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100 Days: Buhari gets grief, some props from columnists (Part 2)

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And if millions of Nigerians thought they voted for change with President Buhari, then they are a bunch of delusional dopes, according to Shaka Momodu, a ThisDay newspaper columnist. In his September 22 column, Mr. Momodu poses these questions to show that the president’s change mantra was a fraud: “Why do I have to be the guy to tell the kids there will be no Santa Claus this Christmas? Why do I have to be the one to get people out of their insanity or obsession with illusion and face reality? Why do I have to be the chap to break the news to an excited mob of fans of “change, thereby spoiling the celebratory mood and joyous hymn of “progress”?  Do I have to be the person to tell them the so-called “progress” is actually a mirage?”       

And please, don’t get Rudolf Okonkwo, a SaharaReporters’ columnist started on the ministerial list submitted by the president to the senate for confirmation. In Mr. Okonkwo’s view, most of the names on the list are damaged goods when it comes to probity and integrity. His column on this issue on October 8 dripped with complete disdain. Here is a quote from the piece that sums up his attitude on the issue: “Looking at the list of President Muhammadu Buhari’s proposed ministers, there is no doubt that they are not the cleanest crayons in the box. And they are definitely not the brightest.”

Some try to strike a balance

Some of the commentators didn’t come down hard on the president in their analysis of his performance in the past few months. In his syndicated column on SaharaReporters and other news outlets of September 6, Sonala Olumhense, a noted supporter of the president, did not give him a pass on the perception that the advisers he had chosen were heavily weighted toward the North.  Mr. Olumhense writes: “Mr. Buhari promised to be the president of all Nigerians. His appointments so far do no justice to this.  However, the syndicated columnist did not accuse the president of executing policies of northern hegemony over the south as some of his fellow pundits had alleged.     

Veteran journalist and academic Olatunji Dare in the Nation newspaper on September 9 said the president needed plenty of time to clean up the pile of mess the previous administration left in its wake. He said the election of the president had already raised hopes of a better future for millions of Nigerians even though he had not achieved much in terms of rebuilding infrastructure or jump-starting the struggling economy.  Nevertheless, Dr. Dare gives PMB a lot of credit for changing the attitudes of public officials when it comes to doing their jobs.  The highly respected columnist makes this observation: “Buhari has instituted a dynamic of accountability.  By making public his material assets and those of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, he has set an example that other public officials will find it hard to ignore.  He has begun the difficult task of re-building the value system that the political class in and out of uniform has destroyed.”     

 Writing in the Guardian of October 2, a former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil Dr. Patrick Dele Cole did not dwell on the president’s 100 days in office; instead he asked the president to apologize for tossing out former President Shehu Shagari from office in 1983.He also wants PMB to do penance for all the coups the big military boys orchestrated since the nation’s political independence. Ambassador Cole’s premise was: Nigeria by now would be a thriving democracy with robust institutions without those military power grabs. The former Ambassador plenipotentiary concludes his essay with this advice for the president: “The therapeutic effect of his apology would be immense, his contrition magical. The President has learnt how to be democratic. He still has to learn how to be political. An apology would be a first step.”

In the Daily Trust of August 30, Mahmud Jega, one of the least partisan columnists in the country, wonders why it took the president so long to form his cabinet given the fact that he had held several positions in government in the past including as a head of state. Although cries of marginalization have greeted the president’s hiring of some advisers by some commentators, Mr. Jega points out that those appointments were based on the trust he had in these close advisers, not on their ethnic backgrounds. Columnist Jega writes: “At the end of the long wait, Buhari appointed three men who are known to be very close to him to three top positions. Chief of Staff Malam Abba Kyari, SGF David Babachir Lawal and Customs boss Colonel Hameed Ali have all been with Buhari during most of his 13-year quest for the presidency.”     

 In a piece published on September 14, columnist Ayisha Osori of the Leadership newspaper urged the president to put in place a cabinet that represents the ethnic diversity of the country. But the columnist also wonders if having one of your home boys or gals as a federal official necessarily translates into better basic services or economic development for your community. She asks this question: “Still it is not clear what having someone in government from the same state, village or hamlet does for millions of Nigerians – ask the people of Otuoke who have had a president from their backyard but no drinking water.”

Tabia Princewill, a Vanguard columnist makes a similar point in her column of September 9 on the brouhaha over the appointment of advisers to the president:  “The village man in Anambra or Delta must realise that even if the SGF or chief of staff were from “his place” he wouldn’t help him in any way. He would first settle his family and friends. So wouldn’t we rather competent, intelligent people, irrespective of their ethnic group, were appointed in all positions, men and women who will work for all Nigerians, not just one tribe?” Columnist Princewill continues: “The SGF’s function is very political and as such, must be filled by people the President trusts, irrespective of their ethnicity.”

And anyone who read Dele Olejede’s article in The Cable news outlet of October 2 had to be mighty impressed with the perspicacity that informed the columnist’s trenchant ideas on how Nigeria could dig itself out of the current state of socio- economic paralysis. Columnists are often accused of grandstanding and not offering solutions to pressing national issues. Well, Mr. Olojede proposes a top ten list of ideas he wants the president and his ministers to consider implementing in order to transform Nigeria into a Singapore type nation on the continent of Africa.  

No amount of excerpts from the piece will do justice to it; so you just have to check it out if you haven’t read it. One of the nuggets of information in the well-researched piece was the writer’s observation that Apple Corporation has $ 150 billion in reserve; Nigeria, conversely, a country of 170 million people, has $ 40 billion. It is a long essay, more than 4000 words; but man, once you start reading the article, you will get hooked. No wonder this dude once won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize Award as a reporter several years ago with the New York-based Newsday newspaper.

Smorgasbord:

Like him or hate his guts for his public persona, the predictably unpredictable Chief Femi Olu-Kayode (aka Fani-Kayode), a former Fed Aviation head honcho, knows how to spin a yarn in a way that keeps you reading. His musings on courage in ThisDay newspaper on October 9 hits all the right notes. A bloody nice piece….Kudos to Professor Tony Afejuku for his nicely done tribute in honor of the late Yeye Odua Chief Hannah Dideolu Awolowo on October 5 in the Nigerian Tribune….Sam Omatseye, a controversy-seeking, bomb-throwing columnist with the Nation newspaper, slammed the publisher of the Sun newspaper Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu when he wrote on October 19 that: “Only a Kalu could have encouraged a headline last Saturday saying that Asiwaju Tinubu was under surveillance for a plot against Buhari.” 

Mr. Omatseye also said the former governor of Abia state and business mogul was out of his league for making a bid to become the next FIFA president. He then adds this zinger for good measure: “No one will vote him boss of the Southeast soccer.”  His piece got a strong push back from Ebere Wabara, a Kalu spokesman.  Mr. Wabara lit into Omatseye with a vengeance in the Sun newspaper on October 20. 

Spokesman Wabara essentially called columnist Omatseye a fraud and a flunky of former Lagos State Governor Tinubu in an article brimming with sarcasm and invective. Oh, by the way, just because the Feds debunked the story doesn’t mean it wasn’t true, according to Dr. Kalu’s media adviser.

By Bayo Akinnagbe


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