“Nigeria is going through many similar moments right now and there is hunger in the land”. – Abimbola Adelakun
The above would be a huge understatement. We middle class folks ( a tiny minority) cannot fully comprehend the level of hunger in the land. Definitely occupants of Aso Rock ( the tiniest minority ) are too far away to even imagine it.
I had a very depressing experience last week in Lagos. I was at a meeting at one of the hotels in Lagos and during a break I stepped outside to get some fresh air. As is usual with me I got chatting with the door man and inevitably veered into the economic situation. The door man said ‘Oga do you know a Ragolis bottle of kerosene is now N500? When my wife said it, I could not believe it. I had to follow her to the market to confirm it. Oga how person go survive this kind country when salary no dey increase?
Since I had no idea what Kerosene cost, I asked him what was the former price. He said N200. I was dumbfounded. I gave him the N1,000 in my pocket, wished him well, extricated myself from the situation and went back to my meeting.
Unfortunately Mr President cannot extricate himself from the situation. He needs a system that brings him in contact with the masses. The Femi Adesinas of this world who tell him that only a few people are complaining are not doing him favours. And as Ms Adelakun has written he need to articulate to the people: What is the meaning of this suffering Nigerians are subjected to? What good is it supposed to do? When and how does it end? – Joe Attueyi
ABOVE PHOTO: President Muhammadu Buhari, President Commander-In-Chief Of The Armed Forces Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria On The Occasion Of Nigerian Army Day Celebration 2016 In Gusau Zamfara State
When is the next presidential media chat? by Abimbola Adelakun
Since this administration began more than a year ago, there has been only one presidential media chat by President Muhammadu Buhari. Given his rather tepid performance on that occasion, one can understand why his handlers would not be too eager to bring him out to the public square again. One thing they must know is that he cannot shut himself within Aso Rock forever, speaking only to foreign journalists and communicating to Nigerians, his immediate constituency, through unenthusiastic press releases. As a matter of fact, a president owes the nation regular communication and not the scant occasions they invite a few pre-selected journalists for a “chat.”
As an aside, I think the present format of the media chat – a carryover from the Olusegun Obasanjo’s “Babatocracy” day – is outdated and should be scrapped. First, a president does not need a whole village of pressmen to sit and interview him; one person who knows his or her onions is enough. If he wants to meet a company of journalists, then, let him address an open press conference where any of the Aso Rock press correspondents can ask him questions. No matter the reason behind the impersonal manner he has responded to certain issues, he and his aides should know that silence and its variants sometimes speak louder than words.
I think one of the key diminishing factors of Buhari’s government is the lack of effective communication strategy between the Presidency and the people. His aides have failed to evolve communication methods that are consonant with the Buhari personality they tried to project. For a while after the election, Buhari ran on the fuel of reputation but his failure to sustain that massive goodwill was because they (and one can say the same of his predecessor) took the post-election euphoria for granted, thinking it would not need nurture to blossom. They forgot that there are multiple stages in the life of an administration and there would be many unpopular moments. At such times, constantly connecting to the people who gave you the mandate is highly crucial otherwise you advertise either your imperviousness to their concerns or your incompetence for the job they gave you.
We live in the times where we see other leaders shedding the mystique of power and are relating with their citizens at an affable level. Buhari does none of that for he is an old dog whose natural stiffness and antiquarian approach to power has not been beaten into new tricks. If he cares about improving his relationship with people, he should overhaul his present team and hire professionals who can put up a better structure through which the Presidency reaches people regularly, coherently and professionally. These are tough times; people are at the edge and we need to know where we are being led.
The issues that leave one confused about the direction Nigeria is taking are piling up. There is the lingering question of “restructuring” and “true federalism”, terms that are gradually becoming some kind of nostrum hawked by virtually everyone with access to media space. At least, we all think Nigeria is structurally faulty, and that we cannot continue to run the present unwieldy system without confronting that reality. That promise was the opening line in the Buhari/APC manifesto and it is therefore surprising that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo would refute it. Is that the new official position of their Presidency (and of course, the party) or is it an underworked and overpaid aide that crafted that idea? Why do they assume that these twin propositions are antipodal? Did they consider that the recurring problem of the Niger Delta is partly owed to the problematic structure of the federation and that is part of the problem “restructuring” is meant to address? Or, was Osinbajo so desperate to undercut former VP, Abubakar Atiku, who made a loud call for “restructuring” that he had to shoot himself in the leg?
On security, we should like to know what government’s agenda on violence caused by herdsmen, militants, and other murderous groups. Now and then, the APC members are questioned about security and their response is usually that they have “degraded” Boko Haram. They go on rambling excuses about other cases of violence taking place in Nigeria, a mode of denial that suggests that they are no longer tickled by news of the deaths and there is no urgency to their approach. Then, they reach for their pet dog: corruption; how their government is fighting it and how it is fighting back. By this time, you want to sidestep them, go directly to the President and ask him what practical use the rule of law has if it cannot guarantee people’s lives? Or, at best, redress their death? Why have they been expending so much resources on entrenching the rule of law if people can get butchered and their killers stroll past the rule of law itself? Why is the zeal that drives the anti-corruption efforts not equal to the one directed towards fighting those who kill and destroy? It is a question I would love Buhari to look Nigerians in the face and answer. Not to pan his face across a stream of journalists in the room –which is another deficiency in the media chat structure because it allows presidents to be much insincere; by answering everyone, they answer no one – but to look Nigerians directly through the camera and tell us why his priorities are so arranged.
President Buhari should face us and tell us why he and those around him are evading the question of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai. Where was the same APC that cried that a former Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah, must be removed based on accusation of corruption? How come they have not brought the same spirit of integrity to question themselves over Buratai? Why is it that the same people that cried over the immigration recruitment scam that resulted in tragedy in 2014 are suddenly blind to the employment scams in the Central Bank of Nigeria and Federal Inland Revenue Service?
There are media reports of people exchanging their children for food. The last time I heard of people exchanging their children for a bag of rice was in Papua New Guinea. To think it could happen in Nigeria is extremely baffling. Some reports reveal that poorer Nigerians, gripped by hunger pangs, shed decency and steal food right on the cooking stove. Those are worrisome occurrences that should not be merely minimised by paid squealers who mindlessly mouth tawdry logic. In the life of an administration, certain incidents occur that signal extreme dysfunctionality in the polity. Those incidents, for sensitive leaders, are epiphanies that call out the many mundane ones. Those striking incidents tell a leader whose ears are functioning, whose head is not dipped in his own orifice and his mind cross-ventilated with his own faecal matter, that something is wrong with the society’s mechanism. A responsive leader will break out of his bubble of denial and attend to the undercurrent that resulted in that iconic instance.
In the Bible, that moment came for King Ben-hadad when two of his citizens revealed that they had resorted to boiling their own children to eat due to the famine in the land. That was the king’s moment of clarity and insight as to the severity of the crisis.
Nigeria is going through many similar moments right now and there is hunger in the land. This is the time for Buhari to rise and give account of his stewardship so far. Let us hear him, in his own voice, answer the question on everyone’s lips: What is the meaning of this suffering Nigerians are subjected to? What good is it supposed to do? When and how does it end?