Last week, the political scene almost burst at the seams as it simmered with commentary on President Muhammadu Buhari’s working visit (some said holiday) to the United States of America with a large delegation, the size of at least, three football teams. And we are not talking about pot-bellied aides, operatives of the State Security Service and other faceless members who joined that train. If you are good in mathematics, you’ll come to a size of at least 100 heads who frolicked to the US in beautiful robes ostensibly to go see the Apothecary of Nigerian disease─ Barrack Obama who according to them, exclusively hold the talisman to move Nigeria from a third world Country to a First World nation. They would not read and study the principles of Lee Kwan yew on how to achieve such feat. They have no need for that hypothesis and so they sought the easy way and made the trip to the Freest State in the world forgetting that the hard way is the only way.
But all those are now history at least for now. In our last week column, prior to this visit, we had debunked and written off the trip to go see Santa Claus as it would not be any different from the ones before it. It appears we were prophetic and not pessimistic as many thought.
So while the jaunty-ride lasted, we threw our ears to the ground, avoided the crisis rocking the National Assembly and other issues that oozed out from our political suck away last week and became friend of the foreign media, where we followed the president’s trip from the cozy confines of our office.
we have in this column, sampled 10 observations that made or marred the trip depending on which side of the coin you choose to belong for the consumption of readers who I’m sure must have one or two knowledge about them already.
Nigerians Resort to Petty Propaganda and Public Show of Inferiority Complex over the Whole outing
We are very funny and trivialistic people who try to make a point out of anything however banal or baseless. Last week immediately the president’s itinerary was announced, Yusuf Buhari, the handsome son of Mr. President was spotted in the list and before one could shut the windows, the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ran to town with the story questioning the import of the young man being part of an official visit by a man who campaigned on a platform of Change with a renewed vigor to reduce the cost of running the government by any means.
Just before Olisah Metuh concluded his Press Statement, the ruling party and their army of supporters in their trade mark manner, went on the defensive but instead of answering the question posed, they sought validation and corroboration from distant lands. They sought to validate an error of protocol with what obtains in other climes. Femi Adesina, presidential foreman was in the forefront of that – saying it is no big deal that the president travelled with his son as other presidents so often do. In fact, he said that Obama traveled with his daughters abroad and that Clinton visited Nigeria with his daughter Chelsea during his tenure in 2002 as the 42nd president of America.
Assuming this is true (but which is not) when does what happen outside become a justification for how we do things here? Even if Bill Clinton visited Nigeria with Chelsea, who are we to muscle up with the Americans in terms of financial prowess. A nation whose singular State budget doubles our national budget for the whole year. And if we rush to secure legitimacy through foreign practices, why are we still sponsoring pilgrimages with state funds? Why have we not upheld gay rights? Haven’t America which we are quick to reference done away with these things or is this a case of selective amnesia? Lai Mohammed and his APC owe us a lot of explanation at the very least.
A friend of mine labored to justify Buhari’s decision to travel with his son by posting on my Facebook wall a picture of Obama, his wife and their daughters behind a military plane on the tarmac of an airport in a bid to prove his position that Obama once went on official visit with his family (wherever he got the picture from!). But our friend forgot that the President of The United States (POTUS) do not leave for official visits with military pads but strictly in the Air Force One. When I made the observation to him, he capitulated but perhaps, still digging the archives of Google to get the slightest thread of proof to back up his point. We pray that success shall greet his efforts.
Away from that, some overzealous supporters of APC, also took the occasion for an opportunity to make a public display of their stupidity and obtuseness on Social Media, posting pictures of PMB alighting from the plane to a red carpet stretched ahead of him with a guard of honor mounted for his inspection in accordance with diplomatic protocol for visiting presidents to another country in official capacity.
