In life, the ability to sort out facts from the fiction is pivotal to ensuring success. Facts are truths which can be proved, while fiction is imaginative creation which doesn’t represent actuality. After 61 years of independence, there are two diametrically opposed views of Nigeria, one is a work of fiction outlining imagined successes, the other comprises the facts of the nation’s increasingly morbid reality.
As has become the norm for President Buhari’s speech writers, his 2021 Independence Day speech dwelt on the fictitious version of Nigeria and ignored the facts on ground. He blamed all failures on others and maintained that his administration was the best since 1999 even though statistics, data, reality and public opinion prove otherwise. The National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kola Ologbondiyan, believes it was appalling that the speech dwelt on empty claims that have no bearing on the actual situation in the country, and didn’t contain any concrete assurances on how to revamp the economy or end acts of terrorism.
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The fictitious nature of the speech was highlighted by Buhari commending the military for “winning the war against insurgency” even as insurgents control over 10 local government areas (LGAs) in his home State of Katsina! The truth is that nationwide innocent law-abiding unarmed citizens routinely suffer butchery, carnage and mass slaughter. No part of Nigeria is safe, yet instead of rallying citizens against foreign invaders, this administration wants Nigerians to give up their ancestral lands or face being slaughtered mercilessly without any sort of protection by government security agencies.
A spokesman for the Southern and Middle Belt Alliance (SaMBA), Rwang Pam Jnr, has rightly condemned the current situation in which government has apparently surrendered to terrorists who have turned the middle-belt into a blood-soaked killing field, and President Buhari’s silence on these matters is totally unbecoming. Government has palpably failed in its primary responsibility to protect lives and property and as such, the country is sliding inexorably towards being a totally failed state.
The truth about Nigeria is far different from the fiction of the President’s speech. Even as lopsided appointments in the higher cadres of government have fuelled the anger of many ethnic groups and been a catalyst to calls for secession, our President remains unmoved. This comes as no surprise because after winning the 2015 election, he made it clear that he had no intention of dispensing fair treatment to those who didn’t vote for him.
It’s become overwhelmingly evident that rather than being “for everybody and for nobody,” Buhari’s overriding loyalty is to his ethic group, to the detriment of the nation. In recognition of this, the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) criticised his nepotistic governance and primordial sentiments over national interest. They further complained that while campaigning in 2015, he said “every new government inherits problems but what Nigerians want are quick solutions not a recitation of problems inherited”. Yet six years later, he is still reciting inherited problems while his actions and inactions have exacerbated insecurity, corruption, and the worsening economic crisis.
There is no disputing that the current economic policies under which government survives by borrowing recklessly while political office holders become billionaires have failed. This administration met Naira exchanging at N160 to the dollar; it’s now N580, fuel selling at N87 per litre; it’s now N170, a 50kg bag of rice selling at N8,000; it’s now N32,000, meaning the government approved minimum wage cannot buy a bag of rice! Worst of all, the nation’s debt profile has risen from $9 billion in 2015 to $34 billion in 2020 with little to show for it.
Criticising the surfeit of fiction and self-praise in President Buhari’s speech, the National President of the Association of Middle Belt Ethnic Nationalities (ASPOMBEN), Sule Kwasau, kicked against the declaration that this administration is the best since the return to democracy in 1999. Indeed he believes that since independence, the nation has never had it so bad. Elder Statesman and Afenifere Leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, agreed with him describing the current administration as the worst since independence let alone 1999! Although it’s become routine for Independence Day celebrations to be “low keyed”, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, believes it was morally wrong to celebrate at all because Nigeria has regressed rather than progressed. Reflecting upon the 61st anniversary of independence, the National Publicity Secretary of the African Action Congress, Femi Adeyeye, used the occasion to criticise the current administration’s “gross incompetence”, failure to fulfill any of its major promises, and atrocious human rights record. He accused them of shrinking the civil space, and shutting people out of governance. The President of the Middle Belt forum, Pogu Bitrus, said instead of addressing our problems and moving forward, this administration is adding to our problems by creating divisions instead of facilitating cohesion. The vast majority of citizens agree that there is nothing to celebrate, but rather the situation calls for lamentation. Pastor Mattew Ashimolowo described Nigeria as a country without focus governed by people who lack the ability to develop the nation’s youths. While other nations are pushing their youths to advance technology, artificial intelligence as well as computerised industry and farming, the current administration is prioritising cows and herders, focusing on nonsensical outdated grazing routes and encouraging a return to peasant farming! Truly the nation is in reverse gear.
The question remains why are our political leaders happily celebrating fiction and ignoring facts? Are they happy about herdsmen killing innocent citizens, kidnappers making brisk business, the collapsed economy, unstable electricity, bad roads, the brain drain, their poor leadership or the mass murders on a daily basis? The truth about Nigeria’s current situation is bitter and perhaps this is why this administration considers truth telling to be a serious offence. Be that as it may, Nigeria’s progress will forever be hampered until those holding top political offices face up to the facts and separate them from the fiction.