5 reasons President Buhari should be afraid
In a normal democratic environment, it is the government that should be afraid of the people. But in most African countries, the people are always afraid of government. That is still part of the travails of democracy in the continent where most leaders are also afraid of life after the presidential palace. So, they keep winning election, they keep amending tenure laws to remain in power forever. Africa! It is not clear whether in Nigeria now, the president’s men have been telling him that the people are afraid of Buhari’s government. As it is portrayed in Alan Paton’s Cry, The beloved Country, anxiety over the change advertised to us has turned to sorrow and sorrow has turned to fear… But according to Paton on the oppressive South Africa then, sorrow is better than fear because while sorrow has a destination, an arrival hall, fear is a long, terrible journey…
But there are grave implications when people fear the government. According to John Basil Barnhill in 1914 : where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty. It is from this background you get the rationale for people in some jurisdictions asking for the right to keep and bear arms. It has been said that the strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
It may not be possible for the people cocooned in power in Abuja and the 36 state capitals to know that people fear this government. But at the moment, there is no Lai Mohammed on the side of the people to tell our leaders that at the moment, the people fear government. And when the people fear the government, tyranny is said to have found victory. So, when change came knocking in May 2015, government was expected to be the servant of the people, not the master.
Specifically, let’s navigate some ‘landmines’ that have to be filtered and cleared for the governments at all levels to be able to listen to what the people are saying that they are currently going through. In our own kind of (winner-takes-all) presidential system, only one person is in charge. And so President Muhammed Buhari is the one who should be told the truth about the ‘landmines’ not just in Sambisa Forest, the landmines are everywhere now. He should take responsibility for his actions and inactions. There are five critical issues that he should wake up to address now or never.
And the people fear that if these issues are neglected, privileges of the office will be withdrawn in their minds and punishment will be inevitable even before 2019. I heard long ago from one of my teachers in a Secondary Modern School that, “Privilege entails responsibility and when the responsibility is neglected, the privilege is withdrawn and punishment becomes inevitable. Behold, the people have some powers to punish in a democracy. Just as the representatives of the people in Brazil did on Wednesday this week when they impeached President Dilma Rousseff “for budget padding” alleged to have aided her election.
Leaders should note that even if it is not possible to impeach or even recall our ‘padders’ in power here, there is a sense in which people impeach leaders in their hearts. When this happens, everywhere you go, you find people shrugging shoulders, hissing and cursing in their hearts for leaders whose rules have been oppressive.
Below are the five issues, therefore, that Nigeria’s leader should pay attention to immediately, lest the fear factor will continue.
Economic Recession & Poverty Addition:
Most news media organs have been specific about inflationary spirals in the market place and there are pieces of evidence about nexus between unemployment, absence of poverty reduction and increase in criminal activities. More small and medium scale enterprises have closed shops than we have reported. It is not only Aero Contractor, First Nation airlines or Innoson Motor manufacturing Plant that have closed shops or suspended operations. There are much more than we can see in the media. But recession is not a tea party. People are therefore afraid that assurances by the President where a mega school was being commissioned in Oshogbo, Osun State was insufficient.
Government missed a point on Wednesday when recession was confirmed by the Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun. There should have been more contextual analysis of government specific measures at this time of emergency. There are more people in the villages whose crops have been destroyed and may not have food security for the rest of the year. All these our ‘wonder governors’ are too busy to capture information about the victims in their states. Do our leaders in Abuja know that in most parts of Kano, for instance kulikuli and garri are essential food items that they now call Buhari? That is what most people are looking for just to eat once daily.
In most parts of the democratic world, government would be afraid of the people at this time and they will meet regularly, set up task forces that will discuss palliatives. Not here. Elsewhere, the representatives of the people in parliament would be restless and they will hold long emergency sessions that would assure and comfort the people.
In the United States, the Congress would meet late into the night wherever there is a period of economic emergency such as when they threaten to shut down government. Even our constitution provides that the National Assembly has a role to play in economic stabilization. But here, Mr. President, people are afraid that our leaders are going to play the Emperor Nero who was feasting while Rome was on fire. The president should note that at this time, we the fearful, hungry and angry people need some regular words of comfort and action. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, a Kenyan novelist, notes in his classic, Weep Not, Child that, “Hope of a better tomorrow is the only comfort you can give to a weeping child”.
Poor Politics & Intolerance After Election:
People are saying that the change we voted for should have reflected radical changes in structures of governance. People are afraid that there is absence of capacity to handle even ordinary logistics of everyday life in the civil service. People have expected massive civil service reforms in all sectors that would affect even the way corruption could be prevented in public sector. But do our big men in Abuja know that most offices cannot buy even stationery and diesel to run their offices? Who is mediating in the verbal darts between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)? At the just concluded NBA meeting in Port Harcourt, the new NBA President, Mr. Abubakar Mahmud had in his 30-page ‘manifesto’ suggested how to strengthen the EFCC for operational efficiency. Mahmud had noted specifically that investigation and prosecutorial powers could not be effectively combined by the anti-graft body.
The acting EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu got angry and called the NBA members “rogues and vultures”. This is crass intolerance that cannot help an agency that people would like to be strengthened. This discord came at a time two former Governors of Central Bank, Professor Charles Soludo and Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi came under attacks in Abuja after their recent suggestions on the way forward for the economy. A blogger was recently arrested by the EFCC for publishing a story about the EFCC boss. A citizen was last week bailed from a court for naming his dog Buhari. People are afraid that this government does not respect the rights of the people to talk, let alone criticizing.
Judicial Rascality & Tardiness of NJC
People are afraid that actions of some judicial officers of the federal and state high courts have been eroding confidence in the citadel of justice in the country. And people are afraid that the regulator that should act expeditiously on such unethical issues is not proactive. Weeks after the National judicial Council (NJC) had received a petition from a factional leader of a political party who confessed that he followed a judge to Kaduna and Ghana where acts that had destabilized the opposition party were agreed upon, the issue has not been dealt with. This is part of the little foxes that can spoil Nigeria’s judicial vines. Foreign investors will not even stop over in a country where alleged judicial corruption is condoned this way. The president should be afraid of this kind of tardiness in dealing with serious allegations against judicial officers. The CJN should help this country, therefore, by making good his promises to deal with corruption in the Bench.
This is a very sensitive issue that one of our credible elders Professor Ben Nwabueze dealt with in an interview well treated last weekend. The good old man had noted that at the core of why agitations for Biafra and Niger Delta nations had been remarkable is the way the president had been handling appointments that seem to have excluded the old Eastern Region (now South East and South South. Recall that a recent newspaper editorial on “Buhari’s parochial appointments” contextualized this as an act of corruption. People in the South West too are just dangerously quiet about this alleged parochialism.
People are afraid too that there is a gulf already between the promise of change and the change we the people are witnessing. Some may say it is part of democracy but the fact that the National Assembly has been so paralysed to the extent that the two presiding officers, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives are facing too many corruption charges and they are there is unconscionable. The governing Party, APC owns them and they have majority in both Chambers. Whatever happened to the leadership and management of the Party speaks volumes to the nature of the ruling party we have now. It is high time the APC leaders stopped blaming the Party they defeated since March 2015. This is part of the burden of the President he should discharge now. Nigeria’s National Assembly dominated by people from this (president’s) Party has been paralysed by allegations of graft and poor politics. Sadly, the legislature is the most important arm in a democracy. The physician called the APC, heal thyself today!
• Grammar School will return next week…