Before It Is Too Late for Her | By Pius Adesanmi

I return from a three-week sojourn in Kenya to general election season in Ontario. I return to the chromatic effervescence of electoral flyers, posters, and sundry campaign materials. Campaign ads become oxygen – inescapable, unavoidable. Ontario politicians, like their peers all over the world, are doing their do.

My voter information card, I am told, arrived a week ago in the mail. My six-year-old wields it in excitement, flashing a dentition with window designs that weren’t there when I left three weeks ago for Nairobi. The tooth faerie has had a rich harvest of two teeth while I was away.

Daddy, voter card, voter card, she screams.

Oh, that’s my PVC, I say.

Daddy, what’s PVC?

A voice in my head says: there you go again! Inflicting Nigeria on this Canadian child. Years before she will ever vote, they probably have started teaching her elementary notions of elections in civic classes in school. They are breaking down elections to juvenile concepts for them. Her teacher taught her voter information card, you are saying PVC. Must every detail of life pass through a Nigerian semantic sieve in your brain?

Daddy, what’s PVC?

That is what we call that card you are holding in Nigeria.

Daddy this is Canada.

A bere niyen. Give me my card jor, Madam Canada.
Father and daughter joke and fool around. I chase her for the card. Then I settle down to the serious business of getting into election mode and spirit.

I am a very important person in my upper middle class suburbia neighbourhood. Because oyinbo people are always buying and selling homes like suya, many of our original neighbours who were here when we bought ten years ago have all sold and moved to other neighbourhoods, making us one of the oldest residents.

Were my neighbourhood in Nigeria – there you again, Pius! – I’d be something of an Area Father in Lekki or VI, a ceremonial Baba Isale. In political terms, I’d be a very important ward or neighbourhood chieftain – the person party elders and stalwarts go to see or send emissaries to during an election cycle.

These considerations are on my mind as I start to inspect the house.

I check the pantry. Nothing there beyond our usual wholesale Costco shopping. I was expecting sacks of rice, beans, cartons of this and that, garawas of ororo and palm oil.

I move on to our deep freezers. We have three deep freezers in the house. Nothing in them beyond our own regular supplies. I was expecting all three freezers to be overloaded with beef, goat meat, turkey, and chicken.

Maybe all the stuff is in our backyard, I say to myself, after all, we have a huge backyard.

I go to the backyard, expecting to see tethered cows, goats, and turkeys struggling for space. Again, nothing.

By now, I am getting alarmed. I rush back inside to check my bank accounts online: no deposits. Now, I know something is seriously wrong somewhere. I query madam.

Didn’t you say that politicians and their campaign volunteers were all over the neighbourhood, stomping and doing door to door campaigning while I was away in Kenya?

Yes now. Is this not election season? Shebi you have your voter information card. You better tune in and decide on a party and candidate.

She does not know why I asked that question. She only implores me to go do early voting. Me, I am thinking of other serious stuff. All around the house are campaign literature.

Me? A whole neighbourhood chieftain? Candidates and campaign volunteers have been visiting and dropping campaign documents and related literature? No mobilization! No infrastructure of any sort! A whole me, my house is littered with campaign paper. Me fa! Do they know who I am?

Whatever happened to:

Madam, good evening, we are from XYZ party. Is Chief at home?

No, he is in Kenya.

Eeya, we met his absence?

Yes.

In that case, tell Chief that we want to do well in this neighbourhood and we know that we have a father in him and we don’t have to worry. We have some campaign materials for the entire neighbourhood that we have brought for Chief to share as he deems fit. Please ma, where can we offload these two trailer loads of rice, beans, salt, palm oil, and ororo? We also have a trailer load of cows, goats, rams, turkey, and chicken. Can we tether them all in your backyard?

Ehen, Madam, before we leave, can you please give us Chief’s account details? The party chairman asked for it. Chief will receive an alert. Please tell Chief to help us manage whatever he sees. We know that he is more than that. The Party Chairman will pay him a visit when he returns from Kenya.

