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A president’s speech in self-denial

By Editorial Board
13 October 2021   |   2:57 am
If Nigeria must turn the corner of its multifaceted predicaments, President Muhammadu Buhari and his handlers should chase less of shadows and face the substance squarely.

[FILES] Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari (2nd R) attend the country 61st Independence celebration at the Eagles Square in Abuja, Nigeria on October 1, 2021. Nigeria is holding scaled-down celebrations due to high level of insecurity to commemorate over six decades since it gained self-rule from Britain in 1960. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

If Nigeria must turn the corner of its multifaceted predicaments, President Muhammadu Buhari and his handlers should chase less of shadows and face the substance squarely.

As it is, Buhari’s 61st Independence Day speech did less of pursuing the substance. Rather, it was a poorly conceived homily; at best an arid exercise in self-denial of the real issues that have made anarchy inevitable.

Indeed, the country is worse off today due to the administrative inefficiencies of the ruling class. The solution should start with an honest assessment of the undercurrent and humane leadership to turn the tide; not one that palms off genuine problems in its disillusion and in utter disrespect of the audience.
   
Ordinarily, many Nigerians look forward to the President’s Independence Day anniversary broadcast, to kick-start the annual ritual. It was often a special occasion to speak to the citizenry, empathise with their quandaries, reassure commitment, offer hopes that energise weary souls and rally a sense of nationhood across the board.

Despite the country falling apart, Buhari’s administration has neither acknowledged that standard nor lived up to it. And for as many Nigerians that have given up on the all-important October 1 address, Buhari did not prove them wrong at the last outing.

  
In the 17-paragraph speech that lasted 36 minutes in broadcast, Buhari and his handlers showed warped understanding of the troubling issues of insecurity, agitations for self-determination, rising food costs and building a broken nation to last. Perhaps being clever by half, the government blamed not itself but the victims, to abscond from the real problems. It is not the stuff of compassionate leadership on such occasions that calls for soul searching and sober reflection.
   
Buhari spent ample time demonising agitators and prisoners of conscience like Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu for a secessionist agenda. An honest thought process would have established that the subjects became dissidents in protesting the Federal Government’s failure to protect their people and offer a regional sense of belonging to the Nigerian entity. Ideally, the administration should carry the can of further dividing the country along ethnic lines, through its unapologetic posture of bigotry. It was the same nepotism that blinded the presidency to the evil and requisite condemnation of the real perpetrators of terrorism that are otherwise called bandits.

With killer herders freely ravaging the Middle Belt and the South, and the president insisting on obnoxious cattle grazing routes in favour of his kinsmen, it is not unexpected that other alienated nations will resort to self-defence mechanisms and reconsider their fidelity to the country that has failed them on all fronts. Indeed, some governors preached self-defence to their people, in exasperation of failure of the Federal Government to secure their lives and property.
 
It is agreeable that sponsors of violent revolution and terrorism are enemies of the state and deserve to be dealt with according to law. However, the government must properly first fish out such culprits; Buhari’s preference for mouthing counter-terrorism than actually stopping perpetrators and their financiers struck an oddly familiar cord as it offends logic and even humiliates the National Assembly to link its member to sponsoring terrorism without due diligence to name, shame and prosecute the leprous finger. It is the same laid-back disposition that has emboldened bandits that ordinarily should have been declared terrorists. The affairs of modern, successful governance are not run in such a dishonest manner. Given that a member of the House of Representatives subsequently became a victim of presidential verbosity by being treated as a criminal suspect in neighbouring Ghana, the onus is on the president to heed the National Assembly’s demand to name sponsors of terrorism, so as not to subject entire lawmakers to the undeserved indictment. Otherwise, Buhari should swallow his words.

  
As Buhari affirmed in the speech, it is true that in the last 18 months, the escalated crisis has shaken the country down to its foundation, in reminiscence of the civil war. Thousands of farmers, their businesses and properties have been decimated nationwide. Those fortunate to escape invading herders have abandoned farming. Hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens have been displaced and rendered refugees in their homes. Simple logic, therefore, dictates that food insecurity and price hike are natural sequences without a strategic intervention to shore up yawning production deficits. Curiously, Buhari and his handlers rather blamed middlemen for the food inflation and starvation amid the illusion of an “increase in food capacity.”

How convenient to pull off the same old stunt that dated back to the 1980s! However, neither blame game nor imaginary pharmaceutical self-sufficiency of the post-Buhari era can ameliorate the rising starvation of today. Beyond admitting that Nigeria is at war with itself, a proactive solution Nigerians want of Buhari’s government is to put an end to these mindless killings, and sincerely “fight for peace” rather than build castles in the air of widespread insecurity.
 

 
Indeed, Buhari’s uncharacteristic aloofness to nagging issues destabilising Nigerians, who he promised to lead creditably, is incomprehensible. Beleaguered Nigerians don’t deserve leadership that has lured its dreams off track than it attempted to make real. Nigerian citizens merit a compassionate leadership that fizzes with fellow feelings and is sincere enough to tackle the challenges head-on.
  
With less than two of eight years tenure to go, Buhari should be most worried about what his legacy will be. So far, for most Nigerians, the legacy is certainly not of the saviour and Mr. Integrity posture paraded before assuming power. But the president still has some opportunity to reverse the perception of his administration as that of a scam, incompetence and complicit leadership that has emboldened terrorists, mismanaged the economy and caused frustrated Nigerians to either jump ship or pushback with self-determination agenda. The choice is still his; to prove Nigerians right or wrong.