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30 Days in Power

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Posted to the web: 7/8/2007 5:14:27 PM

(Friday, June 29, 2007 Assalam Alekun, Mr. President. No point asking how you feel right now, exactly 30 days [May 29] after you became the most powerful black man on earth. Surely, in 30 days, your eyes must have seen a lot and your ears heard so much, as we say in this part of the world. Your brain should have been stretched to the limit trying to grapple with so many things at the same time, like in an action-packed movie. In just 30 days, you certainly must have added 30 years to your life. In 30 days, no one expects you to be the same person again. No man goes to Aso Rock as President and remains the same, ever again. Ask Babangida. Ask Abacha. Ask Baba. Again, this is a subject for another day. A lot, to put it mildly, must have happened to you, Mr. President, to wipe off forever your illusions of power. The reality must have since dawned on you that presiding over the little state of Katsina is certainly different from ruling the vast and complex Nigerian nation, where sycophancy, tribalism, religion, cronyism, nepotism, corruption, hypocrisy, social and infrastructural decay, hopelessness, amongst others, often threaten to tear the country apart. In 30 days flat, you would have since discovered that appearance and reality differ substantially; that all that glitters isn’t gold. That Nigeria, the country you preside over, has been turned into one huge, junk-yard of backwardness, requiring urgent fixing. I still remember your inaugural speech where you promised to declare emergency in the power and education sectors, reform the system which has made few super rich, and the majority paupers. You pledged to lead by example, and be a servant-leader. You urged everyone to get set and join you in Operation Fix Nigeria! What you didn’t say but which was, all the same, implied in your speech is the admission that Nigeria hadn’t moved much since your predecessor, the avuncular general, sat in the saddle. If in the eight years of purposeful leadership, the kind Baba says he bequeathed to us, you still had to talk about declaring emergency in two critical sectors, then all it goes to show is that Baba had simply been wasting our time and moving in circles, while pretending to be fixing the problems. If after eight years and over N3 trillion pumped into NEPA, and a new government now has to declare emergency in the power sector, what does that tell anyone? Of course, everyone in Nigeria today knows that the power sector has collapsed irretrievably. It would take more than emergency declaration to wake it up. We would need divine intervention and hard tackles by the nation’s leadership to get the bad guys who have continued to sabotage the nation’s quest for power generation. The same cartel which frustrated Chief Bola Ige out of the Power and Steel Ministry, and have been walking in the evil vineyard ensuring we are in perpetual blackout are still very much around. I hope you know this. That’s why I am not one of those applauding your decision to reappoint some of those who have been in office longer than NEPA’s problems as your special aides. To put it pointblank, they have nothing fresh to offer. They can only compound the problems. Being part of the old order, I wonder what they seek to prove in the new dispensation. Then, you talked about fixing the education sector, where you also declared emergency. Again, being an ex-academic, you should be familiar with the decay in that sector. With the lecturers and their union, ASUU, on one of their familiar long strikes, you should know you have a hell of a job to do revamping that sector. However, the passing reference to those two critical sectors isn’t the reason I have chosen to write you this letter-column, Mr. President. I am worried that 30 days after your assumption of office, there doesn’t seem, to me, any clear-cut policy direction of your administration. Many Nigerians still can’t fathom where you are going, what you will do, how you will do it. All we have been treated to have been an orchestra of silence. No motion, no movement. Stuck. After I wrote last week’s column, during the recent labour strike, where I was so incensed at what I thought was your government’s lack of touch with the reality of living in Nigeria by acceding to a thoughtless fuel price increase, and dubbed you the ‘go-slow president,’ I met a former military governor who also claimed to know you intimately, Col. Aminu. He said so many nice things about you and asked me and others like me to be patient with you; that you are a slow and steady man who wins the race. He said you were only trying to get used to your terrain before exploding. He said we were fortunate to have you as our president. His words: 'You guys don’t know Umaru. He will surprise you. He believes in taking his time. But when he roars to action, there will be no stopping him. All you need is to be patient with him. This is a man I have known for many years.' There are others like Aminu who have also accused me of being unfair to a man who is barely one month old in office. Well, Mr. President, they are both right and wrong. Right in the sense that you are just four weeks in the saddle. Wrong in that four weeks is old enough to know the policy thrust of your administration. A former American Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, it was who said the time a leader gets into office isn’t the time he tries to formulate his vision, policy or the direction of his government. He ought to have done all these before seeking office. What he does immediately he grabs power is to just fire on all cylinders, knowing he has a well-focused vision and action blue-print under wraps. Mr. President, one month after, the administration is still grappling with the appointment of key aides and ministers. We don’t know your economic or political policy direction. You have only been hinting at continuity in the reform regime enunciated by your predecessor. But even at that, I urge you, Mr.President, to x-ray that carefully. NEEDS, SEEDS, deregulation, etc, largely brought tears to the eyes of majority of Nigerians. Only very few people could be said to have benefited from those fine-sounding words. My advice: Find your way. Go for simple economic theories that put garri on the table of our people, if you will truly be a servant-leader. Those big grammar and economic jargons borrowed from the laboratories of Asian countries didn’t work in eight years. So why continue with that? On the political turf, flee from the vultures hovering over your government. Appoint only men and women who will help you deliver the democratic goods into your administration. Whether you call it unity government or broad-based government, only the best is good enough for our country. Mr. President, I pray you have the balls to do what’s right!

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