10 Take Aways From President Buhari’s Independence Day Speech

Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo

As is usual tradition with October 1, President Buhari gave a speech that most Nigerians could not watch live as there was no power to connect their televisions. Most did read the speech afterwards. I watched video clips of the speech and read the full text of same. It was generally the basic recapitulation that we hear every October 1. However, the President made certain statements and raised certain issues that we need to re-examine:

 

But let me say to all Nigerians today, I ran for office four times to make the point that we can rule this nation with honesty and transparency.

Nothing can be more far from the truth than this. Mr. President has blatantly slapped honesty and transparency in the face. Where should we start from? Is it the fact that the President promised a fight against corruption whilst many of his Ministers have corruption smeared like faeces but seeing they are in the bathroom of the APC, they have been washed as white as snow? ‘Saint’ Rotimi Amaechi, Dubai property owner Lt. General Tukur Buratai, arms procurement scandal free Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazzau. Hey what about Oga Usani Usani of God? The President has baggages all around him and he doesn’t seem to see them as such “I don’t think I tolerate corruption, I don’t think I picked anybody that I know will embarrass my government. But if you have any evidence about any of my ministers, I accept responsibility for the 36 ministers that I have. ‘’I don’t think I took anybody among the ministers who has got a case in court. Tell me one out of the 36. I don’t think I will deliberately make that mistake,” he said. Haha! There goes your transparency and honesty.

Should we talk about the fact that we just recently awarded a contract to the Company owned by the Chairman of our great party in Rivers State? You know Amaechi and Dakuku Peter-side and the Chairman of our great party in Rivers State form part of the 5% that gave us vote and even though our initial plan was to tell the 5 percenters to go to hell, I changed my mind and conceded to give them some chin-chin to munch on. At least they deserve that much. That should be enough for the 5 percenters; my focus is on the people.

What happened to the Presidential fleets, we were supposed to dispose of them right? Hmmm!

“Baba, we need to dispose the Presidential fleets like we promised”

“I don’t know what you are talking. Did I promise or APC promised?”

Should we talk about the fact that the first family decided that the United Nations General Assembly was the perfect location for a family vacation?

“Oh but Obama’s wife was there too!

“What about Malia and Sasha, were they at the UNGA too?”

“Errm, I admit there is no precedent for that but then their trip was sponsored by a third party organisation”

“What is the name of the third party organisation and why are they sponsoring the first family to the UNGA”

No response!!!

On Security, we have made progress. Boko Haram was defeated by last December – only resorting to cowardly attacks on soft targets, killing innocent men, women and children.

The President himself alluded to the fact that until the Chibok girls are rescued, we cannot say Boko Haram has been defeated but we must agree that the arsenal of Boko Haram has been badly overrun and hope for the best for the girls whose innocence has been snatched away from them.

 

Nigerians should thank our gallant men of the Armed Forces and Police for rescuing large areas of the country captured by insurgents. Now, residents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, as well as several neighbouring states go about their daily business in relative safety.

 

On this I cannot disagree with the President. We have lost courageous men and women in the fight against this deadly cancer called Boko Haram and the country will eternally be grateful to them. They are the real heroes, not our shameless political elites.

 

Besides Boko Haram, we are confronting other long-running security issues, namely herdsmen vs farmers, cattle rustling, kidnappings. This Administration is firmly resolved to tackle these challenges and to defeat them.

 

Rough statistics indicate that the Fulani herdsmen have killed not less than 700 people and displaced thousands in 2016 alone. It is highly ridiculous that this Government allowed this to thrive under its watch, to say that the rustlers are happy will be to say the least. Not a single Fulani herdsman behind the dastardly acts has been arrested and it is obvious that the government has no intention of arresting any of these wicked murderers. Rather than apprehend this wicked and devilish souls, the proposal is to use government resources to protect the herdsmen. Or how else will you explain the fact that we are proposing to build grazing reserves alone as the solution to the crisis. And whilst we must not unfairly label all herdsmen as murderers, there is the need to bring the killers and arsonists amongst them to justice, no matter the grazing reserves, the bad ones will continue to feel entitled and will again kill and burn down villages in the near future.

 

A new insurgency has reared up its head in the shape of blowing up gas and oil pipelines by groups of Niger Delta Militants. This Administration will not allow these mindless groups to hold the country to ransom.

 

Juxtapose the military force with which the government has reacted to the new rise of militancy in the creeks against the docile and lackadaisical response to the Fulani herdsmen attacks and you cannot deny that there is a disconnect. The herdsmen are taking lives, the boys from the creeks are blowing up oil facilities, both should be treated accordingly as what it is, terrorism. You cannot smile and pat the herdsmen on the back while spanking the creek boys on the bum bum. It shows the government is either merely paying lips service or showing ethnic bigotry and nepotism (which by the way are areas in which the government appears to have doctorate degrees. Is it just me or did the President mention Niger Delta thugs and when speaking of Fulani herdsmen and cattle rustler, they weren’t referred to as killers and arsonists. But what do I know?

