Dancing around the truth
On November 6, President Muhammadu Buhari made an emotional appeal to Nigerians to bear with his administration over perceived performance failures.
The President, represented by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the appeal at a town hall meeting in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
“If we have not done enough or we have not touched everybody, we appeal that you please bear with us. In the first instance, what we have is less than 60 per cent of the revenue that was available to other governments that came before us,” he begged.
Buhari’s measured dance around the truth is understandable, as he cannot completely deny the harsh realities that have consigned the country to the position of poverty capital of the world.
That Nigeria lags behind in the various tools used in measuring the popular Human Development Index (HDI) is, indeed, obvious.
While it is true that the country has witnessed over 60 per cent drop in revenue, the question on the lips of many is: Why has the President not looked the way of cutting the high cost of governance?
The other harsh reality, therefore, is that the President, his cabinet members and other political office holders still carry on as if all is well economically.
Missing are those key essential elements of austerity measures that demand that the leadership sets a tone for a regeneration of the economy.
Suffice it that corruption remains rife even as budgets are designed to put more money in the pockets of rogue politicians.
The Buhari administration has done well to acknowledge the truth but must do better to impact the lives of Nigerians.
The resort to begging, rather than assuage the feeling of hunger in the land, does more to position the government as lacking in ideas. This, it is certain, cannot be the intention of President Buhari.
Two other talking points
Consulting traditional rulers
President Muhammadu Buhari, on November 5, sought the assistance of traditional rulers in the country to address the grievances the youth presented to him during the #EndSARS protests.
He solicited their help when he received a delegation of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria, led by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, at the State House in Abuja.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President told the royal fathers: “We have heard the loud cries of our youth and children and we are attending to their concerns.
“To succeed in all of this, we would require your support and voice to help amplify the message. Your proximity to the people places you in a unique position to communicate and ensure that our response is targeted and impactful.”
Courting traditional rulers in the quest to instill peace and stability in the polity must be seen as a clever initiative.
The traditional institution wields enormous influence, no doubt. However, it must be said that a more enduring partnership would be struck if the Nigerian state also initiates a relevant legislation that would grant a constitutional role for the revered traditional rulers.
The current amorphous arrangement leaves them with no formal deliverables and makes accountability a none issue.
The Abuja meeting can, therefore, be seen as a mere gathering lacking in any special instrument capable of empowering members of the traditional institution to perform.
Short of describing some of them as errand boys, the meeting was only as useful as the optics it provided!
Calling for dialogue
On November 1, President Buhari, again, appealed to Nigerian youths to leave the streets and embrace dialogue.
According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President, represented by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Muhammad Bello, spoke at the maiden National Youth Day programme held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said: “Every successful protest movement the world over has understood that there comes a time when activity must move from the street to the negotiation table. That time for you has come. Do not be afraid of this reality. You should welcome it.”
Buhari’s call for #EndSARS protesters to embrace dialogue is not surprising as it was expected.
How well his entreaties are received, however, remain a source of concern. In the main, the youth continue to cast doubt on Buhari’s intentions, and this is not helped by the continuous harassment and intimidation of some youth leaders.
It is common knowledge that a few have had their accounts frozen or their travel plans aborted because the Nigerian state has thrown a wedge on their liberties.
In the face of a huge trust deficit, the Buhari administration must be humouring itself to believe that Nigerian youths will submit themselves to a dialogue in which the host cannot be trusted to unlawfully detain the attendees.
By John Chukwu…
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