Latest Headlines



Glaring underperformance has dumbfounded Buhari administration’s image dry-cleaner, writes Bolaji Adebiyi

Someone observed during the week that despite the debilitating crises in the energy and education sectors, Lai Mohammed, the talkative minister of Information and Culture, has gone mute. “Really? What would he have said anyway?” somebody asked. “But he should have, at least said something. Even if it will be his usual wares,” another said. “Oh, so you would say he is lying again. What do you Nigerians really want? He talks, you say he lies; he is quiet, you say he is mute,” the other one responded.

True, it is unusual for Mohammed to be silent at times like these when both the Muhammadu Buhari administration and its All Progressives Congress have come under intense attacks for their obvious underperformance. In his absence, Femi Adesina, the presidential media aide stepped in. The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, he said, was taking advantage of the persistent fuel shortage to attempt the destabilisation of the country. Not an unfamiliar line that should be dignified with a response, you might say. Nevertheless, Debo Ologunagba, the PDP’s fresh spokesman replied that his administration and the APC had run out of lies to deodorise its spectacular failings.

At the 4th Annual Lecture of the online news portal, Freedom Online, in Lagos on Wednesday, Mohammed was billed as the guest speaker. The topic could not have been more apt, Nigeria’s Political Indices: Bright or Bleak Future? All, but one, other persons invited, Gbenga Daniel, Ahmed Makarfi and Peter Obi, all former governors; Dakuku Peterside, former director-general of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency; Akin Onigbinde, erudite scholar; and Gani Adams, Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, were present. Olabode George, an acerbic critic of Buhari, didn’t show up but sent Othman Shodipe, legendry wordsmith of the journalism profession.

All the speakers were sober in their presentations as they analysed the state of the nation, concluding that the situation was extremely bad even as they apprehended bad leadership as the bane of the nation. The bad leadership, it was conceded, had grown worse today with all indices of human and economic development heading south. And as speakers took turns to reel out factual evidence of the underperformance of the prevailing administration that Nigerians had hoped would deliver change from the iniquities of the past, one mischievous commentator from the esteemed audience of largely senior journalists of the online media said Mohammed, aware of the versatility of the speakers, actually ran away from the event. If that was true, it was nothing but playing the ostrich as the pangs of the moment had turned even the most astute conservative into a radical critic of the Buhari administration. Who would not?

The past few months have been hell on earth for Nigerians as the incoherence of the last seven years comes to a head. It began with fuel stations running dry. Initially, the government said the scarcity arose from the importation of dirty fuel into the country and that the recall of the toxic petrol had caused the hitch in supply. When the scarcity persisted, marketers were blamed for hoarding the product. Then panic-buying became the culprit. Bottom line, no fuel to date.

Next, electricity blackout joined to worsen the plight of Nigerians. The government said the national grid collapsed and that efforts were being made to bring it back to life. The collapse was the 126th in Buhari’s seven years. In the past, if there was no electricity supply Nigerians would switch over to their generators. That is no longer an affordable luxury as the scarcity of petrol and diesel has pushed prices up to the neighbourhood of N350 and N800 per litre respectively. Not a cheery experience in a dry season that has never been this hot.

Meanwhile, the strike industry is thriving. For two months or thereabouts, university teachers have been sitting at home over the habitual refusal of the federal government to honour agreements that it freely entered into many years ago. The teachers have made it clear that they have no intention to return to work until the government fully implements its undertakings with them. The government on its part said it would not succumb to blackmail. The stalemate has left students and their parents stranded, practically caught in a crossfire that promises to become more intense.

Obviously convinced that the government understands no other language than strife, anonymous constables in the police force issued a strike notice some time ago. The threat is scheduled to be carried out tomorrow. The police high command’s initial response was to threaten the other ranks with a charge of mutiny if they proceeded with the protest. Already on the ground, therefore, fearing no fall, the evidently hungry and angry lower ranks told their superiors to take their threat seriously or face a consequential embarrassment.

Of course, the presidency that stood akimbo all the while intervened, warning the top brass of the police of the dire consequences of the proposed strike. The usual followed. A promise of the payment of the enhanced salary that the president approved more than a year ago. But the aggrieved have taken the pledge with a pinch of salt, saying like the university teachers that seeing is believing.

While tomorrow will tell whether the first-ever police strike will hold, a more interesting battle lies ahead of the Buhari administration. Anonymous correctional centre other ranks have also proposed to sit at home shortly if their pay is not enhanced. This promises to be an interesting one. As it is habitual with the government, it has not said anything that would appease the aggrieved officials many weeks after they laid open their complaints. Someone said Rauf Aregbesola, the minister of Interior, whose brief it is to take care of the warders is still recovering from his routing in Osogbo, the capital of Osun State, where he was worsted in a recent political duel with the governor, Gboyega Oyetola.

But Aregbesola is not the only one distracted. The entire administration is. Buhari, its head, just came back from a two-week trip abroad where he went to attend to his health. He has since his return been putting out the inferno in the house of APC that his long years of aloofness helped to ignite. Maybe when he is done with that tomorrow at the party meet at Eagle Square, Abuja he would attend to the urgent matters of fuel and electricity scarcity.

So, what, in all fairness, could anyone have expected Mohammed to say?

Adebiyi, the managing editor of THISDAY Newspapers, writes from  

Related Articles