PRESIDENT YAR’ADUA : MORE OF THESE EXAMPLES, PLEASE.
A couple of days ago, President Yar’adua declared his assets to the world, demonstrating his belief in the ageless saying that example is better than precept. Before then, he had, while receiving a delegation of the members of his party (mostly newly- elected government officials) from Kaduna state who had come to Aso Rock to congratulate him on his success at the polls, advised other Nigerians who were still planning on going to register their own solidarity with him to rather stay home and pray for him and the nation. And about a month or so ago, he had honestly in far away Germany stated that his election was fraudulent and assured the world that he will reform our electoral system. Obviously, the president made these moves to differentiate himself from his predecessors and from his contemporaries.
You have differentiated yourself from retired General Babangida who welcomed all that came—the ABNs, the Royal Fathers, the good, the bad etc, etc. Of course he paid dearly for it. They confused him; he lost focus and not only annulled the great presidential election of 1993 which late Chief M K O Abiola and Kingibe clearly won but still thanked those that stood by him during that political impasse for “their thoughtfulness”. And according to one of his aides he would only have apologized to Nigerians for that monumental mistake if he had ran and won the last presidential election and inaugurated as OBJ’s successor.
You have differentiated yourself from late General Sani Abacha who did all he could to succeed himself but still failed. He bribed and coerced whoever was against his self succession bid. Remember the infamous two million-man match organized by a certain Daniel Kanu where even some members of the Super Eagles squad that represented Nigeria at the 1998 World cup tournament in France were drafted to address that unpopular gathering?
You have equally distinguished yourself from the other beneficiaries of Obasanjo’s selection who are yet to see any thing wrong with the election and from that immediate past Governor in the South East who refused to completely tar the road leading into and out of a certain community in his state simply because the leaders of that community were late in coming to show solidarity with him after his election in 1999 despite the important fact that this community in question voted massively for him in 1999 and in 2003.
Above all you have also distinguished yourself from your predecessor, OBJ who not only maintained a rather glacial and disturbing silence in the heat of the tenure elongation debate, when all he ought to have said to those who were encouraging him to manipulate the system was “get thee behind me all ye mischief makers and enemies of progress” as a devout Christian he claims to be but also conducted the worst election so far in the history of Nigeria and never saw anything ill with it.
Nice try, Mr. President. Without a doubt you have demonstrated your readiness to radically depart from the past. We need more of these examples. When are your lieutenants going to declare their own assets in the manner you just did? And how often will this imperative exercise be? Every year? Biennially? At the end of their stewardship and in your case at the end of your tenure? Or quarterly? The shorter the gap between each asset declaration period and the next the most successful you will be in checking corruption and graft among the members of your cabinet and Aides.
What is your position on health care delivery? It is a crime against humanity to deny anybody medical attention due to the inconvenient fact that he / she cannot afford to make a down payment (deposit).It is a crime against humanity because the individual’s inalienable right to life is violated. There should be a law that criminalizes the refusal of government- employed health care providers to give any sick person medical care simply because he cannot make any down payment. Please let Nigerians understand that life is good, precious, should be valued above wealth , cannot be duplicated and therefore should be preserved at all costs .It is only the healthy man that can work , pay his taxes and keep the economy going. And so all you need to do Mr. President is to say “henceforth nobody should be denied medical care at least in every government-owned facility for any reason whatsoever”. Say it as you mean it, please. We need universal medical insurance for everybody; rich or poor; young or old; employed or jobless. Such insurance should make provision for the offsetting of any medical bill anybody incurs by the federal government, their state and local government counterparts and the sick adult at the ratio of 4:3:2:1. Such insurance should also give minors and the senior citizens free Medicaid. Just say “it can and will be done”. Then God will provide the way.
Government belongs to the people. Therefore, there is no investment the government makes to assure the welfare of her citizens that should be viewed as too generous. A healthy and vibrant citizenry should be the pride of every responsible government.
You and your henchmen need to reinforce the confidence of Nigerians in the ability of our health care providers to give standard medical care to the sick by recouping your health here in Nigeria and not abroad. If you do not trust the ability of our hospitals to perform the complex procedures that warrant your frequent health related trips abroad then equip and bring them up to the standard of their foreign counterparts you guys patronize. I hope you understand that it is not every body in Nigeria that can afford to put food on the table thrice daily not to talk of going abroad for medical examination or treatment.
