So far, well, so good
Tony Momoh has cause this week to heave a loud sigh of relief. Nobody that I know is about to throw any stone at him. Not literally. Possibly not even metaphorically.
Tony Momoh – of course he needs no introduction – chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, former national chairman of Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, former editor of Daily Times and a great newspaper administrator cum legal luminary, former minister of information who elevated public letter writing to a national pastime, this Auchi prince of redoubtable reputation is not one to be accused of speaking off the hat.
In April last year at the height of mounting criticism of President Buhari’s lacklustre performance and the faltering steps of his party, the APC, in the handling of key issues, Tony Momoh spoke in defence of government’s handling of the economy which at the time was threatening to slip into recession and the epileptic power supply whose output was hovering between 3000 and 4000 megawatts. He did not leave out the mounting insecurity problem. At the time in question, Boko Haram insurgents were still holding tight to the Chibok girls they captured two years earlier. Insecurity problems included the one posed by the marauding cattle herdsmen and assorted kidnappers who were making lives more miserable for the people. Prince Momoh indeed put up a strong defence for the government.
He gave reasons why things seemed to be moving at a slow pace, why it was difficult to repair the damage caused over a period of time by a gang of rapacious and unthinking politicians who had perfected the art of looting without any qualm and without batting an eyelid. He posed the question which has not been answered up to now. He said Nigerians were complaining about bad roads. But, he asked “what happened to the several billions of money voted for road construction and rehabilitation under the Jonathan government? If we complain about security challenges, what happened to the billions of dollars voted to fight the insurgency which some people mismanaged? The same thing with power and other infrastructure.”
Convinced of the commitment of the Buhari administration to solve the myriad problems of the country and also convinced of the clear determination of APC to fulfil its election promises to the people, Prince Momoh, did not hesitate to throw a challenge to the numerous traducers of the Buhari administration. If by May this year, when the president would be celebrating his two years in office, the situation did not change for good, if the promised change did not come, Nigerians should feel free to stone them. In an interview with the Guardian on Sunday, Tony declared: “Stone us if within two years the current government does not reverse the situation.”
Now it is two years and there has been mixed reactions to Buhari’s performance. I doubt if Tony intended his stone throwing challenge to be taken literally. In my column in this newspaper on April 7, 2016, I regarded Tony’s challenge as a metaphor for the inalienable rights of voters to vote out a non-performing government as they did to Jonathan’s lamentable Peoples Democratic Party in 2015. Two years in office may not be sufficient time to measure performance and give a reasonable verdict especially for government whose platform was grafted together only two years to a presidential election and whose three main fractious blocs, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the Congress of Progressive Change, CPC, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP and a faction of APGA plus a sprinkling of famous and influential deserters from the then ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, have yet to completely fuse together as one homogeneous ideological group.
But two years is enough to gauge the direction and the capacity of any party to impact on the socio-political and economic fortune of any country. As it is now, the APC must learn a lesson from the misfortune of the former behemoth, the PDP, which is becoming a shadow of its former self, thanks largely to its self-inflicted arrogance of power and impunity occasioned by a clear absence of internal democracy and self-discipline. Clearly it was the PDP with the instrumentality of the Jonathan administration, characterised by its trademark kleptocracy, cluelessness, mismanagement and plain maladministration which helped, more than any other factor, in paving the way for the coming of the Buhari administration.
Two years down the line is the right time for a through introspection. Obviously the administration has done well in the fight against the hitherto rampaging Boko Haram. Though it no longer controls territories, it is still controlling some people’s hearts and holding on to innocent citizens including more than 100 Chibok girls. We can say that Boko Haram is like a snake scorched, not totally killed. Whatever is left of it is still harmful and lethal. This administration must cap its success by freeing all the captives through negotiation.
This single-minded commitment to stamping out the Boko Haram insurgency should be extended to all other insecurity problems in the country so that the citizens can indeed sleep with peace; so that travellers can travel on the roads without hearts that quake; and farmers to their farms believing that no cattle herdsmen are loitering around to prey on them or that kidnappers aren’t laying ambush for them. Parents should not get worried for their children and wards in school.
The government’s mid-report, eloquently given by Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, sounds like a balm on our nerves. What is most commendable about it is not what has been done to relieve the suffering of the people which is glaring enough. The efforts at fighting corruption and the results they have yielded so far are also glaring. But the war is far from being won. As the government is fighting the old battle, it should not lose sight of a new battle that must be fought and won. And this has to do with the current corruption level in the states and the local governments. Teachers and all cadres of civil servants are still being owed salaries. Pensioners and their families are living in penury despite the efforts at the federal level to alleviate the suffering of citizens through its social intervention programmes. Is it that state governments and local governments functionaries are not being monitored because we are running this fractured federalism?
Momoh should take solace in the administration’s mid-term report card. Nobody should stone anybody for lack of performance because the damage of many years cannot be undone overnight. But government must not give up trying. What I find particularly commendable in the administration’s report is the honesty embedded in the narrative. There is no attempt to deceive and to gloss over the sufferings of the people. That should make it possible for the citizens to appreciate the efforts of the Buhari administration.
Osinbajo also told the nation that we are clearly not out of the woods yet. In other words, there is need to continue to make the needed sacrifice. The sacrifice – as in the change – must start with those in government and at the corridors of power.