Jonathan’s Long Goodbye!  

  
If my memory hasn’t declined in its aggregation of honest sentiments against the outgoing government and the suffering it intensified recently, time has never been this slow, a sense of anxiety never this high and national life so frustrated since this return to democracy. The period between April 11 and May 29, the presidential elections to the inauguration of our new President, must be remembered as the season of a locally designed economic recession and documented as the eruption of the loose structures let be by an administration of frauds and deceit.
 The fuel scarcity that has now brought our economy almost to a standstill, with all sectors seemingly breathing their last as they send out mayday messages to customers and patrons, isn’t an honorable exit for a President whose pre-election stunts suggested he was setting a new standard for posterity and one who was almost endorsed, post-election, as Nobel Peace Prize-deserving statesman by pitiably amnesic citizens for merely conceding defeat. 

 Among the many “achievements” of President Jonathan now is this, earned in his last days in office: economic sabotage. The fuel scarcity, said to have been as a result of discord between the government and Oil marketers, and of course the fuel subsidy that was once “partially removed” with nothing to show as evidence of allocating the gains for the growth of Nigeria, is a reality that could’ve been prevented by a frugal government.  

 The #OccupyNigeria of 2012 may be against oil price hike, with some dismissing the idea of subsidy as scam, but a number of campaigners were involved just out of obvious distrust of a government headed by a man whose managerial wisdom understood public finance in a way that defied conventional logic, eventually declaring that “stealing is not corruption”, justifying reports of his cluelessness studied from his antecedents as Yar’adua’s polarising successor. 

Nigeria isn’t at an economic crossroads because of subsidy, Nigeria is here because we have a President that isn’t clever, under whom corrupt practices of unjustifiable magnitudes were overlooked, and the culprits given a license to exhibit their avarice in higher degrees: N196 Billion pension scam, and Jonathan responded like a collaborator; N33 Billion Police Pension fraud, and John Yakubu got away, paying a paltry N750,000 bail; NNPC missing $20 billion, and citizens are being insulted by Yam and Goat analogies; Stella Oduah’s car purchase scam and Abba Moro’s NIS recruitment scam fertilized the weeds of corruption in this administration.

And while these were happening, while ministers and their children were instagramming their loot and private jet junkets, with Jonathan praising the acts and culprits to appeal to the sentiments of his Yam and Goat ideologues, our universities were closed for five months, polytechnics for ten months, hospitals for three months – in fact, in fact, the country was practically on strike. Even military pensioners, veterans who had “wasted” their life guarding this country, were still owed 56-month arrears!

The fuel scarcity is a legacy of clear mismanagement, and this would’ve escalated into wild protests if not for the shadow of a new government already in sight. A conspiracy theorist friend even matter-of-factly observed that the scarcity is the President’s last hope, after election postponement meant to provoke the citizens, to set the country on fire, forestalling scheduled transition “for security reasons!” But we all know why Mr. President chose to sign out of this responsibility he couldn’t deliver as a saboteur – he’s stopped being the President from April 1, when their bogeyman was declared winner of the elections. So, he’s stopped taking Panadol for what he thought was already Buhari’s headache!

Nigeria of the past two months reminded me of the portraits of 1930s America, with Buhari coming in to supervise the search for solution for a country literally in economic shambles, the same way Franklin Roosevelt assumed duty as the 32nd President of the United States on March 4, 1933, also meeting a country at economic crossroads. Reading Roosevelt’s inaugural speech this week, the strings of words rang of what incoming President Muhammad Buhari ought to say on May 29, for the American, highlighting features of an economy horrified by the Great Depression of the 1930s, which couldn’t be worse than Nigeria of the past few weeks, gave the people a hope, a guarantee of salvation:

“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that of understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

 Further, Roosevelt said, “Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.” And solidly, Roosevelt laid a foundation for a new America, this America that now dominates the world.

This isn’t the first of Buhari’s interventions to redeem a failed country, and this also isn’t the first time a government inherited a bad economy—Obasanjo’s second coming in 1999 was also to rescue a crashed economy, oil-price fall and a Naira that had lost 80% of its value. But this is arguably the best time of great expectations in our checkered political history. May God save us from us! 