As the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, you are the principal custodian of the pooled cultural traditions of all the peoples of Nigeria. So do you need to eat Affang, Egusi, and Edikaikong soup with either eba, or akpu or pounded yam? Yes. How about Amala and Ewedu? Yes, Mr. President. Your diet should not be restricted to Tuwo shinkafi or Tuwo Masara only. Your mode of dressing should equally reflect the cultural values of all of us. How about wearing Agbada or Buba to work on Mondays, the Tiv/Igala/Idoma attire on Tuesdays, the Igbo traditional outfit on Wednesdays, the Rivers/Bayelsa/Efik/ Ibibio outfit on Thursdays and Caftan on Fridays. Your predecessors never did these. In fact the only times some of them were seen in an attire that had national outlook were either when receiving a chieftaincy title from some of “these other groups” or during their campaign stops .You also need to make or rather intensify effort to learn how to speak the Yoruba, Efik/Ibibio, Igbo, Edo, Tiv, and Ijaw, languages .It is not enough to have ministers from the six geo political units in your cabinet. Move a step further. Give the peoples of Nigeria a sense of pride and distinction.
Do you believe in the Rule of Law, that is --- the supremacy of the Law, equality before the law and the due processes of the law------ Mr. President? If your answer is yes, then say it. It is important .So far most Nigerian leaders both elected and appointed have demonstrated an unfortunate disregard for this important principle of government. The law has sadly lost its supremacy. It is no longer viewed as an obstacle by our leaders in doing any wrong. That is why the police can mount road -blocks not to fight robbers but to extort money from members of the public without anybody raising a finger in protest. That is why a Minister of works and Housing can afford to misappropriate the funds voted for the rehabilitation of the tax payers’ roads without his boss asking for explanation. That is why power failure is still the order of the day. That is why that graduate who is eminently qualified for a job but has no god- father can be side stepped with impunity. That is why that corrupt commissioner for public utilities can afford to commission a water project in his own community in the media while nothing has actually been done by way of effectively starting the very project. And the funds for the project? Oh! Gone with the winds. That is why INEC officials can rig elections and go scot-free. That is why the trader can raise the price of his merchandise at the slightest excuse. That is the why the owners of petrol stations can adjust their meters at every turn to make more money from the buyers of fuel. That is why the chairman of a board of a parastatal can deposit the salary of his workers in his personal account or that of a member of his household for some time before paying them. That is why pensioners can wait like forever before getting their entitlements. That is why some men can afford to put innocent ladies in the family way and decline to take paternal responsibility. Above all that is why government remains callous to the plight of the people.
Mr. President, it is a truism that some folks are more equal than others in Nigeria. There is no equality before the law in Nigeria. Barrister Kanu Agabi knows this disturbing reality. That is why some immediate past state governors who ought to have been cooling their heels off in jail are being afforded the unpopular privilege of making plea bargains while the Uwazuruikes who have been fighting against the continued government indifference to the plight of the ordinary Nigerians can be allowed to languish in jail without trial. In Nigeria the law does not have equal interpretation for everyone. What you get from it depends essentially on your status in the society and on whom you hob nub with. Something has to be done by you to restore the faith of Nigerians in the Rule of Law.
Mr. President now is the most fertile moment for you to form the habit of talking to Nigerians. You need to be talking to us periodically and not only in times of crises. Or on National days. Nigerians would want you to be in constant touch with them. How about a weekly or monthly-televised- radio/ Television address? Yes, the kind of thing the Buhari /Idiagbon regime did? This will give you the opportunity to let Nigerians know the programs and policies of your administration, the progress so far recorded and the possible challenges ahead. Nobody should be left in the dark, speculating .We all need to be on the same page at the same time. The opposition should also be given equal air- time to respond to whatever you articulate in your address. While this will help in correcting the ugly belief that the opposition exists only for “settlement”, it will also help your government from going astray. One of the problems of Nigerian politics has been the absence of credible opposition. Please do not stifle the opposition like some of your predecessors.
These concerns have to be raised and addressed now that your government is still young and not later when fatigue shall have set in because when you train a child in the way he should follow, when he grows up he will not depart from it. And so Mr. President, like Oliver Twist, we ask for more.
Ibiam Ibiam Aru , Massachusetts , USA.