I hereby sign the register of those who object to President Muhammadu Buhari's proposed emergency economic powers bill. It should be declared dead on arrival.
It is not a lack of authority that is preventing Buhari’s government from bold and imaginative measures to repay the confidence given him by voters last year. He must look within that confidence, not outside of it, and certainly not beyond it.
We have been here before. There were successive inner circles telling President Olusegun Obasanjo, and later his appointed successors Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, that what the president wants, the president gets.
Regrettably, those short-sighted officials urged their principals not to more or better results, greater responsibility or humility, but to seek more power and privilege. Curiously, each of those leaders performed worse than his predecessor, the most famous of them even attempting to obtain a third term in office.
Emergency powers are meant for emergencies. What we have is a crisis, and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria arms the executive president with more than enough authority and imagination to confront it, if he has a good plan. If you don’t have a plan, or you have a bad one, having all the power in the world expands the problem, not the answer.
It is of some interest that the thirst for more power is being expressed right after the said Obasanjo visited President Buhari, as well as last week’s disclosure by the said Obasanjo that Nigerians did not elect Buhari in 2015. Speaking at a reception in Yola, the former leader said he and some unnamed godfathers brought Buhari to “salvage” Nigeria.
"Three or four other of us from different part of the country got together and said to ourselves what do we do,” The Punch quoted him as saying. "We said what is the problem with us and why are we still not growing. We got talking and knew we needed to do something…”
Obasanjo has since denied making the remark, but the newspaper which reported the story has greater credibility and I believe it. Even if it were to be retracted it, Obasanjo’s responsibility for Nigeria’s current mess would not be diminished.
In a related report by The Cable, Obasanjo said his decision to dump the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was final. “It is good night for the PDP and that is all."
During a governorship campaign rally in Edo State last week, Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor, the state’s former governor, continued the fashionable PDP-bashing, describing the party as a “sinking” ship. “Evil people have hijacked the PDP,” he said, recalling how he was declared disloyal because he had refused to distribute the state’s resources among party leaders.
Also during the week, the office of party chairman John Odigie-Oyegun challenged the PDP to apologize for its “disastrous” 16 years in federal control.
“Due to PDP’s perfidy, our country’s resources were stolen and opportunities frittered away,” it said in a statement. “But instead of being contrite, the PDP is arrogantly putting itself up as the alternative to a government that is barely one year in office and has inherited a totally ruined economy.”
Nigerians get the point. Actually, they got the point long before APC became an entity: the PDP was very bad.
They elected APC to punish the excesses of politicians, including its own, and to tackle the challenge of the economy.
Nobody said that task would be easy, but despite campaigning on that platform, APC seems to shirk from the mission.
Fighting Nigeria’s corruption and fixing the economy are two sides of the same coin, of which Side A seems to represent PDP and corruption. The mistake APC makes is the focus on what the PDP did wrong, as opposed to what APC should be doing.
APC will never be allowed to have it both ways. If PDP was so bad and so evil, where is the proof, in terms of its leaders and officials winding up in jail?
Let us be clear: accusing former officials in the media is not the same thing as prosecuting them. Helping former officials who surrender their loot to maintain their privacy and appearance of sainthood is corruption, not change.
If PDP damaged the economy and boosted corruption; if PDP robbed at the centre and ruined in the States; if its Ministers and governors and chief executives were responsible for the fall of Nigeria, why are the hallways and byways of Nigeria’s courtrooms and prisons not overflowing with these people? Why is the ordinary Nigerian who suffered when the PDP was in charge the one suffering even more in the hands of the APC?
If PDP is the evil one, and that evil one was superintended for 13 of its 15 years by two men, Obasanjo and Jonathan, why is none of them facing any charges?
It is only about eight years ago that Obasanjo, who now claims to have brought Buhari into power, personally inserted into the same position, Yar’Adua and Jonathan.
Mr. Jonathan, the world recalls with horror, redefined mediocrity and conferred credibility on corruption in a presidential performance so alarming some of Buhari’s enemies warmly embraced his candidature last year. And yet Obasanjo is a principal adviser of this government? Jonathan is a hero of Nigeria’s democracy?
Buhari’s is expected to be a decisive, clear-headed government implementing robust and credible policies. Reminding Nigerians that PDP is responsible for the mess is not a policy. Criticizing PDP is politics, not policy.
The real animal this government ought to worry about its own record, so far, of same-ness: in effect, its PDP-ness. When times are tough for those who voted for justice, you can’t blame them for seeing injustice.
That assessment counts twice in a “change” context in which while the oratory appears to have changed, the ethical baseline has not.
This is no ordinary turn on the road. Nigerians are entitled to the fear they are now expressing. They are right to demand answers, not only to the economic challenge, but as to why corruption is not being fought in the open.
They have a right to ask if the administration is fighting as hard as it can, with as much as is available.
President Buhari, if he wants to succeed, would be well-advised to listen carefully to what they have to say to him. He should seek the best minds and hands, and they may not be Nigerian, or APC, or even job-hunting.
He must remember that a few others have had the privilege of his position who chose to do other things with it. It is not simply whether those people really want him to succeed, it is that there will never be such a thing as Buhari’s success as long as he does not make such people pay for their crimes.
Yes, it is a tough job. But what it calls for is a will of steel, not phantom emergency powers.
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