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

The Zealots’ Misrepresentation of Buhari

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Our ascription of certain ambassadorial roles and responsibilities to members of our community – ethnic, religious or regional – in public service, is a colonial legacy now woven into the fabric of our national life. The Federal Character Commission, while pretending to ensure fair representation of members of various groups in the public service, is an institution that projects, promotes and preserves this idea of a double allegiance – to the state, and to one’s community.

Nigeria’s President-elect, having benefited from the support and even zealotry of these scribes of responsibility who formed the largest army of volunteers in his previous presidential bids, more so in his days of ostracism by the political elite and distrust by the majority of the southern electorate, is the latest victim of this perception of a public figure as, first, an “ambassador of his people”.

Being an initially mismanaged brand as a public figure who was forced to appeal to sectional sentiments in his public commentaries, a thing exaggerated and misrepresented by an adversarial media, Buhari’s first task is to de-indoctrinate these scribes. If they had an idea what it means to manage the affairs of a plural society, they wouldn’t have expressed such virally discussed grievance, which was equally contested, over the man’s handshakes with women at public functions.

That we are even seriously talking about Muhammadu Buhari’s handshakes with women is just heartbreaking. The embarrassment is experienced more in realizing that the critics are actually models to many, many who regard them as actually perceptive people who ought to understand that the man isn’t a head of a caliphate, and that the system that even brought him to power isn’tunder the guidance from the Qur’an.

I’ve no energy for petty intellection, just wish to express disappointment in all against Buhari shaking hands with women, these class clowns and idle alarmists who are a part of the reason the world is still a hub of dangerous misinformation and hollow ideologies today. A bit of critical thinking won’t damage your faith. Secularism, as often emphasized, isn’t an absence of belief in a polity; it’s a protection of a belief system from the corrupting influence of the state and the sentiments of cunning leaders.

Perhaps a more heartbreaking trend is the fact that this league of largely northern Nigerian critics, which has long earned a reputation as the self-appointed litigators of God, even considered impropriety of handshakes between unrelated men and women as an “emergency”while theentire region is under terrorist attack and national treasury on red alert!

Our irony as a failed society is pronounced more by the contrast of our expressed religiosity and the deeply corrupt system in which we express it. We live in a country you can’t leave a mobile phone in a mosque or a church and return to find it, but we’re ever quick to arrogate our piety to all who don’t care about it, who only ask for a simple honesty in interactions and transactions with us.

In the north, while our region falls, our people terrified and killed, towns and villages burnt and bombed, we’re still being mocked by UNESCO’s ranking of Nigeria as place with the highest number of out-of-school-children in the world. Instead of being ashamed and critical of policies that led to this social apocalypse, all that matter to some of us is asking Buhari to highlight his origin, renege on diplomatic tasks that warrant handshake with women, as the President of a country held together by uncertain nationalist sentiments.

What I’m yet to understand now is the refusal of these selectively religious critics to subscribe and heed the invitation to their ideal state, already designed and presented to by the Boko Haram. Obviously they have mistaken Buhari’s relative asceticism for fundamentalism, and thus they expect the man would be the poster-boy of their extremist worldview.

Freedom to worship is a fundamental right, but that of employing religion, or distortion of it, to offend a vulnerable people is an aspect that must be regulated, and this has to be done at once. This institutional lapse has given every scoundrel an inspiration to foment trouble, and is the reason for the ongoing furore in Kano over a disregard for the Prophet of Islam by the votary of an unchecked sect. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

A Quick Appeal to the Governor-Elect of Niger State

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Dear Malam Abubakar Sani Bello,

I don’t know how you want to be addressed now, either as “Your Excellency” or, in the fashion of the confused visionary you’re elected to replace, as “Chief Servant.” Whichever it is, pardon this first mistake. I’ll take note of any correction that may follow.

This is neither a proposal, nor a prophecy, around the tasks that await you. It’s also not a cataloguing of the problems you’re about to officially inherit. Yet another “celebratory note” would be a nuisance you may not appreciate. Malam Bello, you are about to embark on your life’s biggest test shepherding a state that is always ready to pride itself as the largest, in landmass, but never willing to highlight its position on the index of social development where it’s listed at the bottom. I congratulate you, nonetheless, on the historic victory.

