President, govs disown the poor

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Dele Sobowale

“Fish rots from the head.”

If you want to know how good or bad a country is, just take a look at the top politicians. It is now becoming an axiom of political science, that it is almost impossible to have a great country with absolutely atrocious leaders in charge. It all starts from the President or Prime Minister. Was there an African or black person anywhere who was not proud when Nelson Mandela was President of South Africa? Who else among the mob that was elected and ruled in Africa who has given us that sense of pride in being African and black? Mandela achieved everlasting fame, universal acclaim and respect in just five years. See what we have got in Nigeria after seven and a half years of Buhari. Surely nobody would be dishonest enough as to call him a great leader – given the legacies he and the First Lady, FL, are likely to leave behind.

But, of all the foot prints Buhari will leave on the sands of time, his ingratitude and betrayal of the poor people, mostly northerners, must be the worst. In 2011, 2015 and again in 2019, millions of almajiris, talakawas voted overwhelmingly for him. He promised them relief; failed to deliver on his pledges; presented false reports about number of people lifted out of poverty. Then, the truth was revealed at last. What was his response to the revelations? Find out shortly.

Meanwhile, Nigerian governors are uncomfortable about the accusation that they were also responsible for the astronomical increase in the number of poor Nigerians. A breakdown of the 133 million people, now living in poverty, revealed that Bayelsa and Rivers, two oil-producing states, account for some of the largest numbers of the destitute people. This is true despite the fact that 13 per cent derivation has been collected since former Governor Victor Attah fought for it. Despite the braggadocio, always a poor substitute for truth, by Governor Wike, it must be embarrassing for him to find Rivers State exposed this way. But, Wike is not the only one indicted by irrefutable facts. Former Governors Odili and Amaechi also have a critical question to answer. How did you manage so many trillions of naira only to produce more poor people in the state since 1999? Rivers and Bayelsa are not alone. There is no state in Nigeria where the numbers have not gone up negatively since 1999.

Governors of the All Progressives Congress, APC, have no cause for complaint. First, the 133 million figure of poor people was provided by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, which is under their party leader – Buhari. Furthermore, it was one of Buhari’s Ministers who accused the Governors of creating more poor people. And, it was Buhari who informed the whole world of one of the ways Governors impoverish their people – they steal Local Government Council money. If APC Governors feel the Buhari lash, they should remember that he has always engaged in the blame game; and they have always clapped. Why complain now, when Buhari is once again shifting the blame to others; instead of accepting responsibility as great Presidents do?

Buhari passes the buck again

“Most of the problems a President has to face have their roots in the past” – US President Harry Truman, 1884-1972.

“I know that when things don’t go well they like to blame the President and that is one of the things which Presidents are paid for” –  US President John Kennedy, 1917-1963. One of my final year courses as an undergraduate in the US was on American presidency. I was fascinated by the position, the power, the grandeur and the sense of responsibility; the way they are criticized everyday and accept it as normal. My favourites were Jefferson, Lincoln, Truman and Kennedy. I have an archive full of statements from them. Until Trump came, no American President wasted his and the peoples’ time grumbling aloud about the problems he inherited. He probably based his campaign on righting the wrongs allegedly committed by his predecessor(s). Unlike those great leaders, Buhari spent almost his entire eight years blaming his predecessors for everything which went wrong – which was virtually everything touched by his government. Read his October 1, 2022 address and you will understand why eight years of our national lives have been wasted by having Buhari, who only wants the pleasure of flying Nigeria airlines, being treated in London hospitals at public expense; people standing when he enters any room, award contracts and make appointments without giving a damn about the outcome as President.

The only time Buhari responds to the responsibilities of his office is when an unfavourable report is published. Invariably, his reaction violates another principle of good leadership. According to Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, “The whole of government consists in the art of being honest.” Buhari and his government have never been totally honest. They cast around in search of those on who to fix the blame. Permit me to use one example of how Buhari personally increased the number of poor people living in Nigeria today.

Buhari has given the Fulani a bad name

“Burn down your cities, and leave our farms; and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow on the streets of every city in the country” – William J Bryan, 1860-1925.

Buhari single-handedly allowed Fulani herdsmen to destroy, not only millions of poor farms, but farmers as well. He did this by turning a blind eye to the atrocities of the herdsmen right from their first large scale pogrom in Agatu, Benue State in 2016. He was their Life Patron before he became President; but once he became President, he was expected to become the transient protector of all Nigerians. Instead of rising up to the occasion, he quickly became partisan in the age-long disputes between herders and farmers; and he also proved to be myopic. When his kinsmen invaded Agatu and massacred hundreds of people, he did not even send a condolence message. Instead, he blamed the victims for not welcoming strangers in their midst. That was defamation by Buhari against Agatus. My first trip to Agatu was in 1978; and there were Fulani people there living side by side with other ethnic groups.

From Ahmadu Bello as Premier of Northern Region, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister, President Shehu Shagari as President and Umoru Yar’Adua as another President – all Fulanis –herdsmen have lived in peaceful co-existence with farmers throughout the Federation. No mass killings were ever reported. Nobody carried AK-47.All the genocide started from 2015 till today. This is the first period in our history that millions of farmers would be driven from their farms by herdsmen; and their farms destroyed. This is the first time that millions of previously self-reliant farmers would be living in Internally Displaced Peoples Camps — destitute. The only person who could have averted this calamity is Buhari. He absolutely refused to do it. Herdsmen are still destroying farms everywhere till today. Unfortunately, for Buhari, events in life do not always move in straight lines. The herdsmen did not know when to stop; other hoodlums joined them. Now farmers in Katsina State work when bandits allow them. Major famine looms in the country – especially in Sokoto and Katsina.

Yet, the man refuses to admit his own major contribution towards creating the current population of 133 million poor. Sensible and sane Nigerians cannot wait to see him go; and the Governors deserve the exposure. Most are just rascals.

Don’t come alone to compatriots; bring your community

“Na only you waka come?” Mrs. Patience Jonathan, ex-First Lady

To that Ernest Hemingway, 1891-1961, added more elegantly: “A man alone hasn’t got a chance.” The task before us is gargantuan. If war is too important to be left only to Generals, then Nigerian politics has become too vital to be left only to politicians. At any rate, it is becoming increasingly clear that the political parties, which started off in 1999, have become mere conspiracies to seize power and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. None, but card-carrying members, actually believes that Nigeria will change noticeably irrespective of who wins the presidential election.

It will be politics as usual. That is not good for us. That is why patriotic COMPATRIOTS are looking beyond the elections to create a new polity to move us from passive acceptance of outcomes to active support for our leaders in the future.

“Work is prayer in action” – Late Prince Tony Momoh, ex-Minister.

I am delighted and thank those who have indicated interest in joining the COMPATRIOTS. That is only a beginning and not the end of the journey. We still have many hills to climb and many rivers to cross; days of sweat and tears to reach our destination – a nation governed by men and women playing politics based on principles. There is a lot of work ahead; as well as lots of prayers. But, as my late Senior observed years ago, prayers alone will not be sufficient. We must work. That leads me to the next request. Everyone who has indicated interest should undertake to recruit others in their communities. Communities are defined as, not only those in your town, but friends, co-workers, church or mosque members, club members, old boys association, customers, classmates and schoolmates, family etc etc. Don’t walk alone; bring others. Those just deciding to join COMPATRIOTS should get in touch with me. Thank you all.

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