An Open Letter to President Buhari
Updated: Apr 11
By Adeleke Adefioye
Dear Mr. President,
Nigeria has, no doubt, come a long way. The cliché of united we stand, divided we fall has been proven wrong over and over again only in Nigeria. The nation has stood divided over the years. Amazingly, it still stands. From inception. At least since independence from the shackles of the bondage of colonial rule on October 1, 1960, the nation has had what could be best described as a doom way beyond catastrophe. Our dear native land has gone through several bouts of excruciating turmoil and unbearable hardship emanating from man-made and self-inflicted disaster. Yet, the nation stands united.
The process of metamorphosis that characterize everyday political and socio-economic events in the nation has been that of a global shame. From an immense surplus to hysterical austerity. From great wealth to abject poverty. From an abundant reserve to a lingering unpaid debt. From a dependable security to a bloated insecurity. From a gainful employment to a perpetually rising rate of unemployment. From a broad smile to a wailing gloomy face. From a regional and global pride to a deflated ego. From financial transparency to a flagrant corruption. Perhaps, one of the most annoying is going from a reliable power supply to an embarrassing epileptic power supply.
Regrettably, people now posit that describing power supply as being epileptic is an unnecessary glorification of successive failed governments as the nation has reached a ‘no-power-supply’ status. What more hardship can a government unleash on its citizens? Amazingly, the nation still stands united. What a persevering set of people!
The Blame Game
With the country becoming a trailblazer and a formidable force to reckon with in the League of Nations synonymous with tales of socio-economic woes, the people of Nigeria across board had, before now, laid the blame at the door steps of several institutions. While some proclaimed bad leadership as the culprit, others traced the issue to bad followership. Yet, some other folks held the uncontained ever rising level of corruption as being responsible for the nation’s tale of woes.
On the other side of the fence, folks lay emphasis on the fact that the ring of old selfish politicians who have, over the years, cultivated ignoble habits of recycling themselves and their dysfunctional ideologies carry a large chunk of the blame responsible for the nation’s reoccurring retrogress.
On and on, the blame game has also ranged from lack of vision, self-centeredness and tribalism, nepotism, marginalization to whimsical and capricious intentions of the northern political elites to turn Nigeria into a monarchical dynasty of a sort. The blame list is just inexhaustible to say the least.
Right in the middle of the blame game. At the time an average Nigerian thrived to become a specialist in the act of apportioning blame. The military emerged at the political scene. People took to the streets in a jamboree-like celebration. ‘Our dark days are over’, so they presumed. Unfortunately, their perceived ‘bright days’ are always short-lived. From unmet expectations to incessant coup d’état. Regrettably, every successive military and civilian government was embraced with high hopes that eventually got dashed. Yet, the nation still stands united.
The military rule in Nigeria has been segmented into two parts – The first and the second juntas.
The First Junta
The first Junta (1966 – 1979) began with the first coup known as the ‘coup of the five majors’ when Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu alongside a group of Majors on January 15, 1966, overthrew Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the then Prime Minister of Nigeria and subsequently, Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi was appointed as the Head of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria. However, he was overthrown and assassinated in July of the same year.
Aguiyi-Ironsi was succeeded by General Yakubu Gowon who remained in power until 1975 when he was overthrown by a group of soldiers with a claim of inordinate ambition to return Nigeria to civilian rule. At this time, Brigadier Murtala Mohammed (who later became a General) became the new head of the military government.
About a year later, he too was assassinated in a violent and bloody coup in 1976. Olusegun Obasanjo later succeeded Murtala Mohammed heading the Military Government until 1979 when he handed over power to the acclaimed elected Shehu Shagari. This signified the beginning of what is now known as the second republic in the Nigeria political parlance.
The Second Junta
Shagari was overthrown in what was described as a bloodless coup in 1983 and was succeeded by you, Muhammadu Buhari following your appointment as the Chairman of the Supreme Military Council of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. About two years later in 1985 you were overthrown by General Ibrahim Babangida who adopted the title of the President of the Armed Forces Ruling Council of Nigeria. Babangida ruled until 1993 and temporarily handed over power to Ernest Shonekan as the head of a newly constituted Interim Government after several deceptive and unfulfilled promises of returning Nigeria to democracy.
