HOW NOT TO ADDRESS SUFFERING NIGERIANS
By Okofu Ubaka
The recent nationwide Independence Day broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari to Nigerians has continued to attract huge moans of displeasure as it is seen as exactly how not to address suffering Nigerians.
To be sure, the Presidency under President Muhammadu Buhari may not be the only arm of government that is notorious for doing this. Most Nigerian politicians have seemingly developed thick skins and merely shrug off criticism while they adamantly continue to scamper on the proverbial fool’s highway.
In today’s Nigeria, criticizing ineptitude in government may just amount to flogging a dead horse. But as dumb as those in government pretend to be – because they truly are not – the resilient media has not, and will not stop to wince and cringe at their ineptness. The point has to be made and stated as clearly as it is: the current administration has come to establish an unhelpful penchant for disregarding public opinion, and this is bad for our nascent democracy!
We are referring to the President’s speech to Nigerians on the occasion of the 60th Independence celebration – though there was indeed actually nothing tangential to celebrate in the first instance. The shoddy defence put up by President’s aides, defending what most Nigerians had considered to be insipid, insulting and inappropriate address has further exposed the ugly underbellies of those managing the affairs of this country alongside a President who had clearly failed to disagree with his speech writer (s) on almost every aspect of the independence day’s speech except the title. In fact, so incensed are some that one notable columnist described the speech as ‘embarrassingly error-ridden, callous, shallow, cavalier, ignorant and unpresidential’.
Further, the tone used in the speech evidences the fact that the President has been out of touch with the led. If not, why would the issue of loyalty be of immense concern to a President who had not only unleashed so much hardship on Nigerians, but did nothing convincing to arrest the bloodbath in the northern part of the country to the extent that one of the northern Governors, Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger state to be precise, had to recently carry a save our souls message on behalf of his people to President Buhari in the villa.
Since the inception of the present administration, the state of insecurity has indeed been execrable. Still, the President did not see any reason why the defence and security apparatus of the country should be overhauled. Nigerians are not only caught in the vortex of hopelessness, but gradually drifting into ignominy in the comity of nations. Yet, the people had kept the hope of one Nigeria alive! If Nigerians are not loyal to the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the President had insinuated in his infamous speech, the soul of this country would long have been on the throes of liquidation. It’s therefore a point of insouciance for any speech writer, and not even excluding the President at that, to dare to assume and openly suggest that the loyalty of Nigerians is in doubt.
Most annoying of all those who attempted but failed abysmally to defend the gaffes in the President’s speech is Garba Shehu. Garba Shehu is a Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President. Penultimate Friday, he was a guest on ‘Politics Today’, a current affairs programme of Channels Television where he tried to defend most statements made by the President in the now very heavily vilified speech. He asked if it was fair to use the taxes paid by farmers, herders as well as those the regime has made low-level people to subsidize the luxurious lifestyle of our urban dwellers? Garba Shehu and his likes in government are so blinded by sycophancy that they ignore relevant facts and statistics in reacting to contrary views or flaks whenever government had skewed, or committed a faux pas!
First and foremost, Garba Shehu and his colleagues in Aso Villa are too far from those he had referred to as low level people. Hence, neither the President nor his aide had been able to feel the purses of the people. If I am to educate Garba Shehu, the middle class and elites in this country pay more in taxes than Garba Shehu’s ‘low level people’.
Again, what is the import of Garba Shehu’s statement of one class of citizens paying taxes to subsidize the luxurious lifestyle of another class of citizens? Is he saying that the people of the Niger Delta region have all along been stupid to have allowed proceeds from their crude oil to service the entire country, even at the expense of the people of the region who till date are still being balkanized, asphyxiated and short changed.
Mr. Shehu also asked about the number of Nigerians that own cars. This was followed by another question which is also laughable. He wanted to know how many Nigerians run generators in their homes and offices. It’s unfortunate that Garba is not knowledgeable enough to know that one does not need to own a car or generator to feel the impact of any hike in petroleum products. Foodstuffs are conveyed to the market places using fuel. The barbers’ shops run on fuel. Garba should know the importance of energy which fuel and electricity are, and as such that they are vital to economic growth and that at any time, any hike in the costs of any of them comes with a spiral effect on the economy and not just one section of the economy as Garba Shehu wants us to believe.
The President’s Independence Day address did not evince empathy with suffering Nigerians. A country where the minimum wage is about the lowest among OPEC countries, yet the President wants petrol to sell about the same price as in countries where the minimum wage is 10 times higher. I can’t find the right words to describe what the President meant by his poor sense of juxtaposing Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.
Again, the President’s Independence Day speech came across as a statement of effrontery from a leader who is insensitive to the plight of the people of southern Kaduna where the human life has been reduced to a penny. If Garba Shehu was to hail from Southern Kaduna or Borne state, he would have understood that there is more to lament and rue about on Independence Day than to roll out the drums in the spree and thrills of celebration. And above all, to now wish for added effect that Nigerians should be paying more for what they have in abundance! What a shame.
Nigeria’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed