Two Years of Blood, Tears and Excuses

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Ring True

with Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text only)
In the last two years, the Buhari administration has substantially failed to deliver on its promises to Nigerians, leading to unprecedented hardship and killings in the country. The administration must wake up from its slumber, dismantle its legion of sycophants, dump its warped economic policies, appoint pragmatic/result-oriented/competent people into key government positions and curb Boko Haram/Fulani herdsmen. This is my humble verdict on the two years of the APC-led administration at the federal level. The truth is that no government has ever inflicted so much pain on Nigerians within a short period. The anguish is persisting.

Let’s go to specifics. The Buhari administration’s performance in all the three areas it vowed to effect change – economy, security and anti-corruption – has been below average in the last 24 months. In the area of economy, the APC government promised prosperity, but Nigerians got recession. It is very sad to note that the Buhari administration assumed office without any blueprint for reviving troubled sectors of this country. The economy is now prostrate, with a negative Gross Domestic Product and inflation at over 17 per cent. Millions of Nigerians have lost their jobs. More are being thrown into the bloated labour market, with factories and businesses closing shop. The National Bureau of Statistics in its unemployment report for the fourth quarter 2016 reported that 3.67 million Nigerians became jobless in 2016. Close to five million Nigerians must have been thrown into the labour market by May 29. The joblessness figures and stories are gory. Just few weeks back, MTN Nigeria sacked 25 per cent of its workers. Ecobank shut 75 branches and sacked hundreds of Nigerians. Our banks have sacked about 10,000 workers in the last two years. Foreign investors are fleeing. The economy recorded its second worst investment inflow in 10 years, attracting a total investment of $908.27m in the first quarter of the 2017 fiscal period.

The $908.27m investment figure, when compared to the $1.55bn which the economy attracted in the fourth quarter of 2016, represents a huge decline of $640.61m or 41.36 per cent. The decline was confirmed by the capital importation report released on Wednesday by the NBS.
For Nigerian families, the last two years have been harrowing; no thanks to the alarming rise in the prices of main foods like garri, rice, beans and maize. Never in the history of market prices have Nigerians experienced this level of price increase. Main food items like maize, rice, sorghum and the like are affected by this increment. Foods that hitherto fell within the grip of Nigerians have become illusions on their menu. The latest food inflation figure now stands at 19.3%. A paint bowl of garri now sells for N1,100 from just N250 two years back. A bag of rice is now about N20,000 from just N8000. Things have just got to change.

Everything the APC-led federal government promised to fix remains flat. Why are refineries still not working optimally? They told us so much lies about these refineries. Why is electricity supply still epileptic? Why are there still gridlocks on the roads to Apapa ports? How did virtually all the roads leading to these ports turn to death traps? Why have federal roads across the country remained death traps? Why have our federal hospitals remained mere consulting clinics? Why is this government not making progress with the promised diversification of the economy? Why is the contribution of solid mineral to forex inflow still negligible in spite of the vows of the comical Minister for Solid Minerals, Kayode Fayemi? When will unemployed graduates start getting N5000 monthly stipends? When will school feeding programme start? The questions are unending.
Let’s switch to insecurity. The biggest fraud ever perpetrated in this country was the declaration by the Buhari administration on December 2016 that the war against Boko Haram had been won. Two years after, over two million IDPs in 27 camps in Borno State have refused to return home. Why? Their towns and villages are still unsafe. They have simply abandoned them for Boko Haram, while the terrorists roam freely with few people to kill. This is the truth that must be told. Why would a man and his family choose to remain in a poverty-stricken IDP camp if his village is safe? Why would he remain in a camp where scores of people die daily of hunger, disease and malnutrition if his village is safe? These are pertinent questions we should be asking this administration. The December 2016 declaration of victory was a shameful propaganda, as Boko Haram continues to kill and maim Nigerians.

At a point, I was counting and by May 29, 2016, over 3000 had been killed by Boko Haram. I became depressed and stopped counting. The casualty figure should be close to 5000 now. Under Buhari’s watch, daily, the blood-thirsty Boko Haram still go about slaughtering Nigerians. As at press time, our soldiers were battling the terrorists in Lake Chad. The last two years also witnessed the unprecedented killing of several officers by the terrorists. They include Lieutenant Colonel O. Umusu, Lt. Colonel K Yusuf, Lt. Colonel Abu Ali, Lt. Colonel B. U. Umar and Captain Victor Ulasi.