Nothing like the desirable scenario above has happened. Instead, I have a voter information card and loads of literature from the parties and the candidates. I tell myself that Canadian democracy is backward, primitive, and underdeveloped. I tell myself that Canadian politicians belong in the 17th century.

My six-year-old boss interrupts my thought. Whatever elementary civics they are teaching her at school has combined with weeks of relentless political ads on TV to turn her to a precocious little political animal. I am amazed by the sophistication of her political chatter.

So, Daddy, who will you vote for? I like the woman. She speaks about interesting issues…

Oh, my Gosh, young lady, what in the name of Baba Adesanmi do you know about political issues?

She smiles and resumes her game but I am extremely worried. Here is a six-year-old tuning in to campaign season, listening to politicians on TV, and trying to break down their campaign issues.

If care is not taken (as we say in Nigeria), this child may start to talk about what a particular politician has said about health, education, infrastructure, wages, social safety net, commodities prices, housing, the future generation and such other nonsense.

I mean, here am I, her father, in a murderous mood, ruing the insult of politicians coming around without “seeing” him with mobilization and stomach infrastructure commensurate with his status and standing in the neighbourhood and she is opening her six-year-old mouth to talk nonsense about issues? Who issues epp?

I decide that before Canada ruins my daughter’s life with civics and issues, I will have to take her urgently to Nigeria. I will have to introduce her to her people and their world so she does not grow up clinging to the dangerous and erroneous notion that elections should be about vision and issues.

Come to think of it, by the time we vote next week, she would have gone through this entire election season in Ontario without hearing a single gun shot. People will be counting votes next week. Not corpses. What sort of life is that? I can’t allow my child to grow up without associating elections with guns, cutlasses, and corpses. I have to take her urgently to her people in Nigeria.

*********
Evening. The door bell screams. My daughter rushes to the door. I follow. At the door, three foot soldiers of a particular candidate. All young girls. Everything about them screams teenagers. They are pounding the pavement. They are campaign volunteers. Their enthusiasm is infectious.

How old are Y’all, if I may ask.

Two chorus eighteen, one says nineteen.

My six-year-old is already plastering them with questions. They try to sell their candidate to me. They are doing the issues thing. My daughter too is relating to them. Four Canadians, one alienated Nigerian. They are telling me about their candidate’s website. I can go there for elaborations on each campaign issue, they say. Or call any of these dedicated numbers.

I am drifting away from them. And. From. My. Daughter.

I am now hearing only the occasional word.

Issues.

Our.

Future.

Education.

Is important.

To our candidate.

I continue hearing them in bit parts as my mind drifts away. Two eighteen-year-olds, one nineteen-year-old. So passionate about campaign issues.

They have not come to my doorstep bearing mobilization.

They have not come to my doorstep bearing any kind of infrastructure and facilitation.

They have come bearing campaign literature and issues. Like the Canadian politicians they represent and believe in, like Canadian democracy, these girls are backward and primitive.

I look at them and see the future of my daughter. At eighteen, she too would be pounding pavements after school, volunteering and campaigning for politicians about issues important to her life and her future. Unless I do something drastic, she will be talking the sort of nonsense that these teenagers are yarning to me and her now.

No. This daughter of mine must go to Nigeria before it is too late for her!

She must go and meet her people and learn how they see themselves. She must learn that everything is reducible to food right now, food at this very moment. She must learn to become a prisoner of her belly and the moment. When you shit the food you have just eaten this moment, you move on to another this moment of food. And you must develop a culture of guns and bullets to secure this food this moment. That is how generation after generation of her people have done it. I must save her from Canada’s backwardness. She must evolve from Canada’s 17th century democracy to Nigeria’s 21st century democracy.

The Canadian teenagers drone on, punctuating my reverie. I hear them in single words and not in sentences:

Issues.

Health.

Education.

Infrastructure.

