By Percy Owaiye
When Bishop Hassan Matthew Kukah asserts in his recent Easter homily that the country is “broken” under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch, is he by any stretch of the imagination, implying that it was “fixed” before he assumed power in 2015? This is the trend of the commentary that has made public space in the many years of Buhari’s presidency. It was no surprise that the Bishop would hide under such irreverent and many times, unfair attacks on the person and office of the president to justify his latest installment of most unfair vituperations by affirming that his message was no different from those of others – clergymen, supermen, super-patriots, et al.
All of this is perfectly in character. The office of the president has of late, become a poisoned chalice of some sort, with a no-love relationship foisted unwittingly between the occupant and the citizenry who the former is supposed to serve. I recall former President Goodluck Jonathan often saying in his time that he is perhaps the most insulted, the most undermined leader Nigeria has ever had. I wonder what President Buhari would say now. The difference, however, is that the current president has taken all of the insults, most of them underserved, calmly, and with his eyes trained on the goal and the judgment of tomorrow.
That is why I think it would be grossly misleading, if not delusory, for Hassan Kukah and his band of patriotic heavyweights to think that they love this country more than the rest of us, ordinary mortals. Love for the country as motivation for mischief is one thing, but sitting in the saddle with the responsibility for the wellbeing and safety of an entire country of an estimated 200 million people in these especially challenging and perilous times is another. And no one can claim to feel it more, or see it more than the man who presently occupies the office. All, we as citizens of this country and those who characteristically are wont to speak truth to power owe him is fairness in our judgment and understanding of the enormity of the present challenges that our dear country face.
If truth be told, we have had it coming for a long while now. Some commentators even go back to the amalgamation of 1914, and that even the processes leading to independence in 1960 were screwed, but the question remains: what have we made of ourselves since then? And if we look back, though some would rather we did not, the unmistakable verdict is that we have just progressively gone from bad to worse. A country that at inception had progressive regional governments, has gone on to embrace dictatorial military regimes which sired the democracy we have today as a work in progress? Or acrimony? We have gone from a country that depended largely on the productivity of its citizenry with a solid agriculture base to one that sells crude oil as a reprobate and profligate. We have gone from ideologically discernable parties of the First Republic to a motley crowd of political enterprises masquerading as parties in the present times.
So the country has been broken almost forever. And contrary to the narratives of Kukah and his band of patriots, it is only now that something is being done, in a sure and sustainable manner to redeem it. This, in reality is the message of CHANGE. With the benefit of hindsight, it seems that not many gave any real thought to what that portends. Nor do I delude myself that many would have bought in, if they knew its true essence. Change, like those who know say, is the only constant in life. But man hardly embraces change. It usually comes with its pain, its nuances, its disruptions, its inconveniences, its unpleasant surprises, and its general twists and turns. Any wonder its apostle has become public enemy, Number One? No. It’s the way of life. No good thing comes easy.
Things must generally get worse before they get better. So when the naysayers talk about the security situation in the country degenerating to unprecedented levels, that tends to contradict the evidence of the present times. Unless, we say that our brethren in the North-east, the epicenter of Boko Haram insurgency of yore are less human — and God forbid — not bona fide citizens of this country. Otherwise, have we forgotten so quickly the number of whole LGs under the occupation of those monstrous outlaws and psychopaths? Having been largely dislodged from Borno and the adjoining states of Yobe and Adamawa, did we expect them to go quietly into the night? No chance. Their aim is to spread terror and fear. And their means is unconscionable violence. They would surely mutate into bandits, kidnappers, arsonists, murderers, rapists, just about anything, if that would spread terror and disenchantment in the normal order of things.
That is not to excuse the frequent loss of precious lives, property, and the feel-good factor. The buck definitely stops on the president’s table. But it must do some travel before it gets there. If we as a nation must defeat totally these monsters confronting us as a collective today, every hand, whether they like the president or not, must be on deck. As we can see, there is none for whom it is well.
But the change was necessary, indeed inevitable. We could not continue to travel on the same path as we did for so long without the needed progress. We could not continue to import what we have and export what we don’t have as has been the bane of our economic policy. We could not continue to import sand, toxic waste as we did in time past and not so past, and expect to break into the comity of advanced nations. We had to grow what we eat. And when we do this, we would not harvest it in a day. All men of God and goodwill know that there is seed time and harvest time. There was no choice for a country with our God-given destiny and ever surging numbers.
We had to build our infrastructure, roads, rail, ports, that we had neglected for so long. We had to equip and train our military and other security forces, especially the police. I doubt if the country can come with the resources required, but we must start from somewhere. Time was when our foreign partners were not ready to do business with us. Now the position has changed, but we must watch out for enemies within who want to sabotage the national revamp.
Owaiye writes from Lagos