Fola Ojo

Nigerians who railed against the candidacy of Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 presidential election have an unending acoustic harmony. The lyrics were first written about 90 days into the General’s presidency. And the harmony became more entrenched in plangency as the metastasis of distress and despair grows like unbridled wild fire all across the country. If you are one of the 15 million Nigerians who bought into the CHANGE slogan spewed out and chanted by Candidate Buhari and his votarists, you must have been sniped at and embarrassed a few times by your friends or enemies with words such as these: “But we warned you not to vote for Buhari”. “Didn’t we tell you Buhari was bad?” “Your eyes don see, now; look how the man dey do us”.  And the chiding goes on-and-on.

There was and still is a widespread consensus belief within this opprobrious cohort that Goodluck Jonathan would have made a better president in his second term, and by now, Nigeria would have surpassed China and America in growth development. What a self-serving pitch that is. Members of the cohort know many unsavoury things which happened under Jonathan. They know that in 2013, Nigeria’s external reserves declined straight through the conduits of corruption from $47bn to $29bn in 2015. They know that savings depleted from $21bn in 2010 to $2bn in the same period. They do not forget that the Federal Government borrowed $2bn to pay salaries in that season of Nigeria’s life. They know that in May 2011, Nigeria’s debt was N2.5tn and crude oil sold for $110 per barrel. They know that by May 2015, debt had risen to N12tn even with more revenue. They also will not forget that Americans found out that about $9bn was stolen by 50 people in that dispensation. In the eyes of those who voted for Buhari and a few who did not, Jonathan was a Brobdingnagian error.

If you fall in the league of Buhari tub-thumpers, don’t feel bad you camped with the President in 2015. You have not sinned against God or man, you only made a democratic blunder. Like his predecessor, your ‘messiah’ has disappointed plenty. Buhari’s dismal presidential showings make Jonathan swagger around like a superhuman, supernatural being without spots and wrinkles. A few of Buhari’s boo-boos make Jonathan sound like a miracle-working, rod-wielding prophet who was persecuted and crucified in error.

Under Buhari, thieving in government is still thriving. Poverty is spiking. Crime is climbing. People are dying. Boko-Haram is murdering; and its members are also ‘dropping off’ kidnapped girls in broad daylight and dancing to the hailing and applause of loved ones whose family members were in terrorists’ dragnet for weeks. These drama and charade can only happen in Nigeria. And Fulani herdsmen? They are still cutting throats and chopping off human heads, and burning houses without a hinder.  There are no serious indications that the economy is out of coma. Nigeria’s debt obligations have risen from N12.5tn in May 2015 to N21.7tn today; and finance minister Kemi Adeosun audaciously said it is good economics. I am not an economist; but this doesn’t sound right. Our land has been taken over by the Jeremiad spirit where there is no paucity of lamentations. Many Nigerians feel that they are not better off than they were three years ago.

In my recent trip to Nigeria, I ran into a friend who owns a modestly-big manufacturing company in Lagos. Since 2012, a dip had rattled her business. She got a bit apprehensive about the future. During the election of 2015, it was an easy decision for her to jump on the Change bandwagon. She was one among many who believed that Buhari had the rhabdomancy to call those things that be not and they become.  She said to me: “I have to leave this country. How can I move my business to America?” I was mute. Then, I asked her why?

Confused I was that a woman of such opulent status would choose to come to America and begin life all over. She knows how tough it will be. But she doesn’t care. After she relayed the unfairness of the business environment with which I am a bit familiar, I became less confused. The humongous sum of money she spends on electricity alone is enough to rebuild a neglected Nigerian village. That was just one of her challenges. And she is not alone. There are thousands of businesses that are warming up to leave Nigeria. Many have left and may never return.

Nigeria has gone aground and underground in a massive mess. Both the young and the old want to leave so they can live and not die. Nigeria’s business environment is too coarse and corrosive. When prices go up, they stay up. When businesses go down in challenges, they stay down and probably forever. Leaders aren’t sure what works. They are only playing Russian roulette with the economy. The business environment is far from enabling. The necessary critical infrastructure needed to drive the economy are out of place. Electricity supply is poor. Policies are unstable. Insecurity is unabated. And roads are impassable. The government’s much-taunted focus on infrastructural development is rarely seen.

The Federal Government makes over N400bn annually from Lagos Seaports alone. The Federal Inland Revenue Service generated N1.29tn in 2015; N1.16tn in 2016; and N1.52tn in 2017 from oil revenue. In total, the agency generated N3.3tn in 2016, N4tn in 2017 while 2018’s target is in excess of N5tn. No one man in Nigeria today looms large in authority over these but Muhammadu Buhari. If the buck stops with him, the talk must be about him.

After three years of platitudes on the work done on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and with billions committed to its revamping, a big portion of the road remains a death trap and we don’t know why. With the generated funds by the FIRS, recovered loot, and more foreign and domestic loans, it shouldn’t take a government of CHANGE three years to finish up a critical national bridge-road like the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway whether it was half-finished by Jonathan or not started at all.

Three years after Jonathan was given the boots, the Buhari administration is still noising about how much money was stolen; and how much they can or cannot do with the corruption environment created by their predecessors. The latest is the N100bn and $298m reportedly heisted within two days before the 2015 elections. Who are these thieves? Don’t they have names?  Don’t we have jail-houses to confine them? The more Vice-President Osinbajo rabbles about this, the more lawyerly ridiculous he sounds if no single person is dragged to the table of accountability and comeuppance for sins committed.

Mr. VP, if you cannot name them, and jail them, don’t tale around about them. That revelation serves Nigerians no good.

I will not caricature President Buhari into a poster-boy of everything anomalous about Nigeria. But he is president today and in charge of a lot especially in the unstructured fake, feigning, and untrue federalism that Nigeria is running. The police, military, paramilitary, and much more are under the control of Buhari. The biggest chunk of Nigeria’s revenue is under the command of Mr. President.

My friend who desires to relocate her business to America lamented that the Buhari she grew up to know as leader in 1983 to 1985; and the one many Nigerians voted for 2015 is different from the man they see at work in 2018. Where is that Buhari? Will he ever emerge from the dark alley of Nigerian politics, or this is as good