Shonekan barely held his new position for two months when General Sani Abacha emerged as the new Military Head of State following a coup that ousted Shonekan. However, Abacha, who perceived himself as the Commander-in-Chief of the entire universe, died in office in 1998 paving way for General Abdusalami Abubakar who became the new Military Head of States and ruled until 1999 when Olusegun Obasanjo was elected as the President of a new democratic government marking the end of military junta in Nigeria.
Mr. President, I went through that short anal of the history of military rule in Nigeria just so I could better connect the dots of the strings of blame game in the deplorable state with which Nigeria is currently associated with or now noted for.
With successive military regimes, the act of governance was replaced with a tight fist rule. The constitution became a piece of decorative write up that is better placed on the book shelf whenever there was a little space to hold it.
The rule of law lost its supremacy feature. All of a sudden, human rights became elusive while social critics and human right activists, like wild animals, became hunted. The pen became a contraband to journalists. Chaos was garnished with fear in a bowl of confusion and the general populace was forced to feed on this bowl and expected to tell of how delicious the evil concocted portion was.
Anyone who failed to put up a forced smiley face after having a sip of the portion never saw daylight afterwards. A few brave ones who dared to christen this as injustice that the misrule really was paid the ultimate price – their lives. Abacha specifically took this injustice and gross disrespect of human rights to a whole new level. His heinous records won so many folks over to the camp of those who point accusing fingers in the direction of the military.
Like a whirl fire, the blame game continued to spread and with the devastation witnessed at the crescendo of military rule in Nigeria, people began to shift from their initial stance. For the first time in Nigeria, the blame game became unified. All and sundry, ethnicity and social status notwithstanding, found a common ground where a new blame game was better played.
Everyone forgot the melodious tunes of songs they gladly clapped and danced to before the advent of military rule. In a manner reminiscent of a well-choreographed orchestra, accusing fingers all pointed in the direction of the military as being responsible for the annihilations of Nigeria’s present and past.
As a result of this newly found common ground, the institution of the military became a thorn in the flesh. Everyone launched an attack at the military. Social critics and Human Rights Activists stood up with high shoulders. Genuine and progressive opinion leaders took the bull by its horns in making sure people are geared towards resisting military rule. The press had a field day in both electronic and print media (On-line/social media was at a formative stage at the time). A considerable percentage of media content at the time was all about ‘No to Military Rule’.
Like a dilapidated building, the structure of the military began to disintegrate with porous cracks that eventually culminated in a sudden and abrupt end of the Abacha regime which everyone, even those who are not spiritually inclined, affirmatively and unanimously referred to as a divine intervention. Again, this was not until a few brave ones who courageously stood on the side of the general populace paid the ultimate price – their lives. Amazingly, the nation still stands united.
Mr. President, to put the record straight, the war was not against the military as an institution but against its incessant interference with politics and unchecked incursion into governance. Eventually, the people’s resilience paid off. In 1999, democracy was somehow enthroned again in Nigeria as the nation kicked off the beginning of the fourth republic.
Again, people took to the streets and different latest dance steps graced divergent chants of melodious solidarity anthems. Finally, the nation has been rescued from the shackles of the bondage of the military, so they thought. But unfortunately, several years now since 1999, the story still remains unchanged. Abject poverty in the midst of national wealth. Insecurity, unemployment, corruption, flagrant injustice and annoying incessant power outage. Personally, I began to wonder what other ideology should be resuscitated again in the blame game now that we have the much awaited democracy.
The new president, Olusegun Obasanjo, whose slogan during the campaign was ‘Let’s make Nigeria great again’, raised the hopes of the general populace. Several promises were made and never kept. Mr. President, for the purpose of keeping this letter as concise as possible, I will only elaborate on one of the promises which has become one of the main pivots upon which the nation’s economic retrogress has swung over the years – Power.
The new Obasanjo-led administration at the time had promised that national issues associated with unreliable power supply will soon be a thing of the past. Shortly after his inauguration, Obasanjo had set December 31, 2001 as the kick off date for uninterrupted power supply to the nation. When in 2003, the federal government did not deliver on its promise, I wrote an article titled ‘Unending Woes’ in a national news journal precisely in May, 2003.
In the article, I revealed how Nigerians had heaved a heavy sigh of relief following the announcement of a kick off date for uninterrupted power supply. I laid emphasis on how the declaration was applauded by all and sundry as everyone envisaged a better standard of living and improved socio-economic activities arising from the expected development. The business circle was the most excited with investors and industrialists beginning to map out plans and draw blueprints on how best to resuscitate ailing industries and establish new ones.
