Josef Omorotionmwan worries that many of our leaders are hardly accountable to the people  

Need we reiterate that when times are hard, people are bound to look in every direction for possible solutions? In Nigeria, and perhaps in many other places, things are pretty hard today. Life has become brutish, short, and uncertain. Mass poverty, insecurity, unemployment, starvation and all the associated evils have assumed center stage; and there is no end in sight. 

Yet, there are those who believe that this is the way things have always been. We remember Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882), who once quipped, “Can anyone remember when times were not hard; and money not scarce”? Till date, this has not been resolved to finality. 

In the particular case of Nigeria, we see a twin contributory factor that is resident at the giddy height of the presidency. These factors may appear seemingly innocuous, but they are nevertheless, totally fatal to the development strides of the nation. They portend a frightening glimpse to the future of Nigeria; and the best way to appreciate them would be to present them in the form of hypothesis: 

One, given the way we are going, sooner than later, Nigeria will have an over-zealous president who will at inauguration assign to himself two additional portfolios – Minister of Petroleum Resources and Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Two, the new President will relocate his operational headquarters to a foreign country of his choice, while Aso Rock will only exist as an annex.

By 1977, General Muhammadu Buhari (as he then was), was the Minister of Petroleum Resources. Having tasted the sweetness of that office, he was not about to let it go at any opportunity.

On his return to power in 2015, we saw the speed with which Buhari grabbed back that same Ministry of Petroleum Resources. That has become Buhari’s Legacy; and his successor, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has quickly followed his footsteps. There is danger in all this.

Only Buhari and his co-travelers know what they want in that office. For us, this unnecessary acquisition of naked power is a major hindrance to the country’s development.

On Planet Earth, Nigerians are perhaps among the easiest people to satisfy. If your government is running on the path of success and progress, Nigerians would not even mind if you choose to run the country as a Sole Administrator.

But in Buhari, what Nigerians have seen in the additional power grab has been one disaster after another. There has been no value added whatsoever! Rather, it has been another day, another scandal!

Even if everybody forgets the case of the US$2.8billion that got missing from the NNPC account in 1977, will history ever forget that? The more they tried to explain it off, the more their explanation looked like trying to explain which method of stealing was adopted.

Oil has been the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. Yet, it has pleased us to have the NNPC as the easiest place to steal from. What an unserious bunch!

Since our return to the current democratic experiment in 1999, our Legislators have not been any helpful either. In 2015, we had the semblance of a Senate – the Eight Senate under the leadership of Senator Bukola Saraki. That, too, was a disappointment when it came to the question of screening nominees for ministerial appointments. 

We searched but in vain for that section of our Constitution that exempts anybody seeking ministerial appointment from screening and Senate confirmation. This is the basis on which we believe that anyone offering himself for appointment should be properly screened for suitability. What the Senate confirmation does is to offer Senators the rare opportunity to ask the supplementary questions.

In the case of Buhari, for instance, the Senate would have been able to probe further into the case of the infamous 53 Suitcases of 1984 when Buhari was the Head of State of Nigeria – a matter on which he and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who was the Customs Head at the Ikeja Airport at the time have been trading banters; and a serious matter that both men have turned into a comic relief since then. 

Even in everyday life, if your landlord suddenly decides to reduce himself to your messenger, won’t you think twice before giving him a message with a serious monetary implication?

The Senate has failed us, and we now have successive petroleum ministers who have turned that most important ministry into a fatherless baby – easy to steal from and unaccountable to none!

Otherwise, now that Nigeria is broke and looking for a way out of the predicament, why is the man holding the key to our cash cow not leading the way? The junior ones who should have queued behind him are the ones scampering around, no thanks to a twisted democracy! This is where we are.

Tomorrow, we may elect a more avaricious President who may want to corner more ministries to himself. What moral justification shall we have to question that? And so, the problem continues.

Call it absenteeism or what you will, it is instructive that Nigerian presidents abandoned their duty posts at one time or the other. The late President Umaru Yar’Adua is recorded to have spent 109 days abroad during his less than four years’ tenure before his demise; his successor, President Goodluck Jonathan was ill for two days while in Germany; President Buhari who took over from him is recorded to have spent at least 237 days during his eight-year tenure; while the incumbent president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, at the time of writing this, had travelled abroad for medical vacation at least five times since his inauguration less than 10 months ago. 

In whichever direction we look, we see the presidential escapades as a drain on our economy, a major contributor to our economic woes and a serious dent on our image – if there be anything left of that.

In the eyes of foreigners, Nigeria has become a laughing stock – only good for comic reliefs. Listen to Reuters News Agency on March 22, 2023: “Nigeria’s president-elect Bola Tinubu on Wednesday dismissed Nigerian media reports of ill-health, his campaign saying he had travelled abroad to rest and plan his transition programme after a “very exhaustive” presidential election campaign. Tinubu’s health is being closely watched in a country where a former president died in office after a long illness and incumbent Muhammadu Buhari routinely travels abroad for medical checks and in early 2017 spent three months on medical leave, opens new tab in Britain for an unspecified ailment”. Sharp and damning, eh? 

The BBC News (of May 29, 2023) is not any less succinct: “Many Nigerians are wary of another president with health issues after President Umaru Yar’Adua died in office in 2010 and Mr. Buhari spent considerable time getting medical treatment abroad”.

For how long shall we be engineering the engineer instead of his engine; and driving to nowhere?

Omorotionmwan writes from Canada

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