Our future…

Codeine is the New Cocaine – Tunde Asaju

Even when the Asiwaju Peoples Congress turns Naija into paradise on Sai Baba’s second term, enemies would keep the focus on the negative. If we used them, body bags would have been sent to Birnin Gwari, Mubi and Maiduguri where people are dying left, right and center. Our lacrimogenous glands have been blocked since adversaries took away our sense of national outrage replacing it with ethnicity and religious bigotry.

The business-savvy among us has called for arms rather than seek the path to peace. An eye for an eye does not leave half the world blind as some would say; it evens the score. Isn’t that what we want – an even world?

If you were sitting in a coffee shop trying to catch up with what is going on in Naija, you should be blamed for increasing national heartache and hyperventilation over the death of a few disposable individuals. Why should anyone be outraged when Fulanis are killing Gambaris?

Alhamdullilah! At least General Brutal is not sitting down on his table at Defence Headquarters doing nothing. That is not what a gallant general does when his daytime hobby is wrestling pythons as anyone with Google could verify. No, they skirt trouble spots and portray their gallantry to shame the likes of Jerry Rawlings who think we make more pepper soup generals than real fighters.

We are lucky to have a working general at the command of our troops in these times. Only the wicked would suggest his resignation just because under his watch, too many people, soldiers included have died. A soldier swears to lay down his life, even for an ungrateful and uncaring nation.

If every time a soldier is ambushed; if every time a town is razed and raided or a displaced people’s camp is attacked we sheepishly follow after muzungus and resign, who would be left to prosecute the war? General Brutal has been upandan rallying his troops. If you’re not a Naija speaker, befriend one and increase your vocabulary.

General Brutal has done it again reinforcing security after attacks – yippee! Birnin Gwari would get a new formation. It takes over 40 deaths to get that – martyrs all. Last Saturday he intercepted and arrested the four (4) armed robbers terrorising the Numan-Yola axis. Har abadaa forever, you’ll never hear of robbery on that road again.

If Donald Trump’s army chief had accomplished this feat, the world would have shared the Nobel Peace Prize nomination with him. But, let’s not go there, because if half of the people who died in Birnin Gwari had died anywhere in America, even Trump would have increased his vocabulary and flags would have flown at half-mast for the rest of his presidency. Forgive Naija migrants for refusing Rudolf Ogwo’s recommended reading – This American Life.

That’s not all. Somewhere in the northcentral region, one checkpoint yielded 92-armed herdsmen. It actually happened, but the BBC would not make a documentary about it. They prefer to chase codeine upandan.

Talking about codeine, I have come across an appreciation letter from the League of Smugglers to acknowledge the federal government’s efforts at beating President Jones billionaires list and increasing current job numbers. In the letter, the League declared it’s loyalty to the Sai Baba administration for putting codeine on the banned substance list without a plan of action for drug rehabilitation.

The group believes that this action would boost the country’s economy and increase the number of zombies roaming the streets or chained to trees. Then, enjiowo or NGOs would have something to harangue donors about.

According to the statement, members would vote for Buhari’s re-election to augment Ganduje’s magical numbers. The movement affirms that with codeine officially banned, its value would now surpass gbana or cocaine on major outlets. In a rare show of patriotism, the group assured Netanyahu that his agency would meet and surpass its targets this year and the next, as it would cooperate in exposing any outsider hoping to cash in on the trade without paying registration fees. Provided, the group says, officers cooperate with registered members whose list would be forwarded to all border posts.

The group affirmed that as long as the law of demand drives supplies, it would continue to make brisk business and urged statisticians to add thousands into the number of employment that would be created as a result of this ban. Now, who says Sai Baba would not win a second term?

Half of 36 States Insolvent: An Issue for the New Candidates By Pius Adesanmi

Increasingly, you hear a segment of the commentariat scream that restructuring in Nigeria is a complex set of issues and problems that should be nuanced. Such commentators often ask: what is restructuring? What exactly are we restructuring? They then berate those who have “a simplistic, financial understanding of the issue”.

