Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Buhari’s Uninspiring Democracy Day Speech

By Mike Ozekhome
I carefully listened to and read President Buhari’s Democracy Day Speech. I must confess that I felt quite hollow after it all. He lost a golden opportunity to engage Nigerians to buy into his change agenda. The speech did not give the much needed hope, did not fire up ebbing nationalistic and patriotic embers in Nigerians, and did not ignite the drooping and sagging dreams of Nigerians for a better tomorrow, with nerve, verve, éclat, gusto, zest and vivacity. It was bland, colourless, full of sound and fury.
*Buhari and his wife, Aisha 
By the way, I do not believe May 29 should be Nigeria’s Democracy Day. I’ve argued this over the years. It should be June 12. That was the day real democracy berthed in Nigeria.  For another day.
PMB’s speech, rather than being engaging, pacific, placatory and conciliatory, from the father of the nation to his hapless children, was bellicose, belligerent, militant, combative and simply pugnacious. I blame his speech writer for this, for woefully failing to capture, or mirror the angry and disillusioned mood of the nation, to Mr President. The speech accordingly lacked colour, panache, assurance, animation, elan and vitality.
The speech failed to address the multifanous problems, besetting Nigeria and government’s deliberate efforts at redressing them. It dwelt too much on damage assessment of the past, rather than the  panacea, the present and the future. It failed Albert Einstein’s theory that “we cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. John Burroughs, it was, who said that “a man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else”.  PMB’s Federal Executive Council is now derisively called “Federal Excuses Council”. The speech blamed everyone else, but the government.
I hereby plead most earnestly with Niger Delta Avengers to drop their arms and come to the negotiating table with the government. Blowing up pipelines will compound, not only Nigeria’s socio-economic woes, but theirs, as well. You do not cut your nose to spite your face. But, PMB did not help matters. He threatened and talked tough. He could easily have demobilised them with assuaging and soothing words. Kind, persuasive and tranquilising words are deadlier than any armada of military force. The speech did not create for Nigeria an anti-corruption template, which seeks to extirpate it from the very root, rather than the present fight, which is merely superficially predicated on loot recovery alone. We are treating a dangerous ailment of cancer with drugs meant for skin eczema. Fighting corruption must have a template, which deals with a total re-orientation of our debased national psyche and value system from primitive acquisition, to honour, character and dignity.

*Chief Ozokheme
PMB did not adequately address the present biting economic recession and how to pull Nigeria out of the doldrums. No construction of a single kilometre of road, no jobs creation, but loss of 4.3 million jobs in one year; relocation of industries and airlines outside Nigeria; no single hospital ward built; no grain of rice or tuber of cassava planted. PMB failed to provide solution to the current dismal exchange rate or, beefing up foreign reserves. Here, the scenario since the time GEJ left office: Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy as at 2015, crashed from a 7% GDP to 0.36%; nosedived from 3rd to 83rd position as the world’s fastest growing economy. Not a single conviction in any of the cases commenced since last year, except vilifications and convictions on pages of newspapers and the electronic and social media. He refused to address cases of blatant breach of human rights, disobedience to court orders, lopsided anti-corruption fight, skewed and asymmetrical appointments, etc.
The speech failed to address corrosive inflation, which has seen one tomato selling for N100 from N10, rice N18000 – N20,000 from N9,000, fuel N145 – N400 per litre, from N87. No palliations were announced, like U-win Sure P, DFFRI, Napep, NDE, etc., of previous administrations.
The speech did not tell us how to bring back the nearly 250 Chibok girls, out of whom only two were allegedly rescued  (under controversial circumstances), with pomp and pageantry, with one actually emerging with a baby. No reprieve on electricity that has literally collapsed, with no single watt added, whilst Nigerians are paradoxically forced to pay higher tariff for non existent light.
PMB’s speech rather than bind bleeding wounds, opened them up more. He did nothing to remove the paintbrush of a “fantastically corrupt” nation slammed on us, which he had, unfortunately (with the highest respect), concurred with Cameron on, rather than demurring. He shocked Nigerians when he said he had consigned into “the so-called historical archives”, the 2014 National Conference report, all because N9 billion was allegedly spent on it. The more reason he should use it. Sir, the report was authored by 482 patriotic Nigerians, drawn from all works of life and strata of the society. Yours humbly, was one of them. We worked patriotically on it. Sir, there are more than 250 recommendations that will help your government. You will find in the report, critical issues about devolution of power, true fiscal federalism, judiciary, legislature, police, security, governance,  economic re-engineering, political engagement, etc. You will discover that you don’t need to give out bailout funds to unviable and impecunious states.
What has Nigeria gained from PMB’s 29 foreign trips, spending 85 days in only one year?  We don’t know. Obama, America’s 44th president, has so far made only 47 trips to 54 countries in nearly eight years! No foreigner will invest in Nigeria, sir, if you continue to describe your country folks as criminals and as “fantastically corrupt.”
It is incredible to hear a government, claiming as success the implementation of TSA, which was actually introduced and even implemented under GEJ, albeit in phases, and not in one fell swoop, so as to protect commercial banks?
Or, view as achievement, that it “motivated the military”, and there are “no more road blocks”! Or that only a miserly 30% of the budget is devoted to capital items? How can PMB see honest criticisms of his policies by Nigerians, who equally have a stake in the country as people with “vested interests”, who will “sow divisions, sponsor vile press criticisms at home and abroad, incite the public in an effort to create chaos”? No sir. They are only helping you get it right. Indeed, embrace them. Praise them.
I urge you, sir, to belong to the pantheon of great men of history – Napoleon, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Joseph Stalin, Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Woodraw Wilson, James Madison, John F. Kenedy, Vladimir Lenin, etc. Tough times throw up heroes.
*Chief Ozekhome is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN)

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