These group of charlatans pic-mixed PMB’s visit to Chad, Niger and Germany where such courtesy was extended to him and added beneath the pictures: “Guard of Honour in Niger, Guard of Honour in Chad, Guard of Honour in Germany and now, Guard of Honour in America. Sai Baba!” The height was when PMB sat for bilateral talks with Obama. The same petty individuals went ahead, comparing PMB’s handshake with Obama with GEJ’s handshake with Obama when the latter was on a similar visit in 2011. Others went to town chorusing; PMB is the 1st Nigerian President to be hosted at the Blair House, the 1st Nigerian president to use the toilet at the Blair House, the 1st Nigerian President to address Congress and a whole lot of other Lilliputian and shallow mindedness that were on display that make one to wonder whetheFollowership rather than Leadership is the weakest link to our meteoric rise
While I was putting finishing touches to this piece yesterday, word got to me that the governor of Imo state, Rochas Okorocha who has since returned to his penurious people of Imo state had littered bill boards across the city bearing pictures of him in a handshake with Obama while PMB watches closely with the inscription: “Behold The New Faces of Change”. What pettiness! I think we have to start getting serious in this country biko!
Femi Adesina’s Gaffes
My friend Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to Mr. President must be having it tough at a job that comes with so much trouble than the pleasure that comes with it. While at Daily Sun, I never missed his columns every Friday at the back page of the daily where he was the Editor in Chief until his current job. It is so evident that the man is still learning this very difficult job. Before now, he hadn’t a Twitter account to enable him understand how life in the Social Media works and so during this trip, his lack of skill at his new job of presenting Mr. President in positive light was visible to every eyes like a seven-month pregnancy.
He tweeted regularly without backing up facts with pictures forgetting that in such trips, pictures speak more than words and thus became a victim of mudslinging by the ‘Wailing Wailers’ of Nigerian political tweeter. Away from that, he contrived to no profit to seek justification for Buhari’s son being on that fat delegation and found one with the purported Clinton’s visit to Nigeria with Chelsea. But my friend Femi was wrong but I think he was being wrong deliberately for lack of justification for his master’s undoing. Suffice it to say that President Bill Clinton came to Nigeria in 2012 with his daughter Chelsea but in unofficial capacity as the president of the Clinton Foundation. This is at variance with his State visit to Nigeria in 2002 where he came with an official delegation. Adesina also exposed his flanks to attack by a very funny tweet: “APC supporters in Washington waving at PMB”, as though the elections haven’t come and gone or as though PMB was on a visit to the United States of America to shore up votes from Nigerians in the Diaspora. It was really unprofessional of a man who has reached what could easily be termed as the peak of print journalism in Nigeria. I hope Femi takes his corrections going forward.
Bazaar of Empty Promises
In our last week column, we had expressed the sentiments that PMB and Co. would come back with a bag full of promises, most of which will be kept in the breach. It was our opinion that America is way too occupied with Iran and Cuba and not the problems of Nigeria. We went further to add that the best they could get would be promises to do this and do that from our American friends but most of which are not new here to any serious mind. So POTUS while addressing PMB, promised to help Nigeria recover stolen funds stashed away in foreign countries namely; Luxemburg, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Britain and the US by a crop of former Nigerian Thieves of State and former public office holders who milked the nation as much as their purse could carry. One can only but wonder how America would come about that, and how Buhari and his team came about the $150 Billion mark.
Obama has less than 18 months as the president of the United States and one of his major task henceforth will be to clear the coast for Hillary Clinton from the pirates of Donald Trump and Jeb Bush lest they send the democrats parking from the White House. It was only normal and diplomatic for Obama to sound the way he did but any conscientious and thoughtful observer who understands the intrigues of International Politics would see through the ruse and call the bluff of the Americans. Anyone who believes that $150 Billion will be recovered could as well believe that one day cars will ride on water or a camel passing through the eye of the needle in faith with the Sermon on the Mount.
Violence as a Bargaining Tool.
At Amanpour, PMB made a volte face like the Janus god by turning away from his previous stand of crushing the insurgents and brought negotiation with the terrorists on the table. I remember vividly watching PMB at a brief interview in a function he attended in Kano early this year, when the elections were postponed for six weeks by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). With a stern face, GMB (as he then was), told the reporter who tried to seek his reaction to the sudden postponement: “How can they tell us they are postponing election because of Boko Haram. What is Boko Haram? Nigerian troops have performed gallantly in foreign lands how much more will it take to confront miscreants lurking at a corner of the nation”. He walked past the reporter visibly disappointed and vexed.
Fast forward to the present, PMB (as he is now) only last week told Amanpour that he will be willing to negotiate with Boko Haram to get the Chibok girls against his previous position and mantra of “Taking the war to the camp of the insurgents” on which he campaigned to garner the votes of Nigerians.
