You can fool some people sometimes, but you can fool a lot of Nigerians all the time. Nigerians love to be deceived. You only have to witness the laughable reaction to President Buhahahari’s inauguration speech on social media to see the extent of Nigerian delusion.
Many claimed to be moved by the speech, some talked about a sense of “euphoria” on the day they call “Democracy Day” and a public holiday in the country. People are once again hoping the speech is a sign that the good times are just round the corner.
It is time for a reality check.
I didn’t bother watching the speech. I read it instead and it was clear that it was a remix of every single inaugural speech since 1999.
Commitment of Nigerians to democracy
The new president said: “I am immensely grateful to God Who Has preserved us to witness this day and this occasion. Today marks a triumph for Nigeria and an occasion to celebrate her freedom and cherish her democracy. Nigerians have shown their commitment to democracy and are determined to entrench its culture. Our journey has not been easy but thanks to the determination of our people and strong support from friends abroad we have today a truly democratically elected government in place….I would like to thank the millions of our supporters who believed in us even when the cause seemed hopeless. I salute their resolve in waiting long hours in rain and hot sunshine to register and cast their votes and stay all night if necessary to protect and ensure their votes count and were counted. I thank those who tirelessly carried the campaign on the social media. At the same time, I thank our other countrymen and women who did not vote for us but contributed to make our democratic culture truly competitive, strong and definitive.”
Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999: “I wish, at this point, to thank all you good Nigerians for the confidence reposed in me. I wish to pay tribute to the great and gallant Nigerians who lost their lives in the cause of the struggle for liberty, democracy and good governance. They held the beacon of freedom and liberty high in the face of state terrorism and tyranny. We thank God that their sacrifice has not been in vain. We will always remember them.”
Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007: “This is a historic day for our nation, for it marks an important milestone in our march towards a maturing democracy.”
Goodluck Jonathan in 2011: “I want to specially thank all Nigerians for staying the course in our collective commitment to build a democratic nation…..At the polls, we saw the most dramatic expressions of the hunger for democracy. Stories of courage and patriotism were repeated in many ways, including how fellow citizens helped physically challenged voters into polling stations to enable them exercise their franchise. The inspiring story of the one hundred and three year-old man, and many like him across the country, who struggled against the physical limitations of age to cast their vote, is noteworthy.”
Thank your predecessor
Buhahari: “I would like to thank President Goodluck Jonathan for his display of statesmanship in setting a precedent for us that has now made our people proud to be Nigerians wherever they are. With the support and cooperation he has given to the transition process, he has made it possible for us to show the world that despite the perceived tension in the land we can be a united people capable of doing what is right for our nation. Together we co-operated to surprise the world that had come to expect only the worst from Nigeria. I hope this act of graciously accepting defeat by the outgoing President will become the standard of political conduct in the country.”
Obasanjo: “I commend General Abdulsalami Abubakar and members of the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) for the leadership they gave the country in the last eleven months and for keeping meticulously to their announced timetable of handing over to a democratically elected government today. As officers and gentlemen, they have kept their word.”
Yar’Adua: “We are fortunate to have been led the past eight years by one of our nation’s greatest patriots, President Obasanjo. On behalf of all our people, I salute you, Mr. President, for your vision, your courage and your boundless energy in creating the roadmap toward that united and economically thriving Nigeria that we seek.”
Jonathan: “I cannot but pay tribute to our late President, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, with whom we won the Presidential election four years ago, when I contested as his running mate. May God bless his soul.”
Our leadership role in Africa
Buhahari: “Our neighbours in the Sub-region and our African brethenen should rest assured that Nigeria under our administration will be ready to play any leadership role that Africa expects of it.”
Obasanjo: “Nigeria, once a well-respected country and a key role player in international bodies, became a pariah nation. We shall pursue a dynamic foreign policy to promote friendly relations with all nations and will continue to play a constructive role in the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity, and other international bodies. We shall continue to honour existing agreements between Nigeria and other countries. It is our firm resolve to restore Nigeria fully to her previous prestigious position in the comity of nations.”