Well, I have a simplistic, financial understanding of the issue. Insofar as Nigeria is concerned, every other nuance, every other understanding of restructuring, sits on that one foundation of the economic and the financial side of things. I don’t understand why folks are trying to muddy the waters by adding layers of other complex issues.

The narrative is simple and we should not make it complex. Nigeria as is has only one feeding bottle. The cerelac in the feeding bottle is disproportionately produced by certain sections of the country. Another section of the country has disproportionately controlled this singular feeding bottle, has been extremely rude and arrogant about it, and has convinced herself that she has a manifest destiny to control the feeding bottle. Manifest Destiny in political science has a local name in Nigeria: born to rule mentality.

We are saying there is the necessity of creating numerous other feeding bottles. We are saying: hold your own feeding bottle and find the cerelac to put in it and do whatever you please. Every province in Canada is OYO. You are on your own with your feeding bottle and your cerelac. You pay something to Ottawa. Dazzol.

Because of this arrangement, you hardly ever see provincial premiers in Ottawa. What are you coming to do in the Federal capital? It would be odd, totally strange to see the Premier of British Columbia or Alberta making frequent stops in Ottawa.

With very few exceptions, the state capital is a secondary home of a Nigerian governor. Abuja is their permanent home address. They must constantly go and grovel in Aso Rock. Yahaya Bello of Kogi, Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna, Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara, and Rochas Okorocha of Imo have taken Abuja junkets to a disgraceful level. They don’t even pretend to have any dignity.

If you look at the newly-released Economic Confidential Annual State Viability Index (ASVI) 2017, you will understand that those who are saying there is more to restructuring than fiscal and economic federalism are just wasting our time and confusing us. Every other issue is secondary to genuine fiscal federalism as far as I am concerned.

According to the 2017 ASVI, 17 of Nigeria’s 36 states are insolvent, a.k.a not viable. That is half the states in the country! There are of course levels to insolvency. Of the 17 insolvent states, here are those who would absolutely not be able to survive without the federal feeding bottle: Bauchi, Yobe, Borno, Kebbi, Katsina, and Jigawa.

It should not be rocket science why the north, writ large, is the traditional home of opposition to fiscal federalism alias restructuring.

If you want to understand the journey to this conundrum, you have to look at the total history of state agitation in Nigeria, especially in the period between the transition from 19 to 36 states. You must also look at the mentality informing current agitation for more states.

If you examine the archives, you will discover that at no time in Nigeria’s history has agitation for and creation of more states been ever informed by considerations of viability because Nigeria operates a philosophy and a political system featuring an overcentralized feeding system from only one source – that is prebendalism.

The discontent leading to agitation of a new state is always fed by ethnicity (we are Yewa, we want a Yewa state) or religion (we are a Christian minority in southern Kaduna, we want a state), never by viability.

The ethnic and religious side of this discontent is then fed by an overriding desire to have a better stake in the distribution from the centre. In other words, you want states not because they are viable but because you want to bring the feeding bottle pipelines closer to you.

In this sort of atmosphere, the longer you have controlled the centre, the more time you have had to carve indigent states and thus saddle your own geo-political zone with a disproportionate concentration of indigent and unviable states, totally dependent on the centre.

This is essentially where we are today. And this is the nut we must ask Kingsley Moghalu and other new candidates to address. I know that Atiku went to London to address restructuring but he is not a candidate I am adducing any credibility to. I am focusing, as you know, on the new, paradigm shift candidates.

However, Atiku did churn out the usual cliched orthodoxy about restructuring in London. Atiku’s speech does not tell us how he proposes to change the predominant mindset about restructuring in his own part of the country. What does Moghalu have to offer beyond that? In essence, how do you bring the north on board the train of genuine fiscal federalism when the reality is that too many states yonder are unviable?

Elsewhere, I have proposed a comprehensive approach to this matter but I am not going to mention it here because Moghalu and the other new candidates should be pressed on it. They should be supplying the answers for vetting.

