By Ignatius Arinze
President Muhammadu Buhari is a great Nigerian. He is a man much beloved by many Nigerians of all works of life. If he has personal failings of any type, including forgetfulness and absent- mindedness, it only confirms one thing, Buhari is a mortal, and he is a man and not a God!
If we dig deep into our history as a nation and a people, there are several instances where leaders have made mistakes, forgotten things and left undone things that they should have done. In this case and as an example, we should ask ourselves, who do we blame, our leaders in the 1970’s or the entire apparatus of government for the failure of the Nigerian government of that time, to deploy the oil wealth of the oil boom years to transform and modernize the nation’s economy which Buhari is now trying to modernize and transform since 2015? What it means is that it takes a lot to be a leader and because humans have flaws and shortcomings is the reason the process of development of the most advanced countries have taken hundreds of years rather than a one off endeavor.
Following the above, and in view of the significant achievements of PMB’s administration, which are mostly hidden, Nigerians many of whom are discerning and digital would be more inclined to return him to power in 2019. The political opposition, detractors and downright haters of PMB would be shocked. This is because, while indeed it is true that many Nigerians are suffering on account of the policies of PMB, the suffering is for a season, as the policies which have been put in place will soon start to bear fruit sector by sector to the delight of many Nigerians, notably the youth whose welfare and well- being is being used for dangerous and self- serving politics by some aspirants to the 2019 presidency and some political parties whose poor governance put Nigeria in the doldrums in the first place.
Those who misgoverned Nigeria from 1999- 2015 and in the process looted the country till the economy and public finance developed a big hole are angling and positioning themselves to return to power. The point is that not being used to discipline and accountability, once they return to power as they dream in 2019, all the policies currently in place which are designed to ensure that the Nigerian economy develops on a solid foundation would be put aside, and in keeping with the looting culture for which they are known, they would return the country to the years of free- for- all and dependence on crude oil money!
PMB’s declaration of interest in the 2019 elections despite the avalanche of opposition and gang-up by all sorts of forces in the country, is an act of courage and an act of God. It shows that indeed the former military leader believes that power comes from God and the people, and he is willing and comfortable to look up to the Nigerian voters including the youth for his future, despite all the effort being made to put a wedge between him and the country’s youth with whom he has had a good rapport.
PMB’s declaration for the 2019 polls, is a call to action by all patriots who mean well for Nigeria to rise up and ensure that present policies and programmes of the current administration are given some more time for them to solidify and start to bear fruit e.g. diversification, agriculture and for landmark ongoing projects to be completed.
It should be noted that because of his simple and unassuming nature, and being someone who cares more about concrete things and not just good public image, PMB rather than embark with fanfare on flagging- off new projects across the country, embarked on a policy of completing many abandoned projects across the country left behind by previous administrations and integrating the completion of these projects into overall government policy framework on infrastructural development. By the time he completes his new tenure in 2023, it will become part of our public administration to ensure zero tolerance for any form of abandoned project, save in the case where there is paucity of funds.
Some people notably youths allied to opposition politicians who want power at any cost has been crying blue murder and crucify Buhari because of the innocent comment he made while addressing the Commonwealth Business Council in London at the recent summit of Commonwealth leaders. At the meeting while speaking and trying his level best to convince the participants , many of whom are business people and companies to bring investments to Nigeria, President Buhari stated unfortunately in his usual forthright manner that among Nigerian youths are some lazy and idle ones who want the good things of life without having to work. Later, President Buhari got a promise of a total investment package of $15billion from Shell Petroleum Company. This is hurray to PMB, hurray to Shell and hurray to the Commonwealth!
Now to the trending issue of the alleged rough ride on our youth. There are idle and lazy youths in Nigeria and all over the world who lack education and skills and who have a sense of entitlement to the good things of life as PMB stated. In the advanced countries, the welfare state is taking care of these people. They have no education and do little or no work but they live off the state with housing, medicare, free transportation and a monthly stipend as well as education for their children. In some countries, those of them who get tired of free upkeep and who decide to acquire skills and work for a living, are assisted also by the state.
So, one is of the view that PMB’s fault is not driving the point home to his audience that like them, Nigeria have these categories of citizens who are uneducated and out of work, but who deserve to be taken care of and that more foreign investment which helps to expand the frontier of available opportunities are much needed in Nigeria. The President does not hate the youth or any segment of the Nigeria population though mistakes have been made in a number of areas. The point is that quite often, he is misunderstood deliberately because of politics and the desire of some politicians to return to power at the earliest possible time to continue what they are used to doing, which brought the country to the present sorry pass.
Without prejudice to what the President said or did not say at the Commonwealth Business Council, a review of his actions and policies since coming to power does not show that PMB hates the youths. Under PMB, there are several ongoing social investment programmes that are being implemented. The bulk of the beneficiaries are more in the youth bracket only that as is usual in Nigeria, corrupt officials tend to sabotage government programmes and shortchange the beneficiaries. The President is not everywhere and cannot see everything that is going on. It should also be noted that previous governments in the country’s history have not done enough to empower the youths.
Therefore the blame for the sorry condition of our youth and the nation in general, should not be placed on the doorstep of PMB. On the contrary, PMB has since he took over, been working hard to see that things get better in the country for all and sundry, the youth inclusive.
Ignatius Arinze is a Public Affairs Analyst.