By Dele Momodu
Your Excellency, please permit me to start by congratulating you on your swearing-in as Nigeria’s President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
Sir, it has been a very long and arduous journey back to the State House; such an epic battle, to say the least. Yours is an eloquent confirmation of the dictum that it is never over until it is over. There is a lesson for all to learn in your uncommon determination, extraordinary tenacity, great perseverance and tremendous patience and equanimity. According to William Shakespeare “all is well that ends well.”
Now that you’re back in power, it is time to settle down quickly to govern a particularly delicate country as well as a very sensitive people. It is not that Nigerians are too difficult to govern but the fact is that our expectations are rather huge after suffering for far too long in the midst of plenty. An average Nigerian voted for you in the hope that you have the magic wand to turn mass poverty into abundant prosperity. As a matter of fact, they expect you to turn water into vintage wine and if possible raise Lazarus from the dead. That is why the cry for change was overwhelming and reached a crescendo which culminated in former President Jonathan and the PDP being swept away by that proverbial broom of change! Such is the enormity of the burden you must carry today that nobody should envy you for attaining this exalted position once again. Moreover, time is not even on your side. You must therefore hit the ground running right away.
Nigerians, and indeed the world, would be watching and analysing your actions as well as your body language from now on. Your biggest headache would be how to manage the unruly politicians who litter our political landscape. They are going to make your job more complex and complicated than it should be ordinarily because most of them don’t actually believe in your principles and ideology. Their agenda is possibly at cross-purposes with yours. As far as they are concerned, you will have your say while they would always meander their way through the labyrinth of policies that you will have to make in order to give effect to your vision of a corruption free Nation. The Nigeria you’re inheriting today is steeped in filth and all manner of odoriferous mess but you have a chance of redirecting us all.
My candid advice is that you should stick to who you are and what made it possible for you to record this landmark victory. You are not a politician per se but a social crusader. Politics is always the means but never an end. The end is leadership and, ultimately, performance. If you deliver on your promises, no evil shall befall you and you will be celebrated by all and sundry. But if you fail, the same politicians who swarmed all over you singing your praises would jettison you and move on pronto to new suitors.
I do not expect you to fail and many Nigerians, including myself, are praying that you succeed. In case the unexpected happens, and our hopes are dashed again, let the last man remember to switch off the last globe as we plunge into eternal darkness. The candle of hope you hold out to Nigerians at home and abroad is incredible and I am not jealous of you. The last time Nigerians united behind a Presidential candidate was in 1993 when Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola raised the flag of hope and promised to banish poverty from our land. Sadly, many things went wrong and our hopes were dashed and Nigeria was abandoned in a quagmire. The rest is history.
It has taken 22 agonising years to arrive at this juncture and we can’t afford another misadventure. The burden of expectations on you and your highly cerebral Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN, is stupendously heavy. As I wrote in this column on March 14, 2015:
“The People’s General, as I love to call him, is a victim of his own popularity. What ordinarily should have been an asset has almost become a liability, or put another way, a blessing turning to a curse. From all empirical data as well as mathematical calculations, General Buhari looks set to create a major upset on March 28, or whenever it pleases the gods of Abuja to hold the elections…
“To whom much is given, much is expected. General Buhari is thus expected to be the Lamb of God who must be prepared to carry the sins of the world. He must possess the power of optical illusion in order to perform instant magic, in a nation on its bent knees…”
Your first test is how and when you pick your highly anticipated and eagerly awaited “change” team. It is certain you must announce some key appointments immediately. Some States have already taken the lead and this shows a sign of preparedness. I’m impressed with the tone and tempo coming out of Governor Nasir El Rufai’s Kaduna State and Governor Ambode’s Lagos State. The Federal Government must borrow a leaf from such decisiveness. You must never be seen to prevaricate on urgent decisions as if your hands are tied behind your back. Sir, you are now in charge and must do everything necessary to select some of the brightest men and women it has pleased God to bless Nigeria with.
I must confess that I am somewhat agitated on your behalf that no appointment of note has been announced, not even those of your personal and household aides. If you have already made these appointments please announce them as a matter of urgency. Modern day governance is a transparent government and not one to be shrouded in secrecy. That was one of the failings of the previous administration. You must not make the same mistake, Mr President.
What you’re expected to do is tantamount to a football coach selecting a national team to take to the World Cup. Please, note that every Nigerian sees himself as a competent coach.
The first set of appointments can make or mar this government especially if it is overloaded with hard-core politicians and nominees of interest groups. Realistically, it is impossible to ignore the Party that provided the platform that laid the golden egg. But how you maintain the precarious balance would clearly indicate if it is going to be business as usual in Nigeria or otherwise.