Written By
Prof Pius Adesanmi

Bello,Dino & the Role of Hunger By Pius Adesanmi

Too many commentators are misreading what really went down in Kogi. I am talking about the failure of Dino’s recall.

Some say it is an indication of Dino’s strength and support in Okunland. That is rubbish.

Some say it is an indication of Bello’s unpopularity in Okunland. That is partial rubbish.

Partial rubbish because such readings see a direct correlation between Dino’s purported popularity and Bello’s purported unpopularity. Bello is not supposedly unpopular because Dino is supposedly popular.

Bello is massively unpopular in Okunland because at no time in the history of my people have poverty, hunger, and hopelessness been this widespread.

Our people are so hungry they no longer have any memory of what it means to have a full belly; they no longer have any memory of what it means to be decently human.

Personally, I have been severely hit by the widespread hunger in Okunland but how far can the salary of one person (with his own family) go via Western Union? N10k here, N20K there running into thousands every month to alleviate hunger yet you know it is really nothing.

The poverty has always been there but it skyrocketed in the last two years. From Egbe to Kabba via Isanlu and Mopa, people are literally just dropping dead owing to poverty.

I have lost count of how many extended family members I have lost this year – old, young, men, women. We are now in a situation where in many families, corpses are dropping while you are planning the burial of other corpses.

An aunty died recently in my extended family. We are planning her funeral. Her daughter drops dead. These are scenarios replicated across Okunland, drowned by official narratives from Lokoja denying these realities.

Every time I ask Mama Adesanmi what the heck is going on? Why are our people dropping dead at such a dizzying rate? She has one unchanging answer: poverty. She would sigh and say:

“Bola, iyan ni o. Ebi npa awon eyan wa.”

From Kabba to Egbe, that is the same song on everybody’s lips.

We are dying.
We are hungry.
We are tired.

I am saying in essence that our folks are too tired and weary to step out for any yeye INEC verification.

In the extended oriki family of Baba Adesanmi alone, we have 3 dead bodies on the ground – including a mother and daughter – that we are yet to bury as I write. We hold poverty and hunger responsible. Then some people come, talking about signature verification. Who do you think is going to step out for that?

Our people have been beaten to a point where only stomach infrastructure can get you to that queue. You do not go and stand in any queue on an empty stomach.

Those who do no understand these dynamics will be surprised to see the same people – who did not step out now – stepping out during election time when stomachially mobilized by Dino.

Bello stands little chance in Okunland not because of Dino or because of his ethnicity. It is because he is associated with the worst experience of dehumanization by hunger that the Okun have ever known in their history.

Written By
Prof Pius Adesanmi

President Buhari As a Public Relations Nightmare – By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, these are not the best of times for our dear President, Muhammadu Buhari. And it must be much worse for his media handlers. Let me state matter-of-factly, from the onset, that President Buhari gets into regular trouble, indeed, too frequently, because he has invested heavily in a media team but lacks a public relations team. In Nigeria, most leaders fail to realize that being a good journalist, Editor, Publisher, Broadcaster, and what have you, does not make you a good or excellent public relations guru. The other problem is I’m not sure the President is surrounded by those bold or brave enough to look him straight in the eye to tell him the honest truth. His earlier persona as a military ruler has also not helped matters in this respect. The fear of a military dictator is the beginning of wisdom, according to the view of an average Nigerian.

I must confess that I have been a latter-day convert and ardent fan of President Buhari. I signed up only after he decided to contest the 2015 elections for a record fourth time. I took the view that he was the best man for the job particularly because the Jonathan administration was fumbling and not prone to correction. I played my part in articulating the President’s attraction for me and those like me who felt that he was what Nigeria required at the time, a stop-gap in the mould of Mandela option. Without being immodest I can say that I successfully played my own part in the eventual victory of APC and the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket.

