The newly sworn in Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has made his inaugural speech. He has said that three key areas for his government are power, employment and terrorism.
He called on the judiciary to act with dispatch in matters of abuse of office and corruption, and called for a reform which will purge it of its immediate past. He also talked about a clear definition of the three tiers of government and declared that the Federal Government will not close its eyes to the problems of governance particularly gross corruption in the states and local government. He has declared he will ensure that there is adequate control under his watch. He demanded for accountability at all levels.
He called on labour unions, organised private sector, press and civil society organisations, to raise productivity in order to share in increased wealth and economic growth. He called on the media to exercise their role with dignity particularly on social media.
He talked about four immediate priorities for the Buhari government; Boko Haram, Niger Delta situation, power shortages, and unemployment in young people. The president spoke about longer term priorities to include Education, Medical care, physical infrastructure; all of which need overhauling and updating. For Boko Haram to be adequately tackled, President Buhari announced that the Command centre will be relocated to Maidugri until Boko Haram is subdued. He spoke about rescuing the Chibok girls and all who have been kidnapped; alive if possible.
According to him, Boko haram is a typical example of a small fire causing large fires. Negligence, complacency, and collusion have all made Boko Haram strong. He said that Boko Haram was a mindless and godless group, who were as far away from Islam as possible. As the group is subdued, the government will commission a committee to study the group; its emergence and sponsors, in order to stop further emergence. He says that the military’s rules of engagement will be overhauled to avoid human rights violations, and legal system will also be overhauled to tackle human rise abuses of the armed forces. Furthermore, he was clear about working with sub-Saharan neighbours and the entire international community to deal with Boko Haram and the emerging refugee problems as well as financial crimes.
His priorities include a disciplined and well compensated security forces, and although the amnesty programme in Niger Delta which is due to end in December, his government plans to invest heavily in infrastructure. He says he is willing to listen to grievances and extends his hands of fellowship.
The president declared the Power situation a national shame; the fact that Nigeria generates only 4,000 megawatts and distributes even less. He says 20 billion dollars had been expended on power since 1999 and has only brought frustration and misery and resignation among Nigerians. The government will discover the safest and quickest way to bring power to Nigerians. Youth unemployment will be tackled through investment in agriculture, and micro-credits will be given to small and medium businesses. In addition, he wants to accelerate the revival of roads and railways.
Buhari stated that the international community has extended a hand of goodwill to Nigeria, and the country is basking in goodwill. We can achieve our mission as a great nation. To finish, he quoted Shakespeare’s Julius Cesear saying Nigeria had an opportunity, urging the nation to “cease it”.
For me, the most profound statement the President made was his phrase ” I belong to everybody. I belong to nobody”. Perhaps this is the tone which we can expect from the government, where he pledges allegiance to nobody but to the entire nation and to the oath he swore.
Elections in Nigeria will finally start with voters going to cast their ballots this weekend for the presidential election. The presidential and National assembly election was moved from valentine’s day to March 28, 2015. Has anyone been at any campaign event or witnessed any rally? It’s been quite an experience to watch the two largest political parties APC and PDP go at each other, manufacture stories, slander each other, and just provide general entertainment and many times embarrassment to Nigerians. The two main candidates are the current president Goodluck Jonathan and one time military head of state Muhammad Buhari. To me, this is the most intensely contested elections so far. Nigerians are beginning to ask questions, although we still have people whose politics are based on ethnic and religious sentiments, but I think we are making progress, albeit a slow one. The response of the political parties to this awakening is to give away money and ‘goodies’ to the man on the street, which is a little bit sad.
To be fair, politics all over the world is usually based on some giving and taking, last minute lobbying and discrete allocations of funding to different development schemes. Take the UK for example, with the forthcoming elections and before the two months (or so) embargo on new public spending before elections (which it looks like Nigeria doesn’t have or maybe we just do not implement?), the Tory government is giving funds to community development programmes, schools initiatives, charities, and conducting the announcements and press releases themselves. This is a final push and bid to look good and ‘earn’ votes. I know some charities which have received sudden funding for projects that were not funded previously. We are talking about grants up to one million pounds to recognised bodies who will of course do development work and show evidence. First world lobbying eh?
