As the nation watches with delight the gradual exit of a government that was installed in 2015 on the basis of blatant campaign lies and exaggerated promises of how the socioeconomic conditions of citizens would be improved overnight, there is one man who deserves to be garlanded with flowers and goodbye cards for his unrelenting support of the government of Muhammadu Buhari.
Information and Culture Minister Layiwola (“Lai”) Mohammed worked steadfastly hard over the past eight years to consecrate the achievements of Buhari even when there was hardly any evidence to sustain the farce about the government’s superlative achievements. As minister of information, Lai Mohammed was the government’s chief propagandist. He was very good on the job.
He is notorious as a senior minister who claimed publicly, to the embarrassment of the nation, that the massacre of demonstrators by soldiers at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020, during the #EndSARS demonstrations, did not take place. He insists, against credible evidence, that no demonstrators were shot or killed and that soldiers were despatched to Lekki Toll Gate as peacekeepers and not as killers of unarmed citizens.
While some people, particularly opposition politicians, detest Lai Mohammed with a passion, other people love him and his strong defence of the government he serves. Undoubtedly, the information and culture minister is the most controversial and divisive man in the government.
I have never known Lai Mohammed, the wily old man, to admit openly that Buhari failed to deliver on the profuse promises he made in 2015, prior to his election as President. Lai Mohammed sees himself as a blameless minister who has been criticised unjustly by civil society. He believes he was cut out to manage the information ministry to the satisfaction of his boss, even if that means relaying or defending misleading information.
Sooner rather than later, Lai Mohammed and all officials of government who helped to sustain the sham argument that Buhari performed above previous Presidents would face the judgment of history, the pangs of a guilty conscience and the restlessness that accompanies men and women who perceive injustice and declare it to be justice. Whatever happens, history has a way of intervening on behalf of ordinary people to avenge injustices government officials committed against citizens.
One of the reasons Nigeria has regressed economically, technologically, scientifically and politically rather than achieve significant progress since independence is unquestionably poor leadership that is evidenced in poor governance. Unfortunately, the information and culture minister leads a parade of officials of state who do not believe the government that Buhari led in the past eight years has failed in any visible way. As far as Lai Mohammed is concerned, Buhari is the best President to serve Nigeria. The jury is still out on that misleading declaration.
It is unfortunate that, for eight years, Lai Mohammed treated Nigerians as nursery school children because of the way he overstated the achievements of Buhari’s government. How fallacious. Let us scrutinise the existing and embellished record of achievements. Across the country, there is widespread poverty. The number of Nigerians living below the poverty line has grown exponentially. For clarity, the poverty line is the estimated minimum level of income needed to secure the necessities of life.
From the north to the south, from the east to the west, poverty has disrupted many people’s social lives. Under the same government, corruption has become an approved way of doing business, both in the public and private sectors, despite the government’s anti-corruption mantra. Ironically, the government has identified corruption as the major obstacle to economic growth. That is correct. Corruption encourages sneaky ways of doing business. It impedes political, social and economic progress.
One area the government has failed to make an impact is the collapse of national security and the rapid breakdown of law and order. Insecurity has encouraged pervasive impunity to the extent that many privileged people operate as if they are above the law.
Youth unemployment is another blight on the image of the government. The government has given up any attempts to frame policy that will help to create jobs and curtail unemployment. Many university and polytechnic graduates are unemployable, not because they lack the qualifications. The higher education sector emphasises paper qualifications rather than skills development.
Healthcare in Nigeria is a disgrace. It does not exist. Ironically, the President and his ministers do not hesitate to run to overseas medical facilities whenever they experience a mild murmur in their hearts. Every year, billions of naira are allocated to the health sector in the federal budget.
Infrastructure is in even worse condition. The government boasted about the incredible number of roads that were built or renovated under Buhari. In October 2022, Buhari claimed that “this administration has constructed 408km of roads; 2,499km of Sukuk roads and maintenance of 15,961km of roads across the country.” He said more than 3,800 kilometres of new roads had been constructed across the country. On the ground, people cannot see those roads.
Beyond roads, Buhari also said his government had achieved significant successes in agriculture, the economy, infrastructure, security, health and anti-corruption. The government must be a magician to have achieved the fairy-tale feat. Buhari made all the claims at the final Ministerial Performance Review Retreat where he evaluated the progress of his government in the past seven years. Based on his self-appraisal, Buhari concluded he has discharged his government’s obligations to the nation.
Fate has a way of exposing outrageous claims about completed projects that no one could sight on the ground. Consider this: Even before Buhari started congratulating himself for achievements that could be contested openly, his wife, Aisha, openly apologised on Friday, September 30, 2022, to Nigerians for the harsh economic conditions and worsening state of security in the country under the leadership of her husband.
At the 62nd Independence Day Special Juma’at Prayer and Public Lecture, Aisha Buhari said: “The regime might not have been a perfect one, but I want to seize this opportunity to seek forgiveness from the Ulamas and Nigerians in general. We all need to work together to achieve a better Nigeria.”
Roads or no roads, many people believe that, under the present government, life is getting more difficult and unbearable, particularly in light of the fake promises made by the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the 2015 national elections to transform the lives of Nigerians. It was on the platform of the falsehoods conveyed to voters that the APC convinced everyone to dump the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
For the past seven years, Nigerians who are optimistic have expressed the hope that conditions would improve. Unfortunately, the situation became intolerable. Everyone turned to prayers. But prayers without hard work by the government would achieve little or nothing. Buhari was elected to govern, not to tender excuses.
It is against this painful background that people have grown more critical of Buhari government’s inability to improve their welfare and security needs, and hoping to use the forthcoming elections to send a strong message that the government must be accountable and that promises made to voters must be honoured.
We must admit that Nigeria degenerated to this level because of the failure of civil society to hold national and state leaders accountable. The more indifferent we are to our predicaments, the more difficult our lives become. The country has remained a failed state largely because everyone failed to act when things went wrong, when federal and state governments abdicated their responsibilities to citizens, and when corrupt and decadent people were being celebrated rather than apprehended and prosecuted.