Restructuring or Rawlings 

By Akin Osuntokun  

“I remember a friend of mine in the oil industry, who during a meeting of an economic think tank. He called the then president aside and said, ‘Mr President please stop this subsidy, we are tired of making money…We’re bringing in this fuel at an elevated cost and half of it is exported out of Nigeria by the same people collecting money for it” 

There is an apparent consensus of opinion that Nigeria has not had a good outing under the stewardship of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The main extenuation for this lapse is that he inherited a basket case from his predecessor, Major General Muhammadu Buhari.That may well be the case but this extenuation flies in the face of his own verbalised utmost quest and carnal desire (lifelong ambition) to become the president of Nigeria. I do not exactly recall whether it was 

Usman Dan Fodio who counselled society to be wary of whoever desires the aroma of power the most. Buhari’s obsession with power and what he did with it for eight years proves the point. May Nigeria be spared the repeat of the Buhari cross all over again.

Beware of what you crave, you may just get it. Having now been gratified with the object of his ‘lifelong ambition’, Nigeria lies prostrate before President Tinubu but he has so far failed to master the moment. In fairness to him and unlike his predecessor, he has largely refrained from making a song and dance of the Buhari (dysfunction) extenuation. Save when he characterised the transition from Buhari to his government as ‘moving from darkness to a glorious dawn’. While the characterisation of the former President’s tenure as an era of “darkness” is apt, it would amount to standing reality on its head to cite the incumbent president’s tenure as anything near a glorious dawn.

The potential crowning glory of the Buhari dysfunction and one I regret not supporting was his desire to foist former President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan as the president of Nigeria. And he was thick enough to try it. If he had succeeded, he would have sufficiently radicalised Nigerian politics, and clarified the choice before the country as never before. Already cut too deep, the cleavages would have irretrievably cut deeper. The affront was bound to foster a make or break crisis whose ramifications would force a fundamental constitutional review of the status quo or worse. 

Imagine the spectre of Vice-president Atiku Abubakar as the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP candidate and Ahmed Lawan as that of the APC, and the certainty that the election will be rigged in favour of either presidential candidate. To the contrary, with the election of Tinubu as a sop to the Yoruba, Nigeria has won a battle but lose the war. As we have come to learn, the restructuring din has quietened down to a whimper. A very smart politician, contemporaneously I 

cannot recall him ever owning restructuring as priority- that is if he ever touched the idea at all on his campaign rostrum.

 As programmed, he has deflated the bubbles of the only viable status quo answer to the question of what ails Nigeria. I was surprised at the conniving power politics posture of the Yoruba intelligentsia towards the realpolitik of contemporary Nigeria. The better option of Peter Obi was put down as representative of Igbo triumphalism! It went all the way back to the politics of playing the Yoruba against the Igbo. 

I marvelled at the spectre of respected scholars who taught us on how tribalism is the bane of Nigerian politics becoming the standard bearers of the very ill they professed against. It was the perfect opportunity to breach the to- your- tents-o-Israel barrier that had kept Nigeria down for so long. Love your neighbour as you love yourself, thus sayeth the Lord. And it was reckoned as one of the most important commandments. 

“The two great commandments, as found in Matthew 22:36-40, are to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” and “love thy neighbour as thyself.” The Lord did not qualify the commandment as applicable only to those you like. It is a challenge to our individual and collective morality and test of commitment to principles, to stand by a principle when it is not convenient to do so. The more cynical of them rationalised their position with the logic that if Nigeria is fated to ruin and damnation, it makes sense to have your son at the commanding heights! 

As you might have rightly guessed, the reference to Rawlings in the caption is a metaphor for a near revolutionary take over of government. To a considerable extent, the inability of Tinubu to stare down the challenges and problems of Nigeria boils down to not wanting to commit class suicide. If he really wants to commit to doing his job well, he has two options.

One is to go for a constitutional review towards the end of securing the restoration of federalism. The other is to lead by the power of example. The latter point is not as trite as it sounds. In the affairs of men, it is inevitable for society to experience crisis and tribulation. So by itself, the bad spell Nigeria is going through is neither new nor unprecedented. What matters most is the demonstration of enlightened self-interest, the capacity of the ruling elite to mobilise the citizenry by the power of personal example and discipline. 

Within the context of Nigeria, It may sound utopian, but think of a shirtless Rawlings driving a bulldozer. If you have your leaders miraculously borrow a leaf from this playbook, the masses will forget they have not eaten a piece of meat for weeks.

I do not need to go into the sordid details but the statement of intent indicated in the budget presented by the president a few months back is a contraindication of leadership by example and a mockery of the Nigerian masses. It is a budget of how not to mobilise the people behind your leadership. It is not a budget of how to exhort your people to think of what they can do for their country and not what their country can do for them. 

As Nigeria’s cup of iniquity overflows with no discernable silver lining in the dark horizon, my mind has been waxing subjective and unorthodox dimensions. In my last outing, I wrote of making atonement for the sin of our forefathers participation and connivance in the slave trade as a spiritual panacea for what increasingly appears to be a digging deeper into the hole of mass immiseration and underdevelopment. I got this inspiration from the most accomplished American president, Abraham Lincoln. He believed that the American civil war over the institution of slavery was punishment and atonement for the role of America in the transatlantic slave trade. 

As I contemplate the ratcheting up of public service corruption in Nigeria today to the level of unimaginable perversion and sickness, my mind wandered to how Shehu Yar’Adua came to terms with the dilemma. I doubt if decent society has any lessons to learn from the peculiarity and oddity but it is story worthy of being told. It is a story of how effective he was in securing his political goals and objectives. It was as cynical as it was effective. If the former number two man in the military government of Obasanjo, was sending a political subordinate on an errand, he would inquire about the cost implication of the task. Having been apprised of the financial implication, say ten million Naira, he would give the money as requested. He would then top up the money with another ten million, so the fellow would have less incentive to fignal with the original ten million. And it worked! 

In theory and practice, I do not know how to substantiate this primitive formula but ranged against what presently obtains, it appears to me a good bargain (if we can get ten billion naira value for a contract awarded for twenty billion). 

It is six months now since Isa Yuguda has made his earth shaking revelation. The response of the President was to cast a vote of confidence in the man at the centre of the worst scandal in Nigeria and reappoint him as the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC. Neither has he deemed it worthwhile to invite the remorseful friend of Yuguda to come and tell all he knows as a participant-observer who has become tired of making billions at the expense of the Nigerian public 

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