that this has not yet been achieved.
The government must be restructured before Nigeria itself can be restructured. The recent mess in NNPC was as a result of excessive and unnecessary officialdom and bureaucracy. The President need not be the Minister of Petroleum. The functions of the Minister of State in relation to the Board of NNPC should be clearly delineated if at all there is any role for him. Such ridiculous overlaps we recently saw should never have happened. We should stop over-concentrating power in one man. It has been said that “absolute power corrupts absolutely…”
Ministers must be allowed to do their constitutional duty, in accordance with the provisions of section 148 of the 1999 Constitution, of meeting regularly with the President and the Vice President to (i) determine the general direction of domestic and foreign policies of the Government (ii) co-ordinate their respective activities in the discharge of their executive responsibilities and (iii) advise the President generally in discharge of his executive functions other than those functions where he must be advised by other persons. The revelations coming from the NNPC debacle where we now know that it is possible for a Minister of State of a crucial ministry such as the Petroleum Resources not to see the President for months on end should never be allowed to happen. Regular meetings with Ministers and the Vice President as envisaged by section 148 is not, cannot and should not be limited to the weekly Federal Executive Council meetings. The regular meetings should also include meetings with groups of Ministers and even individual Ministers. That is surely the intendment of the Constitution. As it is with the Federal Government, so it should be with the State Governments, as similar provision for the States exists in section 193 of the 1999 Constitution. The corollary of this is that both at Federal and State level Ministers and Commissioners must be appointed as early as possible into the administration. The situation where President Buhari did not nominate and appoint Ministers until more than 4 months into his administration and Governor Rauf Aregbesola did even worse by waiting almost 3 years to select his cabinet must never happen again.
The Civil and Public Service must become transparent and accountable again. Civil and public servants are there to serve us as their nomenclature indicates. They are not meant to be overlords creating fiefdoms where the general populace become their serfs or even worshippers in some cases. A truly restructured viable and vibrant civil and public service is the lynchpin for a proper democratic, fair and just society. It is insensitive and inappropriate for Government to expect the best of these workers if they are not properly remunerated not to mention, the present scenario, where even the ridiculous wages that they are paid are paid many months in areas. It is the same insensitivity that extends to the illogical policy of no work, no pay! Imagine the chaos and calamity if the workers through the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) also decided that there would be ‘No pay, no work’! A properly structured government would be faced with no such conundrum and the nation can only be better for it.
Courageous Nigerians must step forward and herald the much needed change in governance. They do not have to wait on President Buhari’s decision as to whether he will seek a second term or not before showing their hand. They would be doing the nation a wealth of good if only what they achieve is to provide stiff opposition to the President and an opportunity for the people to truly use their votes. Otherwise, the Nigerian public would simply have been short-changed and disenfranchised as usual by the political class because again they would be limited in their choice of candidates.