Japhet Omojuwa: An Open Letter To Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari
Dear Mr. President,
Kwana biyu Baba! The last time we met was that day I picked up the microphone and was telling you that if you failed to deliver the change, we’d change you like Goodluck Jonathan was deservingly changed. You remember Mr. President? You said, “I very much appreciate the subtle threat…I will either perform or I will be shown the way out,” and that you would do your best to deliver on the promises made during the campaign. On our part, we promised to always tell you as it is. This piece is part of keeping that promise.
Dear Mr. President, please do not pay heed to those who insist nothing is changing. The last time the NNPC opened up its books to the public, Facebook and Twitter had not been founded, PDP was set to rule Nigeria for another 60 years, and the word ‘tablet’ only meant drugs and not mini computers. Thanks to your government, the NNPC is beginning to look like it can work, a Prayer Contractor who got N2.2 billion from the Dasuki Wealth Fund has promised to refund it from the sales of his properties. Talking about properties, the prices of properties in Abuja are crashing and the cost of renting apartments especially in the posh areas of the city have considerably gone lower. A big time crony capitalist reportedly shutdown his foreign TV House in order to fund the return of over half a billion of his share of the Dasuki Fund. The Bank Verification Number regime has since cost about 40,000 federal ghost workers their jobs. That is bad for the job market of ghosts and their human masters but great for the Nigeria where ghosts earn fat salaries while bona fide citizens wallow in the biting poverty of joblessness.
We have since moved on from the days of over invoicing for imported fuel and invoicing for zero litre of imported fuel. With the Treasury Single Account, the Nigerian government has since cashed almost N3 trillion. In the past, this would have been money available to the banks to be borrowed by the government at ridiculous interests, now it is money readily available to the government. Boko Haram retain the capacity to hurt us at anytime but even your most irrational critics will admit you have done more to hurt their ability to destroy and maim than your predecessor did in his 5 ineffectual years. A lot has since changed Mr. President and we the citizens who are first about the interest of Nigeria know things aren’t exactly as they were under the half a decade of oil boom and the attendant impunity that ended last May. But this is only part of the story.
Sir, if the words above were easy to read, I crave your indulgence to read the following words a bit slower than the above. Criticisms against your work for you to do better are better than the praises for what has already been achieved. Against the reality you succeeded, some things have changed but the bottom line remains the same; Nigerians are still groaning under the weight of fuel scarcity, this seems like a permanent feature these days, power supply has arguably gotten worse or at least stayed the same. We can talk about the great things your administration has put in place since May 29, 2015 but ultimately, if those things haven’t changed the reality of life of the average Nigerian or look like they are about to change that reality, Nigerians have a reason to question the change.
It is important not to have these Nigerians mixed up with those hypocrites desperate to be seen as making common sense look like the Einstein-esque discovery of our days when common sense has indeed become commonplace.
Mr. President, your response to the killings by herdsmen in the middle-belt has been nothing to write home about. That is because there has been nothing to write by way of response from you. The herdsmen were in a report were said to be the world’s 4th deadliest terrorist group in the world but your government and you in particular appear to pretend like they are not doing all the killings they are doing. Agatu is only the latest in the bloodshed. Something needs to get done and you need to communicate more on such killings. This is what governments that value human life do.
Dear Mr. President, you once cried on national TV because you felt helpless and powerless about the sufferings of the Nigerian masses. If the majority of them continue to cry after finally trusting you with their mandate, the tears you shed on that day will be tears for yourself and the opportunity missed. You have good intentions but intentions alone cannot fry plantain just as they cannot run a country. You will not cut deals or have someone cut deals on your behalf. You will not clear several Abuja villages in order to have your own mega farm. You will not steal our money. But Mr. President, even if you do not do all these, you will only be judged based on what you should have done and did not do, what you did that you could have done better and what you did indeed.
Mr. President, stop trying to command and control the economy on one side and looking to win investors over on another. They are two parallels line that don’t meet. The freest economies are also the most prosperous economies. Even China had to change its ways to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. Even Russia let go of command and control to achieve telling economic progress.
The fight against corruption is hot and sizzling but it must go beyond those who stole cash. Take a former minister of finance who was nominated in her capacity as a minister to the board of a special University of Technology in Abuja. On her way out of office, she replaced names of members of the board with her cronies and sought to keep control of the board. This is a university set up with funds from the federal government yet had its board illegally changed just weeks to the end of the last administration. Abuse of office is corruption. Corruption is corruption.
Mr. President, please do not expectSai Babaing in the course of doing your work, those still making such noise don’t mean well. You have your work cut out. It is one’s hope that the passing of the budget will ease the apparent pains of Nigerians. The past 9 months have been generally disappointing against the expectations of most Nigerians; this is the truth and nothing short of the truth. It is high time you stopped referencing your performance against the disaster that was the Jonathan administration. If we wanted to benchmark progress against that administration, we’d have returned them and simply asked them to do better. We genuinely wanted a paradigm shift and that simply means a clear departure from that unwholesome reality.
By all means Mr. President, you must never forget the faces of those Nigerians you met on your campaign trail. If you fail them, they’d have lost faith, not just in you but in their belief and hope that Nigeria can indeed be better. The reason is because you were expected to be the foundation of a much better Nigeria.
Wherever they are, you must call the best of our country to help deliver this change. Do not forget to weed out those who led us to where we are. Thinking in a democratic setting you can make the change happen alone is to not understand the fact democracy requires all the parts of the machine working to move forward. It is not political to appoint all those that need to be appointed or sack those that need to be sacked to get the wheel of change moving, it is a necessary beginning to delivering on your promise. There is no time sir, you were elected a year ago this month. This is not a note of impatience; it is a reminder of the ticking clock.
In the best interest of Nigeria,
Joshua J. Omojuwa (@Omojuwa)
This piece was initially written for and published by the PUNCH Newspapers.