Ideals, Imperatives and Patience Towards a Nigeria that Works – Laolu Akande

An ideal situation is one where things work most perfectly, and as desired. It is where and when expectations and fulfillment dovetail. We all live for ideals. There is a way the quest for the ideal gravitates our lives towards feats and accomplishments that otherwise could have been missed. Imperatives on the other hand are the unavoidables, necessary and required things or better still, actions that must be taken. But in order to attain ideals, there would always be imperatives on the way, some of them possibly unflattering and inconvenient.

For example in 1776 when the American elites of the day took a firm decision to declare independence from King George III of Britain, they fashioned out a well crafted vision of freedom, liberty and equality which the emergent United States of America would represent and advance. That was a noble ideal. But they had to fight fatally and fiercely, for a total of 8 years in all, to clinch their ideal of independence. The war, which British historians named “revolt of the colonies,” but which their American counterparts rather called “war of independence,” (or American Revolutionary war, was the imperative.)

Nigerians voted for President Muhammadu Buhari, in good part, because as a people we had gotten to the point that majority of us could no longer tolerate the astounding level of corruption in government and the then seeming intractable security catastrophe in the Northeast.

For good measure, the Buhari/ Osinbajo ticket also did an excellent job during the campaigns, depicting the possible economic resurgence that could be attained in the country and how. The ideals were very clear, agreed and well embraced. What many of us possibly did not imagine were the imperatives that would have to be confronted on the journey to the ideal.

One lesson I have surely learnt in public service in the last 15 months is the virtue of patience: it’s the useful conduit between ideals and imperatives. But mine is a story for another day. It is the ideal relationship that ought to exist between a master/superior and his/her servant that I want to talk about in laying a background to say some other things.

The master hires a servant and assigns a duty, expecting performance as soon as possible. That is the ideal. The servant tackles the assignment but there is a time lag between effort and result, including certain unpleasant imperatives which prolong the expectation of the boss, and the boss becomes understandably impatient, questioning the servant.
Let us assume that this looks like what is happening in our country today. The people are the masters, those of us in the Buhari administration are the servants. We got the message, the expectations were that there would be swift turnarounds and the prosperity promised would kickoff much earlier.

Yet, the master cannot in good conscience ignore what the imperatives are, nor the explanations of the servant, especially if there is trust between the boss and the servant. Clearly, Nigerians have shown tremendous trust in President Muhammadu Buhari. Indeed, at the recently concluded Aso Rock Retreat on the 2017 Budget last week Thursday, one of the invited economic experts, after making his presentation regarding how best to steer the country out of recession said to the president “it is better to be trusted than to be loved.”

Now, to get the Nigeria of our desire, the ideal, there has to be some urgent imperatives, especially in the economy. No one in all truth can deny the main causes of our present economic condition. It is not about a blame game but it is what it is. Even the immediate past Finance Minister made it abundantly clear that some of the things that had to be done when the economy was buoyant were simply left undone because of lack of political will. Past governments left out some critical imperatives and with increasing intensity from one administration to the other, corruption became the order of the day.

What then is the Buhari presidency doing now? One critical imperative is economic diversification. Diversification in our national lexicon has become an overused and hackneyed word, except that now we are left with no option really. Besides, we have a President who means what he says and is getting results. Even if little, lights of hope are being sighted in the area of agriculture and Agro-Business. For instance, because of the deliberate policies of the Buhari administration, some of the states are advancing in rice production, and the country is targeting self sufficiency by 2018. (This will also reduce foreign exchange pressure.)

Let us take the example from Kebbi State where the CBN Anchor Borrowers programme launched by the President late last year is churning out exciting news. According to media reports, 78,000 farmers got some soft loans under the programme leading to the creation of over 500,000 jobs and the emergence of 40,000 millionaire-farmers this year alone. BusinessDay actually did a front page lead story last week September 15 thus: ‘Rice Production Gains Traction In Northern States’, with one of the riders saying 40,000 millionaire rice farmers emerge in Kebbi State.

This particular example goes to prove what the rice farmers told Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in May during a meeting at the Presidential Villa to discuss the Agric policies of the Buhari presidency. According to Mallam Aminu Goronyo, the President of the Rice Farmers Association, before the coming of the Buhari presidency, “farmers in Nigeria were considered useless people on the streets, but now farmers are kings.” Indeed if we can get 78,000 people on a soft loan programme and 40,000 made a million or more in profits in a few months, certainly within a year, that is significant it’s only a tip of the iceberg.

The Vice President himself had assured the farmers then at the May meeting that the Buhari presidency has a clear idea on how to execute its agricultural policy to achieve self-sufficiency in food production, and diversify the economy in the process. The results are trickling in. These are the facts, all we need is patience. This is only one example.

Facts are sacred, opinions are free, the fact is that already now in Nigeria, there has been a certain turn around that has happened in the affairs of the federal government today when compared with the past. It cannot be denied, nor gainsaid for instance that the affairs of Nigeria is now steered by a fiercely honest leadership.

A decisive message has reverberated across the country that the days of corruption with impunity are over. The mindless bleeding of the nation’s resources is being terminated. These are significant outcomes that Nigerians yearned for and it’s already in the bag.

However, what no one could have imagined is the extent of damage. The discoveries are unending, ranging from the $15B security equipment purchase scandal in a country that could hardly boast today of $25B in foreign reserves, to the open and public claim recently by an individual related to power in the past of several millions of dollars in a few accounts in one bank! Also, there has not been anything said or heard yet about the corruption in the oil sector but at least everyone knows there would be a reckoning unlike in the past when a corruption convict was even given a state pardon “before our very eyes.”

Now the fight against corruption is a big deal because in a sense it has been responsible for where we are today as a nation. Several choices and decisions by past governments were deeply rooted in corruption, thereby shutting out the people from enjoying any meaningful and enduring benefit from our collective patrimony. Take the scams that were perpetrated in the subsidy regimes for example where we now know that people just completed forms and were paid large sums of money supposedly for supplying refined fuel when indeed there were no such supplies.

The cumulative effect is that today when we need the savings of the buoyant years, there is nothing to fallback upon due to corruption and it’s twin sister-profligacy. And so the economic situation is rather difficult and many of our people are suffering the pains. The deliberate and relentless sabotage of our oil and gas pipelines have even added a worsening streak, cutting government revenue almost by half at a time government needs to spend its way out of the recession.

But my final point is the most important: patience. If there is any government that deserves to be patiently given a chance to perform, this is it. There are indeed tonnes of questions that can be asked, and possibly a few issues here and there. But the resolve, the patriotism, the honesty, the integrity, the competence and the diligence of the Buhari presidency to restore Nigeria’s lost glory are unequivocal. When you have a president who can’t be lured into a corrupt deal, who has absolute passion for the people and utmost respect for the land, who knows what he is doing, supported by a vice president, equally committed and well tested on the issues of the day, all we have need of is a patient citizenry in the face of some rather unpleasant imperatives on our way to attaining the ideal of a Nigeria that works. As the Lord lives, that journey is now in irreversible progress!

–– Akande is Senior Special Assistant – Media & Publicity, in the Office of the Vice President

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