Yar’Adua: “To our larger African family, you have our commitment to the goal of African integration. We will continue to collaborate with fellow African states to reduce conflict and free our people from the leg chains of poverty.”
Jonathan: “We owe ourselves and posterity the duty of making this country respectable in the comity of nations. Nigeria, as a responsible member of the international community, will remain committed to the maintenance of global peace and security. We will continue to play an active role in the United Nations. Our role in the African Union, ECOWAS, and the Gulf of Guinea will be enhanced to ensure greater human and energy security.”
Challenges in Nigeria
Buhahahari: “At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems.”
“With depleted foreign reserves, falling oil prices, leakages and debts the Nigerian economy is in deep trouble and will require careful management to bring it round and to tackle the immediate challenges confronting us, namely; Boko Haram, the Niger Delta situation, the power shortages and unemployment especially among young people. For the longer term we have to improve the standards of our education. We have to look at the whole field of medicare. We have to upgrade our dilapidated physical infrastructure.”
Obasanjo: “Government officials became progressively indifferent to propriety of conduct and showed little commitment to promoting the general welfare of the people and the public good. Government and all its agencies became thoroughly corrupt and reckless. Members of the public had to bribe their way through in ministries and parastatals to get attention and one government agency had to bribe another government agency to obtain the release of their statutory allocation of funds.
The impact of official corruption is so rampant and has earned Nigeria a very bad image at home and abroad. Besides, it has distorted and retrogressed development.
Our infrastructures – NEPA, NITEL, Roads, Railways, Education, Housing and other Social Services were allowed to decay and collapse. Our country has thus been through one of its darkest periods.”
Yar’Adua: “Now we must continue to do the necessary work to create more jobs, lower interest rates, reduce inflation, and maintain a stable exchange rate. All this will increase our chances for rapid growth and development. Central to this is rebuilding our basic infrastructure. We already have comprehensive plans for mass transportation, especially railroad development. We will make these plans a reality.
Equally important, we must devote our best efforts to overcoming the energy challenge. Over the next four years we will see dramatic improvements in power generation, transmission and distribution.”
Jonathan: “Join me now as we begin the journey of transforming Nigeria.
· I will continue to fight, for your future, because I am one of you.
· I will continue to fight, for improved medical care for all our citizens.
· I will continue to fight for all citizens to have access to first class education.
· I will continue to fight for electricity to be available to all our citizens.
· I will continue to fight for an efficient and affordable public transport system for all our people.
· I will continue to fight for jobs to be created through productive partnerships.”
Buhahari: “To achieve our objectives we must consciously work the democratic system. The Federal Executive under my watch will not seek to encroach on the duties and functions of the Legislative and Judicial arms of government. The law enforcing authorities will be charged to operate within the Constitution. We shall rebuild and reform the public service to become more effective and more serviceable. We shall charge them to apply themselves with integrity to stabilize the system.
For their part the legislative arm must keep to their brief of making laws, carrying out over-sight functions and doing so expeditiously. The judicial system needs reform to cleanse itself from its immediate past. The country now expects the judiciary to act with dispatch on all cases especially on corruption, serious financial crimes or abuse of office. It is only when the three arms act constitutionally that government will be enabled to serve the country optimally and avoid the confusion all too often bedeviling governance today.
Elsewhere relations between Abuja and the States have to be clarified if we are to serve the country better. Constitutionally there are limits to powers of each of the three tiers of government but that should not mean the Federal Government should fold its arms and close its eyes to what is going on in the states and local governments. Not least the operations of the Local Government Joint Account. While the Federal Government can not interfere in the details of its operations it will ensure that the gross corruption at the local level is checked. As far as the constitution allows me I will try to ensure that there is responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country. For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch.”
Obasanjo: “It is my resolve to work harmoniously with the legislature and the judiciary to ensure that Nigerians enjoy good and civilised governance. I am also determined to build a broad consensus amongst all parties to enhance national harmony and stability and thus ensure success in the long struggle ahead.
