ASIWAJU Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State, national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, the man I crowned ‘Field Marshal of Nigerian politics,’ while presenting him his letter of nomination as The Sun Man of the Year, has truly shown the reason he is regarded as leader and best political tactician and strategist in the land.
Yesterday, he fired a ‘scud missile’, which resonated across the length and breadth of the country. It must have rustled not a few feathers. It must have hit the bull’s eye. It must have shattered whatever illusions are left in the eyes of the leadership that the era of honey moon, the party at the centre enjoys with the people, is over. The people are certainly now interrogating the policies of their government, unlike when it swallowed hook, line and sinker any gobbledygook of the men at the helm of affairs, which in itself is good for democracy and good governance.
When the government says it will provide light, we now ask when and where, unlike 10 months earlier, when we would have taken it as a given. When they say fuel will be made available, we demand when, where and how much, unlike in the recent past when it would have been taken without a pinch of salt or sugar. That is the unfortunate consequence of not hitting the ground running after it took office almost a year ago, even if we admit that it met sacks of rotten eggs in the corridors, living room and bedroom of power.
The Dasuki armsgate running into billions of dollars, we are told, is a tip of the iceberg of the rot oozing from the closet of skeletons and dry bones of the immediate past Jonathan administration. But the Nigerian people would always like words matched with quick action. For them, everything must be with ‘immediate effect’ or not for too long, lest we lose faith in our leaders. That’s how and why the APC government is losing gradually what would have been an enduring romance with the people, even if it won’t admit it. That’s what I make of the Asiwaju letter to Kachikwu, which, in fact, is a general letter to his party and the government it leads.
To be sure, Asiwaju’s personally signed press statement, admonishing the minister of state, petroleum, who also doubles as the group managing director, GMD, of the oil behemoth, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, not to stretch the patience of Nigerians in the fuel scarcity debacle to its limit or further take the silent groan of the people for granted, was not garbed in malice. It was, for me, dripping with a large dose of courage and patriotism. If you like, a wake-up call to both the Buhari government and the party.
It was, again, the bitter truth, the sort only the delusionary, the hypocritical and those consumed by self-righteous complex, that the party or government has become infallible because it got the mandate of Nigerians to pilot its affairs in the next three years, would find offensive.
If you missed the Tinubu missile yesterday, here are excerpts, before I delve fully into the reason I believe it is the most patriotic letter by a party chieftain to his party and government.
On Kachikwu’s statement that he was not a magician, who was expected to solve the fuel scarcity issue immediately, Tinubu said: “Much public ire has been drawn by the statement made by the minister of state, Ibe Kachikwu, that he was not trained as a magician and that basically, Nigerians should count themselves fortunate that the NNPC under his stewardship has been able to bring in the amount of petrol fuel it is currently doing. Perhaps, the statement made by Kachikwu was made in a moment of unguarded frustration or was an awkward attempt at a joke. Whatever the motive, it was untimely and off-putting. The remark did not sit well with the Nigerian people; they were as right to feel insulted, as the minister was wrong to have said such a thing. The fuel shortage is severely biting for the average person. They are forced to remain in line far too long, for too much time, to pay too much money for too little fuel. This is no joking matter.”
He continued: “Kachikwu’s flippancy was out- of-line. He was basically telling Nigerians that they should be lucky that they are getting the inadequate supply they now suffer and that they should just be quiet and endure the shortage for several weeks more. Kachikwu’s intervention was unhelpful. It panicked and disappointed the public as to the duration of the crisis. It insulted the people by its tonality.”
Asiwaju is right. It is no joking matter. For a minister of the Republic to make light of the matter was insensitive. I am sure he would have learnt his lessons. I am sure other top officials of this government and party members would have also learnt their lessons: We, the Nigerian people are their bosses, not the other way round. Not the haughty and arrogant way some of them have been carrying on, as if they are doing us a favour by being in power and the position they occupy.
Asiwaju’s most salient point, which should prove instructive and taken as article of faith by those in authority today was when he told Kachikwu that he spoke with: “The imperious nature of the elitist nature of a member of the elitist government the people voted out last year, and not the progressive one they voted in.”
That precisely has been the observation of many Nigerians, even if they didn’t have the courage to say so, on the carry-on of some of Buhari’s government officials. Many haven’t exactly weaned themselves of the loud and lavish lifestyle of the past administration; many are behaving like famished locusts, which have suddenly happened on the honeycomb. Many are yet to imbibe the austere lifestyle of their leader and president of Nigeria. Many are certainly still living in the past. I hope they find time to read, chew and digest Tinubu’s well-thought out letter. Truth be told: Some of the APC governors are not as straight as they fool the people to believe. Flying chartered aircraft and living like monarchs in their enclaves and outside, they haven’t shown in anyway that they believe in the change mantra of this administration. How are they different in their lifestyle from their counterparts in the PDP? Change must truly be change, in the interest of the people who kicked out the ruling party from power!
Here is what Junaid Mohammed, a critic and passionate believer in the Buhari administration, said about the activities of some of the officials in this government: “First and foremost, I am aware that some of the appointees of this regime are already corrupt. I am far from being impressed by the performance of the so-called ministers.” Weighty words, indeed. Should they be dismissed with a wave of the hand? Hell, no. Every criticism, genuine or otherwise, takes us nearer the government that works for the people.
Back to Asiwaju’s letter. Some have argued that Asiwaju should have directed his complaints or criticism to the government and the party leadership, instead of going public, as he has done; that he is fighting a personal battle, using the fuel scarcity debacle and Kachikwu’s faux pas, to vent his spleen?
That is neither here nor there. It adds nothing to the substance of the matter at hand. The important thing, to the Nigerian public, is that the message has been well -delivered, and we hope, well-received. The strong man of Nigerian politics provides the reason he had to give the hard tackle in a matter so grave as the fuel scarcity. His words: “I do reserve the right and the duty as a Nigerian to voice my opinion when I believe a member of this government has strayed from the progressive calling required of this administration. I do this because my greater devotion and love are for this nation and its people. Party and politics are secondary.” Great and inspiring words. Asiwaju wins my heart, and indeed that of many Nigerians, for this patriotic intervention. Let those who have ears hear and those who have eyes see.
However, after all said and done, the Buhari administration must find a way out of this fuel hell Nigerians are going through. We know it’s not easy. No one expected things to be easy. We just want the government to do it, like it has said it will. So, help us God!