HAVING watched President Buhari’s government intently for the past seven months, it is imperative that I make my observations and fears known so that I can contribute to the positive change that we all hope for, and in my own little way try to ensure that this government does not fail the people of Nigeria; a people who have already been badly bruised by previous administrations.
There seems to be sincerity of purpose in the intendment of President Buhari. However, a snail paced and disordered methodology in governance, his apparent disdain for judicial authority and decisions, a lost today found tomorrow 2016 budget debacle, and a rather rudderless and confused Central Bank with an unclear monetary policy strategy (inevitably increasing the economic uncertainties being faced by Nigerians), have set alarm bells ringing in my mind and in the minds of many discerning Nigerians.
In principle, what we should have is real democracy! But whilst I realise that democracy is a very difficult form of government, especially when it comes to the process of the rule of law vis–a-vis the anti-corruption strategy of the administration, it is important that the President not only abides by the rule of law, but should be seen by all to do so! Anything short of this will lead to a free fall into civilian despotism! Furthermore, part of the anti-corruption exercise going on is shoddy and cloudy to say the least, and akin to what peoples say is, the more you look, the less you see! This fact can be adduced from the dearth of accountability, organisation and methods evidenced in shoddy or unknown recovery procedures. Loots recovered, as we have been made to believe that monies are being returned to government coffers, are not meticulously accounted for to the public to take stock of what has been recovered. Furthermore, one would have expected Buhari to start his house-cleaning exercise from the known to the unknown, from what is sure to what is controversial. It is on record that a past EFCC boss, may be putting on a filthy garment to the tune of N1.6 trillion. Nigerians want to know whether this largesse, if proven, was also shared out to our political lords or what form it took, as the information would equip the entire country as we move ahead to radically purge corruption from our system.
Sweeping corruption under the carpet does not make for good house cleaning and creates problems for future governments. In the name of positive change, Buhari must not leave us with unfinished business, as regards the setting up of an anti corruption framework for the country come 2019, as his election was on the back of his anti corruption and security message to the people! Unfortunately, President Buhari’s change is termed political by some, as it seems that what it takes a thief to become a free man is to migrate from the PDP to the APC! A lot of our people are beginning to feel that Buhari is fast transforming this nation into a police state, where Mr. President, the EFCC and DSS rule the day. What they say is given lurid headlines in the media, and it seems to all that some of the defendants/accused persons are being tried in the press with information conveniently slipping into the hands of the press, presumably from the security agencies, even before such people have been charged to court. As stated above, it would seem that the judiciary has also been emasculated. The Pro-Biafran activist, Nnamdi Kanu and the erstwhile NSA Sambo Dasuki were granted bail by the courts, but the security agents under Buhari’s watch disregarded such bails. Unfortunately, democracy is difficult and this government must realise that democracy pervasively coloured with impunity, arbitrariness and high handedness, cannot be used to fight and correct the financial impunity and reckless abandon of the previous administration! Even if it is more difficult to do so, the rule of law must be obeyed and be the order of the day.
If Buhari wants to leave a creditable legacy come 2019, he should retool the bureaucracy. For instance, the roof of the Central Bank is leaking water. Governors, who arm-twisted Okonjo Iweala into signing out our reserves held by Central Bank, are today ministers in the APC government. We are still talking about change and corruption when old things refuse to pass away! These political gimmicks can only carry away gullible or naive Nigerians. President Buhari should beam his flashlight on policies and programmes that will lift up the masses.
Existing industries are almost dead and call for urgent revitalisation. The budget ought to aid solutions to the mass unemployment, rural-urban migration, skewedness in the distribution of income, abject rural poverty and industrialisation of rural economy. The 774 local government capitals should be linked to their state capitals. Even the mind-boggling infrastructure deficits can take the entire tenure to address. The weakness in the bureaucracy has not been addressed. Consequently, the problem the APC government is trying to solve is bound to re-occur because it is treatment of effect rather than the cause. Causative factors are being totally ignored or glossed-over. Institutional weakness pervades the MDAs, offices of the Accountant General, Auditor General and the Central Bank itself.
Consequently, leakages in the economy have remained unnoticed and unplugged over the last 16 years of uninterrupted democracy. Our Change must change something! How could we continue to talk of change in a static system? How could we be talking of change, when the same crew are governors, ministers, senators, and members of the House of Representatives? This is a cyclical devolution of power to the same people who are never out of power! What sort of change is the President talking about? When will the youth take over, when even a governor does not take a bow and go? When shall we plan for the replacement of delinquent leadership? This is what constitutes change. When we talk of change, we talk of positive-salutary, healthy growth and development-oriented change that cuts across the entire gamut of the society. What sort of change is this that ignores the glaring un-equal distribution of national income? It is absurd that the same government that is unable to pay N18,000 per month to the lowest grade of labour can afford to pay N1.8 million per month to anyone in the economy. Why must taxpayers’ money be used to feed Mr. President and his family? Why must the taxpayers’ money be used to buy brand new exotic vehicles for the legislators, judges, ministers and governors, when they are already heavily paid? Why don’t they use loan finance and mortgage finance to buy their cars and houses? This is also a form of looting and it is the cause of grounding the economy and calling in IMF spin-doctor all the time. Precisely two years ago, this same President Buhari rejected off-hand this use of spin-doctor to heal the ailing economy. He preferred the use of counter trade and inward looking policies such as cutting down cost and flamboyant exotic life styles.
Today, I am not so sure we have the same Buhari. I do hope he has not changed all the colours of the rainbow. The ruling elite are living a luxurious life, while the masses are in abject poverty and yet we are all Nigerians. Enough of this change conundrum. He must retool, refocus, and aggressively lead by example on all fronts and face the social, economic (fiscal and monetary) problems we have head on, without letting the anti-corruption drive look like a political distraction.
• His Eminence Anthony Olubunmi Cardinal Okogie is the Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos Archdiocese