I first had a significant interaction with Buhari in 2011, when he asked Dr Lanre Tejuoso to bring me to his house in Abuja and we got on quite well. The camaraderie was palpable. And he disarmed me with his candour and passion. Prior to the 2015 election, I met Buhari in London at a flat in Mayfair, the day he spoke at Chatham House. He sprang to his feet as soon as I walked in and appeared happy to see me. We chatted briefly and took several pictures with Rotimi Amaechi, Hadi Sirika, Festus Keyamo, Hadiza Bala Usman and others. He was as effervescent and excited as everyone else at the prospect of becoming Nigeria’s new leader. His optimism for the country was infectious and I believed I had made a wise decision in deciding to follow and publicly support him.

I vividly recollect my meeting with President Buhari shortly after he assumed office in 2015. This was at his behest. I found him very relaxed and jocular. We again got on well. Contrary to the public misconception and rumours about his taciturnity, he was witty, chatty and freely spoke his mind. He certainly did not appear dictatorial or aloof. Many of those who saw our interaction on television, as well as the pictures in different media, could not believe how freely we had bonded. I was surprised when a few Ministers asked what I did to make him feel so comfortable with me. Even before I went in to see him, a few people had pleaded with me to help talk to him frankly. I started getting the feeling that they considered me a suicide bomber who should carry away the sins of the earth. But the Buhari I met was not as difficult as he was made out to be. Everyone says when you hold meetings with him, it is a monologue, you are forced to do the talking while he does the listening. And that you never know whether he has heard you or what is on his mind. That was not the Buhari I met. He was receptive and we exchanged ideas on the various issues of national and social interest that we talked about.

It is one of those inexplicable ironies that the same man who generated and galvanised so much love and passionate affection has lost and squandered most of that uncommon goodwill. No one since the June 12, 1993, election, which was clearly and undoubtedly won by Chief MKO Abiola, has had such monumental, widely acclaimed and fair victory as President Buhari did in 2015. The youths of Nigeria were so much in love with him that they studiously ignored all his shortcomings and embraced him warts and all. The same youths are so angry today that I’m almost certain it would take some magic and miracle to get them to reconnect with our President like they did in 2015. There was nothing anyone could have said negatively to Buhari that they would have believed at that time. As a matter of fact, the youths said if Buhari presented NEPA bills as his school certificate result, they would accept it as genuine and further, that they were ready to march for Buhari all the way to Aso Rock.

So what went wrong? It is difficult to point at just one thing. It has been an amalgamation of conflicting issues and signals. The first was the attitude exhibited early in the life of this government that there was no real urgency and Buhari could take forever to handpick his team. The government lost the much-needed steam at that moment. And when the team was announced, it was déjà vu, because there was no difference and no big deal about their composition. Next was the witting or unwitting decision to start a war of attrition within his own party. I warned against this very quickly, but was dismissed as raising false alarm. The APC became a house divided against itself. Till this day they couldn’t hold regular meetings, they couldn’t make most of the necessary political appointments, they couldn’t select their board of trustees, they couldn’t even hold a convention to celebrate their victory not to talk of one to elect a new national executive and so on.

The Party’s highfalutin campaign promises soon became its albatross. The grandiloquent manifesto had been packaged to entice everyone like babies to lollipop but when the day of reckoning and delivery came, the chocolate boxes were suddenly and strangely empty. The schools feeding programs could not be achieved. The social security and welfare packages of arranging stipends for the unemployed youths reached a cul-de-sac because government could not muster such resources. The President’s avowed fiscal policy target of parity between the Naira and the US Dollar – One Naira to one US Dollar proved to be a pipe dream that all discerning members of the public knew it would be. Indeed, it was much worse as the Naira slid to its lowest ever price against all currencies including African ones.