Now this is a slight difference from the Naija model which has seen politicians distributing branded phone recharge cards, bags of rice branded APC or PDP. The last one I saw yesterday was branded sachet of garri, sugar, and groundnut. Haba! Why are people wicked like this? No milk included, I find it really upsetting, at least add milk if you must share garri, and I hope it was ijebu garri. It smacks of laziness, ignorance, greed, a disrespect of the people, and just sheer poverty. Why do we think these people will do anything worth doing if their style of lobbying is agbalumo and garri? I will take a new road quickly constructed in my home town, or scholarships quickly paid out for six years for some bright financially disadvantaged students. I will take hospitals being revamped and programmes for free and expedited treatments set up, a borehole renovated for clean water, or a community centre for the elderly built or renovated.
I will take a new programme providing meals in schools, research grants for universities, training for the police, and small and medium enterprise grants over agbalumo, bags of rice and groundnut oil. But this is what you get in a country where a shocking percentage of the population lives under one dollar a day. This is what you get in a country where people are murdered and justice is committed to God because we do not have a system that works; the police is either not competent enough or not equipped enough to find the criminals. Or maybe it is both. This is why we have such intense proliferation of religion which does not translate into social change; because God is our police, our NEPA, our only recourse to surviving the reckless driving on the Abuja-Lokoja expressway and malaria. But that’s a post for another day.
Has anyone been to the airports or to the motor parks in the last couple of days? People are leaving in droves, it is as though there is war in Nigeria. I wonder if we are making too much of this situation of if this will indeed be the bloodiest election that Nigeria has ever seen. Which ever way one looks at it, it is quite scary to be honest; that we are in such a defining moment in our history and it could be marred by dishonesty and blood shed. I hope it does the opposite, I hope it sets Nigeria on the path to dealing conclusively with evil such as Boko Haram. I hope the country remains the largest economy in Africa, and an emerging market where the world congregates economically, and where this growth reflects on our indices, social services, infrastructure and the life of the man on the street.
Yesterday, international election observers arrived to be a part of the monitoring process and the rest of the world will be watching to see what Nigeria makes of this opportunity to choose its future and to maintain peace and prosperity. So March 28th let’s go out and vote for the right president and the appropriate members of the National assembly. On April 11th, vote for the right governor and members of the state house of assembly.
Do not vote for those who will loot the national treasury and instead of fixing our social services, spend it on educating their children at the most exclusive schools around the world (anywhere but Nigeria right?) or go to the best hospitals in the US or Europe to treat migraines while Nigerians take panadol and die from the simplest infections. Do not re-elect anybody who you know was not akin to Dangote before he became Governor, and now suddenly, his children are driving porches and Lamborghini on instagram. Now he/she owns houses in London High street Kensington and hosts lavish and vulgar weddings for their children. May we get it right. Vote your conscience.
Say no to pre, during and post elections violence. Stay safe. God bless Nigeria.
By now the entire world has heard about the terrorist group Boko Haram which has been operating in North-east Nigeria and its environs actively since 2010. The first full scale attack on civilians was a car bomb detonated across the road from the Nigeria 50th Independence Anniversary celebration at the Abuja Eagle Square on October 1st 2010. Then followed the New Year’s Eve bomb blast at the Abacha Barracks in 2010. This hit very close to home as I had gone to Abacha Barracks several times to have a meal of grilled spicy fish and cold drinks with friends on many occasions. Several people lost their lives in those attacks. Boko Haram which literally means “western education is a sin” has since carried out further brazen attacks including one on the Police headquarters and the United nations building in Abuja. The group has left thousands of people dead, more injured and many more displaced and running for their lives.
This group has been politicised with many claiming they are funded by opposition, while others insist that the government is using the terrorist group as a weapon to cause countrywide disdain to the North and the opposition. The group has kidnapped many women and children in its past 5 years of active operation, Transparency International has accused it of using child soldiers including boys as young as 12 years old. The human rights watch group has also accused the Nigerian government of human rights abuses with reference to the death of many suspect Boko Haram members in a detention facility.
For a while, the Nigerian government resisted the move by governments of G-7 countries to declare Boko Haram a terrorist group, and one wonders why this resistance? Could it have come from pressure from certain quarters of the country whose involvement with the group may have meant restrictions on them? The US department of state ignored this and went ahead to declare Boko Haram a terrorist group in 2013. However, in May 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan finally declared the group a terrorist group and the United Nations Security Council followed suit, placing restrictions which would make travel and funding difficult for this group. Has this worked? The group seems to have been the most active in the last few months since it was declared a terrorist group and the world began to condemn its activities as a result of protests ongoing to “bring back our girls” following the kidnapping of over 200 school girls from their dormitory. It is now over 100 days since the kidnap and the girls are yet to be found.
