It is hoped that this piece might initiate a sincere conversation between the longest serving manager in the English Premier League - Arsene Wenger and President Muhammadu Buhari as both parties have found themselves in similar situations.
A concerned youth advocating for President Buhari's exit in 2019
The drawbacks of Nigeria are very complicated. We know all our stumbling blocks can never be solved in one fell swoop even by a Barack Obama in 8 years but we want administrations that could give us realistic hope and improve our lives.
Two of the three cardinal points of the All Progressives Congress manifesto are fixated on security and the economy. Although President Buhari has recorded giant strides in those areas, but his records have fallen below expectations as well as what is adequate on a national scale. Most of his accomplishments are only admirable on the pages of newspapers after being polished by paid writers and those benefiting from him directly.
The first step of solving a problem is identification/diagnosis. One has to admit first of all that there is a problem and then look at the causes of the problem towards making steps to mitigate it. Trust me; President Buhari doesn't understand the major problems of Nigeria thereby making it unfeasible for him to bring solutions.
An earlier indication of President Buhari’s lack of understanding of governance was his decision to avoid the 2015 presidential debate. Another one is his failure to regularly communicate with Nigerians directly except through this media aides and scripted non-committal public speeches. When last did President Buhari hold another presidential media chat aside the tepid one organized in December, 2015?
These are for obvious reasons.
President Buhari has a penchant for talking to the international media but the challenge is that he regularly tells them the wrong things that end up de-marketing Nigeria on a large-scale.
President Buhari traveled to the United Kingdom amid fears that his health had deteriorated again as it earlier kept him out of office for almost 6 months on a cumulative note. He spoke to his old friend, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby whom he discussed the issue of insecurity/herdsmen crisis with making reference to the fall out of the Muammar Gaddafi administration in 2011 which caused a spill-over effect of arms proliferation in Nigeria. Aside the Boko Haram crisis, Nigeria has bled from the quagmire of Fulani herdsmen clashes with local farmers leaving hundreds dead.
With interviews granted by the leadership of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, arguments against the anti-open grazing laws in Benue State, compensation of warring herdsmen by the Kaduna State governor, Nasir Ahmad El Rufai, media reports on attacks in worst hit Taraba, Adamawa and Plateau states, controversial revelation about the cause of the crisis by the Minister of Defence Mansur Dan Ali, town hall meetings and other peaceful resolution attempts; the crisis which is as old as agriculture in Nigeria has little or nothing to do with Libya which Nigeria doesn't share borders directly with. Six countries border Libya namely Niger, Chad, Tunisia Egypt, Algeria and Sudan with none of them experiencing any herdsmen/farmers clashes. If the problem has to do with the collapsed government in Libya, then where did the recommendation of cattle colony or ranching as a panacea to the mayhem come from?
Another gaffe was of recent when Buhari while speaking at the Commonwealth Business Forum in Westminster insinuated that a lot of Nigerian youths are lazy and are not interested in formal education because of the oil rich state of the country. This is totally wrong in all ramifications and should be condemned. Unemployment rate in Nigeria is around 18.8% after climbing from 8.2% in Q2 2015 when Buhari took over; under Buhari, over 7 million jobs have been lost in the past three years.
The major reasons why people are trying to flee the country in droves desperately through the land borders even in the face of death and slavery bore down to the unprogressive nature of the country. Nigeria has been rated low on Human Development Index. One wonders why the same people who failed woefully in Nigeria succeed abroad. Buhari should be reminded that 6 PhD holders, 704 Masters degree holders and over 8,460 Bachelor degree holders once applied as Graduate Executive Truck Drivers with the Dangote Group while the company needed a 100 people in 2012. 800,000 people also jostled for 1,500 available job slots with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC in December, 2012.
In Edo state in 2014, about 4,000 people applied for vacancies at the Directorate of State Security when they originally needed 10 people (per state) according to reports. In 2014, 16 job job-seekers died and over 119 others were injured in the keen contest for 4,000 job slots at the Nigeria Immigration Service after being scammed of N1,000 each. 6.5 million people across the 36 states in Nigeria applied for the vacancies. In August, 2017, it was revealed that 1.2 million applicants applied for 1,112 vacancies at the same establishment. In November, 2016, 700,000 job applicants applied for 500 job slots at the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS and I could go on and on with disturbing figures.
