Public Commentary

DEAR PRESIDENT BUHARI, CHANGE BEGINS WITH YOU.

The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a problem of leadership – Chinua Achebe

 
The rather tactless, thoughtless, and lazy notion that Nigerians are the bane of the country’s development is one the Nigerian ruling class have been going around with for decades.

This silly argument has at its basis, the comical presupposition that Nigerians are corrupt, unruly, and undisciplined. And that this moral deficiency is the cog in the wheel of progress of the Nigerian state. The sad irony is that many Nigerians have been conditioned, through constant brainwashing, to agree with this illogical assertion.

My intent with this piece is to send this silly idea back to the vacuous minds where it emanated from.

As a graduate of political science, I know fully well that citizens have a role to play in the development of any country. But these roles are limited. They go no further than payment of taxes, voting during an election (Which is a right not a duty) and obeying the laws of the land.

Anything outside these three is only done at the discretion of the citizens; they are not in any way mandatory. You can’t for example (in the ideal setting) ask ordinary citizens to provide their own roads, electricity and water supply. This is the work of government.

It is the work of government because there is a reason government was formed in the first place; which is to do for us that which we cannot do by ourselves.

Aristotle made this point when he said only a god or beast can live without the state. And because government is an agent of the state, he was more or less talking about governments.

My problem with your #ChangeBeginsWithMe sermon, president buhari, is that it was another lame attempt to guilt trip Nigerians and inspire a false sense of patriotism in the face of an economic recession. It was just a clever way of saying ‘hey I know things are bad but you guys are the problem’. I know this because you’re not the first and won’t be the last to play this card of false patriotism. Now, I believe you were having a John F. Kennedy moment of ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’ when you made those remarks.

 

In your speech you said ‘Before you ask where is the change they promised us, you must first ask how far have I changed my ways’, Which is more or less a paraphrase of what J.F.K said. But the problem is this; Nigeria is not the USA. You see, sir, J.F.K could make that statement because the American state had succeeded to a large extent in providing basic amenities for their citizens.

 

The America of 1961, when J.F.K made that statement was not battling power failures, youth unemployment, recession, famine or terrorism. This was why he could boldly tell Americans to do something for their country, because their country had done something for them. So before you ask us to do something for Nigeria, the question is what has Nigeria done for us? What has Nigeria done for my generation? Is it six months of ASUU strike? Or delayed NYSC mobilization? Or dilapidated class rooms? Has the Nigerian state succeeded in proving us with basic amenities like water supply, electricity, and good education? The answer is No.

Nigeria only works for your ilk. You earn your monthly salary with no hassle, your pension is secure, you don’t pay rent, and you live a very comfortable life courtesy of the Nigerian people. The budget of the national assembly is 115 billion, a figure higher than the budget of 15 Nigerian states. And yet you think ordinary citizens are the problem? How? I think the only problem with your speech was that it was delivered to the wrong audience.

Lai Muhammad and the guys at the national orientation agency should have picked the national assembly as the venue of the program. That way you’ll have addressed the largest gathering of looters, crooks and conmen anywhere in the world.

The senate president on trial for forgery will be right behind you, and so will the speaker of the house who declared to the world in front of Aso rock that ‘budget padding is legal’. This way you get to lecture a morally bankrupt assembly, while bayo omoboriowo snaps away.

Now, Let us assume that Nigerians are what you call us. We are unruly, proud (like you told mark zuckeberg), lazy and corrupt. But I don’t see how this impacts on national development. Militants attacking oil pipelines is not the reason why we generate a little over 4,000 megawatts of electricity after 56 years of independence.

A danfo bus driver urinating in a public place has no nexus with the poor state of our federal roads. And I am pretty damn sure ‘indiscipline’ is not the cause of the current economic recession the country just entered under your watch.

 

Let’s talk about corruption. I know it’s an issue you’re quite passionate about. Sir, why corruption remains a potent problem facing Nigeria, let me put it to you that corruption is not the cause of Nigeria’s problem. It’s the effect. One mistake we make often is to confuse the effect of a problem with the cause. We only think corruption is the cause because it has been an effect so long it is now re-enforcing the cause. Sir I don’t know if you heard about panama papers, I’m pretty sure you must have. That leak was the biggest in the history of journalism and it showed how much of a problem corruption is even in Europe and America. So you see, corruption is not unique to us. It’s not a Nigerian thing. The question then is why are these countries making progress if their leaders steal as much as ours? South Africa is the most industrialized country in Africa; they have their cases of corruption too.

 

Pakistan and India are always rated as very corrupt countries. But both countries are nuclear powers, and the economy of India grew 7% in the first quarter of 2016. I also believe it’s not in your place to tell Nigerians to change their ways, we have pastors and imams for that.

Your job as president is to lead while we follow. Many Lagosians happily pay their taxes today because they can see the efforts of the state government in making their lives easier. It is a fact that the bar of governance in Lagos state is higher than that of Nigeria as a country. Mr President, contrary to what you believe, Nigerians are good people.

 

If you lead by example and make our lives easier I can assure you we’ll cooperate with you in ways you cannot imagine. But you have to lead first, because that’s how it works. You can start by taking a salary cut and selling off some presidential jets like you promised. After all we’re in a recession. The final problem I have with your speech is that it demonstrates once again that you and the APC are not ready to lead. And I hate to admit this because I voted for you. That you found time to organize such program in the face of an economic depression says a lot about your priorities. We voted for you in 2015 because you told us you had the solutions to our problems. You said you’d bring CHANGE. But now you’re in charge and you’re telling us the CHANGE you promised begins with us. Haba.

If CHANGE begins with us why then did we vote for you? We could have continued with Good luck Jonathan since the CHANGE begins us. But we voted you in because Patriotism can never and will never be a substitute for good governance. We don’t even have to be patriotic for you to fix our problems. So I suggest you stop blaming us, Mr President. Because this is what the #ChangeBeginsWithMe hogwash is all about. Blaming the citizens for the failure of their leaders. What you should instead is concentrate on your job and deliver on your campaign promises. Work hard like the rest of us and leave morals out of this. The #ChangeBeginsWithYou

 

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