If this ever happens, it will be a reward for evil, a celebration of vice and deification of anomaly by the Buhari administration. Shekau and his murderous sect do not deserve any mercy. The popular Chibok girls cannot and should not be used as a bargaining chip. Boko Haram must be crushed and PMB must take the war to their camps as he promised but he may do otherwise at the detriment of his integrity.
The slightest negotiations with Boko Haram risks making violence a bargaining tool and earning it legitimate status. Accordingly Fesehun and his OPC boys, may pick up their struggle from where they left off, Tompolo, Dokubo and their comrades- in- arms may vacate their mansions and take lodgings at the creeks, Nnamdi Kanu and his Radio Biafra would attract more sponsors, and if possible merge with MASSOB, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni people (MOSOP) would beat their war-drums all of which may lead to the birth of a ceremony of anarchy and set Nigeria on edge. PMB should be well guided.
Is the World Bank Loan worth it?
PMB joined the pantheon of “Oga Tituses” when he accepted the offer of $2.1 Billion loan from the World Bank (where our very own has just been appointed the Vice President/Treasure – Arauma Oteh) to the end of rebuilding the North East. The loan when drawn will have a ten year interest moratorium. This means that if we are able to pay off before the next ten years, we won’t have to bother about interest on the loan and vice versa.
However Some people have said it is uncalled for as nothing of such nature has been extended to the Niger Delta region whose land and water ways have been rendered decrepit as a result of oil exploration in the area. To this people, PMB is being overtly biased and showing predilection for the North where he comes from. But in my considered opinion, the North East is today a metaphor for destruction and dilapidation. I spent the last six years of my life there and I know enough that this region needs all the help they can get for the rebuilding of towns, villages, markets, schools, recreational facilities, bridges and completion of numerous abandoned projects in this area. If we must get a loan, it must be judiciously used so that the purpose will not be lost, but let us enthrone peace before we rebuild. The discordant tunes of those making a case for the Delta must know that these regions enjoy fatter federal allocations, thanks to the 13% derivation policy which is enough all things being equal, to cushion the effect of exploration at the base of the nation.
Did Buhari Write that Op-ed Piece?
A day before the Visit, PMB purportedly wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post adumbrating the essence of his visit and the Overall State of the Nation. Trying to seek validation for not having appointed ministers two months in the saddle, PMP tried to derive legitimacy for his actions and as usual referenced America and Obama. In his words,
“When cabinet ministers are appointed in September, it’ll be some months after I took the oath of office. It’s worth noting that Obama himself did not have his full cabinet for several months after first taking office and the US did not cease to function”.
Well, this is a bag of misinformation if we really have to seek validation for our actions overseas. To keep the facts straight, President Obama, few days after his inauguration in 2008, appointed Harvard Economist and former Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers as his Chief Economic adviser and the rest of his 15-man cabinet almost immediately after that.
The craze to justify events here with their having happened elsewhere really speaks of us as a people without a style, and only serve to reduce our self-esteem. Whoever wrote that piece, whether Adesina, Garba or Baba himself we hope have taken their corrections.
PMB’s Excellent Outing at Amanpour
I had to stay back in the office last Tuesday beyond regulation time. It was for nothing other than to watch a woman I have come to admire so much, Christiane Amanpour take on our president. It was worth the wait as PMB replied every single of her questions with the demeanor of one who is fully in charge and understands what is at stake keeping the answers brief yet covering the subject of the questions. I was particularly impressed with his response to the sensitive question on whether he supports the International Criminal Court’s resumption of trial of Hissene Habre the former Chadian dictator for Crimes against humanity committed during his despotic reign from 1982 to 1990 and Buhari’s response was poignant: I will support every judicial process in so far as it is fair and unbiased in the administration of justice. Kudos to the man!
Okorocha’s Sartorial Contradiction
Our friend who occupy the Douglas House in Owerri, Owelle Rochas Okorocha was by every standard, the flop of the whole outing. It was nothing but his wrong sartorial combinations that got almost everyone talking which secured him that feat. His counterpart, the Edo state governor however impressed with nice set of suits with matching red neck-ties that exudes an air of confidence all around him. Perhaps his new bride/model must have talked him out of his signature comrade outfit for this particular visit which he thought it wise to oblige her. I think Rochas has a lot of lessons to learn from the former labour leader. If the gateway to that is picking a model-wife, then the Oowelle Igbo must start shopping for one for he has embarrassed Imolites more than enough with his Agberoish sense of dressing. How much does it cost to look smart anyway?
