Nigeria News

Mr. President, we who are about to die, salute you!

Since the return of democracy in 1999, Nigeria has not had a prepared president. That is a president who was willing and yearning to become president before being made or elected president; a president who has spent a lot of time thinking long and hard about what he wants to do for this country, how he wants to do it and with whom he wants to do it before being saddled with the responsibilities of a president.

Obasanjo was really not thinking of being the president before he was released from prison and asked to go to Aso Rock. Yaradua never told anyone he wanted to be president but the powers that be wanted him to be president and lo he became our president. Goodluck Jonathan in my estimation was the most unprepared of all. Infact he became everything he never said he wanted to be, from Governor to Vice President and all the way to being President.

I’m not saying they didn’t have their personal dreams and wishes for this country before they became presidents; we all have wishes and dreams for this country. But becoming a president demands a deliberate planning and a long term yearning that should allow for a well-documented articulation of such a wish and dream.

So when Buhari presented himself for the elections in 2015 for a record 4 times, I thought finally we have got a prepared man for the office of the president. I thought no man will run for the president 4 times without having a well-oiled machinery, a well-articulated vision and a well prepared team to execute the duties of the president speedily, efficiently and effectively. This supposed preparedness was Buhari’s main selling point for me.

So I was not impressed when it took months after winning the elections for the President to send the list of his ministers to the Senate. For a man who first contested for the president in 2003, such display of unpreparedness was inexcusable on any ground. I consider all those talk of the president being slow, steady and tactful as glorification of tardiness.

In the movie ‘The Meeting”, Rita Dominic said “Weekend is a long time in government.” And truly 5 months is a very long time in government. I’m still even trying to wrap my head around how a president who has 4 years to deliver his campaign promises will spend 5 months to assemble his ministers.

43-year old Justin Trudeau was elected the Prime Minister of Canada on 19 October 2015 and when he was sworn in on 4 of November 2015, less than 3 weeks after, he announced his cabinet of 15 men and 15 women. But after waiting for months what did our slow, steady and tactful president gave us? A bunch of old faces, no youth and a sprinkle of women.

I’m concerned with how tardiness has become the hall mark of governance in Nigeria and the President is taking this red tape and ‘slowness’ to new heights. Everywhere you turn you will see government officials walking around doing nothing and feeling important.

Recently, when I came back from Gabon for The New York Forum Africa I contacted a young aide to the Governor of Cross River State to tell him about an educational invention that will revolutionize the teaching and learning of Mathematics for secondary school students and how the government can acquire this for students of the state. I asked him whether I should submit a proposal for his perusal and he said he will look into it. I was dumbstruck. What is he going to look into? I have not even submitted a proposal yet.

This is over 2 months now and he has not gotten back to me with any sort of feedback. I guess he is still looking into a proposal I have not submitted. This is a young man who is barely 30 but he has already imbibed the bad habit of being slow and doing nothing to look important. And when you point this out, they will say you don’t understand how government works. But the truth is that a man who knows what he should do, what he is doing, how he should do it and with whom he should do it will certainly do it speedily.

Being slow, is very often, a symptom of internal confusion. Sadly it is only in politics that people will have the liberty of wasting time without result. No Bank Manager will spend 5 months to choose his team members. He will be fired immediately. Politicians and their praise singers are ‘forcing’ us to equate slowness with wisdom. Don’t be fooled. Let’s resist this institutionalization of attitudinal fallacy.

And this is supposed to be PDP’s fault. That’s what we keep hearing from the President and his men. The PDP destroyed the country so fast, so the President has to be slow to fix a destruction that happened so fast. PDP might be responsible for the mess in the country but certainly they are not responsible for the governance of the country today.

This is not even news. We know PDP wasted our resources, we know PDP messed our economy, we know that, we know this. That’s why we elected you to fix it. If the PDP government was good, APC wouldn’t have been elected into governance. The APC should stop telling us what we already know, fix it.

Recently the president said he will never stop talking about how PDP ruined this nation. Really? Is this another way of admitting he cannot fix it? Or maybe it is to keep this as an excuse of his inability to fix it perpetually fresh in our minds.

Now we hear that some of the ministers designate will not have portfolios. I wonder what will qualify one minister to have a portfolio and another not to. This is an issue for another piece.

In ancient Rome, gladiators, who are usually slaves, stand upon the sand of large amphitheater to fight themselves to death while the crowd cheer. Before they commence their bloody fight, they will lift up their heads and address their Lords and Masters in the following words: “We who are about to die, salute you!” I don’t know why they did this. Maybe it is to show respect and gratitude to the Lords and Masters who will even consider it worthwhile to watch them kill themselves in the sand.

The fate of the gladiators might not be very different from the fate of millions of Nigerians. We stand in the sand with sweat on our brows, tilling the arid ground and drinking the aroma of unending struggles. With war from the North East and the sound of trouble from a frustrated people in the South East. It is the survival of the fittest.

As we fight for survival, we lift up our eyes to the hills where our Lords and Masters dwell and we see them playing ayo with our lives. Lawyers are walking out on judges, the legislature is breaking campaign promises through legislative fiat and the president is telling us how broke we are.

Mr President, we who are about to die. salute you!

For decades unemployed Nigerian youths have lived without any sort of stipend from the government, they were not really complaining. But APC told them during the electioneering campaign that they will be paid N5000 monthly and 5 months into the tenure of the APC led government, they instructed their senators to break this campaign promise on the floor of the senate.

Don’t bother telling me why they have to do that, the President has already told us: the country is broke. But the country is buoyant enough to pay the same legislators even wardrobe allowance. The country is buoyant enough to pay most of them who are ex Governors stupendous amount of pension.

Mr President, we who are about to die, salute you!

APC and the President Media handlers have the proclivity of being ridiculous most times. How else can one describe the story they tried selling us about the President administering the country with his body language? A lot of “miracles” were ascribed to this amusing body language. Please I don’t want to talk about how shameful this line of yarning was, make we just leave am abeg.

I must commend the flurry of anti-corruption activities going on, though we hear more about it than we see it. We are still waiting for significant conviction of these much touted looters and the recovery of their loot. But it is pertinent to point out that governance is not just about probe and dramatic litigations. Our economy cannot be fixed with recovered loot alone.

We trusted the APC with the task of fixing this country, let them do it fast. Show us the way and we will follow. Give us a blueprint to work it. Don’t just point us to the broken walls, give us some tools and lead us to build the broken walls. Free us from being gladiators and killing each other in the sand while you watch. Take our salute but free us from the prophecy of death.

We, who are about to die, salute you!

First Baba Isa (FBI) writes from Abuja

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