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by Ikenna Asomba

Since Tuesday, January 23, 2018, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo released to the Press, his 20-page Open Letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, where he advised Mr. President to jettison the temptations of contesting the 2019 Presidential Elections, mixed feelings have continued to trail that letter.

In Obasanjo’s Special Press Statement, purportedly the 7th in series to Nigerian Presidents, he advised that President Buhari, in 2019, shouldn’t recontest but “join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the side line for the good of the country.”

OBASANJO’S MAJOR REASONS

Obasanjo cited the following reasons for President Buhari not to recontest the Presidential Elections in 2019:

  • Buhari‘s Failing Health
  • Insecurity/Herdsmen Menace
  • Poverty and Unbearable Socio-economic Situation
  • Poor Economic Management
  • Passing of Buck
  • Nepotism
  • Condoning Misdeeds and Corruption of close allies etc.

OBASANJO’S LETTER WRITING SKILLS SINCE 1983

Recall that Obasanjo in September 1983 wrote Civilian President Shehu Shagari and in December 1983, Shagari was ousted in a military coup.

Sometime in June 1985, he wrote Military Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and in August 1985, Buhari was ousted in a military putsch.

Obasanjo also wrote Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babaginda (IBB) and in 1993, IBB was forced to resign back to his Minna countryhome.

Obasanjo was critical of the General Sanni Abacha military regime and also wrote him, Abacha jailed him, and in 1998, Abacha was called to eternal glory.

Obasanjo was critical of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2009, and Yar’Adua was called to eternal glory.

Obasanjo wrote an 18-page Open Letter to President Goodluck Jonathan in December 2013 entitled, “BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE,” and in May 2015, Jonathan handed-over to an opposition party’s candidate, the first of its kind in Nigeria, and worthy of emulation.

Recently, on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, Obasanjo had written President Muhammadu Buhari in another 20-page letter entitled, “THE WAY OUT: A CLARION CALL FOR COALITION FOR NIGERIA MOVEMENT.” 

LAI MOHAMMED’S DIPLOMATIC BUT DODGY RESPONSE

Following Obasanjo’s Letter, the Minister of Information, our own Alhaji Lai Mohammed, had responded on behalf of the Presidency, on Wednesday, January 24, 2018.

He listed the Achievements of the Buhari administration among which he said are:

  • Foreign Reserves peaked at $40b in about four years
  • Inflation fallen for 11 consecutive months, standing at 15.37% as at Dec. 2017.
  • Some N108 billion saved through Treasury Single Account, TSA, with N24.7 billion saved monthly.
  • N120billion saved through elimination of Ghost Workers.
  • Nigeria rose 24 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking.
  • JAMB remitted N7.8 billion to the coffers of the federal government in 2016.
  • Rice farmers increased from 6 million to 12 million farmers through Anchor Borrowers’ programme making rice import from Thailand drop from 644 metric tonnes to 22,000 MT.
  • Nigeria accounts for 70% of the world’s yam production.
  • 5.2 million primary school children in 28,249 schools in 19 states are being fed daily.
  • 200,000 unemployed graduates have enlisted into the N-power Job Scheme.
  • Power Generation at 7,000mw.
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MY TAKE-HOME

Without mincing words, it can’t be said that the Buhari‘s administration is a TOTAL FAILURE. It’s an academic discourse to say any leadership of the country since 1960 till date, is a TOTAL FAILURE, not even the Jonathan administration which was the most criticised in this nation’s history.

As one who has covered press conferences addressed by Alhaji Lai Mohammed in the past, I must say that the press statement read by him on Wednesday, in Abuja, had a diplomatic tone, but was dodgy and nicodemusly a sneer at the messenger (Obasanjo).

Throughout the reading out of the press statement, unlike the Alhaji Lai Mohammed I know and have covered in the past, he was so Ashamed to look into the tv and still cameras or the faces of the Pressmen he was addressing. Rather, he stayed eyes glued at his paper. Perhaps he must have been soliloquizing that he was lying to himself.

The indices and statistics reeled out by Alhaji Lai Mohammed don’t show in the current Socio-economic realities across the country.

The statement was dodgy. The more it tried to tackle the seven major issues raised by Obasanjo, the dodgy it sounded.

Saying Obasanjo may be too busy to notice the economic achievements of the Buhari administration is nicodemusly sneering at the former President, as if he (Obasanjo) was a globetrotter who do not live in Nigeria or have poor relations who buy from the Nigerian markets.

1. Buhari‘s Failing Health: Alhaji Lai Mohammed failed to tackle this issue in his press statement. He failed to tell Nigerians if Buhari‘s old age and failing health can carry him or allow him tackle the enormous challenges of governance confronting Nigeria. 2015 till date tells us more. Needless over flogging the dead horse.

2. Insecurity/Herdsmen Menace: Alhaji Lai Mohammed also failed to convince us on what the Buhari administration is doing to tackle this issue of armed Fulani Herdsmen menace who have been running over, burning down and killing innocent men, women and children in sleepy villages, particularly in Southern Kaduna, Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Kogi, Nasarawa, Enugu etc.

3. Poverty and Unbearable Socio-economic Situation: All the indices reeled out by Alhaji Lai Mohammed you would all agree don’t show in the lives and standards of living of average Nigerians since 2015. The prices of essential goods and services have skyrocketed steeply. A bag of rice which sold for N7,500 in 2014 now sells for N14,500 as I write.

Petrol pump price which in 2015 officially sold for N87/litre and N100 at the Black Market, now officially sells for N145/litre and N200/litre at the Black Market as I write.

When former President Jonathan reduced petrol pump price from N97/litre to N87/litre in 2014, Alhaji Lai Mohammed told the world it was “MERE TOKENISM,” as oil price had globally crashed to $50/barrel.

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Laughable as it was, reacting on behalf of the then opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed had said in a statement that the new price of petrol was “mere tokenism at a time the price of crude oil has crashed by about 60 percent.”

The APC had urged the Jonathan government to immediately cut the price of petrol to N70/litre.

Recall that Buhari‘s man-Friday and former Minister of Petroleum under Buhari 1983-1985, Prof. Tam David-West, had during the campaign era in 2015 vowed that under Buhari‘s Presidency, petrol would sell for N40/litre.

What’s happening today? Nigerians are paying through their noses just to get Petrol. Even with their money, they still can’t get the essential product with ease. I weep for Nigerians.

What of the Exchange Rate? In 2015, the U.S. Dollar officially exchanged for N197/$1. Now it exchanges at N305/$1 and N364/$1 at the Black Market as I write. President Buhari during campaign had purportedly promised to make $1 to exchange at N1. Where are we today, despite claims of an increased Foreign Reserves. I weep for Nigeria.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, over 16million Nigerians have lost their jobs since 2015. Banks and many companies have continued to downsize their staff strength. Many a companies and Media Organisations can no longer pay staff salaries, allowances, pensions and gratuities. As I write, most Media Organisations are owing their staff for over 7 months. A lot of businesses have closed shops.

What this means is that the claim by Alhaji Lai Mohammed that Nigeria under Buhari moved 24 places up the ladder in Ease of Doing Business is only on paper.

These are the Top 10 Indicators used in rating the Ease of Doing Business in Sub-Saharan Africa and Globally:

  • Starting a Business
  • Dealing with Construction Permits
  • Getting Electricity
  • Registering Property
  • Getting Credit
  • Protecting Minority Investors
  • Paying Taxes
  • Trading across Borders
  • Enforcing Contracts
  • Resolving Insolvency.

Quite unfortunately, Nigeria is no where among the top 10 in Sub-Saharan Africa, despite having the largest market. The so-called giant of Africa is no where found in the comity of over 46 Sub-Saharan African nations in the Ease of Doing Business (2015-2016).

Smaller nations like Mauritius, Rwanda, Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Seychelles, Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi, Swaziland, Ghana, Uganda, Cape Verde, Tanzania, Mozambique, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Mali, Niger and 13 others outpace Nigeria in the Ease of Doing Business in Sub-Saharan Africa.

That smaller African nations as captured above have outpaced Nigeria in the Ease of Doing Business should really throw us all into sober reflections, particularly, ahead of 2019. I weep for this nation.

Even the rich have also been crying over the current socio-economic realities. Need I over-flog this issue?

4. Poor Economic Management: Look, not only did Nigeria get into Recession in 2016, we also got into Depression. Why did it take Buhari over six months to form a cabinet and economic team? President George Weah of Liberia just recently sworn-in, hit the ground running within 24 hours by forming his cabinet. This is purposeful leadership.

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When concerned Nigerians asked Buhari in 2015 to form his cabinet as soon as possible as the future is bleak, they were called Wailing Wailers. At a point, Buhari said Ministers were Noise Makers that the actual jobs in Ministries are done by Permanent Secretaries. Even when he finally formed his cabinet six months after, he surrounded himself with self-serving politicians and poster boys for corruption. Needless mentioning names. But how far today? I weep for Nigeria.

5. Passing of Buck: President Buhari has never taken charge of his gaffes, flip-flops and misgovernance. He has always blamed past administrations, anybody but not him. No true leader does that. President Buhari, after two years recently appointed over 9 dead persons into boards of parastatals and agencies. As usual, he blamed it on others not him. This is Rudderlessness of the highest order. I weep for Nigeria.

6. Nepotism: In 2015, President Buhari formed his kitchen cabinet with Northernerns- his kinsmen occupying almost all positions. He appointed Service Chiefs, same lane of Nepotism was trailed. He made other appointments tilted towards a Northernisation Agenda. The entire security aparati of a secular country like Nigeria is all North, yet Buhari never budged despite the outcry by many a concerned Nigerians. I weep for Nigeria. Little wonder the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB can be tagged a Terrorist Group, but the Murderous Fulani Herdsmen under the umbrella of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN, are not Terrorists and are untouchable. NEPOTISM is the cause of this tragedy. I weep for Nigeria.

7. Condoning Misdeeds and Corruption of close allies: Obasanjo, like many of us had done in the past, even dating back 2015, raised the issue of Buhari condoning the misdeeds and corruption of his allies.

By and large, Alhaji Lai Mohammed unfortunately dodged all these pertinent issues raised by Obasanjo in his Open Letter. I now ask, who is deceiving who?

Well, for time constraint here is the link of my views about these issues as I shared on TVC News at 10.00am on Thursday, January 25, 2018.

Happy Viewing!

Ikenna Asomba is a Journalist/Social Commentator.