A very robust Saraki, nary a sign of “hardship”, his AND wife’s financial problems at Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) perhaps, behind him – Nigerians are never in the know of conclusions of “investigations”/”trials” – is understandably relaxed in this photograph standing [middle] next to President Muhammadu Buhari after the 2016 ‘Eid Il Kabir service.
The revelations of the plundering of Nigeria continues to reverberate as the wife of the former president, Patience Jonathan, is reported to have stepped forward to lay claim to $31.4 million from an alleged fraud case in which the EFCC had reportedly issued a “No Debit/Freezing Order.” There are recent news reports of another US$20 million ($15m + $5m) in Patience Jonathan’s SKYE bank accounts.
Most Nigerians continue to suffer untold financial hardship even as billions have been reportedly recovered from looters whose names and specific amounts remain secret despite Buhari’s earlier promise; he has reneged on this promise as he has, on promises made not only during his campaign but after being sworn in. For example, Buhari waiting to take a decision to sell some presidential jets among the dozen or so in his service after launching the newfound “change begins with me” is a sad commentary on a presidency that Nigerians were sure would be a clean departure from the past.
The country is facing a major structural failure through problems that pre-date the fall in crude prices with various divisive problems that are not being addressed by Buhari’s government. A long-simmering distrust between Christians and Muslims has gotten worse under President Buhari, a man whose conservative Islamic tendency was overlooked because of Nigerians’ belief that his ascetic lifestyle,his being different from past corrupt leaders and a seeming orientation towards a better Nigeria, were paramount to him.
Another of the major fault line in the growing schism has been the Fulani cattle owners whose employees, the herdsmen, have created mayhem by killing, raping and destruction of farmlands in the South and Middle Belt of the country where they want permanent annexation of land for grazing for their animals. While there are no clear evidences of Buhari having a hand in the audacity that has characterized the actions of the Fulani herdsmen since he became president, not taking decisive action has stood him accused by Southerners who see his non-action as acquiescence through relationship to fellow Fulani interest.
Recently, the cattle owners have gone further by asking the government to fund a system of identification and tracing of cattle through technology by having micro chips installation for all their cattle. The cattlemen also want all state governments to “hasten” the provision of grazing lands for their cows all over Nigeria, a highly-contentious issue that started through a move to have the issue passed into a “Grazing Bill” through the National Assembly.
The bill, though denied as never having being read, contains the most egregious challenges to a federation. For instance, the “federal” government could declare land in any part of Nigeria a grazing land; if a land owner feels aggrieved when cattle destroys his farm land, he could only seek recourse by going through the office of the country’s attorney-general …
While the earlier “Grazing Bill” was thought to be in limbo, a recent announcement from the Ministry of Agriculture should frighten Middle Belters and Southerners that Buhari’s government is intent on forcing the commercial interest and hegemony of his Fulani ethnic group on Nigeria:
A “National Coordinator, Grazing Reserve Rehabilitation at the Federal
Ministry of Agriculture, Mahmud Ibrahim” has been appointed and has been empowered to ensure that “414 grazing reserves located throughout Nigeria” and “stock routes throughout Nigeria” are rehabilitated.
The above added to other problems, are putting Nigeria on wobbly feet. And the older problems?
Here are two questions that must be puzzling Nigerians with these new revelations now that Patience Jonathan has not only had the audacity to own up to such humongous amounts, but has reportedly filed a “fundamental application against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)”, i.e. asking for “her” millions of dollars to be released:
- Mrs. J., what did you do to earn over US$30 milllion?
- Where did you get the reported US$20 ($15m + another $5m) million in the SKYE Bank account reportedly belonging to you?
Why majority of Nigerians have lost confidence in President Buhari
Here are a few reasons for Nigerians’ loss of trust in his leadership:
In November 2015 after about 7 months in office, he was reported as saying during a question-and-answer session with members of the Nigerian community in faraway Tehran, Iran:
“… we are collecting documents [on looters] and some of them have started voluntarily returning something. But we want all … When we get those documents then we will formally charge them to court and then we will tell Nigerians to know those who abused trust when they were entrusted with public funds …”.
After repeated complaints by Nigerians on the non-disclosure of names of looters as promised, he had backtracked by May ending 2015, citing purported “legal reasons”, according to the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed.
What is confidential in disclosing the names of people who returned stolen wealth IF, indeed they did, and what “legal reasons” can or should robbers and/their attorneys wave to scare a head of a country with massive support from the people?