Nigerians are Still Divided along Ethnic Lines and PMB seem to be making the Gulf Wider.
In our trademark manner, the whole Buhari trip provided an opportunity for us to reveal our differences and tell ourselves how we are not united and how Goats and Yams can’t be kept together. Literally everyone saw every single statement made in the visit by PMB, through the ethnic or sectarian prism and Mr. President didn’t seem to make matters light. A classic example was with the negotiations/Amnesty for Boko Haram. Many people from the southern part of the country were of the opinion that no negotiations should subsist between the Federal Government and Boko Haram as they are murderers who must not be extended any mercy in any guise but must be crushed and their bodies fed to dogs. However, most northerners think otherwise and have argued that since the Niger Delta militants received Amnesty deal, it is only fair that the insurgents receive same if they are ready to lay down their arms. Quite a sound argument, but suffice it to say that the Niger Delta militants were more of an organized force who acted professionally and fought for quite a legitimate cause. In any case, the Social Media provided the platform where all these bitter exchanges and parochialism were ventilated. Which way Nigeria?
And Finally, the 97%, 5% Logjam
Visibly and mentally drained after being guest to series of events and shackled by over bloated protocol, Mr. President was almost worn out as he made his address at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) last Wednesday. I observed how he struggled to deliver the very long address at that occasion periodically losing touch with his audience. By some magic, he managed to read through the address and sat down for a brief question and answer session. It was here that Mr. President made the greatest blunder ever by a Nigerian president. In a bid to proffer answer to a question posed to her by a female journalist who sought to know how Mr. President would tackle the problem of the Niger Delta region threatened by environmental degradation. PMB who it appeared didn’t have a full grasp of the question, went out of key and in a fit of verbal incontinence, posited that constituencies which gave him 97% votes would have the first line of charge as against constituencies that gave him 5% votes in accordance with the election result sheet as it was only fair to so do, in his opinion.
Before he could elucidate further on the statement, noticing he had spoken out of turn, Naysayers were already in town with their ‘pick out’ and they rushed to the black market and sold it at a very cheap price sentencing Mr. President to public opprobrium for given the North preference ahead of other regions especially the South East earning points for themselves with the lopsided appointments so far that seem to favour the northern region of the country most.
In our opinion, Baba goofed. He could have been smarter than that. And this statement cannot be reversed no matter how much energy Adesina and gang dissipates trying to paint Baba’s statement. Whatever it was Baba meant, it came out really bad and this could taint the remainder of his first tenure. Trust Nigerians who love and hate in equal measure. In a nation divided by the cleavages of religion and ethnicity squarely, no statement can be more inciting and suggestive by a president who is expected to accommodate and represent every singular interest.
As it stands, the South -South and the South East are already disenchanted with the Buhari administration and PMB and his All (Nigerian) People’s Congress may downplay this at their own detriment. There is something worrisome about a government yet to hit the ground running to be associated with the appellation─ Federal Republic of Northern Nigeria (FRNN) in a secular political setting.
So what did We Achieve?
It is clear to the blind that last week’s exercise was nothing more than an exercise in luxury and stupendous show of political ineptitude. For the likes of Okorocha, it was a picnic little wonder all through the outing, excitement took hold of him. That he has littered the streets of Owerri with pictures of his visit, allows us an entry into the mindset of the man. In the final analysis, nothing much could be said to have been achieved as the bureaucracies involved in the litany of promises might impeach their actualization. The Leahy Act would not allow us become beneficiaries of American arms deal as America thinks our Soldiers are “Murderers and Rapists” who kill for fun and would not allow arms sold by them to be used extra-judicially. So we must still look to China and Russia for military hardware until our soldiers are disciplined enough in the opinion of Patrick Leahy.
For PMB, I think it’s high time he
marshalled his team and get this nation on course. The solution to our problem lies with us. Let us seek it within. God will help us.
Raymond Nkannebe is a Lawyer and a Public Affairs Analyst. Contact him via: 08068271477,
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on twitter @RayNkah