By Bala Ibrahim
By next week, precisely Thursday, 1st October 2020, Nigeria will be celebrating it’s diamond jubilee, having turned 60 as an independent nation. The Government, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, has approved an inclusive National Independence Celebration program, that will see that the thematic and creative aspects of the event are designed by Nigerians quickly for Nigeria.
According to the Government, the intention is to use this opportunity to harness the power of Nigeria’s creative minds to create a new brand identity around the anniversary theme, which will be celebrated in the public space for one year. Good, very good.
But while the organizers are busy looking for a Nigerian solution to the thematic and creative aspects of the event and other challenges facing our country, as directed by the President, methinks Nigerians should also challenge the President more, on why he chose to tackle the challenges of the country with the “accepted” theme and title of “Go slow”.
Sometimes in 2015, shortly after emerging as the President, while having audience with Nigerians in the United States, and pursuant to a question on how he would reconcile the massive goodwill given to him by the people, and the high expectations of the public on him, PMB humorously admitted to being referred to as, Baba Go slow, instead of Baba Buhari.
He implied that he is not bothered by that nomenclature, because he believes the end would justify the means. Good, very good.
Also sometimes in 1994, shortly after the late General Sani Abacha, invited him to serve as the head of the newly created Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), by which time I was a reporter with the BBC, I put a call to him on the telephone, where I asked General Buhari, whether he was bothered by the insinuation from his die-hard supporters, who felt he has sold out by accepting that appointment?. The General said he was not bothered, because he would work to the best of his ability, for the best of the country, and the end would justify the means. I felt Good, very good.
PTF started sluggishly, because it spent a lot of time on the drawing board, which, inspite of the relative restriction on freedom of speech, because the regime was a military one, saw a lot of criticism and pressure from the civil society groups. Although in the end, after getting it’s balance, PTF turned out to be the most impactful parastatal ever established in the history of Nigeria, that Go slow aspect, nearly hampered it’s performance.
If we go by reminisce, when he came the first time as military Head of state, the famous and popular quote of Buhari then was, “This generation of Nigerians and indeed future generations, have no other country than Nigeria. We shall remain here and salvage it together”. He spent alot of time going through the books, setting up tribunals to try suspects, and before the bulldozers could start pulling and packing the rubbles, another set of cowboys came to change the course. Since then, the journey was turned from Good to Bad, with the ugly beckoning at the speed of light.
Taking a cue from these antecedents, and going by the constraints of tenure under the termed arrangement of democracy, vis a vis the myriad of problems facing Nigeria at 60, I think Mr. President is wrong, by continuing to use the Go slow philosophy in the digital race to the stars.
Yes, like late Professor Ali Mazrui said, while other continents have been to the moon and back, and even the sun is getting closer, we in Africa, are still trying to get to the village. He added that, even if we get to the village, we may not be able to get back, because the roads are decayed, while the rails have crumbled.
Juxtapose the saying of late Mazrui with the precarious situation of Nigeria today, particularly the issue of insurgency, which is growing in strength and sophistication, and gradually becoming ominous for the country, one can not but ask, why is the President being soft on some issues?
Particularly appalling is the slow speed in implementing some of the policy options for addressing the causes of the insurgency.
The situation is turning ominous because every time a deadline is given, something bad comes on the timeline, and the country goes to grief.
It may be recalled that around the middle of June this year, about 4 months to the 60th anniversary, sequel to the deterioration of security in the country, with more than two attempts on the life of the Governor of Borno state, Professor Baba Gana Zullum, the President said, the service chiefs, whose tenure he is continuously extending without convincing reasons, need to do more, because they were not doing enough. Instead of going down, the attacks and tactics changed exponentially upwards.
Again early in August, disturbed by the outcry of the public, the President, through the National Security Adviser, ordered an immediate re-engineering of the entire security apparatus of the country, which he said would be done within a short time, imploring Nigerians to patiently await the result.
While Nigerians are awaiting the result, and anxiously looking forward to the celebration of safety at sixty, the country was thrown into another round of mourning few days ago, over the death of a military commander, Colonel Bako, who was fatally wounded in an ambush by Boko Haram militants in Borno state. Less than two days after, the convoy of Governor Babagana Zulum of the same Borno State, was again attacked by Boko Haram terrorists, around the same axis.
Much as Nigerians want to applaud the president for working tirelessly in order to make the end justify the means, working at such slow speed, in a system that is moving at high speed, is akin to working at cross purpose. Add his reluctance to right the wrongs in the wrongful removal of some of his aides, alongside other adverse decisions taken in his absence against the best interest of the country, you cannot but fault the President.
Yes, for Nigeria at 60, Mr. President is partially guilty.
Bala Ibrahim, a Media Advisor writes from Abuja