A Rudderless Craft Adrift – The Early Days of a New President

With the inception of the current government in Nigeria, many people heaved a sigh of relief; relief that the locust years were indeed coming to an end; relief that the nation was being relieved of the yoke of a certain jack-booted farmer; relief that we were going to be spared –at long last – the agony of a charade áká the “bolekaja presidency” because of the incessant mudslinging between the erstwhile numbers one and two citizens of the country;

 relief that we were to be freed from the burdensome yoke of a banana-peel prone legislathief chambers that were largely peopled by naira grabbing kleptonairacs.  Indeed, so palpable was the relief we felt that most Nigerians quietly looked forward to the coming of an unpretentious Mallam to power.

Although the means by which the afore-mentioned Mallam came to ascend the throne at Aso Rock is still the subject of legal gymnastics, fireworks, abracadabras and somersaults within the Nigerian jurisprudence, it is the somersaults of the government that has caught my attention and necessitated this write up.

As a curtain raiser, the new government went courting the opposition in a misguided attempt at garnering a so-called legitimacy through the instrument of an illegality labelled as GNU as if it mattered to the common Nigerian on the street that its rulers are accepted as legitimate by another set of discredited, thieving governor (read robber) barons. In one of my previous articles, ‘One step forward, two steps backward – Nigeria is not a Colony’, I had cautioned the new government about going ahead with discussing the so-called GNU with the opposition as a waste of time and resources.

What a colossal waste it turned out to be as this has not yielded the desired “legitimacy” and has indeed left a certain discredited politician in the person of our erstwhile number two citizen feeling he had a moral right to cast aspersions on the current dispensation whilst he farts through a mouth-piece in Nigeria and sneaks around the capitals of the Western world visiting fellow troubadours in hospital jail beds abroad. And all these, when he is ostensibly recovering from a damaged knee he sustained while performing the serious business of running for the Nigerian presidency at the same time he was disingenuously employed as the nation’s number two man. Hopefully, our Mallam has learnt the lesson that if you go to a fowl roost, you would get chicken shit over you as the charade of the GNU has been quietly dispensed with, with the usual charlatans the better off for it and not for the benefit of the common Ade, Olu, Chukwu, Mohammed or Zainab on the streets of Lagos, Kano, Aba or Jos.

Witness act number two. The government or the fifth columnists within it sought to emasculate the EFCC and ICPC – those enfant terrible we all agree were positive developments from the OBJ era – and Nigerians were so aghast, if you like, “flabberwhelmed and overgasted” when our normally garrulous Mallam Ribadu suddenly became more taciturn than a moustachioed ex-general that ruled the country previously as a jackboot and now pretends to be a defender of democracy. We were led to believe that the attempt to muzzle the crime fighter was due to “due process” but we have since been re-educated to understand that a government policy back flip was necessary because of – wait for it – rule of law! Thankfully, we now have our EFCC man suddenly come to life.

Witness act number three. We have a listening President and I am sure many Nigerians are now wondering how many ears this President of ours have now developed or what is the cranial capacity of the head supporting the pair of ears we see on his pictures; bearing in mind that the capacity of a man’s mind cannot be engineered the same way you would an automobile engine capacity. On the economic side, we have seen the revocations of certain decisions made by the previous occupant of Aso Rock such as the sale of the refineries, the import duty waivers and other concessions that were made to benefit certain individuals and to create a new class of moneyed people in the name of industrialisation. Welcome as these were to the general Nigerians, we have also witnessed the revocation of the sale of official quarters to many civil servants and some ex-political appointees but have been stunned by the loud silence on the sale of legislative quarters to the previous set of brigands that bestrode the nation in the name of making laws over the last eight years despite the fact that most of these men and women have been rigged or kicked out of the power equation for the time being. Dear Mr. President, please be reminded that the whole of concept of allowing legislative quarters to be sold to occupants is not a veritable means of sharing the national cake but rather an odious way of reminding common Nigerians that politics is but an opportunity to fleece the country by the few at the expense of the majority. This is a situation that must be hammered out immediately. What is good for the geese, they say…

Witness act number four. We were recently and suddenly bombarded with the news that our naira was going through a process of re-decimalisation – whatever that means – and many of us abroad jumped for joy as the announcement appeared the most radical pronouncement by the present government. I was particularly thrilled by the headline that naira would be exchanged almost at par with the dollar until I read the small print that came with it. I was equally thrilled by the fact that my extended family back in Nigeria would no longer think muck of the widow’s mite I manage to send home once in a genuine election in the country. But my hopes were short-lived as the staccato of announcements came to suggest it was a pipe dream that had no government backing. So, it seems the ayes lost to the nos this time. Soludo, I understand, is now being pressured to resign from his job at the CBN because of this faux pas. Nigerians have also been told neither the man Soludo nor Ribadu is now welcomed at the Economic Management Team meetings of the Yar’Adua presidency.

