By FEMI ADESINA
The greatest talking point in our country this week has been the declaration by President Muhammadu Buhari that he would seek a second term in office next year. And naturally so. Desire by any President, whether positive or negative, should elicit great interest in the citizenry. The President that should be pitied is the one that says something, and the people just shrug, unconcernedly. He is of all men the most miserable.
As to be expected, the notice given by President Buhari has engendered diverse emotions and reactions. The joy kiln has ben kindled in the hearts of many millions. They are exultant and ecstatic. I am in that number.
While millions are like Romeos beholding their Juliets, others on the flip-side, however, are like King Leah at his worst. It was as if they got blows to the solar plexus. Ouch! And they are wailing, kicking and screaming. Mournfully so. The days of their rustication from power will be extended, and they can’t bear it. Doomsday is elongated, doors to freebies shut again. They are quite vocal, but much smaller in number, and the elections next year will so prove. There’s still plenty where the bloody nose of 2015 came from.
Now, despite the challenges in the country (and very many of them), from Enugu to Borno, Benue to Zamfara, Oke Ogun farmlands in Oyo to Mambilla in Taraba, Plateau to Edo/Delta, virtually everywhere, why is President Buhari still the man to beat? That is the purpose of this piece.
Some of the challenges in the country are genuine. Some others are orchestrated by those the President would say are playing “irresponsible politics.” For such people, they would first urinate inside the well they want to draw drinking water from. They would gladly step into power, treading on skulls and crossbones, and on the flowing blood of innumerable countrymen. Ogres! But Nigerians are wiser. They know those who are serving them, and who wish to serve more for altruistic reasons. They also know those who just want to grab power, so that the country can return to business as usual, and their snouts can be dipped in the honeypot once again.
He told me: “Look at this sprawling place. Just two of us waiting to see the President. It didn’t use to be like this. Up to 3 a.m daily, the place used to be like a market, filled with men, women from within and outside the country. They would come to seal all kinds of deals on petroleum, power, transport, iron and steel, and all others. And of course, the President and his household would always have a cut. The wheeler-dealers would also have their cut. Who dares approach this President with such proposals? That is why you see so much sanity here.
I’ll vote for President Buhari over and over, again and again, because he can be trusted. You can trust him with the resources of the country. He won’t filch them. You can trust him with power. He won’t misuse it. You can trust him with the well being of the land, he cares. I remember one night, I had gone to the residence to see the President. It was about 8 p.m, and there were just two of us in the waiting room. The other elderly fellow has held power at very senior levels in the country. He had even aspired for the highest office in the land. So, he knows what he’s talking about.
He told me: “Look at this sprawling place. Just two of us waiting to see the President. It didn’t use to be like this. Up to 3 a.m daily, the place used to be like a market, filled with men, women from within and outside the country. They would come to seal all kinds of deals on petroleum, power, transport, iron and steel, and all others. And of course, the President and his household would always have a cut. The wheeler-dealers would also have their cut. Who dares approach this President with such proposals? That is why you see so much sanity here.”
A President who won’t sell our collective patrimony while the rest of the country is sleeping. That’s the one I want. And we all know that man.
Accountability is another reason. Under some presidents, the rich gets richer, while the poor gets prison. Not under Buhari. The resources of the country are for the people of the country. Greatest good to the greatest number of people. The last administration (we won’t and can’t stop talking about them, never!) sat over resources in billions of dollars. Oil prices hit $140 dollars per barrel under their watch, and stabilized at about $100-110 for a number of years. They met our foreign reserves at $62 billion. When they left, it was just $29.6, yet oil prices had hit the rooftops. What happened? Thievery. Today, with oil prices having dropped to about $30 per barrel in 2015, and now oscillating between 60 and 70 dollars per barrel, our reserves have hit $47 billion, and still growing. Prudence. Transparency. Resourcefulness. Accountability. Will I then exchange this type of government for another? That would mean willful blindness, after our sights had been amazingly restored. That would mean willful backsliding into perdition, after we had been wonderfully saved.
Still talking of accountability, you must have heard of the billions and trillions of naira that accrued to government from agencies like Customs, Federal Inland Revenue Service, NIMASA, JAMB, and many others in recent times. These agencies are not newly created. So, what happened to revenues they made in the past? Your guess is as good as mine. Will I then leave terra firma for terra incognita? God forbid! Because an accountable man is in the driver’s seat, the virtue is now flowing downwards.
Elections are coming. And there’s no need to fear. Why? Because the will of Nigerians will not be subverted. Never! A President once told us in this country that the coming polls would be do or die. Not with President Buhari. Fair is fair. No foul play. Under his watch, his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has lost gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa and Anambra states. At the last Council of States meeting, Gov Willie Obiano publicly registered his appreciation to President Buhari, for the level playing ground he made available during the election in his state. With do or die apostles, and a certain political party in power, such would never happen. Not with their garrison mentality. All states are territories that must be conquered, willy-nilly.
APC has won gubernatorial positions under Buhari in Kogi, Ondo and Edo states. The victories were fair and square. The party lost in Bayelsa and Anambra. This President would never manipulate victory for anyone, not even his own party. And you ask me not to trust him? I will, and no mistake.
