Show saboteurs The Door
President Muhammadu Buhari made what I regard as a surprise admission at his interview with Al Jazeera last week. He admitted there are saboteurs in his government. These people, he said, are not “100 per cent loyal” to his administration. Loyalty is very important to military men. Chief Obasanjo once told federal permanent secretaries he did not expect 99.9 per cent loyalty from them; he expected 100 loyalty. I suspect civilians have problems with that.
Maybe it should not have come as such a surprise really. No government is ever free of those who serve it disloyally. A milder form of disloyalty is what we call eye-service, as in pretend that you are serving oga when you observe that oga is watching you.
Sabotage is an ever clear and present danger in every administration. It is the axe at the root of every government. A careless move here or there and it goes to work, attacking the roots. Saboteurs are lucky because they have no names and no faces. You do not see them but you see their evil handiwork. You just wish you could set EFCC after them.
I hope though that Buhari did not make the admission against his better judgment because it carries with it some implications that should not have been lost on him. When a president complains of sabotage of and saboteurs in his government, it means a) that things are not shaping up to his expectations and he is getting increasingly frustrated with his team and b) there are men and women in his team who are disconnected from its programmes and vision and are doing whatever they can to either stagnate it or pull it down.
I wonder if this is the case. Is the president frustrated by and with his team of round pegs in round holes? The next logical step is usually to hunt for scapegoats. That step should not be taken.
A complaint such as this from the president may also give an unfortunate whiff of buck-passing, as in, if you cannot see the change I promised, blame the saboteurs, not me. That would be an unacceptable surrender to saboteurs. I do not think Nigerians would be prepared to accept excuses from this government in any shape or form. The change the president and his party promised has become a social contract between him and his party on the one hand and the people on the other hand. It is the change we want to see in a visible road map taking us from point A to point B. Nothing should sabotage this important social contract. It was what moved millions of Nigerians to, for the first time in our political history, throw out a government that had held them hostage to thievery, incompetence and arrogance. The president needs no one to tell him that our hope as individuals and our future as a nation hang on his faithful and competent execution of the social contract. If there be saboteurs, the door should always be left open to match them out through it.
We know that the expectations were and are huge and even unrealistic but they speak, not of foolishness on the part of the people, but of a cry of despair and frustration from the heart. They constitute a yearning for the man we verily believe has the capacity to turn the brown vegetation of our lost hope green again with renewed hope in the future of our country. No small burden thrust on a leader, surely.
You see, timing has an uncanny way of magnifying some niggling things perhaps out of proportion. The president spoke of saboteurs in his government in the face of our return to long queues at our petrol stations throughout the country coupled with a sharp drop in power generation from whatever height it reached to a shamefully lowly 2,600 megawatts. Thus, we are currently contending with what we have always contended: epileptic power supply and fuel scarcity. Anyone who bothers to calculate the man hours lost at queues at our petrol stations daily will cry his heart out. An oil producing country short of fuel? A giant of Africa with hydro and thermal stations generating what a village in Benin Republic, next door can consume? Yea, yea, this is Nigeria.
None of us expected the president to wave the magic wand and end this blight on our national pride but by this time, we expect these lingering problems that have become the bane of our economic, industrial and social development to be seen to be beating a permanent retreat. Epileptic power and fuel shortage are the visible but ugly faces of corruption and impunity in the country. I had always expected that these would be first problems Buhari would tackle on assumption of office. I see no evidence of that yet.
When the president talked of sabotage in his government in the face of the current daily grind and suffering at petrol stations and the compulsory burning of candles, it is easy for some of us to link it to the unholy role of men in government with their business partners who have chopped all the money and given us darkness and empty petrol tankers. Not many of us are unaware that saboteurs are entrenched in NEPA and NNPC. They have been sabotaging the two organisations for close to two generations now. The more money government spends on them, the less result we see. The last time anyone cared to talk about it, the country had spent some scary figure of $25 billion between 1999 and 2013 on power alone. Yet our NEPA wires and transformers are dead cold. I know of no country that has spent so much on power and reaped not even healthy peanuts. Nigeria is the only country in Africa, big or small, that is in permanent struggle with something as basic as generating and distributing enough power to its people. The curse of oil wealth?
I am reminded of the fact that shortly after Buhari assumed office in May last year, the light was fairly constant and the queues instantly disappeared from our petrol stations and the prices of petroleum products came down. Oh, the fear of Buhari was the beginning of wisdom. It seems the Teflon is wearing off. They fear the president no more. So, they are back in business. We watch as our hope begins the uncanny dance of dancing to no music. Pity.
To My Readers
MY last week’s column, The Curse of the African Big Man, brought me basket loads of reactions from readers. I appreciate their responses. Nearly all of them chided me for not including President Paul Biya of Cameroon among the African big men. A silly omission. I have no excuse for it. I apologise to you, my dear vigilant readers. One of my readers suggested that the man used African juju to make me forget him. No, sir! I am sorry that I am unable to reproduce these letters at this time because of a technical hitch.
Biya, 82, is indeed, a typical African Big Man. He has been president of his country since he succeeded the first president, Ahmadou Ahijdo, in 1982. He is usually the sole candidate in the presidential elections since his first presidential election in 1983. Biya is ranked at number 20 among The World’s Worst Dictators. He is a typical African big man. He was once said to have spent $40,000 a day in a Paris hotel where he and his cronies took up 43 rooms for, believe me, a short stay of two weeks.
As with the other African big men, Biya shows no signs of going quietly into the sunset. His country, famous for its export of bananas, is not a rich country. It has a population of 22,534,532, a GDP of $72,104 and a per capita income of $1,243. Yet corruption is rife because Biya, his family and his cronies freely help themselves to what trickles in. Transparency International ranks it at 144 out of 178 countries with the worst cases of palm oil on their fingers. Not one African Big Man is a true, caring, selfless and empathic father of his nation.