•I ‘ve worries about Buhari’s govt, not expectations
In this interview with Vanguard, renowned poet, novelist and social critic, Odia Ofeimun expresses his worries about the new administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari, and suggests ways to move the country forward. Ofeimun also worked as private secretary to the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo before his death. Excerpts:
By Prisca Sam-Duru
President Muhammadu Buhari wishes to fight corruption, uphold national security and run an efficient government.
Let me be straight out with it: How successful he can get depends on how willing he is to move away from the Greek gifts he is being promised by our so called foreign friends who know but won’t tell that we have all these problems of corruption insecurity and inefficiency in government because Nigeria has not restructured in favour of a common morality for all Nigerians.
Only a restructured Nigeria can stand up to foreign wheelers and dealers. Restructuring is not only about North and South struggles. Although it is part of it. It is about national strategy and grand policy making. Let Muhammadu Buhari join Goodluck Jonathan in rejecting the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreement, EPA, and continue to reject foreign soldiers stamping on West African soil, and refuse the wayo Western solution to malaria scourge that Goodluck sidestepped to the annoyance of so called Western friends.
And then insist, as no Nigerian government has dared since SAP, on building proper factories to stop the influx of goods, essential commodities that glut our spaces. See who will offer to attend his next anniversary. And that will tell who Nigeria’s friends are.
Worries about Buhari’s administration
So, to make a clean breast of it, I have worries about, not expectations from, President Muhammadu Buhari. My worries stem from knowing what he must confront as other Nigerian Presidents before him and as he himself did in his first coming. Near certainty is that, one of these days, he will go to Davos as Mandela did and they will give him scientific reasons why he must stop being so passionate about a Freedom Charter or call it a development charter for his country. Davos wanted a Free South Africa without spine. Apartheid had given white children a special deal. But when Mandela had his time to do it for all South African children black and white, they showed him the beauty of market forces which can only now be justified by the trade imperialism over far and distant neighbours while fuelling xenophobia in those left behind.
I want to hope that President Buhari wont buy the hash which says that in an emergency, such as we are in, you must leave all control to market forces that are usually blind but controlled by identifiable levers.
The domestic component of such disavowal is to be gleaned from the body language of domestic allies who do not want to have anything to do with political restructuring or who are buying into a crude regionalism that is really another name for co-federalism.
The first thing to note, and quite a pity, is that like Goodluck Jonathan, Buhari has no serious political party. Just a rabble with ill – digested political slogans. So if he is determined he will have to learn to work truly outside the box.
Within the box, he will be fixed in the way that the pre – existing cabals fixed Goodluck Jonathan after mauling President Olusegun Obasanjo and leading him down the garden path until he thought he needed a third term to square up. Of course, there is no reason for the cabals to use the same old methods.
Remember that Goodluck tried to say that the cabals, not mentioning the market gurus from outside, were overpowering him. Well because his party had a short attention span and was all scatterdiagramatic in vision, he could not tackle the requisite levers. A heartily fractured ruling party collapsed into pressure as a matter of policy. As for Jonathan, he could not make his claims ring true in the face of an opposition within and outside his party determined to use every means possible to deny reality.
Now reality has just caught up with everybody. The demonstrators on the streets and the opinion leaders across the media who were suavely minding the turf for the cabals will need now to remove the wool from their eyes. Some of them without realizing it had turned fuel subsidy into an issue that it wasn’t.
So the point is how to have a genuine turnaround awareness capable of meeting real problems head on. I want to say that the problems can be met.
President Buhari has to be able to stand up and win respect for his sheer guts rather than let himself be overawed by undue pressure from so called friends abroad and allies at home who are merely thinking of clipping coupons. He needs to cultivate a grounding with ordinary Nigerians to withstand inevitable pressure. And by ordinary Nigerians, I mean the millions who need good health, genuine education, jobs, freedom of speech, movement and association. Already he has a Fulani problem which he can only solve if he forgets the cult of Arewa entitlements.
The question is, would he who belongs to everybody and nobody at the same time, find the skill and patience to do it right? Of course he would also have a Yoruba and an Ndigbo problem which he can only deflate by realizing that all ethnic groups want virtually the same things that the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of state policy prescribe.
Yes each ethnic group may wish only its own in to be in bounty. But the national mood since Awolowo’s successful campaigns for free education and other social welfare measures favours a system that covers all Nigerians.
Those who will say that the fall in oil revenue nullifies such precepts are not of this world as both the Bible and the Koran can be invoked to defend them.
Putting all children under fifteen at school ought to be made condition for any African state becoming a member of the African Union. It is the sure way for ethnic nationalities in geographical formation to be counted upon to rise above narrow nationality and become producers and resource controllers who see neighbours as co-workers.
Common welfare lays the basis for entrenching commonalities. To extend such to herdsmen is to put real capital behind old River Basin authorities and building proper ranches to stop the rampages across country.
On corruption and stealing
The reality is that you can’t build a country right or fight corruption and maintain security until you remove the lopsided structure that creates the basis for multiple moralities and hence violence.
On this score, I agree with Goodluck Jonathan’s much derided quip that corruption is not just about stealing. Goodluck Jonathan got it right. His loud and learned assessors do not know what they are dealing with when they scoff at the distinction he made.
The shame of it is that the learned opinion leaders in our midst stand on straws once they get on a binge of partisan slogan mongering.
Now that elections are over, lets hope normalcy will intervene and allow all to try to define our terms properly. Otherwise it is self immolating to find oneself on the same side with so called progressives who, for instance, look for scientific reasons to disenfranchise a third of the registered voters and still talk about free and fair elections.
Absolutely retrogressive. Sad too to call them revolutionaries. Even with card readers and DNA technology, see the gory and fictitious election results that it yielded in Rivers, Kano, Delta, Katsina, Awka Ibom, Jigawa and Bauchi. It is a mess. Nigerians have had to accept the hogwash to avoid the Armageddon that some doomsday prophets had predicted. Come to think of it, the electoral officers who registered underage children in their large numbers! Shouldn’t they be taken to court to account? You see, this is why I say it is not about expectations but worries.
And, talking about reforming the electoral system, President Buhari needs to borrow a leaf from President Umaru Yar ‘Aadua whose sense of integrity required him to admit that the election that brought him to power was flawed. President Buhari should face it squarely.