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Nigeria needs a uniter-in-chief

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By Eze Onyekpere

Nigeria purportedly celebrated Democracy Day on June 12, 2021. The events of the past week at the highest level of governance heralding the celebration called to question the essence and nature of governance in Nigeria. It was also the week of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)’s notorious interview to Arise Television.
On Democracy Day, there was a thick irony in the celebration as citizens in different states of Nigeria were illegally arrested and shot at by security operatives for attempting to freely assemble and demonstrate against tyranny. The Federal Government had earlier proscribed Twitter, a medium of freedom of expression. Essentially, without amending the fundamental rights chapter of the constitution, the Federal Government was openly violating its provisions and clamping down on citizens.
The ruling party and its high-ranking members including members who claimed to be democrats and human rights activists lined up in support of the government. Furthermore, the courts had been locked down for almost two months because governors across the federation failed, refused, and neglected to implement straightforward constitutional provisions granting autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary. Maybe, what we celebrated properly so called was Tyranny Day, instead.
Let me take this opportunity, however, to congratulate the President for being available to grant an extensive interview to a media house in Nigeria. He only granted interviews to foreign media houses when out of the country. Granting interviews was a commonplace practice with previous Presidents which the incumbent has thrown overboard in the last six years. Indeed, previous presidents used to invite different media houses – print and electronic – for deep question and answer sessions to explain the thrust of governance, achievements, and challenges. It was not an exclusive or limited interview to just one media house. The interview showed that the President seems to have lost the presence of mind and mental capacity needed to run a modern society. Some of his answers simply did not address the questions posed by the interviewers and it appeared he had questions not asked by the interviewers, which he was responding to. But let us take the President as he is and review the answers he provided to questions.
When a President speaks, he is expected to speak as a leader, a father, an inspirer, a comforter of the afflicted and firmly as the Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. His words should unite, offer new rays of inspiration even in the face of gloomy political, economic, and social conditions. A President’s words should provide some calm, and a “peace, be still” answer to agitated minds. Furthermore, a President’s words should attract investors, chart a new course for resolution of wicked problems and present what the administration is doing to lighten the yoke of the already troubled and poverty-ridden populace. It should chart a new course for the struggle against insecurity in all its manifestations. But what did Nigerians get from President Buhari on Friday? Evidently, none of these.
The President did not provide a new pathway to the resolution of the security challenge ravaging every region of Nigeria; neither did he elaborate on any existing but functional security strategy. Rather, when asked about the Biafran secessionist struggle, the President spoke like a “divider-in chief”, creating “dots” and becoming angry that fellow citizens (Igbo) have properties (earned from the sweat of their brow) all over the country as well as head businesses across the length and breadth of Nigeria. At the same time, the President was virtually explaining away Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East and other parts of Nigeria to unemployment and other challenges. He was quite measured in his response to insecurity in other parts of Nigeria. However, he could not distinguish between IPOB members, the whole Igbo nation and people of the South-East region. He doubled down on his threat of treating them in a language they understand; this was the reason informing his deleted tweet and subsequent banning of Twitter by his regime.
With a predominantly youth population, one expected the President of Nigeria to have some kind words for the youths, especially the unemployed and victims of his economic mismanagement. Rather, he was very angry with the youths for “attempting to overthrow” him during the #EndSARS protests in October 2020. He blames the youths for his regime’s failure. At a time of grave fiscal crisis, when Nigeria is deploying 83{ea8c11308c9c5919903708965b7b7a67d75ff567d88a1bebc318ff793fd0b309} of its earned revenue to debt service, Buhari superintends over systematic borrowing money to extend standard railway line to Niger Republic and, this is because, as he said, he has first cousins in that country. This is coming at a time the railway lines in the South-East have been abandoned and all the regime proposed to do is to rehabilitate the old narrow gauge. Narrow gauge for a region whose people is reported to be the most travelled and are found in virtually all parts of the country. But who will pay the tax or produce the resources for the repayment of the loans used to build a railway into Niger Republic? As a citizen of Nigeria, how are you expected to respond if you are from the unfortunate part of Nigeria who Buhari does not consider to be his people? Keep quiet and be damned forever? Speak up and be attacked by Buhari’s supporters?
Source: PunchNG

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