In the midst of all these terrorist activities, there have been several debates around the best way to tackle the terrorist group and bring it to its knees. The government has not utilised heavy handed military bombardment perhaps because of the collateral damage which could possibly take place. One wonders, however, if any parts of the North are sympathetic to this group; Northern elders, chiefly the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad has called on the president to grant unconditional amnesty to the leaders of the Boko Haram group. Recall that another militant group in Nigeria’s past; the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had previously been granted amnesty and training by the Federal Government.
However, as many have argued, MEND’s goals of fighting for a greater share of Nigeria’s oil revenues to go to the impoverished Niger delta region where the oil is drilled from, and for better environmental and corporate practices by the oil companies, is certainly different from the goals of Boko Haram which include a call for islamisation of Nigeria. According to the many videos on youtube in which the group leader Abubakar Shekau speaks, the nation cannot be governed by infidels, and indeed anyone who does not convert to islam, or is muslim but associates with the infidels, must be destroyed. In the spirit of these goals, it has carried out attacks on mosques and churches alike, social entertainment centres including bars where football games were being watched.
In recent months, Boko Haram has been at its most active, causing more mayhem and deaths of civilians and soldiers in Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Borno and Bauchi. Its latest attack took place in a Cameroonian border town close to Nigeria where it kidnapped the wife of the Cameroon’s Vice-prime Minister. This is why the world needs to be involved in global problems. It no longer ends within one country’s borders; it spills into the next country and on and on it goes, spiralling into a bigger global platform that causes mayhem in the world. Between refugees and internally displaced people taking refuge across borders, and terrorists and criminals crossing borders, one country’s headache turns to another’s migraine. But I digress.
The Jonathan government has since accepted help from several G-7 countries including the UK, the US and France, to support its efforts towards finding the kidnapped girls and dealing with the terrorist crises. it is left to be seen how this plays out. The elections are coming up early 2015 in Nigeria, it is left to be seen how popular or unpopular the president is, but your guess is as good as mine. I think that this group continues to give muslims and Nigerians a bad name. One senses a certain sympathy for this group in some quarters and I wish more energy was being invested in calling out this group and their funders/sympathisers, and making signs and carrying out protests and marches, declaring them non-muslim, diabolical, evil and outcasts.
Northern elders have scarcely called this group out publicly and declared them evil and non-islamic (although I recall the statements to this effect made over 3 years ago by the late Emir of Kano Alhaji Bayero). General Buhari, one time military head of state of Nigeria and lead opposition only released a statement to this effect after the kidnapping of 200+ girls. Even this is a difficult feat, people are afraid for their lives as Boko Haram has been known to visit homes and behead people and wipe out entire families. Instead, most of the campaigns have gone to calling out the Jonathan government and declaring it inefficient and unable to contain the crises. This might very well be true; the Jonathan government did not respond (publicly atleast, they insist they were working behind the scenes) for two weeks following the kidnapping of over 200 girls. The response came only when Nigerians began to protest and clamour for action.
Invariably, this is a very difficult time for Nigeria. This will set us back decades and will no doubt affect the economy, the infrastructure and the growth of the nation. It is affecting quality of life and provision of services in the North-east; nobody wants a job in those areas, the hospitals are losing health care workers, the schools are closed down, people who have spent their entire lives in the region and have built their livelihoods there are packing up, abandoning their old lives and moving their families to start afresh, ethnic and religious groups are accusing one another unfortunately, and quite ignorantly, in some quarters, every Northerner or muslim is Boko Haram. There is a state-of-emergency in that region at this time. It remains to be seen whether there can be end to this, and whatever the case, this is time for Nigerians to unite and abandon ethnic and religious sentiments and differences and come together in complete condemnation of this group. These are a few bad eggs causing far reaching problems. This is time to support our military and campaign for better working conditions and family care for them. We must unite against this scourge for a better future for us and the generations to come.
Ramblings of a Recently 30 Woman, Project Management Professional, International Development Enthusiast, Globetrotter, Writer and Happy Shutterbug®