Before the 2015 Presidential elections, Nigerians generally hung on the cliff of despair and uncertainty as to the direction the country was headed. At the same time we realized that, like it happened in other countries, it would take one person, just one person to show the light, lead, guide and serve honestly by providing inspiration towards a better future for us all. The search for that torch bearer led us to the choice of Muhammadu Buhari as our President. His incorruptibility, integrity and transparency stood him out. No one has ever called him a thief. At least not to my recollection. He is a man on whose honour we could swear. Put him on a scale of moral and financial probity, he will come clean. He is one President, who has made the point that the purpose of leadership is to serve.
As God will have it, Buhari became President when corruption and systemic decay was at its worst ebb and had devastated our nation due to the antics of a thieving political elite whose sole aim was to amass wealth by appropriating all resources to themselves even at the expense of destroying Nigeria. They wallow in this false consciousness that they are the state and therefore can appropriate it as if it were their own personal estate. Corruption, does not only enrich these characters who specialize in bad behavior, it denies citizens the benefits of good governance. A few days ago when I was discussing with Dr. Ategbole, a senior consultant Pediatrician following the world health organization’s latest ranking on health care delivery, he succinctly summed up the Nigerian scenario in the following words, “187 position among 190 countries is our place because of the reasons we all know. 5% of the national resources for 95% of the people, while 95% of the resources is shared among 5% of the people, absolutely shocking”. Regrettably, our system breeds greed, ineptitude and criminality, the resultant effect being the celebration of political job –seekers and bandits with wealth from dubious sources without being creative or inventive. As citizens, it appears we have diminished so fast in value and character, such that no matter the misdemeanor or malfeasance, all a culprit does is to arrange an array of sycophants to praise instead of rebuke him. This explains why we are a wealthy country with poor people.
To make matters worse, we have a civil society whose main goal I have doubt about. For me, they appear like illusory assemblage of unserious lots who focus more on seeking the attention of donor organizations than making deliberate effort towards the upliftment of our people and our country. One thing is sure, they are not known for sustaining their campaigns.
All this can change if we as a people stop being docile and stand up for what is right in order for Nigeria to realize her potential as a great nation. It is in our power as citizens to support our President to take back our country. What we require is determination and vigilance to keep our elites in check. They had their way because the citizenry allowed it. We must remind ourselves that they thrive and are maintained with the taxes we pay from our sweat. President Barak Obama in his farewell speech as the 44th President of the United States of America attested to the power of the citizenry as stake holders in the growth and development of their nation. His words, “in the face of the struggle, is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved and get engaged, and they come together to demand it….. I am asking you to believe, not in my ability to bring about change but in yours”. This, according to President Obama, is what made America “the wealthiest, most powerful and most respected nation on earth”. Therefore, we, the people are the answer to our hope. The key to this hope lies in our attitude. We can change the narrative by ensuring that government serves the interest of the larger society, especially if we leverage on President Muhammadu Buhari’s political will.
It is our determination as Nigerians that will re-inforce the President’s initiative to enable us build our institutions. Once we strengthen our institutions, they will function optimally devoid of personalities and eventually, we shall get to our desired target of putting Nigeria on the path of growth and development. For us to make impact, the mass media of communication must be sensitized to stay on issues for as long as they are not resolved. Following the realization that drastic situation requires drastic solution, the Nigerian media, the civil society family and the general public must insist that we have internal political party democracy, the byproduct of which we will elect people who are popular and of honour and integrity as our representatives. We must insist that investigation into agencies of government such as the NNPC, the CBN, Nigeria customs, and the review of Power Sector Privatization, just to mention but a few are concluded.
Like my friend Mohammed Sani Abdullahi, I have defended President Buhari with all the wisdom, energy and logic that Almighty God has availed me with, each time I felt he was unjustly attacked. That notwithstanding, as I asked citizens to rally behind him to succeed, there are certain things I will also ask of him in order for him to sustain public confidence. Firstly, as President, Buhari needs to engage more with the public so that Nigerians can be kept abreast on issues that concern them as well as create a window for the galvanization of feedback for the good of all. As it is now there seem to be a lull in terms of communication. That way, Nigerians will be privy to the challenges the government is facing, thereby giving us a sense of inclusiveness. Buhari’s fervent and vociferous supporters and non-supporters alike shall definitely be placated by this. Simply put, the more the President fights corruption the more Nigerians will be happy with him. His public appeal and public perception must be of concern to him. He has to keep in mind that, the anticorruption war he started should be holistic and fought to the end especially when Nigerians have put high premium on it. Any of his appointees that is not performing should be shown the way out. Also important is that, former President Jonathan’s appointees have no business holding on to their offices 2 years into this administration. It hurts the sensibilities of Buhari’s supporters.
Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former President at the first Akintola Williams annual lecture held in Lagos on November 23, 2016, which was serialized by daily trust publication, raised certain pertinent issues about the national assembly which Nigerians want President Buhari to stay on top of and address with utmost sense of responsibility. In Obasanjo’s view, “if the judiciary is being cleansed, what of the national assembly. Budget padding must not go unpunished. It is a reality, which is a regular and systemic practice. Nobody should pull wool over the eyes of Nigerians.” According to him, …. “the President should ride on the crest of the popularity of what is happening in the judiciary to set up a highly technical team of incorruptible investigators to look into the so called constituency projects of the past and the present and bring culprits to book.” This is not about the person of Obasanjo, but about the content of his message. In addition, there is need to beam a search light on civil servants. Some of them have perhaps done more harm to the nation than the political class in terms of corrupt practices. May God rescue Nigeria for it to be of benefit to its citizenry.
Dr. Yarima Habu Mohammed who wrote from Abuja, can be reached on e-mail:email@example.com