Penultimate Friday marked the 61st independence anniversary of the federal republic of Nigeria and as it is customary, with Nigerian presidents, President Muhammadu Buhari gave the independence anniversary broadcast. This annual ritual for all it is worth has continued to diminish in meaning, relevance and importance to Nigerians. Not very many Nigerians are interested any longer with the broadcasts on October 1.
This year’s independence anniversary broadcast was boring, empty, egocentric and an opportunity for chest-thumping. The president’s holier than thou posturing was also at play as he always seems satisfied reeling out epilogues on how governance has failed in the past, yet fails to realize that he remains a key player and forms a very huge part of that failure in governance since independence. For instance, the president was the commissioner for petroleum in the 1970s and over 40 years later he is still the substantive minister of petroleum.
He told us of the government’s pursuit to diversify the economy through the agricultural sector. He told us that efforts by his government between 2015 and 2020 have improved Nigeria’s access to potable water to 71%. The president also spoke on his achievements generally in infrastructure, social care, governance, Nigeria’s image and influence in Africa and the international community.
President Buhari in his closing remarks said the government will continue to serve the country: listen to all and protect our democracy and country. Some of the many claims made by the president can be contested, what cannot be argued is that this government clearly does not listen to Nigerians and seems determined to push policies it believes in irrespective of how the citizens feel.
For instance, the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme through which 10 million pupils are supposedly being fed across public primary schools in the country, which the president claimed is being implemented in 35 states of the Federation and the FCT, with Over 103,000 women engaged and empowered as cooks under the programme, still leaves one wondering if the president is not believing too much the information he is fed by his aides.
Which are these states and where are the schools? A visit to the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme website: www.nhgsfp.gov.ng, for information or updates on its programmes does not support the claim of the president of an agency with a hive of activity as some of the materials on the site dated as far back as October 21, 2017. Yet, the president wants us to believe that over 10 million school children are fed through this programme.
Recall that through this same programme the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, had insisted that her ministry spent over N500 million on feeding schoolchildren in two states and Abuja during last year’s COVID-19 lockdown. Ms Farouq was quoted as saying that N523,273,800 was spent to feed pupils in Ogun and Lagos states as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, between May 14, and July 6, 2020 at home. How and where, remains a mystery.
He also said the government was ready to arrest and prosecute all persons inciting violence through words or action. In the same breath, he said in the North East region alone, over eight thousand Boko Haram terrorists have surrendered.
Insurgents are free to surrender in the North East, government doors are opened to bandits for negotiation in the North West, but in the south the president has hunted down Sunday Adeyemo and Nnamdi Kanu for asking for a country of their own since the geographical expression called Nigeria is no longer offering them any promise or meeting their needs.
In Kaduna for instance, the identities of the bandits terrorising the people are public knowledge, but who will bell the cat? The leadership of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, has not only issued sack notices to southerners living in the north they also have continued to make offensive remarks freely, yet they walk freely but Igboho must be nailed for asking those killing his people to leave their territory.
The president only fell short of mentioning the name of the member of the National Assembly, who he alleges is supporting separatists’ movements, but his attorney general says the government will not name and shame sponsors of terrorism. The president was also deafeningly quiet on the fate of sponsors of terrorism in the North East and so-called bandits in the North West.
Hear the president, “We shall continue to work on dialogue based solutions to address legitimate grievances. But we remain ready to take decisive actions against secessionist agitators and their sponsors who threaten our national security.
“The recent arrests of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo, and the ongoing investigations being conducted have revealed certain high-profile financiers behind these individuals. We are vigorously pursuing these financiers including one identified as a serving member of the national assembly.”
For Mr President and his speech writers, Boko Haram, killer herders and bandits are no threats to the nation’s security. My sincere hope is that they are also pursuing high-profile sponsors of these groups, who have done more damage to the country than can be imagined, in the executive, the national assembly, military and wherever they may be.
The president also claimed that 71 per cent of Nigerians have access to potable water. In all my life I have never seen functional public pipe-borne water. The best I have seen is burst pipes from which people scoop water from the gutters. Or is the president attributing this claim to the success of the ubiquitous pure water (unpopularly known as sachet water)?
On the federal government’s efforts on diversification of the economy through the agricultural sector, he said, “We have seen significant private sector investments in almost all areas of the agricultural value chain. And these have continued even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately, as our food production capacity has increased, food prices have been going up due to artificial shortages created by middlemen who have been buying and hoarding these essential commodities for profiteering.”
As military head of state, Buhari blamed middlemen for the hike in food prices, just as he did again in July 2021. He is promising this time to find a lasting solution to “these disruptive and unpatriotic hoarding activities.”
Again, the President’s speech writers for some strange reasons were silent on the activities of killer herders, insurgents as well as bandits who have chased farmers from their farms.
Smallholder farmers in Benue, which wears the toga as the food basket of Nigeria, for their vast production of a wide range of crops ranging from grains, tubers, to fruits and vegetables, have largely abandoned their farms for fear of being killed. This is also applicable to the rest of the north central, North West, South East and South West.
Apart from other obstacles ranging from flood, drought; lack of access to land, lack of capital and modern farm implements etc, the recurring herders’ onslaughts on farmers remain the biggest challenge to food security in Nigeria. The same presidency that advised farmers to run from their ancestral farmlands rather than get killed by these marauding herders is blaming middlemen for food scarcity. This is a classic case of the devil being accused of what he is innocent of.
A president who means well and is determined to address the hydra-headed issues bedeviling this nation must be holistic in his approach to solving them. How on earth can the president be talking of the middlemen in Nigeria today? If the intention of the middlemen is for profiteering, now that prices of foodstuffs in the country have hit the rooftops, why will they still be hoarding and where are they hoarding them? Buhari is deliberately being selective in his applications of the rule and laws and is guilty of double standard. It’s impossible to be an oversight to ignore the threat posed by these murderers to food security while making a mountain out of a molehill by continually blaming it on the middlemen.
Finally, for his self-serving conclusion that “No government since 1999 has done what we have done in six years to put Nigeria back on track,” I leave him and his speech writers to posterity and Nigerians to judge, but my two cents to the President is that as he approaches the last lap of his tenure, he should do away with those who seemingly are misleading him because he and he alone will Nigerians judge for good or bad performance in office after 2023.