With patience and a whole lot of eagerness, everyone waited for the magic year but all the hope soon disappeared when by December 31, 2001, the ‘normal’ power outage and familiar ‘blackout’ lingered. In a quick succession, a new date of August, 2002 was announced. Again, like the earlier December 2001 date, the Obasanjo-led administration failed, very woefully, to deliver on the promise.
The question is, why would an amenity so basic suddenly become so elusive to Nigerians? For decades, this has been a pain in the neck. Folks come back home after a hectic day of work and are forced to go to bed sweating if they ever forgot to grab a gallon of gasoline on their way home in an attempt to power their generators. Generators of different sizes and makes roar into the quiet nights. People hardly enjoy their night rest as they go through the same horrible experience on a daily basis with no terminal date in sight.
My heart bleeds each time I call my friends and family and have to contend with deafening background noise coming from different generators in the neighborhood. Why are people treated like prisoners in their own homes? How long will luxury take the place of comfort in Nigeria? How more annoying and embarrassing can it be if a power issue in a nation like Nigeria continues to defile all solutions? This always moves me to tears seeing the nation’s young generation who have literally grown up with and on generators and perceived this odd way of life as societal norm.
The Missing Rib
Mr. President, have you ever wondered what Nigeria is missing? I, alongside several concerned and worried Nigerians, would assume you may have figured this out. That may have been responsible for the unprecedented doggedness with which you vied for the presidency having failed over and over again.
Why are Nigerians still not able to wrap their arms around the proverbial dividends of democracy they fought so hard for? This should be an eye opener to everyone that democracy is not the major issue contending with the nation. Do not get me wrong. I am not in any way a supporter of military rule. I still hold an opinion that it is an illegal form of government. The question is – Why has the legal form of government (democracy) failed to put broad smiles on the faces of Nigerians having desired it for so long.
We all have a considerable percentage of the aggregate blame. Nigerians fought for democracy but never fought for humanity. The best work of life is service to humanity. This explains why nations that have attained the status of super power and advanced economy began with a handling of the topic of humanity as being sacred and crucial to advancement. Historically, any nation or government that places a high premium on the entirety of the general populace, in no time, transforms into greatness.
It is on the premise of humanity that a government feels it is not appropriate for its citizens to risk health hazards and a great deal of inconvenience and unpleasantness in an attempt to provide electricity for themselves. It is on the premise of humanity that a government official sees political office as an opportunity to truly serve the people. It is on the premise of humanity that people that are elected to represent the interest of the citizens resist the temptation of corruption and enriching themselves with ill-gotten money at the expense of the same general populace they are meant to represent.
It is on the premise of humanity that elected officials are truly accountable to the people who elected them into office. It is on the premise of humanity that the government is constantly in pursuit of instituting a better standard of living for the people. It is on the premise of humanity that a serving government official is not presumed to be above the law.
It is on the premise of humanity that current and past government officials are investigated and truly indicted if they are found guilty. It is on the premise of humanity that justice is preserved by the government as the only reliable and sustainable instrument available for and to the general populace to seek a true redress. It is on the premise of humanity that the government harnesses every resource for the security of life and property of the people.
It is on the premise of service to humanity that a government will respond to the plights of its citizens in a foreign country and mobilize resources geared towards rescuing such citizens. It is on the premise of service to humanity that a government will continually develop and launch developmental programs that will translate into comfortability, improved standard of living, decreased cost of living, durable and sustainable growth, quality education, employment, affordable housing scheme, social security and a reliable and dependable power supply.
Mr. President, for the first time in the history of the nation, a sit-in president was unseated. For the first time in the history of our dear nation, an opposition party won a presidential election. Have you made out time to ask why it happened the way it did. You may be the focal point but definitely not the star of the event. The superstars are the people of Nigeria who came all out on March 28, 2015 to cast their votes. People across the line of religion, ethnicity, belief, age and gender through their votes cried and wailed in an excruciating pain. They all spoke with one voice of their disapproval of deceptive, inactive and unresponsive government. They needed a change in the real sense of the word.
You can tell that they are tired of corruption that has eaten deep into the fabric of the national treasury. They are tired of being lied to by the same officials that clamored for their votes while vying for office. Tired of a government that rewards past corrupt leaders who are responsible for the ailing nature of the nation’s economy with national awards. Tired of clueless leaders who lack vision and a good sense of direction. Yes, they are.
They might have a reason to trust you. I have no clue what their conviction was. Maybe you displayed some good leadership traits during your short-lived regime as a military ruler. Maybe they believe you can deliver on your promise.
They may have remembered the ferocious nature with which you haunted corrupt officials or the tenacity with which you injected orderliness and discipline into the system at the time. Maybe they had no choice as you are the only alternative to the ruling government they detested so much. Something may have triggered people’s support for you. Whatever it was, they believe in you.
For me, I so much opposed your candidacy. I saw no reason why a former military ruler should be given a chance. However, the people have spoken through the ballot. The likes of the people who paraded themselves as aspiring presidents may have also been responsible for the support you had (no apologies). Why would a country on the verge of retrogress risk electing another leader who will literally turn his back on his people and celebrate more seasons of corruption?
For some reason, though it may sound so dumb, I began to build a notion during the campaign that, at least, with Buhari, corruption will be off the table. Who knows, I may have spoken the minds of millions of Nigerians who are equally tired of these monsters who disguise themselves as leaders.
I remember, very vividly, my dad in his active days as a Civil Engineer. A couple of years following the end of your regime as a military ruler, had come back from Katsina where he had a project and shared with me upon his return how the hotel he stayed in was in the same neighborhood as your private residence. ‘One would have expected to see a mansion of a sort’, my dad posited. ‘That guy is really a very modest individual’, he concluded.
Mr. President, similar or related stories may have been responsible for your popularity with the common people leading to their vote cast for you. I wrote all of that to write this - You must not disappoint them.
Prior to the March 28, 2015 Presidential Election, your candidacy as well as your crusade for change resonated with the people. They all are of the opinion that your ideologies align, in a way, with theirs. They feel they have in you, a dim ray of hope that has a huge propensity of blossoming into an amazing reality.
For years, you propagated and led a crusade of change which Nigerians have held on to. Very tightly too. You have paved a very smooth path during the campaign and the common people have all indicated and demonstrated a determined bid to take a walk on that path with you. This determination was unequivocally expressed through their votes. I am more than convinced that you are aware of this.
Mr. President, In all fairness, Nigerians do not and are not expecting you to conjure a magic wand and brandish the same with some kind of terrestrial dexterity and make their pains disappear overnight. Not with the enormity of damage to the economy perpetuated over the years by greedy poli-THIEF-cians and the extent of infrastructural decay.
The common people know. If the perseverance attribute of Nigerians is a determining factor, I bet they understand how tough and demanding it would be to ‘clean up’ the huge mess. In the same vein, the common men expect you to hit the ground running as soon as your inauguration ceremony is over with. They would want to see a new frame that will hold the change you have so much clamored for. They would like to hang their hope on this frame and watch socio-economic events unfold in their favor.
This time, Nigerians do not want their hope dashed. These people have endured hardship in the extreme. They have known turbulence inside out. They have lived consistently with and in ‘blackout’ for years. On and off, for decades, they have queued at gas stations for hours to fill their tanks with gasoline. Yet, several thousands of barrels of crude oil are produced daily under their nose while nations that never produced a teaspoon of crude oil drive in and out of gas stations freely without having a queue to contend with.
They have seen all the refineries in their country nose-dived from full production capacity to zero. They have watched, with a great deal of pain, the crude oil produced in their country ferried overseas, refined, ferried back and sold to them at an exorbitantly high price. Annoyingly, they still have to queue for it and sometimes bribe their way into purchasing it. What a wasteful nation.
These people have been denied all things and everything that makes life worth living. Their hope and aspirations have been short-lived over and over again. Successive governments have brandished a bleak future in the face of the young generation. They have been denied healthcare, employment, opportunity and quality education. Mr. President, let me simply state that they have been denied life. Yet, the same set of people thrive and soar high in any career they find themselves when they eventually leave the country.
Recently, a colleague in my office, knowing fully well that I am a Nigerian, had shared with me an article/result of a study he came across in Time Magazine. The article focuses on Nigerians as being in the fore-front of education in the United States.
In a related development, census data from the United States Census Bureau, lend credence to Time Magazine’s assertion. According to the bureau, 37 percent of Nigerians in the U.S., despite making up a tiny portion of the U.S. population, have bachelor’s degrees, 17 percent hold master’s degrees and 4 percent has doctorates. In contrast, the same census data indicated that only 19 percent of white Americans has bachelor’s degrees, 8 percent hold master’s degrees and only 1 percent hold doctorates. Unfortunately, the same set of Nigerians are not presented with quality education in a country they proudly refer to as theirs.