Mr President, let me alert Your Excellency right away that you have the media as well as the army of unemployed youths to contend with. The media is no longer comprised of the traditional journalists but the self-appointed publishers and bloggers on social media most of who belong to an angry generation and are very impatient and temperamental. They won’t listen to lame and dodgy excuses. Your media team must be rock-solid from Day One. If your media people do not know their onions or lack the influence within the media fraternity, all the goodwill of the moment may evaporate before our very eyes. It must be clear to you by now that there must be a distinction between your speechwriters and those that propagate the image of your administration. Whilst the former may be close to you and are your friends, the latter do not have to be. What is needed for the latter are those who can connect not only to their network but also to the citizens of this great country.
PDP is not going to be a simple opposition to contain after controlling power for 16 years. The man in the street is hungry and almost disillusioned. Your government would need the services of efficient communicators and not those propagandists who may think telling lies is how to win the hearts and souls of the people. Nigerians have become more sophisticated than in the past when they had government apologists insult their intelligence with impunity. You have built your stock on your integrity. You therefore cannot afford to have spokespersons that lack credibility because they will tarnish the good image and reputation that you have painstakingly built for yourself over the years.
Your cabinet should be carefully assembled. This is not going to be too difficult once you stick to your avowed yardstick and not to allow anyone drop any deadwoods on you. Nigerians collectively heaved a sigh of relief when you declared that you belong to everybody and yet you belong to nobody! You have a nation of over 170 million people to seek and pick just a few candidates to help your government achieve monumental greatness. There are so many other jobs to be handed over to political jobbers but the soul of government is your cabinet. The Ministers are the Ambassadors of your government. They must be tested and trusted people who can command the respect of all and inspire Nigerians out of the present state of despair and disillusionment. They must not be imposed or foisted on you. They must be people that align with the tenets of your administration, your visions and your goals. Your cabinet must comprise men and women that you personally feel comfortable to work with.
There are key areas of priority. What connects every family in any country is education. It is the foundation for success or failure. If we can rescue our education speedily, Nigeria would save millions of dollars being spent on sending our kids to school abroad. In the past, most of us attended schools in Nigeria and only travelled out after A–Levels or first degrees. An investment on education at home can never be a wasted one. It would generate employment and recreate a better society. Illiteracy is the mother of all backwardness. No nation can ever be considered developed if the citizens live in abject ignorance.
Sir, our economy is obviously in tatters. The need for diversification has never been in doubt and is even more pertinent now than ever. Our over-dependence on oil proceeds is stupidity at its worst. We can no longer afford to pay lip service to other vast potentials that bring us wealth and succour. Agriculture is one and thank God you’ve been actively engaged in farming in your personal capacity. In my childhood days, the richest people around were cocoa and ground nut farmers. But they’ve been sacked and banished to antiquity by the oil barons some of who feasted with reckless abandon on our black gold without making any significant contribution to our economic well-being. A country that oozes crude oil from its pores is unable to fuel the yearnings of its people both literally and figuratively. That is a big shame. Once upon a time, we boasted about our groundnut pyramids. The people of Malaysia came to us for our palm seedlings. We had tonnes and loads of Ofada rice. Our yam tubers looked more like the legs of Japanese Sumo wrestlers. Our people fed and were content. We must return to those good old days soonest.
Entertainment is now big business globally. The time has come to properly manage the industry in a manner that will bring high yields to our gifted ones. Millions can be gainfully employed as singers, producers, engineers, event managers, make-up artists, caterers, ushers, models, designers, tailors, deejays, comedians, choreographers, composers, songwriters, instrumentalists, decorators, stylists, and so on, if properly managed and directed in the right direction by your government. It is the same with Sports. Nigerians are very talented in most sports but we have not been able to turn this into the goldmine that it is.
Every Nigerian, rich or poor, is totally frustrated about incessant power outages. Nothing is more pressing than finding a lasting solution to this national embarrassment. It is a jinx that must be broken. If you succeed in doing this, Nigerians will be forever grateful. As with the oil and gas industry there are very simple ways of fixing the problem. The first is that you must do away with cartels and engender competitiveness. There must be transparency in allocation and distribution of these national assets and resources. In this regard Your Excellency should note that subsidy is not the problem in the oil industry. It is a mere red herring meant to deceive and hide even more monumental frauds. In any event the issue of subsidy will not arise if things are done properly. Our refineries must be made to work and we must price appropriately.
The last major issue that your Government must tackle immediately is the insecurity in our country. The Boko Haram menace must be curbed. Your commendable resolve in this respect has already been demonstrated by your directive to the Nigerian military command as their Commander – in Chief to move their base to the heart of the insurgency in Borno State. Also, the increasing spate of kidnappings, political killings and armed robberies must be addressed.
In the next couple of weeks, I will contribute my humble quota as to solutions to our seemingly intractable problems. Every Nigerian must support you by rising above partisanship.
Once again, I rejoice with you, Mr President and pray for your resounding success as you bring about hope and change in our dear beloved country! God bless Nigeria.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Dele Momodu /Thisday