Without doubt, our esteemed President is entitled to do away with driftwood and flotsam in his government but we are not entirely convinced that it is in the interest of the common Nigerians to do away with certain people for the sake of fostering a new agenda on the nation. We do need an element of continuity to balance out with new thinking as well and as such we should not be seen as throwing away the baby with the bath water. Believe it or not, the common Nigerian is not a fool and knows which politicians or officials perform or steal while in power and are watching.

Move the slide to act number five and we move the focus to the legislative arm of government where it seems business is as usual. The new men and women in the chambers have proven themselves as apt learners and very adaptable chameleons. Indeed, they have so mastered their new trade and are now assiduously horse trading for positions and looking at laws that are solely designed to sustain their welfare before and above all in the country. Many Nigerians had bemoaned the fact that a lot of experience was lost to the moon slide elections that were held in April since this swept many so-called lawmakers aside and only a handful of them made it back to the chambers but woefully failed to acknowledge the fact that the sticky fingered men and women without honour departed from the hallowed chambers with more than their babanrigas, agbadas, designers suits and fake spectacles that made them look of precocious.  

Now, we are counting the true costs of the losses we sustained in April with this new era of banana peels. A new generation of owambé governors appear to have been tamed and sobered by the current travails of a handful of the previous ones but it seems that this has only created another generation of owambé lawmakers as personified by a certain hairdresser turned Speaker. Worse still, we are now witnessing anew, similar perambulations from the previous dispensation that meant more focus on impeachments, surreptitious moves and counter motions, nocturnal meetings and shenanigans rather than laws to improve the lot of Nigerians. We now have to dust our dictionaries and familiarise ourselves once more with terms like juicy appointments, inflated contracts, refurnishment(?) or refurbishment, presidency probes (as if the proboscis of mosquitoes are not enough to worry Nigerians) or what else have you. I beg, give me water drink!
    
Sadly, these are no laughing matters. More bewildering to this writer is not the rapidity with which government policies and decisions seems to cartwheel in recent times but the underlying tension these must be creating at Aso Rock. I cannot help but feel that the Presidency of Mallam Yar’Adua is in the throes of a deadly struggle between conflicting forces that do not bode well for our dear country, Nigeria. I cannot help but ponder what the outcome would be for our dearly beloved country. Indeed, I cannot help but wonder who is in charge here as we have a President who is determined to do right, but seems to be in the grip of forces beyond his control. I am inclined to hold the view that we have a neophyte in power that is almost certainly not sure how to use it to achieve his desired aims and goals.

Dear President, please understand that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Please also be advised that all these somersaults, whether you like it or not, whether you initiated, approved it or otherwise, bears your imprimatur. If you like, seek the opinion of OBJ – I am sure he would tell you that he suffered the same fate in his first term even though it was not as obvious to all then as it is now. But one thing you would need to bear clearly in mind is the fact that there would not be a second term for you if you do not settle down and start to deliver in your own direction rather than others.

I hearken to state once more, ordinary Nigerians on the street do not give a hoot how you got into power if your exercise of it benefits them. If you doubt me, simply ask yourself, why did people rejoice when Shagari was kicked out of power and why did people hail the gap-toothed genial when he deviously stormed his way to power? Put simply, Nigerians do not want a ‘good man’ in power if he surrounded by bad men and women - people rejoiced because they wanted a change; a change they hope would benefit them. Nigerians need a change and cannot afford to go slow on the matter. Dear President, your present procrastinations on matters of policies and directions is reminiscent of a rudderless craft adrift in a tempest. Please get a grip and let us move forward now otherwise 2020 will become a mirage rather than the perfect vision you envisage.

God bless Nigeria.


By Olukayode Soyemi