Third-world democracy requires a huge investment. It takes a fortune to even have the inspiration to vie for an elective office, and where an aspirant ends up in office, the personal debts are a mountain walling him off from fulfilling electoral promises. Its so in every state of the federation, which is why democracy may be the most expensive of all the systems of government I know. But while it’s predictable that the debts we owe Caesar have to be paid, permit me to say that nothing should make you lose your focus, as had your soon-to-be predecessor, Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, the political showman we all prefer to call “Talba”.

If I were you, I would have a photograph of Talba somewhere in my office. No, that’s not in reverence, nor tribute to his achievements. The aim is to serve as a reminder of the consequences of squandering one’s goodwill. Talba was colourful and eloquent. And that is all there is to say about his eight years in power, expressed through billions of naira used in commissioning projects that exist on the faces of billboardsonly.
On May 29, 2007, Talba was praised as the redeemer of Niger, and widely considered so even by the intellectual community. He had the experience, we agreed. He had the brains as well. He was a seasoned bureaucrat, with a PhD in Policy and Strategic Studies from Pittsburgh. These things dazzle Nigerians, and so we celebrated him as a messiah in essays and poetry and songs. Until reality stared us in the face barely two years into his administration.

On May 29, 2015, Talba will be handing over power to you as a sad man. To this I testify. There was a promise to transform Niger State into an economically developed hub, the third in Nigeria, and here we are without common potable water for the past eight years in my neighbourhood in Minna. He promised to achieve this economic illusion, presented in his Vision 3:2020 development plan, in 20 years, and with 8 years gone without even a foundation for his “vision” in place, you don’t need any more proof to realise that the people of Niger State have been scammed. That supporters of Talba present streetlights as achievements tell you the level of underdevelopment you’re coming to supervise.

Today, Talba has become a partisan infection, like President Goodluck Jonathan. Both were jeopardies who sabotaged the political aspirations of their party members. Your major contender in the April 11 election, Malam Umar Nasko, was one of the victims of Talba’s squandered goodwill. Nasko was liked for his “humility and good heart” – in the words of a friend. He was praised for his youth. I also celebrated as a symbolic victory that implication that age wasn’t a political hindrance after all. I’ve met a lot of people who confessed to liking Nasko but still admitted they wouldn’t support him for fear that he lived too long in the shadow of Talba. Even the ladies, but for the Talba factor, were charmed by Nasko.

Perhaps the highpoint of the hatred of Talba by the people of Niger State was a whisper from the rumour-mill that he was responsible for Senator Dahiru Awaisu’s death. The rumour had it that Talba sought the service of Alhaji Isah Kantigi, a man believed to be a marabout, to eliminate Awaisu, who was likely to be Talba’s main setback in the Niger East Senatorial District which Talba aspired to represent at the Senate. And, as the rumour continued, Kantigi was chosen as Nasko’s running mate in the Guber race as a reward for his spiritual service.

As silly as this is, it was believed even by supposedly enlightened people. This aggregation of sentiments against the man that was once celebrated as an elephant–riding advocate of populism by poets, singers, intellectuals and artisans should serve as your first lesson as you step into that office on May 29.

So, your election wasn’t really against Nasko, it was against Talba. The people are unpacifiably bitter in their accounts of his failings and deceit over these torturous years of eloquent speeches, misidentifications of expectations and misapplications of policies. Not even his valedictory apologies, when he realised that Awaisu wasn’t his main challenger in his bid to represent the people of Niger East at the Senate, have been acknowledged by the disappointed “servants” for whom he declared himself a Chief.

There are many doubters who still hold that your coming is to turn this unfortunate State into a political enterprise, citing your affluent background to confirm their suspicion of you and yours as being on a mere economic conquest. Your challenge is to prove them wrong, that you are not an entrepreneurial mafioso, and that your ambition was informed by a will to serve.

The past 16 years in Niger State is a justification that you don’t need just a higher education or long experience in a known profession to manage the affairs of a state. We may be contradicting ourselves now, having experienced Governor Aliyu, and his similarly unimpressive predecessor, Governor Abdulkhadir Abdullahi Kure, who all presented certain credentials of excellence in public service, that a life as bureaucrat or technocrat is a guarantee of responsible political leadership. Governing a people as ours, I’ve learned, only requires a painstaking application of common sense. And for this, all the incoming Sheriff needs to stay politically afloat is a conscience, a conscience that responds to the ruin that is Niger State. Any decision against this appeal from a concerned Nigerlite, but may God intervene, is a step towards the shadows of Governor Aliyu and Kure. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter