Opinion: Nigeria at a political cross-road?

Opinion: Nigeria at a political cross-road?

Editor's note: The 2019 general elections, will no doubt , springs some surprises. While many political gladiators may be replaced next year for either poor performance in office or being insensitive to people's plight, some supposed political light weights may be voted in by aggrieved Nigerians.

In an article sent to NAIJ.com, an Abuja based social commentator, Bernard Balogun (BenPino), writes about politics, intrigues, people's lamentation and rejection by their leaders who promised them heaven on earth before they were elected. He also explains what Nigerians should expect as 2019 general elections draw nearer.

According to late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, “The pursuit of wealth is not a bad thing in itself because without the food and comfort which wealth provides, life will be penurious and drab. But always remember that any wealth accumulated on a selfish basis, at the expense of the State in defiance of social justice helps to create a disorganized society in which everybody will eat everybody, and no one person can be safe”.

This is a wise counsel from an elder statesman who has transited into eternal glory and Nigerian governors currently owing workers’ salaries should take this as food for thought.

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The power play, the show of shame, currently playing out in Kogi state is indeed despicable, disheartening and does not, in any way, exemplify the desired leadership quality. And who suffers? Of course, the people, the vibrant and ever hardworking people of the state, who queued in the sun or in the rain for hours to elect a leader, a leader who would painstakingly turn-around their fortune for good.

They envisaged. They hoped. They prayed. They anticipated. But all of these are being dashed, turned into ashes in their mouths and in utter hopelessness they stand aloof. They seemingly have resigned to fate because the expected leader who ought to redeem their misfortune is taking them for a cheap ride with so much insensitive in display.

I like to clear any misgiving that I am not a censorious person. I am certainly not but do like to critique constructively, critique based on an understanding of the facts on ground, and facts devoid of sentiment, emotion and nepotism.

One of the basic functions of any responsible government is the protection of lives, properties and provision of food security to its citizens. Consequently, provide a level playing ground for commercial activities to strive. Can this be said of my native Kogi state?

Government exists for the people, not the people for the government. This is not the experience in the state, where two youths, who are leaders in their respective rights, who ought to bring succour to people of Kogi state by converting their respective friendly connections at the centre to the benefit of the state are grandstanding, grandstanding that brings hunger, pains and utter economic discomfort and economic retardation to Kogi state.

Have you visited the state in recent times? You could see poverty on its four legs and poverty visibly written on the faces of the people.

Painfully, this is the experience of the average Kogite. This is not a figurative speech. At his inauguration in January, 2016, Bello said and I quote: “…..no worker under my watch shall go hungry…..” Is that the experience today?

It is my unpleasant duty to report today in Kogi state, also known as the Confluence state, workers are not only hungry but are dying. I painfully recall the death of Edward Soje, an Ogori man and a director in the state civil service. Edward did not die a natural death but as a result of frustration arising from non-payment of his salaries for months by his employer.

Edward committed, so painfully and shamefully, su.icide since he could no longer meet his family obligations. There is the case of Baba Aisha, who lost Aisha, a primary six lady, a promising lady to death because his father could not pay for her malaria drug. Baba Aisha was owed several months’ salaries at that time. Has anything changed till date?

One day, I know Bello/Dino will end this open grandstanding that has brought the state to her kneels. And that day, smiles shall return to the faces of the people of Kogi, peace shall return and the wheel of progress shall roll once again into action.

I say all of these regrettably and impartially as an honest witness to happenings around in the state and of course, in Abuja FCT, where I am a resident. Economic hardship and pains are the common refrains of the people. And so it is in most States across the country where salaries of civil servants have remained largely unpaid for several months by their insensitive Governors.

I recall during the Obasanjo administration, state governors were functionally responsible to the vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. I am not sure if that is the position today. I often wondered, is the President comfortable with the non-payment of workers’ salaries across the land by these insensitive governors despite the various forms of “bail-outs” provided to mitigate the unpaid salaries?

The president is so quiet in the face of this satanic manipulation of workers’ hard-earned salaries. And this is quite disturbing as it gives one the unpleasant opportunity to create a narrative that the president has given tacit support to these dehumanizing experience civil servants across the states are going through.

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) please do the needful. In the overall interest of this country, I call on the National Assembly, especially the Senate to, as a matter of urgency abrogate the immunity clause governors currently enjoy. I encourage the civil society groups in Nigeria to please sponsor a bill in this regard.

As I write this piece, the scintillating voice of our revered papa, the eloquent Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule of blessed memory echoes so loud, simultaneously, in my memory and heart. During his life time which he exemplified with the fear of God, he would admonish, at every occasion he had the opportunity to attend thus:

“I have a dream that one day, Nigeria will be more united. I have a dream that one day, we shall be our true brothers’ keepers. That one day, these senseless killings will stop and mutual suspicion will be a thing of the past.

"That one day, God will give us leaders, who will think more of those who voted them into offices, and think less of their own bellies. God give us such leaders, not bosses. Leaders with the fear of God in their bellies, etc."

Permit me to make reference to Professor ‘Yemi Osinbajo’s remark at the annual colloquium for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Lagos recently. On that occasion, Osinbajo vividly painted the picture of who a true leader is, reference to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the national leader of All Progressives Congress (APC). I shall quote briefly from that speech, which creates a narrative for a understanding what qualifies one as a leader.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said and I quote:

“Let me say why it was unusual. The reason why it was unusual was because it was a government where there was a great deal of argument and he, as the leader of that government, allowed so much argument and so many different shades of ideas.

"I recall a particular occasion, when we started talking about the land use charge (in Lagos state – additional emphasis BenPino’s). I know that there are issues around the land use charge today.

"But when the old concept developed around the land use charge, there were so many arguments. One group felt that we shouldn’t even introduce the charge, another group felt that we should do so.

"I remember that in Ikeja, where this argument was taking place, we were in a small room; Lai Mohammed was there, Wale Edun, Yemi Cardoso, I think Dele Alake, and a few others. We were all there arguing on both sides.

"At some point, when Asiwaju was losing the argument (you can imagine the governor losing among the people he appointed – democracy indeed at work here – additional emphasis BenPino’s), he said, “Ah, were you the people who were voted for?” Then he stormed out of the room and left. Then, we all waited. Nobody left. He came back a few minutes later and said, “ah, are you people still here?

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"Then he continued the argument. Now he came back with more facts and figures. So we suspected that when he stormed out of the room, he actually went to bring some more facts.

And this is the height of my narrative of a good leader. Please read: "In the end, we instituted the charge and so many other different ways by which the foundation for what we see in Lagos state today were developed.

"And I want to just commend Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu again, for ensuring that, not only did he develop a whole generation of persons who have become, in various respects leaders, but also that he allowed that group of people to develop ideas to contradict him many times, to controvert his own ideas many times, and many times, he gave in to those ideas, and we’ve seen the results of it” (this is inspiring and encouraging, what a fantastic leader he is – additional emphasis BenPino’s).

"I want to recall, one more instance, during his tenure as the Governor of Lagos state Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu introduced a novelty in governance, a governance model which no other state government had introduced in the country.

"He introduced “one day Governor”. A child is picked from among secondary schools in the state, irrespective of his/her family background, after he/she has excelled in a leadership test. This is indeed to groom future leadership concept from the grass-root, a visionary approach. And a commendable innovation that needs to be replicated in other states.

Youths clamour for political powers

I have heard people, especially the youths clamoring for youths “take over’ political reins from elders, which in their judgment are no longer “up to date in terms of experience, decision making and taking processes”.

For me, this is no problem. I think, first, the youths should forward “a bill” to the National Assembly to enshrine “social security mechanism for the elderly” in the Nigerian constitution. When that is achieved, then the manipulation to cede democratic powers to the youths will then begin in earnest. The process calls for diplomacy but to “take power” from the older generation (?) just like that, certainly it will be a fight in limbo.

Buhari and the 2019 Project

Buhari has declared his intention to contest the 2019 general elections. I was hesitant to believe that news, especially as it was reported that he jetted out immediately after that declaration. I was genuinely upset.

I thought Buhari would not be overwhelmed by the emotional and sentimental calls, which for me, are largely self-serving and self-centred and do not consider the president's health condition to withstand the enormity of that office.

From the depth of my heart, l wish the president well. Honestly, l wish l could gain access to Aunty Aisha Buhari to encourage her to discourage her spouse from contesting. What else does Buhari want? God has granted him favours far beyond his own expectations. Shall we recap?

Buhari, as a young military officer, fought in the civil war to keep Nigeria united. He returned unscathed while some of his mates died. He got promoted and appointed as a Military Governor. He acquitted himself credibly.

He held the juicy position of petroleum minister, Military Head of State. Appointed PTF chairman. In all of these, Buhari had, at all times, subordinated his personal interest to the larger interest of Nigeria.

His election as president of Nigeria was devoid of any contest at the courts. Since 1979, no presidential election has gone unchallenged in the courts. That tells how well loved, respected and lucky Buhari is. But we must not take that luck too far.

Buhari is a detribalised, committed, selfless, disciplined and deeply religious man. At age 75, l thought, he ought to have quietly retired and ask his vice, Professor Osinbajo, another gentleman, who shares in his philosophy and spartan life-style, to complete the reminder tenure of his four years.

Osinbajo efficiently, responsibly and competently held fort when Buhari was indisposed for several months last year. He did not disappoint Nigerians. Then Buhari would quietly return to Daura as a hero to take care of his failing health.

Has he thought about the many unresolved national burning issues, which his first tenure score-card so dismally presents? There is the unresolved issue of the rampant herdsmen c.um farmers killings.

The unresolved sensitive issue of the Dapchi and Chibok kidnapped girls. The economy in the home-front is in the negative. Nigerians feel, rightly so, that the fuel pump prize at N145 is extremely high. Nigerians think, as a member of OPEC, the pump prize should not exceed N60.00 per litre.

And Nigerians, especially those of the voting class are deeply angry and roundly unhappy because of the hunger in the land. The APC led federal government should endeavor to reverse this negative trend in all fronts. Then victory is assured in 2019.

Trust Buhari, he is ever putting his military training into practice as a master strategist. I am reliably informed Buhari has again appointed Rt Hon Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi as the Director General (DG) for Buhari Campaign Organisation.

That suggests to me Buhari is serious about this 2019 project. Do you know why? Rotimi is another master strategist. Since he arrived at the national centre-stage, Rotimi has never lost any contest. Let us count.

There was no controversy on his elevation as Speaker of the Rivers state House Assembly but there were plenty of 'mago-mago' and 'wuru-wuru' to his ascension as the executive governor of Rivers state.

He won the PDP primary for the governorship. His name was appropriately forwarded to INEC as the party's governorship candidate for Rivers state. Then the 'Ojoro' began, someone else, who did not participate in the primary was brought in as a substitute, backed by powerful names.

Rotimi kept quiet, the elections went on and the PDP candidate won. That someone else, a blood relation of Rotimi, was declared winner and Rotimi shouted fowl. He headed to the Tribunal, he won. And so at the Supreme court.

Meanwhile, the "someone else" had begun to function as the executive governor and had spent some months in the saddle by the time Supreme court reversed the party's infamous decision in favour of Rotimi.

Ordinarily Rotimi's tenure ought to begin to count the day he assumed office. Not so, Rotimi began to count his own tenure from when his cousin assumed office. So he gleefully accepted to end his first tenure prematurely in May, 2011 instead of somewhere in Sept or so.

He contested and won his second tenure in 2011. What gave him the confidence that he was going to win? Towards the end of his second tenure, he fell out with Jonathan, then president, not on personal grounds.

So he left PDP, went on to join forces with other notable Nigerians to form All Progressives Congress (APC) and confronted the PDP led federal government. With Rotimi as the Director General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation defeated, thoroughly by over two million votes margin, the Jonathan led PDP federal government.

An opposition party, newly formed, convincingly defeated an old party at the centre, what a fit? A rare occurrence in the African continent. How did Rotimi as head of the campaign organisation do it?

How did Rotimi manage to pass through the screening to emerge as a minister in the Buhari government, despite the seemingly purported scandal? Rotimi has one amazing trait which is unknown to many. And perhaps that is the reason he enjoys God's favour.

Buhari appointed him a minister and posted to ministry of transport. At the ministry, he met the railways project, a project at its infancy, initiated but not effectively began by the Jonathan presidency.

What matters to Rotimi is not who initiated a project but the commercial viability and how the project will positively impact on the people and their businesses across the country. He had the influence, on assumption of office, to encourage Mr. President to kill the project because it was began by an opposition party, who will share the glory with the Buhari presidency.

That was never in Rotimi's mind. Rotimi, a highly cerebral person, would not do a thing like that. Today, we can get to see the answer. The project is a success story and Nigerians are patronising the rail transport so gleefully.

Go to the Kubwa terminus and see exotic cars parked and the owners of these cars joyfully ride on the railways to either Kaduna and Kano because it is cheap, efficient, reliable and comfortable. I understand Rotimi has added the Lagos-Calabar corridor which was not considered ab initio.

This man has vision for God's sake and in the face of these successes, he remains quiet, unassuming and humble. No wonder, he enjoys so much confidence and implicit trust from Mr. President.

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I like to think, these are some of the facts that make Rotimi thick and such a wonderful media friendly personality? With Rotimi, once again, as the Director General Buhari Campaign Organisation, l am told victory is assured. Will this narrative come true? Just hold on! It is work in progress.

You get to see and read the answers soon. Rotimi, the master strategist, is at work again. Nigeria is indeed at a political cross road. 2019 shall decide which to follow.

Meanwhile, NAIJ.com had previously reported that Balogun wrote an open letter to President Buhari and sought urgent redemption of Nigeria

Bernard Balogun (BenPino) writes from Wuse District of Abuja and he could be reached via 0803.787.9275 or bernardbalogun1@yahoo.com. He writes for Benpino-online news@ng.com

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of NAIJ.com.

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