Mike Ozekhome: Why Buhari Must Immediately Unify Our Gravely Fractured Nation

Mike Ozekhome: Why Buhari Must Immediately Unify Our Gravely Fractured Nation

By Opinions | The Trent on May 7, 2015
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by Mike Ozekhome

Mike Ozekhome, SAN
Mike Ozekhome, SAN

General, please listen to me, Sir: You need to move fast. Very, very fast. Begin to build bridges of understanding, bandage raw wounds, balm bruised egos. Give strong leadership. Set up a Government of National Unity, drawing the best brains from your party, the opposition, the non-partisan, or party card-carrying technocrats of the land and other independent minded Nigerian patriots.

You must immediately unify this gravely fractured Nation by setting up a genuine Peace and Reconciliation Committee, to re-align all centripetal and centrifugal forces which threatening to tear apart our weak national enterprise. You have been given a rare opportunity to show that you are a “born again” democrat (your own words), transmuting from a military dictator, to a democratic president, driven by due process and Rule of Law.

Your life can be likened to that of Abraham Lincoln, former American president and the one who spearheaded the abolition of slave trade in 1865. Lincoln had failed serially in life: lost his wife in 1831, defeated in run for Illinois state Legislature in 1832, failed in business in 1833, lost his sweetheart (Ann Rutledge) in 1835, suffered nervous breakdown in 1836, defeated for Illinois House Speaker in 1846, lost re-nomination in 1848, rejected as Land Officer in 1849, defeated for Senate in 1854, defeated for VP nomination in 1856 and defeated yet again for Senate in 1858.

But he was elected President in 1860, and emerged as one of America’s most famous and adored presidents, with his face ever incandescent on America’s $100 bill.

Will Buhari turn up as the 4th Nigerian president since 1999, to be another Abraham Lincoln? Only time and his actions will tell. However, GMB, you must now quickly separate government and governance from party politics, the structure of government from your APC party structure. You must eschew witch-hunting of perceived enemies, or presumed rabid opponents.

You must give room to robust criticians and a virile opposition, to flourish, in the same way GEJ allowed you and your opposition to, not only blossom, but be actually consumed by a level playing political ground that he had carefully prepared for you and your party, APC. Remember the crass arrogance of PDP that consumed it.

At a time, it curiously embarked on de-registration of members, rather than retaining old members and registering new ones. I had predicted then, that PDP will self-destruct, self immolate and self implode. That is what has just happened.

Remember GEJ’s wobbly, fumbling and selfish kitchen cabinet that “imprisoned” and derailed him.

Remember Sir, strong public perception that you are surrounded by some of the most crooked and corrupt elements in Nigeria, who have unduly appropriated (misappropriated is better), the people’s wealth. Some observers have described your position as pathetic as that of “Alibaba and the forty thieves”. I pray not, Sir.

KILL CORRUPTION BEFORE IT KILLS US

I heard, during your campaign, when you changed gear and declared that you will no longer probe past cases of corruption, but will only start from May 29, when you are inaugurated. No Sir. That will be making the first fundamental mistake of your government and turn around present public perception about your own person as incorruptible, to one of compromise and abdication of your avowed anti-corruption stance.

Let me, in this, borrow from the inexhaustible dictionary of flamboyant and colourful politician, Dr K. O. Mbadiwe, of blessed memory, whose hifalutin and grandiloquent grammar was only equalled and perhaps, surpassed by, that of the one and only “Zik of Africa”: GMB, if you want to kill corruption, rather than allow corruption kill us all, then you must probe all the probeables, investigate all the investigatables, arrest all arrestables, detain all the detainables, jail all the jailables, confiscate from thieving Nigerians, all the confiscateables, get to regurgitate all regurgitables, but exonerate all exoneratables.

It is only by probing past governments and corrupt persons that the ugly spectre of recidivism and impunity will vanish from our national life, and deterrence fully enthroned and respected. Corruption is now said to be the 37th state in Nigeria, and obviously the wealthiest. GMB, kill it before it consumes us all. Not later, but immediately. Reason? Today is the tomorrow we talked about yesterday.

IMPLEMENT CONFAB REPORT

One of the greatest achievements of GEJ was braving all odds to set up the National Conference in 2014. The report is ready. Your APC party and its chieftains never bought into this laudable national project that will surely give Nigeria a total rebirth and reengineering. Surprise your APC handlers by executing the over 600 commendable recommendations of the Confab. If you fail to do so, all your anti-corruption platitudes, attempts at growing the economy and wiping out insecurity will be forlorn, because the Confab report adequately took care of these challenges, how to solve them, and more. Do you hear me, Sir? Please Sir, do it as urgent as yesterday.

REDUCE HIGH COST OF GOVERNANCE

Perhaps, the biggest bane of past governments lies in the humongous cost of governance, where over 75% of our National budget is spent on recurrent, rather than on capital expenditure. You do not need more than the 36 constitutionally prescribed Ministers. To have a lean government, and plug all leakages and wastages, you must drastically reduce, if not totally eliminate, the laughable number of Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants, Special Assistants, Personal Assistants etc.

You must halt all unnecessary foreign trips by Government workers, strengthen the capacity of our hospitals and health institutions to handle health challenges and improve on general infrastructure. You must do something very quickly about education, agriculture, transportation and perhaps, more importantly, the power sector.

Get back our Chibok girls and build on the present efforts of Government against terror, which has greatly degraded Boko Haram and its insurgency.

We cannot continue to operate a “disarticulate economy” (apologies to Claude Ake), where we consume what we don’t produce and produce what we don’t consume. In this wise, refurbish all our refineries as you promised, build new ones and encourage the private sector to be fully involved in this national enterprise.

AND NOW THIS

The stakes are very high, the hopes and expectations even higher. Most Nigerians are expecting miracles from you. Don’t tell them you are not a miracle worker. They will not buy that. You must be one. That was why they ignored your despotic Military background and decided to give you another chance. Are you going to fail them? Will you be a recluse, or a transparent president?

How would you deal with the human hawks and vampires surrounding you? How would you raise money to govern in this austere era of dwindling oil prices?

What is your take on FOI, Sharia, OIC, insecurity, anti-gay legislation, National Conference Report, international conspiracy, neo-colonialism, ethnic militias, xenophobic attacks on Nigerians, affirmative action for women where GEJ excelled, etc? Remember the proverbial banana peel in Aso Villa?

Nigerians are a wonderful set of people that tumultuously shout “Hosanna” today and unanimously scream, “crucify him” tomorrow. They are very impatient. They are not foolish. They are easy to govern, extremely difficult to rule; and nigh impossible to tyrannize.

Remember your era of WAI, your draconian, iron fist rule, IBB’s coup, and how Nigerians hailed and welcomed it? That is Nigerians for you. They cherish their freedoms and liberties. So, GMB, beware the “ides of March”.

Like the Hausas would say, “Ga fili ga doki” (Behold the horse, behold the large plain field…). You now have both the knife and the yam, the stick and the carrot. You cannot ask for more from God and Nigerians. To whom much is given, much is expected.

Have GMB, VP Professor Yemi Osinbajo (PYO) and other kitchen Cabinet membersin- the making, been reading and digesting these five part Presidential election Sunday sermons on the “The Nigerian Project” by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR?

Mike Ozekhome is a lawyer and human rights activist, holding the rank of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. He is known for his work as a constitutional lawyer.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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