It was refreshing to hear President Muhammadu Buhari admit late last month that his government had the responsibility to take care of the welfare of citizens. As a long-established critic of state and federal officials, I must admit I was impressed by Buhari’s remark.
Buhari made the admission following a two-day presidential retreat organised for ministers-designate, federal permanent secretaries and top officials of government at the State House Conference Centre, Abuja. Buhari urged his ministers to move quickly to address the basic needs of citizens. He said all government officials had a responsibility to improve the socioeconomic conditions of people long deprived of the essentials of life. It was a stirring declaration everyone had expected but failed to hear from Buhari during his first term.
Buhari said: “Majority of our people are poor and are anxiously hoping for a better life. A Nigeria in which they do not have to worry about what they will eat, where they will live or if they can afford to pay for their children’s education or health care… Our responsibility as leaders of this great country is to meet these basic needs for our people.”
During the time he counselled his ministers and state officials, Buhari made an important point. He said four years was a short time for ministers to deliver on the government’s promises.
Buhari was right on the money. However, it is one thing to preach good and responsive governance but another thing for the President to act on his words. A President’s promises long unfulfilled become a source of irritation to citizens. When people suffer from nonstop hunger, poverty, ill health, and economic dispossession, the last things they want to hear are more towering promises about how government would transform their lives. It is in this context that every assurance made to the nation must be weighed carefully.
In an environment in which citizens have been repeatedly scammed and deluded by past and present government, is there value in people hanging on to promises that their future would be better than their present condition? How much longer can ordinary people expect to live in penury before their lives are turned around positively and productively? In what ways would government’s rescue packages, if any, be delivered to the less privileged members of our society?
These questions are relevant and timely. Nearly one month after Buhari directed his ministers to hit the ground running following their induction, nothing has been heard from the ministers. It has been business as usual. Nothing has happened and nothing is happening to give anyone the assurance that the ministers are taking their jobs seriously. This should not be surprising. The ministers are mostly renovated products of Buhari’s first term.
It would appear that the ministers were administered with more sleeping pills that would ensure they continued on their marathon snooze till the expiry of Buhari’s second term. This is why many people perceive politics as an occupation fit for tricksters skilled in raising and smashing public expectations.
It is only gullible people who would believe that a government that achieved little in the past four years would make major and sudden impacts on their lives. There is a slogan that once a population has been deceived, the expectation is that the trend would continue. The atmosphere in Nigeria is depressing. There is no indication that the government would lift its performance above what it delivered between 2015 and 2019.
Although miracles happen infrequently in our modern world, I would argue that no one should expect wonderful things to come their way in a situation in which citizens have been abandoned to their fate, their welfare disregarded, their health care needs trashed, their security exposed to the elements, their power needs left in the hands of incompetent businessmen, public infrastructure handed over to Shylock managers, and their future outlook more miserable than it was in previous era.
One of the reasons why there is so much cynicism of public officers and political leaders is their inability to reflect social reality in their words and their actions. Nigerian political leaders and senior government officials have established a reputation for giving assurances they know they would never implement.
Having watched government promises disappear over many years, ordinary people have learned to pour scorn on declarations made by political leaders. How wonderful it would be if federal officials could admit the government is living in an imaginary world populated by fairies. In that world, officials of state constitute comedians performing for a cynical and disbelieving audience.
Buhari’s endless promises to reduce crime, strengthen national security, improve people’s health care, lift those people living below the poverty line, and renovate crumbling infrastructure have lost steam and narrow-minded admirers. But we must hold on to this fact: a promise is a promise.
If Buhari’s government cannot redeem previous promises, the government has no business rolling out more pledges.
Re: The good life that ends in misery
Thank you very much, my brother, Levi, for your beautiful piece in Daily Sun of Tuesday, August 27, 2019. Our society can never be the same again. You blamed traditional and religious institutions for honouring the criminals but omitted the role played by your constituency, the media, and musicians. They eulogise criminals. Anyhow they make their money, they give to charity and metamorphose into philanthropists. Criminals engage in the lucrative business of kidnapping, where they make quick money that they use to empower the youth and give to charity. This earns them instant celebrity status. Nobody bothers to ask how these people make their money. Our society is in big trouble. God have mercy.
– Duru Ugbor
Re: Why the world mocks us
You are quite correct with the title of your article, but I would rather say hate us than use the word ‘mock’. I have not been able to see a good reason for the tumult that goes on with our nationals wherever they are found. It is no longer funny but highly disturbing and annoying.
Just a couple of months ago, there was outrage against our nationals in Ghana. Three weeks ago, the FBI clamped down on Nigerian conmen on the Internet. Their names were also published. With all these, what do we do and where do we go from here? Diplomatically, Nigeria cannot encourage its citizens anywhere to do what their host nations forbid and, too, the host nations should, as a matter of good neighbourliness, not be out for our downfall, but encourage the spirit of good neighbours.
It is disappointing, the way things are, that Nigerians are not profiting from our country’s numerous contributions toward “One Africa, One World Order”. It is so sad that Nigerian officers and governors did not honour the order to pull out of the WEF meeting in South Africa. The reasons given by the External Affairs Minister were unacceptable. Pulling out of that meeting could have spoken loud that Nigeria is still what it says it is and could have gladdened the hearts of patriotic Nigerians everywhere to show the world what they are.
– Pastor Livy Onyenegecha, Ibeku Okwuato, Aboh Mbaise, Imo State