Politicians have a duty, in whatever capacity they may find themselves, whether as legislators or ministers, to be committed, and be seen to be committed to the public good. Politicians must carefully examine the budget to ensure that public funds are judiciously spent. They must avoid damage to their own credibility and not vote for themselves special privileges. They must join in the campaign against corruption and help re-establish integrity in the conduct of public affairs. I assure you all that it is the policy of this government to ensure fair remuneration in service and in retirement to public servants, which includes legislators, civil servants, the police and members of the armed forces, parastatals and public-owned educational institutions.”
Yar’Adua: “To fulfill our ambitions, all our leaders at all levels whether a local government councilor or state governor, senator or cabinet minister must change our style and our attitude. We must act at all times with humility, courage, and forthrightness.”
Jonathan: “In the days ahead, those of us that you have elected to serve must show that we are men and women with the patriotism and passion, to match the hopes and aspirations of you, the great people of this country. We must demonstrate the leadership, statesmanship, vision, capacity, and sacrifice, to transform our nation. We must strengthen common grounds, develop new areas of understanding and collaboration, and seek fresh ideas that will enrich our national consensus.”
Insecurity in the land
Buhahari: “The most immediate is Boko Haram’s insurgency. Progress has been made in recent weeks by our security forces but victory can not be achieved by basing the Command and Control Centre in Abuja. The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued. But we can not claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents.
This government will do all it can to rescue them alive. Boko Haram is a typical example of small fires causing large fires. An eccentric and unorthodox preacher with a tiny following was given posthumous fame and following by his extra judicial murder at the hands of the police. Since then through official bungling, negligence, complacency or collusion Boko Haram became a terrifying force taking tens of thousands of lives and capturing several towns and villages covering swathes of Nigerian sovereign territory.
Boko Haram is a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of. At the end of the hostilities when the group is subdued the Government intends to commission a sociological study to determine its origins, remote and immediate causes of the movement, its sponsors, the international connexions to ensure that measures are taken to prevent a reccurrence of this evil. For now the Armed Forces will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko haram. We shall overhaul the rules of engagement to avoid human rights violations in operations. We shall improve operational and legal mechanisms so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human right violations by the Armed Forces.
Boko Haram is not only the security issue bedeviling our country. The spate of kidnappings, armed robberies, herdsmen/farmers clashes, cattle rustlings all help to add to the general air of insecurity in our land. We are going to erect and maintain an efficient, disciplined people – friendly and well – compensated security forces within an over – all security architecture.”
Obasanjo: “I believe that this administration must deal with the following issues even in these difficult times of near economic collapse:
(I) The crisis in the Oil Producing Areas
(ii) Food Supply, Food Security and Agriculture
(iii) Law and order with particular reference to Armed Robbery, and to Cultism in our educational institutions”
Yar’Adua: “Our government is determined to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies, especially the police. The state must fulfill its constitutional responsibility of protecting life and property.
The crisis in the Niger Delta commands our urgent attention. Ending it is a matter of strategic importance to our country. I will use every resource available to me, with your help, to address this crisis in a spirit of fairness, justice, and cooperation.”
Jonathan: “The lesson we have learnt is that the resolution of the Niger Delta issue is crucial for the health of the nation’s economy. In the interest of justice, equity and national unity, we shall actively promote the development of the region. I believe that peace is a necessary condition for development.”
Buhahari: “However, no matter how well organized the governments of the federation are they can not succeed without the support, understanding and cooperation of labour unions, organized private sector, the press and civil society organizations. I appeal to employers and workers alike to unite in raising productivity so that everybody will have the opportunity to share in increased prosperity.
No single cause can be identified to explain Nigerian’s poor economic performance over the years than the power situation. It is a national shame that an economy of 180 million generates only 4,000MW, and distributes even less. Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution and close on $20b expanded since 1999 have only brought darkness, frustration, misery, and resignation among Nigerians. We will not allow this to go on. Careful studies are under way during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians.
