By Jerome-Mario Utomi
When the government fears the people, it is liberty, when the people fear the government, it is tyranny. Anonymous.
An opinion article “Unorthodox Governance; The APC Way” by this author appeared on some national dailies in the month of April, 2018. This was precisely few days after the former Nigeria President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo forwarded a personal letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, where he (Obasanjo) complained about the ‘lice of poor performance in government and thereafter adviced him not to contest the 2019 election as he has performed below expectation.
Beside providing Nigerians with what is to come upon the republic-economically, socially and politically as a result of present policies without human face, and what will go off if urgent action is not taken by the federal Government to change some of its policies, the piece more than anything else queried what is in the acronym APC that throws any nation the party assumes mantle of leadership into confusion; not just In Nigeria but in Africa as a continent.
To drive its analysis home, the author backed the above assertion with the verifiable account below.
In 1985, the All Peoples Congress (APC) took over the mantle of leadership in Sierra Leone (pre- war days) with Joseph Momoh at the helm of affairs, just immediately, the nation came to a halt; the civil servants salaries stopped, the road fell to pieces, the schools disintegrated, the National Television stopped in 1987 when the transmitter was sold by the minister of information. And in 1989, a radio tower that relayed radio signals outside Free Town fell down, ending transmission outside the capital, with weapons pouring over the border as government disappeared.
The economy finally collapsed and Sierra Leone kissed calamity. And the piece posed the question; looking at this account in relation to what is currently happening on our shores, it will necessitate the question as to whether Nigeria is headed for Sierra Leone?
Today, the Nigeria’s National Television may not have stopped working or its antenna sold, yet, Nigeria is in a worse situation described above about Sierra Leone. As its currently plagued by poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed-if not outright encouragement of it, lack of progress, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality.
Considering this fact, there is nothing out-of-ordinary to warrant the ripple reactions that characterized former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent declaration during a closed-door ‘Consultative Dialogue of Nigeria’s Socio-Cultural Political Organisations on the State of the Nation’ in Abuja,where he stated that; “Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state; economically our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country.” The groups at the meeting were: Afenifere, Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Ohaneze Ndigbo, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and Middle Belt Forum (MBF).
What is in someways troubling is the inconsiderate and uncalculated response from the Presidency through its media assistant, Garba Shehu who failed to, or delibrately ignored the need to analyze the former President’s statement before stating that “former President Olusegun Obasanjo attempts to divide the nation while President Muhammadu Buhari continues to promote nation-building and the unity of Nigeria”; concluding that: “From the lofty heights of Commander-in-Chief, General Obasanjo has descended to the lowly level of Divider-in-Chief”. It’s easy to vilify Obasanjo, but the reality on the ground is that virtually everyone else in the country is saying the same thing.
From the above response by Garba Shehu, the question may be asked; is it not the same Chief Olusegun Obasanjo that President Buhari according to reports had in March 2015, described as a courageous patriot and statesman who tells the truth to the power when he is convinced that leaders are going wrong.?
Instead of this verbal attack on the former President, as a responsible and responsive government, what this administration should have done is to introspectively find out if; the comment contained the truth? Fair to all concerned, and has the capacity to build goodwill and better friendship?
In the opinion of this piece, Chief Obasanjo may not be a saint, but he is not alone in this believes that the nation has never been this polarized.
Take for instance, the torrent of reaction and backlash blames and counter blames of President Muhammadu Buhari of ethnic and religious bias that trailed his recent appointments into top management positions in the nations cash cow, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). It is another event that did more than anything ordinary to convince Nigerians that is truly not well in the country. The uproar followed news of a major shake-up in the NNPC. Out of 15 appointees made, 10 were from the North, mostly Hausa/Fulani. There were Yoruba, two from the south-east. It drew the ire of ohanaeze Ndigbo, Yoruba social-political group, Afenifere; the pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, and other opinion molders in the south, who described it as a threat to national unity.
Specifically, while Afenifere going by media reports described it as an act of impunity, Ohaneze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural group fumed that President Buhari was not walking his talk on the plea for national unity and cohesion and therefore urged President Buhari to immediately review the appoints; the posture of Ohanaeze was endorsed by the south-east senate caucus. Also, two rival Niger Delta groups, PANDEF, Pan Niger Delta people’s congress, PNDPC, in an unusual harmony, railed against the federal government, describing the appointments as insensitive and further marginalisation of the oil producing region.
What about the Professor Ango Abdullahi led Northern Elders Forum (NEF), recent declaration that President Muhammadu Buhari has lost the capacity to end insecurity?
Chief Obasanjo, as an elder statesman, apart from enjoying the constitutional backing as enshrined in the nations’ 1999 constitution (as amended), to express his opinion, his present comment remains the most dynamic and cohesive action expected of a past leader of his class to earn a higher height of respect, the latest comment to my understanding is not only a strategy to assist a leader gain significant ground and tackle the job of leadership, but a conventional approach aimed at making the leader recognize that it takes a prolonged effort to administer a country well and change the backward habits of the people.
Its target was to remind the president that public order, personal and national security, economic and social programmes, and prosperity is not the natural order of things but depends on the ceaseless efforts and attentions from an honest and effective government that the people elect.
Instead of responding to Obasanjo’s personal comments, it will be more rewarding to Nigerians if the present administration picks a lesson from concerns expressed by the former president and redirect this quality time finding solution to the challenges posed by youth unemployment which data from NBS reveals that Nigeria’s second-quarter unemployment rate among young people (15-34 years old) is 34.9%, up from 29.7%, while the rate of underemployment for the same age group rose to 28.2% from 25.7% in Q3, 2018. If Mr. President is unawares, these rates were the highest when compared to other age groupings. Nigeria’s youth population eligible to work is about 40 million out of which only 14.7 million are fully employed and another 11.2 million are unemployed.
To guarantee the future of our republic, President Muhammadu Buhari must defocus on Obasanjo and pay attention on provision of security and pursuit of economic welfare of citizens.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is a Lagos-Based Media Consultant.