By Tunde Asaju
What is wrong in being a magnanimous president? Or put another way, what is wrong in using your executive powers as president to grant favours to a country that is home to a quarter of your family? Those who call it conflict of interest claim that the rules of civilized conduct should be manifestly removed in the exercise of executive orders. People executing absolute privileges are bound to break rules.
President Muhammadu Buhari wields absolute power. He is not shy to demonstrate it in his dealings in Nigeria or among Nigerians. Some have claimed with proof, that his cabinet is lopsided in favour of one section of society. However, impartial observers snigger because presidential nepotism has not favoured even those favoured by Buhari’s region or religion. It should not be a point for rational argument.
Lately, Buhari unilaterally demonstrated his magnanimity with public funds without legislative approval. Not that the assembly could have gone against his wish but he could not be bothered by legislative approval. By presidential fiat, he approved the purchase of vehicles worth N1.4 billion to Niger Republic.
While he enjoys trips to London, Buhari favours Niger, where he has blood cousins. Not too long ago, he signed a $1.9 billion rail network to link Niger. That is in spite of Nigeria’s rail network not covering one tenth of the territory he governs. Charity begins at the neighbours’. Buhari does whatever is good for Buhari.
Even as an austere retiree, Buhari was not known to be generous to anyone but his family. There were no almajirai in Kaduna waiting to eat from his kitchen. As president, he has settled his family members while vowing not to bequeath any inheritance. At this rate, Buhari is bound to leave Nigeria with no inheritance.
Niger runs an unbroken university system while Nigeria under Buhari, universities are underfunded, dilapidated and constantly on strike. It did not stop Buhari sharing his expertise in fighting insurgency with Liberians while his country swims in the depths of insurgency.
When America pulled troops out of Afghanistan and plugged the Taliban’s access to $17 billion reserved in American banks; Buhari ordered Godwin Emefiele to release $1 million from Nigeria’s reserves to help the Taliban. Prior to becoming president, Buhari was not a frequent item at Kaduna Juma’at mosque.
What is wrong with helping a neighbouring nation perceived to be in need? The Chinese have been ‘helping’ Africa mismanage its natural resources. Its Communist Party donated a purpose-built headquarters to the African Union in Addis Ababa. In Zambia, it almost got a special police unit if not for heckling by Zambians. It basically controls a large chunk of Africa’s natural resources for its altruism.
Japan is 12,000 kilometres from Africa, but it has stamped its altruism on many African nations, including Nigeria barely asking anything in return. South Korea is 11,000 kilometres from Piwoi, where it built, equipped and donated a functional school pro bono. South Korea’s train – the KTX-Sancheon travels 305 kilometres per hour just 69 kilometres shy of Japan’s Maglev series. For its Buddhism or secularity, both Japan and South Korea beat Africa’s religious empires with their technological advancement and economic management wizardry. Nigeria kills factories and sells their shells to prayer houses where those who lost their jobs pray for miracle careers.
Niger is poor in outlook but rich in resources. It supplies 5 per cent of the world’s uranium, a mineral exploited in power generation and the nuclear arms race. Nigeriens know not to court the ire of the IAEA by pursuing nuclear power generation. Luckily, they have an altruistic friend in Nigeria that shares its meagre hydro electricity for Niger not to build another dam on the River Niger that might jeopardize its hydro electricity.
To anyone wondering, that is not Buhari’s doing. It is an arrangement that predates his administration and as anybody knows, Buhari did not come to rewrite history. In fact he came to bury it by refusing to reverse the policy that obliterates history from the federal school curriculum.
First, Niger had oil in drops until lately when it found it in commercial quantities. A wise Niger refines its own crude. Buhari’s ultimate achievement is to see Nigeria’s crude piped into Niger refineries for Nigeria to import the refined product.
Niger reciprocates Nigeria’s generosity in little ways lately by absorbing refugees fleeing fundamentalism and insurgency in our shores. It has been accused of helping insurgents source for arms to prosecute their war against the Nigerian state. Nigeriens cross over to Nigeria largely unhindered under the ECOWAS treaty. Its stray citizens have Nigerian voter’s cards and have often helped us choose our leaders.
While Niger produces its own oil, its citizens openly help themselves to Nigeria’s subsidized import.
Niger is smaller than Nigeria, but it is a relatively safer than its big neighbour. Non-Nigeriens do not enjoy the same level of unquestioned freedom that their citizens enjoy in Nigeria. Visitors have to proof their identity at every checkpoint, before they settle in at any hotel or home. The mayor or prefect and the traditional head must sanction a visit and keep records of every stranger’s movement and mission.
Niger does not compromise on its security, more than could be said about Nigeria. Buhari quenches the flicker in another country while leaving his roof consumed in great conflagration. Nigerian governors are of equal status – some of them steal votes, live large with little or no effect on life. They serve a four or eight year term but are often recycled. They get the most generous retirement benefits than any civil servant could ever wish or pray for. Even with mouth-watering perks, these leeches would rather gorge themselves than pay pensioners.
Nigerian governors, the equivalence of old pirates have come out of a meeting meant to secure their stranglehold on the economy with an ingenious solution to Nigeria’s economic woes. They want to peg the retirement age at fifty. While refusing to pay the minimum wage of $1.68 per day, they say it’s the only way to reduce unemployment. Retired civil servants die within five to ten years after leaving office from unpaid pensions and lack of access to health care. Governors that recycle themselves ad infinitum keep their pay for life; have access to medical treatment abroad among other perks. These leeches are Nigeria’s broken pipe – may their evil desires perish with them.