OP-UNEDITED | President Buhari: What ‘change’ Are You Collecting Again? – By Timi Olagunju
By Timi Olagunju
“Do not ask what your citizens can change, rather ask what you have changed for your citizens as promised in over 455 days in office”.
About 72 hours ago, the Presidency launched the “change begins with me” campaign. Then, I quickly remembered what conductors and drivers in Lagos would typically say to passengers “abeg, hold your change”. This prompted me to title this article “Mr. President: What ‘change’ are you collecting again?”. Please follow me carefully so we can understand the thought flow.
Let us imagine that Nigeria is a typical Lagos bus: in this bus, the conductor and driver collect ‘money’ from the passengers, and promised to carry them from point A through point B to point C. However, without moving from point A, the conductor and driver screams “abeg, passengers, make you pay another extra money to carry you go point C”, having collected the agreed fee and not moved visibly from point A. Now, what would the passengers call or do to this driver and conductor? Your guess is as good as mine! Now let’s come home with this parable: the bus is Nigeria, the passengers are Nigerians, the driver and conductor are the Presidency and his team (in charge of this campaign), and finally “change” refers to ‘either the support or votes of Nigerians requested in 2015 election, with the grand promise to move Nigeria from point A through point B to C. As a passenger in this bus called Nigeria, Mr. President, I ask, “after collecting the change of votes, is it strategic for you to ask again for another ‘change’ without moving us to point A through point B to C?
In addressing the issue of Mr. President’s campaign for change, according to his speech “There is no doubt that our value system has been badly eroded over the years. The long-cherished and time honored, time-tested virtues of honesty, integrity, hard work, punctuality, good neighbourliness, abhorrence of corruption and patriotism, have given way in the main to dishonesty, indolence, unbridled corruption and widespread impunity. The initiative is aimed at educating and enlightening Nigerians to appreciate the values of accountability and integrity”. With this I agree, but I ask “were Nigerians always like this? If No, what changed? That is a question the Presidency, the Ministry of Information, and the National Orientation Agency (NOA), needs to answer first, so that the Presidency can start a real campaign that cuts the problem from the roots, rather than plucking the leaves by pointing to the Nigerian people who are mere products of the corruption and selective justice they have seen and still see day-in and day-out perpetuated by politicians and previous military leaders.
According to the President, “I need not mention the serious effort we have engaged in since the inception of this administration on the fight against corruption in our public life. With the progress we have so far made in that regard, we feel the need to ensure that we put in place the necessary sustainable framework for action and measures that will help to entrench and consolidate the progress achieved so far.” In the words of Shakespeare, “what you do speaks so loud, I cannot hear what you say”. Mr. President, what progress have we made in transparency or development, please? Is there progress and transparency in releasing four hundred billion Naira (N400, 000, 000, 000) for capital projects without details (as pointed out by BudgIT)? Really, what has the current ‘siren’ approach to fighting corruption yielded in terms of local benefits to Nigerians? Even Mr. Bola Tinubu, in 2007, at a conference I attended in the University of Ibadan, said that development is not development, until the market woman on the street can confirm it is development.
However, in trying to look for the good in your campaign, I read an article in defense in Vanguard where Prof. Abdulhameed Ujo of the Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Abuja, said that “I am of the feeling that what they (government) are trying to do is to experiment the various approaches to address the problems”. But Prof, Sir, why experiment when the Presidency and his team, can use data and an investigative approach to know what the problem is, and address it creatively. Imagine an unprepared doctor in surgery experimenting with a living human being in the theater room? Isn’t that a catastrophe. Or imagine an unskilled pilot experimenting his skills with passengers in a plane? Previous Governments experimented with Heart of Africa, Good People Great Nation, and we are here, because we rarely do proper apolitical prognosis before prescription.
Mr. President, I can imagine – when you are in leadership, there are a couple of sycophants and praise-singers who wouldn’t tell you the truth, it is for you to find out the facts that will help you arrive at the truth. It isn’t new with your office, Sir. For example, during World War II, Sir Winston Churchill had officials (sycophants) who would tell him they were winning against Hitler. But, Sir Churchill set up an independent office of statistics on the war (without the knowledge of his key officials) and these office would get independent and on-ground data to the Prime Minister, on the state of things –-and they quickly realized the failure in strategy and an eminent defeat. So Sir Churchill would take their facts and the facts of his officials and then come to decisions that consequently helped the United Kingdom emerge victorious at the war. There is nothing like luck, ‘Luck is simply ‘Learning Under Correct Knowledge’.
Finally, I agree with a balanced view from Dr. Chinwe Odimegwu, Feed To Grow (F2G), Africa that “it is unacceptable for you to come to work by 9am and sign in for 7am, and point fingers at the Government”. It is unacceptable for you to drive with speed across a Zebra crossing, as if it meant for Zebras not humans. Also, I reiterate that in addition to transformation (not only change) from every nook and cranny, the Presidency needs to come up with better strategies for engaging the Nigerian people, because it seems the Ministry of Information has not properly distinguished ‘propaganda’ during election from ‘information’ after election.
Mr. Presidency, the road to hell can oftentimes, be littered with good but ill-planned intentions.
Timi Olagunju is a lawyer, writer, and professional speaker. He is a Fellow of the Presidential Precinct.
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