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Sunday, 10 July 2016

Again, our president has spoken by Yomi Odunuga


No doubt, the last Sallah break was interesting in many ways with a bonus holiday to boot. For the first time in many years, the Federal Government did the unimaginable by dashing a bloated, underworked and underutilized if not outright lazy national public ‘service’, an additional day of holidaying. The addition to an initial two-day break was based on the shocking excuse that the moon, which normally heralds the end of the Ramadan fasting period, was not sighted as earlier projected. In accordance with their ways or convention, most of our public servants casually took yesterday (Friday) as a self-claimed additional bonus. That was a four-day of loafing around as the economy stutters.

In spite of the fact that there was the possibility of sighting the moon on the next day, which was also a public holiday, the government, in its warped wisdom, simply prolonged the holidays. It is not impossible that, in a country where less attention is paid to money and productivity being lost to needless holidays, most of these workers must have taken the week off only to resume on Monday to the usual uninspiring drudgery of civil service work. For, if we must say the truth, there is an urgent need for the reorientation and redirection of the civil service to make it a key part of the change agenda of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. To my mind, it does appear the present civil service sans the reduction of its free access to cheap funds that end up in private pockets, is as lost as the government that ought to inspire it. It is being encouraged to persist in its docility and cluelessness by a government that has failed to put it in check. However, this is a topic for another day.
With less government activities to focus on and more of sombre jollifications in the past week, it became apparent that Knucklehead would have to look elsewhere for the muse. In fact, it would have been another week of Afghanistanism if President Buhari had not come up with one of those speeches that are long on promises but painfully short on delivery. I am sorry if this sounds more like the tone of a wailer but that is what it is. I do not know how long the President would continue to sing like the bird with a broken beak before reality would dawn on him that the poverty in the land has not only impoverished the middle class but it has also deepened the palpable feeling of mass disenchantment thriving in the land. Each time he speaks, he exudes, in equal measure, a confidence that is at par with the overwhelming sense of grief that pervades the polity. Point is: the Buhari hoodoo no longer entraps and neither does it evoke that sense of blind allegiance that propelled him into office just last year. He needs to locate the missing link before the praise singers he surrounds himself with tilt him to the precipice of infamy.
Let us face it; hardly did anyone take Buhari seriously when, in his Eid-el-Fitr message, he rehashed an earlier sophistry of feeling our pains and the choking sacrifices that we continue to make with the belief that those sleeping on their hands in high places would soon change this heart wrenching narrative. Yes, the President did broke fast with the stupendously rich as well as the abjectly poor during the Ramadan. Unfortunately, that peripheral gesture pales into insignificance when compared to the damage the present economic downturn has wrought on the psyche of even his most loyal supporters. The sickening reality is that millions of people celebrated the prolonged holiday with grim frustrations etched on their faces and empty bellies. Millions others celebrated with empty pockets knowing that they have not received salaries in months and it would be suicidal to tune in to the celebratory mood. Therefore, they stayed at home, suffering but smiling on the sofa of want.
In that moment of economic-induced paralysis, you do not expect to hear the voice of a President spewing out words that deaden your hope. When a man says he understands what you feel with an assurance to lift you out of that quagmire, you do not expect endless whining but quick action. Anyway, how long was it that the President painted the picture of a better tomorrow after reiterating his desire to fight corruption to the end? If my memory is not fading, that was some months back and he even had to repeat it again on May 29, 2016 on the anniversary of his first year in office. So what has he said differently this time that should convince us that we are no longer living on a dud promissory note?
Listen to him: “I am not unaware of what Nigerians are going through and I want to use this medium to commend the amazing sacrifices of Nigerians in the face of the temporary economic and social challenges and also reassure Nigerians that my administration is working assiduously towards providing basic needs and other amenities. Let me also use this opportunity to reaffirm that we will not relent in the fight against corruption and we will ensure that all appropriate and legal measures are deployed to root out this malaise. I promise you all better days ahead even as we remain grateful for your unflinching support to our administration.”
Mr. President, if only you would take a peep out of that Aso Rock windows to see how fast that ‘unflinching support’ is waning. It is not just because Nigerians now struggle to buy a litre of Premium Motor Spirit for N145 or diesel for N205 or even a litre of Kerosene for N300 (Now, this is scandalous!) It is not even because the prices of foodstuffs have blown off the roof or because thousands lose jobs monthly. Others count themselves lucky if all they get was drastic salary slash. I doubt if it has anything to do with the fact that they now pay more for the megawatts of darkness that the Gencos and Discos offer them. It may be true that some parents have become daring in their attempt to feed their families. Pots of soup are stolen even right on the stoves. Portions of cooked and uncooked rice have grown wings without any trace. In a desperate craze to survive the hardship, people have resorted to the unimaginable to eke a living and the league of cheap criminals keeps growing by the day. These, we believe, are the signs of the times that should have become out-dated with a genuine improvement in the economy. Instead, the sorry tales abound in leaps.
However, hope wanes because it seems nothing realistic or pragmatic is being done to mitigate the pain. What was thought to be temporary interjection in the change train is gradually festering into a permanent feature in our daily narrative. By the way, no one is saying the President should not fight corruption by whatever means possible. What they cannot fathom is a situation where this fight against these criminal elements in the system remains the only achievement the President points to each time the citizens ask him to do something about their parlous condition. If the government claims to be working assiduously to provide basic needs and amenities, the evidence of that exist in the realm of fantasy. Not with the long faces and blood shot eyes that confront one on the streets. It is difficult to understand why those basic needs that are taken as given in other climes have become a rarity here. Food, shelter and clothing are not that accessible again. Living and survival is painfully hellish and questions are being asked about the Buhari government and its promises. The joke these days, even among the throng of his enlightened supporters, is that the President’s All Progressives Congress has transformed, in less than two years, into All Promises Cancelled. Now, that is not a funny joke! I just giggle.
It is quite intriguing that the President has made public his convictions that Nigeria must remain an indivisible entity. That is in speech. His body language needs to tally with this declaration. Now, doing that requires a deep sense of commitment to justice, equity and fairness. Nigeria is on the brink of another civil strife today because ethnic and religious sentiments define governance. They are the hidden criteria in the sharing of key positions.
Therefore, when the President says one Nigeria is not negotiable, we can only hope he is also ready to walk his talk of giving each region what they rightfully deserve. To quote him, the President said: “In those days we never thought of oil, all we were concerned of is one Nigeria. So please pass this to the militants, that one Nigeria is not negotiable and they had better accept. Nigerian constitution is clear as to what they should get and I assure them there will be justice.” This is nothing short of striking the right chords as he has done in the past. However, it is not clear if the President is just trying to be politically correct or whether he is prepared to practice what he preaches. If the latter is the case, then we expect him to begin with a reassessment of his key appointments to date. Sloganeering about One Nigeria has never helped in the past and it is not going to help now as long as leaders take back with the left hand what they presumably gave with the right hand. I am sure the President understands the drift of this message. It is not too late to make amends if he truly desires a change in the narrative. Does he?

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