By Lanre Issa-Onilu
You would not give him credit no matter what he does, would you? Let us cut the pretence. You simply want this administration to bumble: a foil for wanting your country to fail. So, the issue really is not about whether President Muhammadu Buhari is performing as a President or not. It is about your inability to overcome your own prejudice. The orchestrated babble and raising of unnecessary dust over the situations in Nigeria are just ways to deny this administration due credits for the commendable uplift being achieved in many areas of our national life.
Five years on, Nigeria is picking up sure-footedly, rising from the malaise of years gone by. Those years when fortunes were alter-ego of opportunism rather than of any visible and accountable ventures. The years when we were marking progress by the number of those who successfully game the system. When the proponents of rent economy drew upward-looking graphs, illustrated by the number of private jet owners, the morning after billionaires, briefcase whiz kids who trod the world in obscene gait. They were the poster boys of our descent into decadence, craftly trumped up as evidence of the progress we were making as a nation. Today, we know better.
For the opposition and other hate-filled critics, you have met more than your match in President Buhari. You had better stop engaging him in a staring contest. He is a master at a no blinking game. I thought you should know by now. He is single-minded on doing what is best for our country. And he would always do what he needs to do, anyway.
Take a look at what the besotted critics have been saying. Quite a lot of gibberish, isn’t it? President Buhari is not in control of his government, certain cabal is running the country, he died the last time he was in London for medical reason and a Jibril from Sudan who shares striking resemblance with him is in Aso Villa. A Sudanese impostor in power? That is not ridiculous enough? Add this: he sent his wife, the First Lady, to London and a freshly minted wife had been betrothed to him. These are a few of the prime concerns of the opposition in a country that is half a century behind in meeting up with baseline developmental indices.
Can we be serious for a moment? If only for the sake of our country, can we begin to interrogate government on policies? For instance, can we begin to have national conversations on the School Feeding Programme, the Trader Money, Conditional Cash Transfer, the Sukuk Bond, the National Housing Programme, the rail line projects, and the pros and cons of the land border closure? Where are the editorials on the rice revolution and, perhaps, the entire agricultural value chain? What impact will reverting our national fiscal year to January-December cycle have on governance and the economy?Will the revamping of the Ajaokuta Steel Company, soon to be underway, set our country on the path to industrialisation? If Mambilla Power Project eventually delivers 3,050 megawatts to the national grid after over 40 years of failed attempt by successive governments, will it matter to our quest for stable power supply? What is the significance of the 2nd Niger Bridge to the southern business corridors? Are the contactors meeting up with the delivery timeline? What of the cleaning of Ogoni land? Does it matter that finally a government has the willpower to do the right thing?
President Buhari would not get a thumbs up for any of these. We know. He won’t get anyone praising him for the manner the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja was fixed on schedule. Just like the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika got no applause for accomplishing the task with an unprecedented efficiency. But the Minister got vilified for being honest with his country over the need to suspend effort,temporarily, at bringing back the national carrier. The Enugu Airport is undergoing a major turnaround that will make it a truly modern international airport after the President has approved N10 billion for the project. What we hear is a loud silence from those who desire the worst for their country. Of course, Hadi Sirika has done it before. Delivering on this project would be a routine and he understands there would be no editorials celebrating a new dawn in service delivery.
And talking about service delivery, Rotimi Amaechi, the transportation minister, would take a front row. Amaechi is literally sleeping on the rail track to deliver modern standard gauge, cross-country rail system. When he is not haranguing the contractors handling the rail projects to meet up with schedule, he is hewing at the woods of the international finance capitals in search of money to award more rail projects. The sight of Amaechi and other officials of his ministry sitting inside exotic train coaches, riding on the nearly completed Lagos-Ibadan rail line discomfits the opposition.