 

What sense is there to damage a gas line as a result of which many towns in the country including their own town or village is put in darkness as a result? What logic is there in blowing up an export pipeline and as a result income to your state and local governments and consequently their ability to provide services to your own people is reduced? To use the President’s though pattern, what sense is there to kill people innocently living in their own community? What logic is there in burning to ashes other people’s communities all in the name of protecting your cattle business?

It is known that the clean-up of the Ogoniland has started

 

I’m aware that the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP) Governing Council and Board of Trustees for the Trust Board have been inaugurated and that the President officially held a ceremony to flag off the commencement of the Ogoni Clean-Up. If that is what the President meant when he said the clean-up has started, then he is absolutely right. Otherwise, Mr. President is talking nonsense because when I asked friends presiding in Ogoni land, they are aware that the clean-up has begun in the President’s speech. Like a friend said, in Nigeria, every activity is subsumed or immersed in a ceremony, so the ceremony is taken sometimes as the activity. But indeed the clean-up looks like the real deal and this Government will take credit for it, a massive thumbs up to the Government when this eventually takes off outside the realm of the President’ speech. By the way I understand that the Ogoni people “are in existential crisis, some form of conflict between the obvious unexplainable delay and the obvious clamp down on them since “their son” didn’t deem it fit to commence the clean-up”.

 

In fighting corruption, however, the government would adhere strictly by the rule of law

This is unbelievable! You would adhere strictly by the rule of law? In 16 months you have raped the rule of law in all its ramifications. Its pointless reminding anybody of the countless number of times this Government has violated the rule of law but maybe a refresher course will be helpful. Let us talk about a few – a) not one person has been prosecuted for the murder of about 1,000 Shiite Muslims by the military late last year and despite all entreaties, the leader of the Shiites and his wife have remained incarcerated without trial; b) I know Dasuki is a soft spot for many Nigerians but we cannot just put a man in jail without recourse to the rule of law; c) the military has killed scores of IPOB members and nothing has been done about this, rule of law?; d) dissenting journalists and bloggers have been arrested and incarcerated without court orders but hey, they were only ‘invited’ for chats lasting for days. What if by this speech, the President has decided to turn a new leaf. You remember Snowball in the George Orwell classic “Animal Farm”? Well, President Buhari is Snowball in 2016. Machiavelli’s words in “The Prince” resonate in my mind at this moment: “Everyone admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep his word, and to behave with integrity rather than cunning. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have considered keeping their word of little account, and have known how to beguile men’s minds by shrewdness and cunning. In the end these princes have overcome those who have relied on keeping their word.”  Maybe as Machiavelli admits, sometimes, lies are necessary to achieve a greater good.

There has been during the period June 2015 to September 2016 big improvement in transmission capacity from five thousand five hundred megawatts to the present seven thousand three hundred megawatts

When I saw this, I checked our transmission capacity statistics from the Transmission Company of Nigeria to confirm whether there is a foundational basis for this assertion, and the President may have been misled unless the TCN is not sure of what our transmission capacity is. We currently have an operational transmission capacity of 5,500Mw. Yes, there are ongoing projects that will improve our transmission capacity (projects channeled towards expanding our transmission lines. Simply put, a transmission line is the material medium or structure that forms all or part of a path from one place to another for directing the transmission of energy, such as electric currents. Thus, even if we are able to generate the electricity that can meet our energy need, without those transmission lines, we will not be able to get the electricity to homes, offices and industries where it is needed (unless of course for captive power, in the absence of proper transmission capacity, generated electricity will go to waste)) but even those projects are unlikely to bring us close to 7,000Mw next year. The Government is however making effort to increase our transmission capacity to about 10,000Mw by the year 2019, and whilst that is absolutely commendable, we need to be clear that available capacity is nothing if it is not operational. However, we must not fail to commend the government’s effort with respect to the Mambilla Hydro Project. It is my sincere hope that the project will be speedily completed as it will bring some respite to our debilitating generation capacity.

 

Investors from all over the world are falling over themselves to come and do business in Nigeria.

It is not fair to write this in a speech delivered by the President at a time like this; at a time when capital flight and brain drain are on a meteoric rise. Who wrote this speech? Did the Vice-President see this before-hand? He is leading the economic team and he could have advised the president against this obvious goof. Falling over themselves? Really? Is that some form of new metaphor? Mr. President began this macabre dance that confused foreign investors, first he refused, neglected and failed to constitute his cabinet for six months, during which foreign investors elected not to play poker with their investments; then he went around the world announcing how dirty our dirty linens were; then he stubbornly refused to let wisdom prevail in respect of our foreign exchange capacity, during which time we defended a Naira that was already crumbled and crushed; the result of which was a further depletion of our already depleted foreign reserves. As a result of all these economic confusion, foreign direct investment which stood at about $395million in the first quarter of 2015 had declined by 56% to $175million in the first quarter of 2016; whilst foreign portfolio investment had declined to $90.3million from $621million (and before you chop up my head, my source is the Vice-President’s tweet of August 11, 2016). And there has been little or no respite ever since. So when the President says that investors from all over the world are falling over themselves to come and do business in Nigeria, I believe he says so as a prayer of faith, and definitely not a statement of fact.

 

Happy Independence Day Nigerians, may we have cause to truly celebrate October 1 in the year 2017.

 

Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo is a lawyer with a leading full service law firm in Lagos