In what has become a familiar pattern, the speech delivered by President Muhammadu Buhari to mark the 60th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence was one that did not fit the purpose of the occasion of a country’s diamond jubilee.
By far the worst Independence Day speech by any Nigerian leader in recent history, President Buhari delivered to the Nigerian people a most detached-from-reality message, which was low on unity, peace, love, patriotism and hope for a better tomorrow and high on bitterness, disdain, half-truth and outright falsehoods. It was nothing short of a violent rhetorical assault on the sensibilities of Nigerians through verbal reinforcement of his leadership failure.
A funeral homily would have been more cheering for mourners as the officiating minister would have comforted his bereaved audience with the promise of the eternal sojourn of the soul of the departed in the bosom of the Most High God than President Buhari’s Independence Day speech to Nigerians, wherein he was unapologetic in defending the worst economic policies of his administration as the very best possible for the Nigerian people.
In justifying the recent price hike in petrol from N145 to N162, President Buhari resorted to price comparison between what was obtainable in Nigeria and other countries. In a startling revelation that momentarily jolted long-suffering Nigerians from agonising pain caused by the excruciating burden of very high and unaffordable cost of energy into bewilderment, President Buhari reeled out the cost of petrol per litre in a select number of countries.
According to President Buhari, as against Nigeria’s pump price of N162 per litre, neighbouring oil-producing countries like Chad, Niger and Ghana sell petrol for N362, N346 and N326 per litre, respectively. Not done yet, Mr. President embarked on a voyage of comparison “far afield” from sub-Saharan Africa to North Africa and the Middle East when he revealed the pump price of petrol to be N211 and N168 per litre in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, respectively. As though telling Nigerians to be grateful for high cost of petrol in Nigeria because it was still cheaper than in some other countries, President Buhari hinted at a possible increase in price of petrol when he declared gleefully that “it makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia.”
The President was right that it made no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia. However, a lot more things make no sense in Nigeria, if compared with Saudi Arabia, that President Buhari did not state in his Independence Day speech.
It makes no sense that Saudi Arabia has a higher minimum wage of 3,000 Riyals, an amount equivalent to N306,326, as against Nigeria’s N30,000. Whereas Saudi Arabia has 10 functional refineries at home with combined refining capacity of 5.4 million barrels of crude oil a day, which guarantees self-sufficiency in domestic petrol consumption, it makes no sense that Nigeria’s four refineries with refining capacity of 445,000 barrels of crude oil per day are moribund, thereby making Nigeria, the largest producer of oil in Africa, also the largest importer of refined petrol in Africa.
It makes no sense that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the state-owned oil company, is a behemoth of corruption, a tower of inefficiency, which has consistently recorded losses amounting to billions of naira, whereas Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company, has emerged as one of the most profitable companies in the world with revenues exceeding $300 billion from its operations around the globe.
It makes no sense that Nigeria’s NNPC has no functional refinery at home and no operations overseas, not even in West Africa, but Saudi Aramco, in addition to its fully functional refineries at home, operates the largest refinery in the United States of America, the Port Arthur Refinery in the state of Texas, with a refining capacity of 635,000 barrels per day.
And it still does not make sense that Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million people, has a gross domestic product (GDP) of about $500 billion with a per capita of $2,465 but Saudi Arabia, with a smaller population of 34 million people, has a bigger GDP of $779 billion with a higher per capita of $23,566.
After five years of rudderless leadership and outright misrule, President Buhari has left Nigeria worse off in 2020, the 60th year of its independence, than he met it in 2015.
Underlined by acute provincial proclivities, his divisive tendencies, which he has demonstrated through his elevation of sectionalism to a near state policy, have left Buhari’s Nigeria more divided than any other time in its 60-year history as an independent country.
Bereft of any shred of nationalist credentials, President Buhari has been a fantastic failure at the management of Nigeria’s ethno-geographic and religious plurality as clearly manifested in the policies, programmes and appointments of his administration. President Buhari’s sectionalism and divisive leadership style have limited his ability to evolve a national consensus that is firmly hinged on a pan-Nigerian agenda and an integrated strategy for socio-economic development of the country.
President Buhari’s failure of leadership in the last five years has resulted in the far-reaching consequences of having reduced Nigeria to poverty-stricken doldrums, socio-economic dislocation and insecurity; with the country teetering on the edge of state failure.
It makes no sense for more than half of the Nigeria’s 200 million people to go to bed hungry with their eyes wide open and waking up not knowing where the next meal will come from. Yes, Mr. President, as the poverty capital of the world and the third most terrorised country on planet earth, Nigeria makes no sense at 60.