Global respect. That is what Nigeria has today. I’ve accompanied President Buhari to over 30 countries in about three years. And he has been resetting the buttons, relaying the foundation of relationships with those countries. And how the leaders respect him. And they say it. Barrack Obama, the then American President said the Nigerian leader came to his job with a “reputation of integrity.” At another time, while introducing our President to the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, he said:”Meet the Nigerian President, who is doing a very good job.” And the latter concurred.
In Britain, when David Cameron was Prime Minister, he had made a faux pas when he named Nigeria and some other countries as being “fantastically corrupt.” And who rose in defence of the Nigerian leader? The Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby, who said; “but this particular President is not corrupt.” And you ask me to throw away such President when he still wants another term? I’ll vote for him again and again, no matter what naysayers claim.
What of the personal virtues? I sit with him, speak with him, and I know. Discipline. Simplicity. Love of country. Lack of greed. A heart for the poor and downtrodden. A realization of the ephemeralness of power, and of life itself. These are things that resonate in his speeches. They don’t make them like this anymore. And then, I should prematurely jettison the one I have? Even the Heavens will hold a people who take such decision in derision.
Some people ask; where are the achievements? Well, if they are of such mindset, unfortunately they can’t be helped. We don’t have the authority to mix spittle with clay, put on their eyes, and direct them to go to Siloam pool, wash, and come back seeing. Once anybody decides to be willfully blind, no matter what you push in front of his eyes, he wouldn’t see. If he decides to be willfully deaf, even if there are thunder peals by his ears, he won’t hear. Those of us that manage the media of the President put all the activities and achievements in the public domain. They claim not to know. Good luck to them. Those who know, really know. And they are the millions who will stand by the President any day. Strides in security, agriculture, anti-corruption, infrastructure, and many others are evident. When they drive on Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, Aba Port Harcourt Expressway, and hear that early works on the Second Niger Bridge have reached about 45% completion, and still refuse to believe, what then can anybody still do? But thankfully, those who believe far outnumber the inveterate cynics.
They talk of the economy, and make it appear as if the heavens were falling upon them. But the economy, according to pundits, began to slow down in 2012. By 2014, it was poised for recession. Before the last administration left, Nigeria was already borrowing to pay salaries, as confirmed by Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. And that was in spite of trillions earned from oil. By 2016, recession was inevitable. But for how long did it last? Just one year. Due to deft footworks,sound economic policies, transparency and accountability, we were soon out. Today, inflation rate has fallen for the 13th month running. The auguries are good for the economy, but all they want to wail about is hunger, to deceive and beguile. But Nigerians know. They know where food self-sufficiency is coming from. They know where their future and those of their children will be guaranteed. The polls would prove it next year.
When we were awash with money, what happened to infrastructure? Simply nothing. Power, roads, rail, bridges. Nothing! Now, when we are earning about 60% less than what we used to earn, those things are coming. Power was inherited at about 3,000 megawatts, with a large chunk of it not distributable. Today, power generation stands at over 7,000 megawatts, and over 5,000 MW is distributed. Rail projects will cover the national landscape within the next one year. Abandoned projects are being resuscitated nationwide. Recently, the N8.5 billion water project in Otuoke, Bayelsa State, came on stream. It was not achieved when a native of the area was President. The Lagos-Otta-Abeokuta road has been awarded. It was not done when a son of the area was in power. The dredging of Warri port for N13 billion has been awarded. Was it awarded when a native of the region was in office for six years? Nigeria is making tremendous progress, and things can only get better.
For the first time in the history of the country, stealing has become corruption. It didn’t use to be so, particularly in the last epoch. No wonder the Excess Crude Account was looted dry. Foreign reserves drawn down. Federation Account, emptied. And the economy was set on an irreversible path to recession. And they say; don’t talk about it. Focus on the present and the future only. How we miss Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. He would have said: “I go shout o, I go shout plenty o.” If we don’t focus on the past, we are then liable to make the same mistakes. “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” (George Santayana).
Stolen monies are being recovered in billions of naira and dollars, and being appropriated and spent on infrastructure. Properties acquired with laundered funds are being seized. President Buhari has promised to sell them, and return the funds into public treasury. No wonder some people are running scared, and had tried earnestly to dissuade the man from going for a second term in office. But the die is cast. Let each mother warn her child. Days of reckoning will come.
A party left the country in ruins after 16 years. It is now crying that the edifice has not been rebuilt in three years. Is it not easier to destroy than to rebuild? The rebuilding of Nigeria is proceeding apace. Another term for President Buhari will take the job very far. Consolidation of the good works is good prospect, not only for us, but also our children. Things may be tough for Nigerians now, but they are like birth pangs, which begin to fade at a point. And they are fading. A woman brings forth only with pains, tears and groaning. But when she beholds her baby, all those pale into insignificance. A new dawn, new visitation is coming our way. We can see the Promised Land. Nothing should stop us from stepping into it.
Archbishop Justin Welby, Head of the Anglican Communion Worldwide, told President Buhari in London this week: “Great statesmen are those who run for the good of their country.” Spot-on. The 2019 race is not for self, but for the good of the country. Discerning Nigerians did it in 2015. In greater numbers, they are poised to do it again in 2019.
.Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity