In the case of the CJN, there was massive mobilisation that the president was refusing to act on the basis of regional and ethnic jingoism… I do not personally believe that President Buhari refused to act because the candidate was a Southerner. I also cannot defend his non-action because I do not have a clue why he refused to act. All I can see is that the president has a proclivity to doing harm to his reputation.
I am one of the millions of Nigerians who does not understand why Justice Walter Onnogen’s name was not submitted to the Senate for confirmation. Maybe in a very uncharitable manner, I assumed that as the crackdown on corruption in the judiciary continued, there were findings that make him unsuitable for the job and that we would be told what was going on. Others who might have been as equally uncharitable as I was, speculated that President Buhari’s inaction was motivated by a determination not to have a Southerner as Chief Justice of Nigeria. Their thinking was therefore that the president was scheming to replace him with a Northerner. Constitutionalists and legal experts wrote tons of literature on the possibilities or impossibilities of the president rejecting the nomination of a candidate as CJN by the National Judicial Council, a very important position of the leader of one of the three branches of government. Not one word came from the presidency until two days before the expiration of the three months acting tenure of the CJN. I am getting very frustrated at the refusal of President Buhari to act, and above all, his refusal to explain to citizens why he will not, or cannot, act.
The problem with refusing to act and refusing to talk is that others do the talking and acting. In the case of the CJN, there was massive mobilisation that the president was refusing to act on the basis of regional and ethnic jingoism. When he finally acted under intense popular pressure, he got no acknowledgement or understanding because the ordinary interpretation was that he acted in the end not because he wanted to but because his “plot” had been discovered and exposed. I do not personally believe that President Buhari refused to act because the candidate was a Southerner. I also cannot defend his non-action because I do not have a clue why he refused to act. All I can see is that the president has a proclivity to doing harm to his reputation.
Finally this week, a draft economic recovery programme appeared to have emerged. What has been incredible has been that the government continued to tell us we were getting out of recession and going back to growth and now we know they did not even have a plan on what to do to get us out of stagflation. They were apparently hoping that if they resolutely refuse to do anything, recession will get fed up and go away. Stupid recession refused to go away, so after 20-months of inaction, the government is finally discussing a plan for economic recovery. I hope the draft plan will be publicised extensively so that Nigerians can engage the process of developing the best pathway out of crippling stagflation. It is the apparent inability to act and to talk with citizens that is creating the slide from rising expectations that heralded the emergence of Buhari as president to rising frustration that is pushing Nigerians out into the streets to demonstrate.
Yesterday, the NLC and TUC organised their members for protests in Lagos and Abuja against what they called the worsening human condition in the country. They called on the Federal Government to formulate policies that would reduce the misery that has befallen Nigerians and improve the lives of workers. In Lagos, the placard-carrying workers marched from Yaba to Ikorodu Road chanting solidarity songs and calling on governments to act. In Abuja, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo met the joint Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) delegation at Aso Rock to listen to their complaints.
The government is operating in a very difficult situation and Nigerians feel there should be action to seek solutions to the country’s problems. The body language of government appears to be that they have a lot of time, so they can move as slowly as they want. Nigerians are responding to that attitude by saying they are getting angry.
Earlier in the week, on Monday February 6th, a similar protest was also organised in Abuja and Lagos. Under the banner, #IStandWithNigeria, the protestors declared that they were no longer ready to quietly watch inaction and announced that they were coming together to change Nigeria. In the lead up to the protest, the inspiration behind it, musician Tuface Idibia had called off the event, apparently bowing down to police pressure. While the presidency had announced that Nigerians had the right to proceed with the protests, the police insisted that they would not allow Nigerian citizens to protest in spite of the judgment from a superior court of record asserting the right of Nigerians to protest. It is pathetic that each time Nigerians seek to exercise their right to protest, the police try to intimidate them into silence. Tuface who has rather limited political experience withdrew but the “Area Fada” himself, Charlie Boy and civil society organisations stepped in to provide leadership for the protests.
The protests indicated a wide range of issues on which Nigerians were frustrated. The recession, lack of jobs, insecurity, high cost of food, inadequate power supply and lack of direction in the governance of the country were all concerns that were expressed during the demonstrations. Essentially, people were demanding why the change that had been promised was nowhere to be found. Clearly, the enthusiasm that had accompanied President Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration in May 2015 had disappeared. I got the sense that the demonstrators were conscious that Nigeria’s economic problems could be traced to the slump in global oil prices and the slowdown in production due to attacks on pipelines by militant groups in the Niger Delta region, which have seriously affected revenue inflow. Nonetheless, they were saying that they were not seeing any significant response to remedy the situation. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo responded correctly to the #IStandWithNigeria protests in a series of tweets. “To those who are on the streets protesting the economic situation & those who are not, but feel the pain of economic hardship, we hear you”, he said. He also sought to assure them by adding “You deserve a decent life and we are working night and day to make life easier.” Of course tweets are not what the people were looking for, they want actionable policy. It was however good that the Acting President had the grace to acknowledge the difficult lives Nigerians are living.
The government is operating in a very difficult situation and Nigerians feel there should be action to seek solutions to the country’s problems. The body language of government appears to be that they have a lot of time, so they can move as slowly as they want. Nigerians are responding to that attitude by saying they are getting angry. Government should listen, and above all act quickly.