According to a former Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, no fewer than 1.8 million Nigerian graduates move into the labour market every year as at 2014. How many of them are gainfully employed? Underemployment is rife in Nigeria and things are not getting better. We have thousands of graduates working for a paltry sum of N50,000 or less at the commercial capital, Lagos where cost of living is astronomical without any financial benefits. Their transport fares consume more than half of the pays not to talk of feeding. All these people can only hope for a better tomorrow courtesy of the preaching they hear in religious institutions.
President Buhari and his cronies have smartly cornered the juicy Central Bank of Nigeria, Federal Inland Revenue Service and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation jobs for themselves. I agree with the President that some Nigerian youths might fall into that category of being lazy and uneducated, but the number is insignificant. Even the United Kingdom has over 250,000 homeless people with many able-bodied ones uninterested in working. This is coming from a leader who hired 13 Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs when his basic Secondary School Certificate was demanded in court.
President Buhari has proudly created phantom jobs in agriculture with his achievement of 90% reduction in the importation of rice remaining unverifiable. If this is President Buhari's view of the highly industrious Nigerian youths applauded by the novelist Chimamanda Adichie, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and CNN show host Fareed Zakaria, then the solution to unemployment which could cause an implosion is far from him.
This is not Buhari's first time of embarrassing Nigeria on international soil. Recall that at beginning of this administration, President Buhari stated in the United States in 2015 that he will not treat Nigerians equally. His 97%-5% treatment according to political support given during the presidential election didn't even add up to 100% mathematically speaking.
Buhari also told a UK audience that Nigerians are corrupt in corroboration of the infamous view of a former British Prime Minister David Cameron that Nigeria is one of the most fantastically corrupt countries in the world.
At the aftermath of his wife - Aisha Buhari's controversial interview by the BBC Hausa, the President apparently derided her by claiming she has no business in politics as she belongs to the kitchen, the living room and the‘other room’. This misogynistic and sexist statement was made before one of the most powerful women in the world, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
I have always studied three elderly prominent people in the world namely U.S President Donald Trump - 71, Arsene Wenger - 68 and President Buhari - 75 in the face of the #NotTooYoungToRun campaign in a bid to understand if leadership is about age or competency. Trump stands out regardless of his unconventional style of governance and controversies. His tax cuts have increased investments in America and created more jobs, America’s stock market is one of the most performing in the world, unemployment under him has reach a 49 year low with almost 3 million jobs created since 2016, his trade war with China which causes the U.S an annual trade deficit of $500 billion and another $300 billion in intellectual property theft is beginning to yield positive results with China reducing tariffs on importation of automobiles; he has brought nuclear weapons-obsessed North Korea to the negotiation table, trying to clip the wings of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad who has been allegedly using chemical weapons against his people, tightening border security amid other initiatives that have taken his approval rating over 50% despite his gaffes.
On the other hand, Arsene Wenger with almost 22 years at Arsenal Football club has been a shadow of his former self winning just 10 trophies in over two decades with the club falling out of the top 4 contest in the English Premier League and settling for the Europa League. His football strategies and ideas have proven ineffective. They seem too analog in a digital age; he is just like Buhari. He finally succumbed to intense pressure to resign at the end of the season for the good of the club. President Buhari should dial up his phone number, discuss with him about what it means to overstay one’s welcome in office and bow out after his first term which expires in 2019.
Fighting corruption is necessary but can never be an economic policy as it’s been apparently projected. It’s time for Buhari to dismount the horse as Obasanjo advised to gloriously tend to his healthy cattle in Daura, Katsina State.
It’s time for Buhari to choose how he wants to be remembered by Nigerians. In the words of the federal lawmaker representing Kaduna Central Shehu Sani while reacting to President Buhari's second term bid declaration;
"Now that Baba decided not to be a Mandela, we hope he become a Deng Xioping and not Augustus Pinochet Agarte".
Deng Xiaoping, was the paramount leader in the 1980s who lifted China out of backwardness with economic reforms, highlighted by his motto “Hide your strength, bide your time".
Deng was the first to rule out lifelong tenure in Communist Party leadership.
On the other hand, Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte was the brutal dictator who repressed and reshaped Chile for nearly two decades and became a notorious symbol of human rights abuse and corruption.
It’s not about the length of time in office as South African legend, Nelson Mandela proved after doing just one term; it’s about the legacy you are leaving behind. 94-year old former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was in power for 37 years and till date, he is a perfect example of the backwardness of power-drunk and sit-tight African leaders. The ball is in President Buhari's court.
Osayimwen Osahon George is a journalist and a political scientist. He writes from Lagos State.