BACKLASH: Our President Has Gone Talking Again
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) is talking too much and I don’t know who to call, to call him to order. He wasn’t talking like this during the 12 years (between 2003 and 2015) that he was in the trenches, pushing to assume the presidency. He had maintained a dignified taciturnity that somehow helped his cause in 2015. If he spoke, it was to say why Nigeria should not be allowed to obliterate under the PDP 60-year power rolling plan. And because he spoke less, the mystic around his persona was maintained. He was seen as a very serious minded retired general, who understood that better substance was in action rather than in propaganda.
But change has come since May 29 and Buhari has changed too. He now exhibits a very annoying loquacity; always talking not even speaking. Some actually say he is talking anyhow on global stages. In 181 days or so, PMB has visited 10 countries. He has visited more countries than he has visited states or even cities in Nigeria. Each time, he has had something to talk about Nigeria and the line has been very consistent. Nigeria is morally bankrupt due to years of bankrupt leadership. He would add that his mission to effect a turn-around is increasingly looking bleak in the light of daily revelations of the depth of bankruptcy the country has sunk.
He said exactly so in the US, Germany, France, South Africa and the neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger, Cameron Republic of Benin and Ghana, where he had gone to forge a regional alliance to defeat Boko Haram. In sum, these offshore sermons on both mountains and plain grounds are meant to gain international understanding to the effect that, notwithstanding the loud promise by Buhari and the APC before the May 29 transition, it might take more than the four year presidency of Buhari to wake up the African giant from its deep slumber.
That said, it is one thing to preach a sermon and quite another for the preachment to be understood. Even the Lord Jesus Christ who also gave sermons on mountains and low grounds was misunderstood, how much less a President Buhari who has not made good effort to communicate effectively across his message of change. He is just lamenting like a helpless victim and hoping to extract some remediation from his western sympathisers.
But things don’t work that way in Europe and America. To western leaders, all the issues had been framed and presented in the pre-election campaigns. After the election and handing over of power, they had hoped to see clear plans at addressing the issues raised in the campaigns. To continue the pre-election advocacy, which has since degenerated into a needless lamentation by Buhari, will not move a soul in the west.
Unfortunately, Buhari does not understand. He is still talking like a victim and recently in Iran, he said some looters were returning looted funds on their own volition. He sounded as if that piece of information, in itself, constituted a major breakthrough in his war against corruption .
And when there is some news to break about Nigeria, Buhari never does so in Abuja or elsewhere in the country. He waits until he gets to a foreign land before he opens up.
It was in the US that he said the Federal Government was ready with the prosecution of public treasury looters in the Jonathan administration, especially petroleum subsidy scammers and even added that the process would begin in “a week’s time.” He had waited till he got to France to say that the Federal Government had opened negotiation with the Boko Haram sect to secure the release of the abducted 200 Nigerian schoolgirls. In India, Buhari said that Nigeria was broke and so much so that the Federal Government would not be able to hire and sustain 36 ministers as required by the constitution.
So far, none of these statements has translated to action points. No petrol subsidy scammer has been arraigned to answer for whatever misdeeds. In fact, the only person standing trial from the so-called Jonathan’s camp of looters is former National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sabo Dasuki, who had nothing to do with fuel subsidy as such. Former petroleum minister, Mrs. Diezani Allison Madueke, who appeared the target in this particular quest to skin subsidy scammers, has vanished from the regime’s radar, perhaps, at the realisation that the wild allegation of a stolen 13 billion pounds against her was unsustainable. That amount is not petty cash. It is about 50 per cent of the 2016 N8 trillion budget and it cannot be taken out of a single economy just like that without dire consequences.
All 36 screened ministerial nominees were hired and assigned ministries and they will be paid their salaries and allowances, which one estimate put at about half a billion naira per annum for all 36 ministers. Of course the Chibok girls are still in captivity. On the claim in Iran that stolen money is being returned by the thieves, Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose has asked the President to name names and amounts returned.
PMB’s words have returned empty to him without result. He has been posturing. If it is part of the overall strategy to explain away the apparent absence of movement in six months, I am afraid it is not going to work. It is like Buhari has not strained his ears well enough to pick the soft responses of his western audiences. Over there, nobody discusses efforts or even constraints. Nobody postures too. They discuss results and if all Buhari has to offer after the hype of a change mantra, are efforts and constraints instead of results, it were better he remained silent.
For instance, Buhari said in Iran that unlike the situation in 1984 when he could put corrupt politicians in protective custody and prison to squeeze from them what was stolen, democracy is making the recovery process most cumbersome this time around. Nobody will applaud him for talking like this.
The Americans, including President Barak Obama, would laugh at him and say: “Cut the crap men! You promised to fix things and you got hired for the job. Get cracking or be fired!” The British and Europeans generally who are far more diplomatic, may not sound that caustic. They would sympathise with PMB in principle and then offer him a range of options out of the quagmire. These may include; currency devaluation, lean government, removal of subsidy on fuel, increased taxes and tariffs and a more liberal fiscal regime that will stifle local initiatives and expose the national economy to offshore adventurers.
They will then wait for PMB to make a move and match him accordingly. So far, PMB has not made any definite move; he has been lamenting and giving excuses for his lack of initiative. The west will also lament and give excuses why all the high promises in aids to reverse the dwindling national fortunes and to join the war against Boko Haram have not come on stream six months after.
Put differently, de-marketing the Jonathan regime as a strategy for marketing the Buhari presidency has failed and woefully too. It is not attracting the right responses from the target market. The President is currently in Malta for the Common Wealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). He has not made any policy statement or said something about his inability to move forward due to the large scale corruption perpetuated by the immediate past regime in Nigeria. It is hoped he will remain quiet for once.
The 2015 UN Climate Change Conference begins in Paris France tomorrow. President Buhari will be there too and it will be his second time in France since May 29. It is hoped too that he will speak instead of just talking and use the opportunity to market his vision to other world leaders, having done enough de-marketing of the regime before his.