Mr. President, as an ardent lover of Nigeria and a proud Nigerian who had, at different times, prayed, wept, agonized, wished and hoped, in the most passionate manner, that the nation Nigeria succeeds. Like most Nigerians who share the same passion, I’ll want to state that you treat promise differently this time.
Be aware of the fact that promise is a debt if not fulfilled. Nigerians do not mind in any way whose ox is gored in a determined attempt to resuscitate and restore the nation. You may have a well laid out blueprint of what needs to be done and how but there is a need to prioritize based on the immediate needs of the people.
Set a framework that will eventually set the nation on the right track. The nation’s boat has drifted far. So far away that it is no longer in sight. As a concerned Nigerian, I may be overly passionate about restoring a durable and sustainable supply of electricity, you will agree with me that there can’t be any meaningful development for a nation that has lost its source of power supply. It is the pivot upon which industries, technology, science, education, research and development swing. As a matter of fact, electricity is the bedrock of every sphere of development of any nation.
The nation has been stratified into geo-political zones to foster some kind of development. In the same vein, the nation could be segmented into different strata based on power consumption and power generation and distribution can be planned to feed each stratum based on their power needs and consumption rate.
I am not a power expert. However, this simple analogy may not be dissociated from the reasons electricity in Nigeria was very efficient following the installation of the first generating power plant in Lagos in 1898. The colonial government had, through the promulgation of ECN ordinance No. 15 of 1950, technically merged Electricity Corporation of Nigeria and the Niger Dam Authority which metamorphosed into National Electric Power Authority, NEPA. So, if NEPA had, at inception, efficiently and effectively met the power consumption needs of Nigeria and Nigerians, then a trace needs to be run to detect exactly where things began to go wrong and why.
Shortly before I wrote ‘NEPA’S unending Woes’ in 2003, I spoke with a couple of NEPA’s principal officials in Marina, Lagos as well as members of the Technical Board of NEPA in Abuja. My investigations, at the time, revealed that some disgruntled elements have appointed themselves, wittingly or unwittingly, to the task of thwarting the efforts of the authority and that of the federal government.
To me, these ‘faceless’ people are the same set of people scooping monetary gains from the nation’s electricity woes. I requested to know if these bastards are stronger than the federal government and if there was any reason they have not been identified, picked up and tried. I did not receive a response to that question from the board members and I believe millions of Nigerians thrown into perpetual ‘blackout’ are asking the same question.
They do have a reason or reasons to ask questions. Aside this power challenge that all and sundry contend with, it is evident, so evident that there is no nation anywhere in the world that could be steered into a true sustainable industrial development with a reoccurring and unsolved epileptic power supply.
Mr. President. For the nation to take its rightful place in the comity of nations and for a wind of positive change to blow across the nook and cranny of the country, the general populace would like the federal government, under your administration, to formulate developmental policies that will boost security. A framework that will translate into quality education.
Efficient programs that will reduce unemployment rate. Durable road and rail network that will ensure a smooth transportation system. Enacted laws and enforcement of existing laws that will introduce a new culture of discipline and financial transparency.
Modern mechanized farming that will transform the nation’s agricultural sector into a huge export hub and a consequential foreign exchange earner. An effective and potent national reconciliation tool that will broker a peace treaty among different tribes and ethnic groups. A sustainable healthcare scheme that will not only improve the overall health of the people but also makes healthcare affordable and accessible.
Bills that will translate into laws directed towards kicking off community police in the nation (security boost) as well as a launch of a national crusade, power task force and other meaningful attempts geared towards proffering a lasting solution to the age-long man-made electricity issue.
Like I posited earlier. Nigerians are aware of the enormity of the national issues clamoring for attention at this period in the history of our dear nation. As a result, there will be a need for you to set a fundamental framework after prioritizing the needs of the people and hit the ground running.
Pitch your tent with the people to be able to uncover and discover these needs. Avoid deceitful praise singers with ‘hidden’ motives that may sway you off track and prevent you from delivering on your ‘change’ promise for the people. Institutionalize procedures aimed at investigating and indicting corrupt government officials. You have promised change and the people believed you. Remember they exhibited their well rooted belief in you by speaking very loudly through their votes. You must deliver. In line with the last four words of the national pledge – SO HELP YOU GOD.