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We cannot wait until the next election

First, I commend Mr. Bola Tinubu for his official recognition of the 17 soldiers who were murdered this month in Okuama, Delta State, while reportedly…

First, I commend Mr. Bola Tinubu for his official recognition of the 17 soldiers who were murdered this month in Okuama, Delta State, while reportedly on official duty.  In addition to giving them national honours, he gave homes to their families and scholarships to their children.

We await a proper investigation of the tragic incident, the president’s response was the right thing to do, and I commend him for finding the vision to do it.

An even better response is to establish a standard response to these things so that people who are put in harm’s way know that should the worst happen, their families will have something to fall back on.  We have lost far too many people whose families have also been quickly abandoned.

Such families, and they are many the loss of one person being the loss of their only light and life, often lose hope and they say bad things about Nigeria.  I find no reason to blame them.

Speaking again, two days after his magnanimity to the ‘Okuama 17,’ Mr. Tinubu appeared to misunderstand what is going on in Nigeria, urging religious leaders to refrain from criticizing Nigeria publicly and calling for their cooperation in the fight against terrorism and all forms of criminality.

“The love of the nation is in your hands,” he said.  “Pray for our country. Educate our children. The sermons we preach to the members of our churches and mosques are important.

“Do not condemn your own nation…This is your country; do not condemn it in sermons; do not abuse the nation.”

And then, appearing to remember why anyone might offer public criticism, he turned to the government, admitting, first: “Leadership is meant for change(s).”

And then: “If a leader is bad, Yes, this leader is bad, fine. Wait until the next election to change him, but do not condemn your country. Do not curse Nigeria. This is a beautiful land.”

Mr. Tinubu appears to be confused, and he is.  First, Nigeria is not a beautiful land.  It may once have been, and it will hopefully be again.

But Nigeria is right now a troubled, dangerous, and ugly land where anything goes.  It is hungry and bloodthirsty.  It is crippled and hounded by ruthless politicians who loot and steal and cripple: people who would rather buy expensive foreign SUVs and build or renovate inordinate mansions than feed a child or buy him a book.

Nigeria has been rendered ugly and atrocious by people who can preach or read a sermon but cannot find the character to lead by example.  Nigeria has been desecrated and contaminated by powerful officials and former officials for who nepotism is a badge of honour; people who preach the sermon in front of the camera while they poison the water by their actions away from it.

No, it is not terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, and other crimes that make Nigeria ugly, it is those who, armed with the authority and opportunity to fight for Nigeria, find comfort in speeches or in looking away from the real issues.

Nigerian religious leaders are not the problem.  They do not curse or condemn Nigeria, and that is different from cursing the leaders who are held responsible for the situation in the country.

Tinubu is clearly conflicted when he concedes that his leadership is bad but seems to think that the answer is not strident, current criticism.  “Yes, this leader is bad, fine. Wait until the next election to change him, but do not condemn your country.”

The problem confronting Nigeria is the poverty of its people.  Calling for prayers is not an answer.  Suggesting that criticism of the leadership is the same as condemnation of the country helps neither the leadership nor the country.

What one expects to hear from Tinubu is energy and focus, beginning from securing the country.  Writing on this subject recently, in a story it called, “Kidnappers are wreaking havoc in Nigeria,” The Economist (January 18), observed that “how much politicians in Nigeria care about national insecurity has long been correlated with how close it gets to their mansions in Abuja, the capital.”

And Nigerians know that the government, rather than pay due attention to the problem, spends grievous amounts of resources protecting those politicians and other influential Nigerians.

“The government tends to splurge on fancy weapons systems that fail to tackle the roots of the problem, which is poverty, poor education and anger at army atrocities. The latest budget includes funds for six t-129 Turkish attack helicopters on top of the 12 costly Bell choppers bought last year from America for $1bn, not to mention 12 Super Tucano attack aircraft. Buying strike drones has become so popular that the army actually runs its own fleet alongside that of the air force.”

In the first term of Muhammadu Buhari, as it became increasingly clear that he was neither capable nor competent, Nigerians were also increasingly told to be patient, and that he could be voted out at the next election.

He was not.  The succeeding election is the one that brought in Tinubu himself, and while basically admitting that he has failed to provide the change Nigerians desire, he suggests that those who are dissatisfied wait until 2027 to vote him out.   Is that an answer or simply cynicism?

Nigeria’s insecurity is not insurmountable.  Only recently, I reflected on the consistent and heavy procurement of weapons by the Nigerian Air Force, and wondered why there seems to be no correlation with confronting the insecurity.  The point is that weapons, just like bombast, are not the same thing as will.

The last administration was characterized by bombast as part of its general presentation and posture.  And that is part of the reason why, in its hands, the insecurity simply grew.

So far, sadly, the Tinubu administration has towed the same path, and its prospects can be no better.   The truth is that playing games with this problem simply means that it will continue to mutate.

The solution to Nigeria’s economic and political fate goes through the security challenge.  If Tinubu is not to spend the rest of his mandate making contradictory statements to various groups in society, he must listen to the professionals, give them the authority to take on the job, and get out of the way.

His first anniversary is around the corner, and he must have better news than “Wait until the next election.”  Nigeria’s religious do not have to celebrate their festivals, any day of their lives, in fear and hiding.

Happy Easter!

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