The End of the Beginning

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“Patriotism is supporting your country all  the time, and your Government when it deserves it” Mark Twain

By Jon West

Watching President Muhammadu Buhari deliver his Democracy Day address to the Nigerian nation (the equivalent of a US President delivering the State of the Union address) on Sunday May 29 , 2016, you were gripped with a feeling of trepidation for the future of Africa’s most populous country and largest economy.

That this frail, obviously confused old soldier,  is leading Nigeria in the second decade of the second millennium, and that he is actually expected to succeed in that position, is perhaps the unkindest cut of all for the famished and blighted populace of Nigeria. In that rambling and slumbering speech(apologies to Lawyer Carol Ajie), the Chief Helmsman of the distressed ship that is the current status of Nigeria, counted his most important achievement as the recovery of looted funds, however without the names of the looters as he promised just a week ago, citing legal encumbrances.

He was also quick to claim victory in the war on the Boko Haram insurgency, at the same time as the terrorists were devastating five Borno villages near the capital city of Maiduguri and killing five people in Biu, including a soldier, using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

Meanwhile across the border in Niger Republic, the President and Army Chief were showing off the latest weapons, including US donated Reaper drones, acquired for the impending assault of the Multinational forces, including the Nigerian army,on the Boko Haram terrorists on Nigerian territory.  Expectedly, the President also harped on the convenient and increasingly suspicious “ rescue” of two Chibok girls(although one of the rescued girls turned out to be from far away Magadali in Adamawa State) as a dividend of democracy and a great achievement of the Government after 12 months in office.

It is quite instructive that , while the President was spitting fire on the army’s response to the new militancy in the Niger Delta, he was quite silent on the menace of Fulani herdsmen, his ethnic compatriots and members of the Miyetti Allah Cattlemen’s Association, of which he  is the Life Patron. This Herdsmen  militia, now confirmed by no less a figure than  the Chief of Army Staff, General Buratai, as a variant of the Boko Haram terrorist organisation, have been designated as the 4th most brutal terrorists Organisation in the whole world.

Now, the President of Nigeria is the Life Patron of an association, whose members are complicit in the activities of a terrorist Organisation inflicting carnage on his citizens from a different part of the country, and in his State of the Union address , he was uncannily quiet on the activities of this militia that is responsible for the death of thousands of Nigerians, while threatening hell and brimstone on a militant group that has not yet cost any Nigerian life, only destroying oil and gas assets. The foregoing illustrates the mindset of our New Sheriff (courtesy of the genuflecting Femi Adeshina).

For a nation engulfed in a debilitating economic quagmire of unmitigated proportions, the leader was completely vague on the way forward for ameliorating the suffering of the people. He, instead, asked for patience and sacrifice from the populace, without stating any roadmap for the end of the economic downturn. The disaster in  this comedy of errors that is the APC Government and their leader, is that even the ministers of Government, who are expected to push the policies of Government, are as bemused as the general population as to the real intentions of the New Sheriff.

This is however, not really unexpected,as  the President had earlier described these ministers as mere noise makers, really imposed on his government by the requirements of the Nigerian constitution. The retired ,but not reformed, military dictator is still in his element and wants to rule in absolute fashion, without the distractions of the constitution and all that civilian nonsense. The nation is thus caught in a time warp situation, where in the second decade of the second millennium ,it  is at the mercy of a tried, tested and failed political and economic philosophy, also now implemented by a tried, tested and  failed leader of the last century. Somehow, progress is expected to ensue from this irrationality?

As Nigerians wonder what their sentiments in 2012-2015 have led them into, it is apparent that we are at the end of the beginning of a foreboding future of economic uncertainty, policy vacuum and lethargic governance, not the end or indeed even the beginning  of the end(apologies to Winston Churchill) . Perhaps this is what it takes to wean the Nigerian people from their addiction to ethnic and religious politics. A wise man once said that “If a fool were to continue in his folly, he would become wise”.

Perhaps from 2019, the Nigerian people will eschew the politics of division and embrace the the politics of inclusion that has defined the progress of other similarly diverse cultures that have made the leap to development and  progress . Then  perhaps the end of the beginning  of this Government  by propaganda and innuendo, will transform to the beginning of the end of backwardness, retrogression, economic and political apostasy and religious intolerance.

Jon West, Abuja