By April 2015 after the election and before the swearing in, the respected Dr. Olisa Agbakoba gave the following as one of eight ways to ensure Buhari’s government:
“The aviation sector requires major reform. Nigeria has no presence in the aviation business. Nigeria Airways has been long comatose. Foreign aircraft dominate the Nigerian airspace and earn well over a trillion naira to our exclusion … about a quarter of our national budget …
“… The way forward is to redeploy all aircraft in the presidential fleet to form the hub of a new national carrier. Business for this new national carrier is easy to generate. I have proposed a bill, the Fly Nigeria Bill, to ensure that every government naira used to purchase a ticket must originate and terminate on a Nigerian carrier … The Fly Nigeria Bill, when passed into law, will create an instant market for our national carrier.” – Olisa Agbakoba, a former President of the Bar Association.
Here is a reminder of some of the president’s words in June 2015 on the inexcusable number of presidential jets set aside for Nigeria’s president, words that gave confidence to Nigerians that suggestions by Agbakoba’s “Fly Nigeria Bill” was something on his mind:
“… Let me give you an instance, presently, there are more than six aircraft in the presidential fleet. What do you call that? Billions of Naira is budgeted every year for the maintenance of these aircraft not to talk of operational costs and other expenses.
“You may want to ask what a Nigerian President is doing with so much aircraft when a Prime Minister of Britain flies around using the same public aircraft like ordinary Britons.
“Go and check and compare with that of any developed country in the world, the Office of the Nigerian President is a very expensive one in spite of our poverty and joblessness. Despite all these, you still find a Nigerian Minister spending about N10 bn to charter an aircraft for just one year.
“Now for me, when we come into office, all these waste will be blocked and properly channeled into our economy. We intend, for instance, to bring back our National carrier, the Nigerian Airways. We shall do this by bringing all the aircraft in the presidential fleet into the Nigerian airways and within a year increase the fleet to about 20 …” – President-Elect Buhari, 4/2015.
Here are my closing thoughts.
As far as the new “change” mantra goes, it would fail unless President Buhari follows the age-old tested route of governance flowing from the top down. He should not be preaching ‘change’ to Nigerians at large. The president must change; his cabinet members must change, and so must all ruling-APC leaders, all legislators, political aides at central government level; all governors, all local government level officials whose meetings from North to South is rumored to center around sharing revenue allocations; so must university administrators – academic and administrative – who are also rumored to be far gone in the revenue-sharing ethos before allocating funds to real university issues, et cetera.
Of course the masses will change even without being forced once it is apparent that sacrifices being asked of them are being observed by our Ogas at the top, and not the endless calls of belt-tightening that have been asked since Obasanjo and later, Jonathan imperial presidencies while those in politics and other high official capacities in government continue to live high off the hog.
I was shocked to read a report about [former The News’] Bayo Onanuga’s and now News Agency of Nigeria’s new MD . He had reportedly dismissed the press as blowing the situation in the country out of proportion because – to paraphrase words credited to him: to check how bad things were, he had asked his daughter who was flying to England to let him know if the Virgin (or so) flight was full; daddy’s girl sms-ed before take-off: Daddy, it is full, o.”
What a typical conceited mindset of a parvenu!
President Buhari’s new “change begins with me” must begin with the president who should not need more than a jet for long-range travel and a plane plus an helicoptre for domestic travel. That ‘change’ must be forced on all of the above, including the Onanugas that Nigerians, perhaps the most accommodating, the most long-suffering and easiest-to-please of God’s creatures, would gladly fall in line and follow.
This was the Buhari whose cause I started championing with a public volte face in March 2011. This was the Buhari that millions of Nigerians, those belonging to a party I aligned with and voted for in April 2015; this was the Buhari we all expected would turn Nigeria around: not the Buhari for whom the indivisibility of Nigeria IN FACT but not just in words means a disregard for constitutional secularism; not the Buhari who has become a man answering to special interest (I don’t belong to anybody …) like the cattle grazing people who are determined to have whole swathes of other people’s land set aside to further their cattle grazing and having “federal” funds spent on installing micro chips on their cows, and definitely NOT the Buhari who has ensured that the rest of the country is marginalized in key appointments, to which mostly 1. Fulani, 2. Moslem and 3. Northerners are qualified.
Dear President Buhari, to secure a very good and immortal name for yourself in history even beyond the shores of Nigeria – think Mandela – go thou and win back Nigerians IF you do not want to leave the leadership of Nigeria this second time with worse-than-your-old-reputation.