The interred voice of America’s 28th president, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, roused me out of a deep sleep early this morning, piercing through my spirit being like a hot knife through a pack of cheese: “There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed”. I concur with Wilson’s voice of wisdom. The late legendary heavyweight boxing champion of all champions, Muhammed Ali, also put it so soothingly smooth: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth”. To serve one’s own country in any capacity is serving humanity. It is a pleasant privilege. It is why the service must be sincere, radiating from the human heart and soul. And it must seek only to build, and not to bleed the people.
Serving in elective positions is volunteering as a problem-solver.The problems, hence, must neither linger on unsolved nor double in size. If they do, the problem-solver needs a self-check. He has just become a problem-multiplier. The moment a problem-solver is considered a problem-multiplier, the people he seeks to serve have the inalienable rights to declare him invalid and say: “He is not the one. We must look for another”. They have not signed an eternal covenant with cluelessness or failure. They have the right to seek an alternative. It is about their lives and destinies, not about the perpetuity of an effete office-holder in power.
A year from now will be another presidential election in Nigeria. Even in the eyes of those who rooted and voted for him, sitting President Muhammadu Buhari is now deemed an electoral error of an unimaginable pharaonic magnitude. Whatever his efforts are, Nigerians see no tangible results except on paper and through the propaganda machinery of government. Buhari has done what Buhari as man and President can do. Give it to him, he has slowed down the bleeding. He shut down some conduits of corruption and zipped up the mouth of a few ‘hyaenas’ whose lifestyles are woven around stealing government money. But the tourniquet around the bleeding spot is still loose seeping out some fluid of corruption into a few pockets of men around him. Now Mr. President should know that corruption in Nigeria is like the biblical Goliath from Gath. A monstrous, terrorising being with intimidating conspectus and curriculum vitae. The nasty and nauseating monster which has millions of demonic agents dispersed everywhere in Nigeria cannot be killed with just a sling and five smooth stones. The team that once accused others of stealing now has stealing team members. And they still insist “we are fighting those who are STEALING”. But can men who steal fight men who stole? Even if Mr. President has wrestled with corruption and prevailed, don’t Nigerians deserve more than fighting corruption?
The Federal Government recently announced that about 80 million of its citizens live in poverty. Across the landscape, the gross misfortune is visibly discernible on ghostly, ghastly, and gaunt faces of hapless Nigerians. The 80-million figure may be a calculated hush on the brazenness of the challenge. Other dependable sources believe that the number of the poor in our midst is around 120 million people. Whatever source you consider credible and dependable, poverty has no business ravaging a country like Nigeria. But unfortunately, from one region to the other, poverty thrives on. We all know the hazards and havocs the debauchery of poverty has wreaked.
With all the taunted feats of the Buhari administration, with all the propaganda mud wrestling with Thailand and her rice, poverty in its monstrosity and mega dose still dwells in the belly of the Nigerian nation. Poverty is Nigeria’s Number 1 enemy. As long as the turpitude continues to pour out its scorching rain on Nigeria, young girls with beautiful futures will continue to be prostitutes. Young men will remain entrenched in armed robbery and kidnapping. Young Nigerians will gloat over signing up in Libyan slavery sanatoria with no desire to return home. Older men and women will be shamelessly recidivistic. And Nigeria will remain in a hoity-toity stranglehold. There are few convincing words that can be spoken about Buhari’s efforts to tweak things around. The narrative about this President and the Presidency is that conditions in Nigeria have got worse under Buhari.
The narrative of heedlessness and inconsideration has been cast in stubborn irremovable stones. It will not go away before the election. There is the story of Lt Col. Muhammad Abu Ali, a brave soldier who died confronting insurgents in Borno State. On the day of his burial ceremony, Mr. President was in Edo State at a campaign rally. About 100 citizens were murdered in Adamawa in an all-night genocide, but Mr. President only visited Adamawa for the anti-corruption summit without commiserating with the families of the dead. About 73 people were slaughtered by Fulani terrorists in Benue without any empathic presidential commiseration with families until much later. Some 110 schoolgirls were jolted out of bed in Dapchi and Mr. President graced the catastrophe feasting at a wedding ceremony in Kano. Has the President visited any IDP camp in the North-East for a firsthand assessment? Where is the empathy toward these pathetic stories we hear? The narrative of heedlessness will not go away.
Nigerians believe that a President who does the needful only because of opposition pressure lacks the requisite leadership grits. Empathy is innate. Those whose loved ones were killed before their times believe Mr. President lacks it. Many weeks after the Dapchi daredevilry, Mr. President has yet to visit the hotspot. Between cows and the cabal now hangs the fate of Nigeria. If Buhari and his team are working hard and making efforts to bail Nigeria out, ordinary Nigerians have not yet felt any evidence of goodies.
I recently visited Nigeria. Rightly or wrongly, Nigerians seem set to change course in the Presidency in 2019. You can feel the thudding pulse all around. Will it be an error or not? No one is certain until the course changes. But if Mr. President wants to keep his job, he needs to recalibrate his strategy. Creating the office of the Reconciler-in-Chief headed by Bola Tinubu is not providing an answer to the spreading hunger. It is only for feuding professional politicians who always have their cakes, eat them, and swallow like money-swallowing snakes. And do Nigerians care about fighting politicians? No! Nigerians want rice and beans. They want security and an enabling environment to run their business. They want something to hold on to that assures them this country belongs to everybody. They want to live in peace and prosperity in a peculiarly prosperous land they love. They lost Nigeria a long time ago. And they want it back.
The best of presidents must leave his position after a season. And the worst must also vacate his seat someday. Underperforming or non-performing leaders will be replaced. It is the beauty of democracy. From all indications, Nigerians don’t seem to be happy any longer with President Buhari. And who knows how long the distaste will last? Who knows if the wrath will ever or never come? For the President, the journey is still about 12 months away to election time. It’s a short runway to redemption or extinction. And the choice is strictly his.