OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI
Sir, it is my pleasure to join millions of Nigerians in warmly wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year. We bless God who placed you on the throne and gave us the grace to see the beginning of another great year. It is heart-warming to congratulate you and indeed Nigerians on the successes recorded by your administration particularly in the fight against the insurgency which has plagued North-East and for routing Boko Haram from the dreaded Sambisa forest. The nation must not be carried away by this feat but should set out machineries for consolidation of grounds achieved. In one year seven months of your administration, the nation has witnessed tremendous progress in areas of anti-corruption, agriculture, restoration of sanity and decorum in the ways government and other businesses are done. Your government should be commended for raising the bar of transparency and putting the nation on the threshold of behavioural rectitude in both public and private sectors. However, after 19 months in the saddle as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, one is right to orate that the time is ripe for re-appraisal. It is certain that many who closely work with you will give it a new name and put up sycophantic defence to impress you and keep their jobs. Others who claim to love you more than the over 170 million Nigerians would definitely disagree with this view; imputing that it is too early in the day to put your government on the hot seat. Governments fail not for the ill-intentions of the leaders but for being unmindful of those whose stock-in-trade is to paint vivid pictures of popularity, acceptance, growth and development of men and infrastructure even though things are awfully horrible. Remember, only those who genuinely love you can pick the courage to tell you that your mouth stinks. In fact, the honest expectations of Nigerians could not be said to have been met by the promissory notes of your administration in 2016.
For over 19 months you have honoured those who made it happen during the elections. Now is the time for you to honour that poor widow and others like her who donated her mite of 1 million naira, time and energy to sell your candidature. The beginning of 2017 is the appropriate time to rejig your cabinet. More square pegs are required in square holes. A good number of your ministers are toddlers in public service engagements and are lost in the hay-sacks of the formulation of appropriate ministerial policies and programmes. Nigeria is a marriage of strange bed fellows overburdened by many irreconcilable differences in religions, cultures and traditions. In these differences and diversities lie our strength and unity. The nation must genuinely tap from these uniqueness and potentials as a way of moving the nation forward. There is visible hunger and poverty in the land. Civil servants are owed months of salaries especially in states. The cost of essential commodities and rate of unemployment is on the astronomical increase. The economy is prostrate. Your administration must readily take the bull by the horns in an attempt to restore the lost economic glory, provide succour and bridge the unemployment gap. The obvious crack in the unity of Nigeria is widening by the day. And your hard line stance on some burning national issues is not helping matters. There must be consensus-building, mutual respect of all ethnic, religious and cultural views to achieve the Nigeria of our dreams. Genuine reconciliatory approaches to healing the old wounds and pacifying those offended will go a long way to assuaging frayed and flayed nerves. Government’s penchant to disobeying court orders when it does not favour it should be discontinued.
Other issues which will define the strength and maturity of your administration in 2017 and beyond are the restiveness in the Niger-Delta, the secessionist demand of IPOB and the herdsmen-Fulani-communal clashes witnessed throughout the nation. Many had met their untimely deaths for pressing home their demands in peacefully demonstrations against government policies. The inalienable right to association and worship of individuals should be respected by government and security agencies for the desired peace of the nation. The rights of defenceless IPOB demonstrators and Shi’ite worshipers have been infringed upon. The political will and genuine intentions to address these agitations and wanton killings of human beings should top the agenda of your government in 2017. The recent wanton killings and destruction of properties in southern Kaduna by men suspected to be Fulani herdsmen like other ones in Enugu and Benue states has assumed a terrible dimension which demands urgent government attention and intervention. Most Nigerians are forced to believe that the loss or death of cattle means more to you than human lives lost in herdsmen-community clashes owing to the speed with which you personally attend to the welfare of cattle compared to your silent response to deaths of human beings. The nation deserves urgent political restructuring in the interest of stability and egalitarianism. The time for the entrenchment of true federalism is now. The bulk of constitutional responsibilities weighing the federal government down must be devolved. The way Nigeria practices its own form of “federalism” should reflect international best practices. Federalism has common defined constitutional and global approach. Therefore, what it means in in other climes should be reflected what Nigeria practices as well.
Your administration has since inception dwelt extensively on the liabilities bequeathed to your government by past administrations especially the PDP which pilfered “all the state resources leaving an empty treasury.” Citizens were aware that the nation was notoriously robbed by those who were supposed to jealously guard the national till. But, how long should we look back at the mistakes of the past? According to the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, His Lordship, Mathew Hassan Kukah, if you take delivery of a brand new Porsche or BMW car and it had a problem, you don’t look for the manufacturer, you look for a mechanic. Therefore, Nigerians look forward to visible solutions to their problems not bulk passing. The nation seems to be bored by the incessant blame game of non-performance of your administration placed at the foot of past administrations. In 2008, President Obama took over from George Bush, jnr. at the time when America and the rest of the world faced global economic melt-down. He assembled a crack team of renowned experts who ensured America came out the doldrums. Today, your administration has no visible economic team to navigate the nation to safety. All our eggs are currently left in one basket of oil. At the time we had boom, the opportunity was wasted and now we have the bang, the nation went numb. The nation must commence immediate diversification from oil. Huge investment in agriculture which you have identified as a way out must be supported by stakeholders and all the tiers of government.
Since my discerning adulthood years, celebrating the 2016 Christmas celebration was like passing a Carmel through the eye of a needle. Most states did not pay salaries while the cost of goods and services rose astronomically beyond the reach of the poor. Despite your genuine fatherly advice to Governors to pay salaries with the excess Paris Club refund, most of them did not heed your advice because they felt you over-stepped your constitutional boundary. A funny joke trending on the social media said that, “it is only in Nigeria you tell someone that you are suffering and the person replies “you never suffer reach me” as if suffering has become a competition.” Nigerians are a patient and industrious people who are ready to support the government and key into its policies and programmes but there should be a favourable policy direction. Your government will be judged by the life-transforming-programmes it initiated to better the lots of people not promises made, blames apportioned or reasons giving for non-performance. The political consciousness of Nigerians who chose between APC and PDP in 2015 is on the increase more than ever before. The much people expect from the government is supply of the fundamental needs of life. Therefore, there should be three-square meals daily on peoples’ tables, excellent health care facilities and services, employment opportunities, quality and affordable education, efficient transportation system, adequate shelter, efficient power supply and good drinking water. Finally, Sir, accept the assurances of my best regards.
Sunday Onyemaechi Eze,
A Media and Communications Specialist