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Nigeria @ 62: The president’s speech and alternative facts

It’s common knowledge that Presidents don’t write their speeches. At best, after speeches are written for them, they can delete items or add one or…

It’s common knowledge that Presidents don’t write their speeches. At best, after speeches are written for them, they can delete items or add one or two statements which are dear to their hearts. In his speech to mark Nigeria’s 62nd Independence celebration, presidential speech writers missed the point completely.

Instead of our President talking about Independence, the rise of Nigeria’s profile in world affairs, the achievements of Nigerians in Diaspora and pleading with Nigerians to forget about the wounds and injustices of the past, the speech which contained no quotable phrases was all about our President praising himself and his perceived successes with little basis in reality. 

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Presidential speech writers should be castigated for making him read out patently false claims relating to the achievements of his administration. To be fair it’s understandable that they wanted him to score himself high because it is unlikely that history will.  

The speech was littered with what can best be described as “alternative facts” which referred to phantom successes in the fight against corruption, economic downturn and insecurity. The truth is that after 62 years of independence the economy has been destroyed, Nigeria is more divided than ever, and corruption has reached its highest ever level.

Our President said “One of the areas in which we have made significant progress is the eradication of deeply entrenched corruption …: This of course is at total variance with the realities on the ground. The pardon granted to former governors Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame is a sign that corruption and stealing public funds are acceptable if you are a friend of government! 

The continuous routine failure of National Assembly oversight functions, the school feeding scandal, embezzlement of funds meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and security operations, the forensic audit reports of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Danjuma Goje alleged N25 billion corruption trial, the case of a former Accountant–General of the Federation who is being alleged to have plundered N109 billion and the award of unjustifiable tax waivers and discretionary foreign exchange rates are amongst many cases too numerous to mention that illustrate that corruption alive, well and thriving.  

As for the economy, these are not good times to be a salaried worker. Since independence successive governments have performed economically worse than their predecessor and under Buhari, price increases have eaten deep into take-home pay. The National Bureau of Statistics reported that inflation rose by over 20 per cent in August 2022. This is the highest level since 2005.  

It will take many years for Nigeria to recover from serial economic mismanagement by past and present administrations. As the nation has advanced in age, so her troubles have also advanced. From political to socio-economic conditions, the country seems to be more turbulent and in more turmoil presently than at independence.

As of 1960, the N0.90 (90k) was exchanged for one dollar, today N740 is the equivalent of one dollar. Between 1970 and 1999, Nigeria reportedly got over a trillion dollars in oil revenues while India had zero. The Indians built great universities whose graduates are now CEOs of Google and Microsoft. Nigerian leaders embezzled the money, built mansions, purchased high-priced properties overseas, and kept the universities in perpetual underfunding and crisis. 

Is it any wonder that Nigeria is still backward? Nigeria’s main source of revenue is oil and since President Buhari appointed himself petroleum minister in 2015 the industry has been in a mess of perpetual crisis. He has only chased shadows in trying to bring sanity to the petroleum industry. The main problem isn’t pipeline vandalism, it is fuel subsidy fraud and crude oil theft carried out with “official’’ impunity by highly placed, high-profile Nigerians in collaboration with government officials. Contracts for pipeline monitoring are used simply to “settle” individuals and have been proven to be another waste of money as stealing of crude by the shipload continues unabated.  

As it has become routine the speech stated that remaining “united” is Nigeria’s greatest achievement even though there is no unity in religion, aspirations, ethnicity, or in the love of the country and in the last seven years Nigerians have experienced nepotism and ethnic bias of the highest order. Calls for the implementation of true federalism or dismemberment of the nation are increasingly gaining support.

Perhaps a more precise description of the State of the Nation is that instead of heralding progress, independence has meant that poverty, hardship, illegality and unconstitutionality have become the order of the day. Court injunctions and due process are routinely cast aside and the harassment and arrest of pressmen and civil rights activists mean few people dare to openly question let alone righteously demand explanations from those at the top. 

As one of the main candidates for the upcoming 2023 presidential election said; in 62 years Nigeria has not been able to become independent from economic brigandage, tribal and religious disunity, poverty, un-productivity and poor quality education. The incoming president should note that Nigerians do not need alternative facts in speeches because they know and experience the truth.