The military high command knew quite alright that the war was far from over, but had to bow to pressure from a government that was desperate to celebrate a devious victory and score a cheap political point. They regaled the nation with the flag and Quran of the terrorists, as if that will disable the terrorists. Just as Human Rights Watch remarked in its 2017 report, the conflict is far from over, contrary to government’s claim. The truth is that the terrorists obviously still exist in large numbers and very potent too. Two weeks ago, they entered Amarwa Community on the outskirts of Maiduguri and killed 11 farmers. The University of Maiduguri has been attacked severally. I can’t forget how Boko Haram strolled into the University of Maiduguri in January and killed Professor Aliyu Mani and five others.
I can’t forget the gruesome attack on an Army brigade in Buni Yadi and that on a military facility in Rann. What about the attack on Madagali town that claimed 56 lives? Thousands have been killed in assaults in Magumeri, Malam Fatori, Sabon Garin Kimba, Gashigar, Dalore and so many other places in the North-east. Lai Mohammed should consider moving his office to Malam Fatori to experience the “victory” over Boko Haram. There is hardly any day without a suicide bomber striking. Our obviously overwhelmed, over-worked and poorly-motivated gallant soldiers even dropped bombs on innocent civilians in the IDP camp in Rann, leaving close to 300 people dead. IDPs still can’t return home because their towns and villages are still dangerous. Any terror group capable of attacking military positions remains a very big threat to any country. The Buhari administration must honestly rejig the war against Boko Haram. Our gallant soldiers on the war front must be properly equipped, motivated and rewarded in line with global standards.

The menace of rampaging Fulani herdsmen is another gory tale that came with the Buhari administration. Never in the history of this country have we witnessed such a level of massacre by herdsmen. From Enugu, to Southern Kaduna, to Benue and back to Niger, these herdsmen from hell have been killing and maiming Nigerians unrestrained for two years. Few days back, they attacked Epogi community in Mokwa Local Government Area of Niger State, killing 27 people. Communities across the country have been repeatedly viciously attacked in the last two years. Hundreds of villagers in Godogodo and Gidan Waya communities in Jema’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State and Agatu in Benue State have been killed. These are just a few of the grisly tales of mass killings by the herdsmen ravaging our country. Unfortunately, the response to these killings by the government and its security agents has been feeble. Just as the Human Rights Writers Associations of Nigeria noted recently, “The ever-widening scope and sophistication of mass killings by armed Fulani attackers and other armed freelance hoodlums engaged in serial kidnappings for ransoms are symptoms of a failed governance capacity in the polity.”
The truth is that Fulani herdsmen have persisted in killing people all over Nigeria because of the failure of the Buhari administration. Clearly, kidnappers, armed robbers and herdsmen have been emboldened by the inaction of our security agencies. They are terrorising ill-fated Nigerians with impunity. We all need to remind Buhari that one of the things he vowed to fight on assumption of office was impunity in all aspects of our nation’s life, insecurity inclusive.

Let’s switch to the hypocritical war against corruption by the Buhari administration. This federal government has spent the last two years, largely running after opposition party members and perceived enemies in the judiciary, in the name of anti-corruption. The war against corruption has become a big witch hunt, flavoured with media trial. These political gimmicks have impressed gullible or naive Nigeri¬ans. This is happening while the legendary grass cutter, Babachir Lawal and his cohorts are walking around free. I have argued in previous editions that all those accused of looting must be dealt with according to the laws of our land. The war against corruption must be total. It should not be about APC or PDP. The EFCC must also be allowed to operate independently. However, the reverse has been the case in the last two years.
Virtually all those currently on trial are members of the opposition party? Are we saying that political appointees in APC-controlled states are saints? Some states have been under the control of APC’s merging partners for over 16 years. So, the political appointees here are all above board? No wonder many criminals are decamping to the APC. The ruling party is fast turning into a haven for criminals. I am worried about so much anti-corruption noise at the expense of pragmatic governance. Buhari should spend quality time putting together and implementing economic policies that will turn around our prostrate economy. There has been so much noise about fighting corruption while virtually nothing is happening in critical sectors like road, health, education, housing and power.  The majority of Nigerians would love to hear stories about more dialysis machines being installed in hospitals, resumption of abandoned road projects, good infrastructure in our tattered hospitals, universities and polytechnics, new jobs for our graduates, reflation of the economy and other developmental strides.

The biggest challenge we are facing now as a nation is that the people that promised us “Change” are now coming up with all sorts of excuses on why they can’t deliver on their promises. They have also compounded our misery by squandering virtually all the gains of the last 16 years, just within 24 months. We, as Nigerians, must raise our game if we want progress in this country. The truth is that no nation can rise above the quality of its citizens. We must learn to consistently hold our leaders accountable and insist that elected officials should deliver on their promises.  We should not be seen making excuses for our leaders’ flaws as some extremely wicked, selfish, Godless and purposeless people are currently doing for Buhari. To continue to do this amounts to self-degradation. Our President must re¬tool and lead by example on all fronts to pull out Nigeria from this state of despondency.