Unemployment, notably youth un-employment features strongly in our Party’s Manifesto. We intend to attack the problem frontally through revival of agriculture, solid minerals mining as well as credits to small and medium size businesses to kick – start these enterprises. We shall quickly examine the best way to revive major industries and accelerate the revival and development of our railways, roads and general infrastructure.”
Obasanjo: “Priority Issues….
(iv) Exploration and Production of Petroleum
(vi) Macro-economic policies – particularly, Exchange rate management etc.
(vii) Supply and Distribution of Petroleum Products
(viii) The Debt Issue
(ix) Corruption, Drugs, organised fraud called 419 activities, and crimes leading to loss of lives, properties and investment.
(x) Infrastructure – Water Supply, Energy, Telecommunication, Ports, Airways, National Shipping, Nigerian Railways, etc.
(xi) Resuscitation of the Manufacturing Industries
(xii) Job creation, and creation of conducive environment for investment
(xiii) Poverty alleviation
Yar’Adua: “Our goal now is to build on the greatest accomplishments of the past few years. Relying on the 7-point agenda that formed the basis of our compact with voters during the recent campaigns, we will concentrate on rebuilding our physical infrastructure and human capital in order to take our country forward. We will focus on accelerating economic and other reforms in a way that makes a concrete and visible difference to ordinary people.
Our economy already has been set on the path of growth. Now we must continue to do the necessary work to create more jobs, lower interest rates, reduce inflation, and maintain a stable exchange rate. All this will increase our chances for rapid growth and development. Central to this is rebuilding our basic infrastructure. We already have comprehensive plans for mass transportation, especially railroad development. We will make these plans a reality.”
Jonathan: “The moment is right. The signs are heart-warming. We are ready to take off on the path of sustained growth and economic development. In our economic strategy, there will be appropriate policy support to the real sector of the economy, so that Small and Medium Enterprises may thrive. Nigeria is blessed with enormous natural wealth, and my Administration will continue to encourage locally owned enterprises to take advantage of our resources in growing the domestic economy. A robust private sector is vital to providing jobs for our rapidly expanding population. But this must be a collaborative effort.
We must form technical and financial partnerships with global businesses and organizations. We live in an age where no country can survive on its own; countries depend on each other for economic well-being. Nigeria is no different. Returns on investment in Nigeria remain among the highest in the world. We will continue to welcome sustainable investment in our economy.
We will push programs and policies that will benefit both local and foreign businesses, but we must emphasize mutual benefits and win-win relationships. The overall ongoing reforms in the banking and financial sectors are therefore designed to support the real sector of the economy.
To drive our overall economic vision, the power sector reform is at the heart of our industrialization strategy. I call on all stakeholders, to cooperate with my administration, to ensure the success of the reforms.
Over the next four years, attention will be focused on rebuilding our infrastructure. We will create greater access to quality education and improved health care delivery. We will pay special attention to the agricultural sector, to enable it play its role of ensuring food security and massive job creation for our people.
The creation of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority will immensely contribute to strengthening our fiscal framework, by institutionalizing savings of our commodity-related revenues. With this mechanism in place, we will avoid the boom and bust cycles,and mitigate our exposure to oil price volatility.”
None of these promises were kept after all these speeches. Yet, Nigerians are once again getting excited about a mere speech by an incoming president, that has surrounded himself with many from the previous administrations that delivered precious little for Nigeria, but a lot for their bank accounts.
Ironically, one of the worst exponents of saying one thing and doing something else was Obasanjo, and he said in 1999: “I am very aware of the widespread cynicism and total lack of confidence in government arising from the bad faith, deceit and evil actions of recent administrations. Where official pronouncements are repeatedly made and not matched by action, government forfeits the confidence of the people and their trust.”
Needless to say that no one with a functioning brain should trust anything that comes out of the mouth of the new president or any other (s)elected official.