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Interrogating Kperogi’s Tinubu can’t govern like Buhari

There is no denying the fact that Prof. Farooq Kperogi is as engaging as he is informed about Nigeria that he discusses with passion and flair. He writes with conviction and leaves no one in doubt he wants the best for his country, Nigeria. Many Nigerians have shed the toga of patriotism that Kperogi still wears like a badge. Nigeria, to many, is a lost cause already.

A professor of dentistry compared Nigeria to a cancer patient whose cancer can no longer be isolated for treatment because the virus has metastasized to other vital organs of the body. Even advocates of restructuring have since moved away from that prescription, believing that events have overtaken it. But no matter what we may say, Nigeria hopping on one leg is still a pot of delicious soup for those in the kitchen where the food is prepared.

How much of the suffering of the people do our leaders in all honesty feel? They are too far removed from the suffering to feel the pain. It’s like a fairy tale or Alice in Wonderland when you describe the deprivation that hapless Nigerians have to put up with. How people who do not feel the pinch will solve a problem they know little or nothing about remains to be seen.

Yes, Tinubu cannot and must not attempt to govern like Muhammadu Buhari did. Buhari’s administration was the most ruinous ever in the history of this country. He destroyed the present and mortgaged the future. He piled up mountains of debts for this and coming generations with nothing to show for it.

Like Fela’s crooning, misery, sorrow and tears were Buhari’s regular trademark. His administration met us with only the scourge of Boko Haram but left those of Fulani herdsmen and bandits in addition. Blood flowed freely all over the country. Historians record that King Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

One carton I saw pictured Buhari picking his teeth while herdsmen, bandits and other sundry criminals ran rings around hapless Nigerians killing, maiming, destroying life and property and walking away free. Kidnappers strolled to the bank to collect ransom money. Yes, Kperogi is right: Tinubu cannot – and should not – govern like Buhari did. No country can survive two Buharis in a row!

Kperogi followed the mainstream narrative of the twin policy of fuel subsidy removal and one-window foreign exchange policy being the cause of the unmitigated suffering in the land and the recent protests over high cost of living, especially of foodstuffs, in some parts of the country. There is no denying the fact that these policies have contributed but they are not the real cause of the problems we face today. They may have acted as catalysts but the problems have been knocking on our door for decades.

The colonial masters diverted our attention from growing what we need (food crops) to growing what they need (cash crops). That was the beginning. Growing up in the late fifties, my father was a merchant-cum-farmer. He had sprawling cocoa farms with food crops like yams, maize, cassava and what-have-you interspersed in them. My mother was a petty trader and food vendor who also engaged in subsistence farming. On holidays, most children followed their parents to the farm, to return only a day or two before the resumption date. No more!

We are now all in the cities engaged in white- or blue-collar jobs! The farms are abandoned. Where will the foodstuffs come from? The problem of insecurity that has driven the remaining hands off the farm has accentuated the problem. That is why the food protests which, ordinarily, should have started in the big cities where the cost of living is more biting, have started from so-to-say agrarian backwoods. Why? Because agriculture is the mainstay of their sustenance.

There is little commerce that takes place there. So, with the dislocation of agriculture caused by insecurity, they are left high and dry. It may not be politics at work; hunger is what is inciting the people. Agrarian societies, where hunger, suffering and deprivation are more pronounced, are less able to survive in today’s Nigeria than the commercial centres.

Were we not aware that rural-urban migration that has been on for ages, draining the rural areas of the needed energy and manpower, would have deleterious consequences on food production? What did we do to stem the tide? Were we also not aware that uncontrolled population explosion (Malthus theory), where population growth outstrips the resources available, would also lead to undesirable consequences?

Think also of the three curses, nay four, that we have allowed to befall this country: The first is the resource curse where we depended, and still depend, on one resource – crude oil – and have failed to leverage on it to develop our agricultural and industrial sectors. Instead, we squandered our riches. One-time military Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, said the problem of Nigeria was not money but how to spend it! And not knowing how to spend the oil windfall, we squandered it again and again! And we think we will not pay a steep price for that down the line?

Growing up, we ate rice only during festive periods. Bread was not on the menu those days. Today, our taste buds are no longer for the foods we grow but for foreign foods and goods. We waste billions of dollars on food imports. Rice curse and wheat curse combined drain us of billions of dollars yearly! We are a country of net importers and we wonder why our Naira is weak!

In those days, foreigners came here to school; no more! Instead, we now spend billions of dollars yearly to send our children to schools abroad. In those days, our hospitals were, perhaps, the best in Africa, especially the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan. No more! Today, led by our shameless leaders, we spend billions of dollars on medical tourism yearly. Industries that used to be here have voted with their feet. We produce nothing but consume everything foreign – and we think there would be no consequences?

In one of my recent columns, I proffered reasons why I think Nigeria was not moving forward. My editor, Comrade Nojeem Jimoh, called and said we should stop asking that Nigeria move forward! Instead, we should advocate that it goes backward! Yes, because our best days and years are in the past! May you not know better yesterday! But Nigeria has known better yesterday! Each government that comes appears worse than the one before it!

Nzeogwu and his colleagues who plotted the first coup described the politicians of the First Republic as “ten-percenters…who make this country look big-for-nothing” Today, our leaders not only take 100 percent after they have mindlessly inflated the contract sum, they also end up only signing papers and doing no job! Where any job is done at all, it is shoddy! Revelations coming out of the tour of duty of the Minister of Works, Dave Umahi, confirms that. What Nzeogwu called corruption in his own days is like comparing a mere headache with today’s cancer that has eaten deep into every fabric of Nigerian society. And we think there would be no consequence regardless who is the president?

My own thoughts, dear Kperogi, is not Tinubu’s removal of subsidy and trying to stop forex round-tripping but what he has failed to do. Everyone agreed on the policies – but how and what should replace them? And what should we subsidize instead?

Tinubu was hasty in his announcement. It appears he did not have a plan of action on ground before making the announcements. He leaped before he looked. He acted before he had a full picture of what he was coming in to meet. Most importantly, Tinubu, surprisingly, has not engaged with the Nigerian people enough. He appears more intent on defending Buhari/APC than acting on the side of Nigerians. He seems more prepared to make himself the sacrificial lamb than haul Buhari and his henchmen into the public domain to give account of their stewardship, which many Nigerians would have preferred.

It is not that Tinubu, like Buhari, does not command his own cult-hero image but it appears he is reluctant to activate it. Wasn’t the same Buhari stoned in the North? Tinubu has what it takes to match any anti-Tinubu protests with his own pro-Tinubu protests. He can turn the tables and have the people in his corner – but will he?

Is it also not preposterous to hint that the South-west will abandon Tinubu where the feudal North did not abandon clueless and incompetent Buhari? The South-west is politically savvy enough to see through the trick and refuse to fall into the trap. Why is Tinubu unpopular in Christian Northern Nigeria, according to Kperogi, when Muslims in the same North accuse him of surrendering his government to Christians?

Christians have the very powerful offices of First Lady, SGF, Minister of FCT, Minister of Works, Minister of the money-guzzling Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, among others. What more does Christian Northern Nigeria want from Tinubu? His blood?

One advantage of subsidy removal has been the humongous amount that state and local governments now collect every month from the Federation account. What are they doing with this money? Food protests will achieve better results if the heat is turned on state and local governments rather than chasing after Abuja. After all, every politics, they say, is local!

* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

turnpot@gmail.com 0807 552 5533

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