Just last month, the President approved the $5.3 billion Ibadan to Kano rail line. It will pass through Kwara State. The people of Kwara can’t wait to see Amaechi test riding inside executive coaches to Ilorin soon. If Abuja to Kaduna was delivered, Warri to Itakpe was delivered and Lagos to Ibadan is becoming a reality, we have reasons to trust President Buhari to do it for us in Kwara State soon. And he will do it because he has the will.
But will President Buhari get the accolade he deserves for all these? He won’t. We know. So, it is not a surprise when the Works and Housing Minister, Raji Fashola received a bashing a couple of weeks ago for asking for a fair assessment of the effort of this government. He apparently asked for too much. But the joke is not on him. Fashola merely threw the last dice at the purveyors of fake news. He wanted them to stop twisting the reality. They flunked it. But it was his mistake. He tried to intellectualise the issue. He asked them to be patriotic and uphold journalistic ethics for once. He asked them to anchor their reports as half-full rather than as half-empty. They reported that it is completely empty, instead. I’m sure he won’t take a chance on them again.
But Fashola didn’t speak in vain. Facts are never spoken in vain. Early 90’s, it took an average of five hours to drive from Abuja to Ilorin. Then as the years went by, during the 16 years of the locusts, the Abuja-Kabba-Ilorin and the Abuja-Bida-Ilorin roads became almost unpassable. A 5-hour journey to Ilorin from Abuja became a 9-hour journey. To even achieve that, you would need to go through Ekiti State. Plus, you would require several more hours to recover from fatigue after the excruciating journey. But now the journey takes an average of six and half hours, because this government is progressively fixing the roads. Lokoja to Kabba is done. Ilorin to Mokwa is done.
This is exactly what Fashola said. And this is what you would find in all the 36 states. You can pretend for all you want, but you cannot dispute the fact that the roads are being fixed. Even with far lesser resources, this government is doing far much more than any previous government.
How convenient is it for us to script conspiracy into almost every action of government? The President had entrusted fundamental policies of our party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the hands of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for four years, and like a good deputy, he had nurtured them well. Shouldn’t we commend the President for elevating these very important programmes by setting up a full-fledged federal ministry and appointing a minister to superintend the delivery of humanitarian services and social intervention programmes? Doesn’t that indicate the President holds the poor and the vulnerable dare to his heart? So how did that translate to stripping the Vice President of his constitutionally guaranteed responsibilities?
Sadly, currently, our national conversation lacks any rigour. We are steeped in circuitous chatters. Millions of our youths, in particular, are in the social media trenches, investing productive hours to trending the absurd. They are consumed in hollow hysterics. Yet, many of them have pumped up ego in literary emptiness. The not-too-young-to-rule must stop playing ten ten with their own future, which has fallen due already.
For the opposition and a section of the media, the strategy is trite: walk away from the good news, promote the fake news. But each time that is done, the President, and indeed, this government emerges stronger.
A former Niger Delta militant, Retson Tedheke, saw opportunities in the President Buhari’s agricultural policies. He relocated to Gaate in Nasarawa State, got a free three hectares of arable land, and sold his vision to a few youths who joined him in a daring entrepreneurial adventure. And in three years, the farm grew to 300 hectares. You are expending your own time questioning how N3 million asset became N1 billion worth in three years. The making of a new Nigeria is underway. But you’re, obviously, not ready.
You spend precious time calling out the President’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari. You are crying Abba Kyari is powerful. So what? Principal Private Secretaries and Chief of Staff across the world are powerful people. It is not because they govern their countries, but because their office is a clearing desk for their principals. Neither Abba Kyari nor any cabal runs Nigeria, President Buhari does. That’s why the Chief of Staff didn’t assent to the bill on Deep Offshore Sharing. He took it to his principal in London whose signature rules. Buhari is inept, you keep saying and he is still being blamed for working too much and too hard, including while having private holiday abroad. How many more times do you want President Buhari to make a fool of you? You keep pouring water on an egg. You should know it won’t sick.
*Lanre Issa-Onilu is the National Publicity Secretary, All Progressives Congress (APC)