Buhari’s biggest attraction was the belief that he would easily wipe out, or at least significantly reduce, corruption in Nigeria. Those who believed the hype saw him as the only saint in Nigeria, but they forgot that sinners are probably the only ones capable of catapulting the saint to power. He tried his best in fighting the demons of Nigerian democracy, but they were much smarter than he ever bargained for. Pronto, the demons lined up in a long queue and migrated from PDP to APC where they are now comfortably ensconced and protected. Several corruption allegations and scandalous revelations involving members of the government or trusted aides and associates have either been ignored or swept under the carpet. Thus it has become difficult for the ruling party to stand on any moral ground and sermonise or pontificate about fighting corruption. For every finger pointed at others, four fingers pointed back at them. The sacred cows, otherwise known as the cabal, and other members of the Politburo have remained mysteriously and monstrously powerful and untouchable.

The most nauseating to many people has been the blame game. This has irritated so many people, including former Head of State and President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who exploded and told Buhari frontally to deliver on his promises instead of his regular lamentations. He effectively said everyone knew the former government did abominably badly and that is why it was sacked. The blame game seemed to have backfired as Nigerians are bored sick of hearing the same jejune tales over and over, instead of government telling us the good news of their own kingdom, and juxtaposing their own achievements against that of former President Goodluck Jonathan. The government should have known that hungry people hardly listen attentively to preaching and sooner than later would request for the way forward. Using the past as an excuse can only work up to a point. The people want action and not this litany of woes.

The other problem, and this is grave, is that the President hardly talks to Nigerians in Nigeria. And when he speaks, the words are so scanty and not much can be grabbed from them. Our President was critically ill and had to domicile himself abroad for several months cumulatively, yet no one knows what was wrong till this day. A public figure cannot afford to be too secretive in this manner. It only fuels curiosity and promotes ugly rumours. Significantly, the President who does not speak at home picks the wrong places and occasions to talk abroad and attracts controversies and public ridicule to himself and his country. The headlines have always been for the wrong reasons rather than the right mileage for the country and himself from the international media exposure and interest. On those trips, we’ve expanded the lexicon with such phrases as “the other room”; or as the latest gaffe goes “young people who want to sit and want to be paid free money and free health…”

I have been inundated by calls since President Buhari made his latest remarks in London in answer to a question at the end of his keynote address at the Commonwealth Business Forum. To say most of the comments have been quite bad is an understatement. To properly understand I listened to the video and transcribed it myself, although I also had access to my dear brother, the Special Adviser Media to the President, Femi Adesina’s transcription. Below is my humble effort:

“We have ah, a very young population. Our population is estimated conservatively to be ah, a hundred and eighty million. Ah, this is a conservative one. More than 60 per cent of the population is below the age of (sic) thirty. Ah, a lot of them haven’t been to school. They are claiming ah, ah, you know, that Nigeria has been an oil producing country, therefore ah, they should sit and do nothing and get housing, healthcare, ah, education free.”

The furore and fury the latest controversy has generated on social media is almost unprecedented. It is like touching the tiger by the tail. A seemingly harmless statement credited to President Buhari has ignited a huge conflagration everywhere. I felt bad for Femi Adesina as he struggled to defend, explain and transliterate what the President said or meant to say to an unwilling and unyielding audience. It has become a very heavy cross he must carry every time his boss speaks these days and it cannot be easy. It is true the President did not use the word lazy or say that all Nigerian youths sit at home and do nothing. It is also not true that he used the word half-educated. However, what he said about the youths suggests something worse, although that is clearly not what was meant. “a lot of them did not go to school”, translates to a lot of them are uneducated which is even worse than half-educated. One may pardon the President because empirically this is true of the educationally disadvantaged States with which he is very familiar, but it is blatantly false about the south where education is much advanced. Similarly, to say somebody sits down and does nothing and wants to claim freebies is to say that person is irresponsible. In my view, this is much worse than laziness. Factor in the fact that free health, free education and affordable housing for all, were the campaign slogans of the APC and no one begged for it. So you can see a public relations disaster right before your very eyes.

President Buhari indeed has become a public relations nightmare. He is seriously in need of experts and coaches in public speaking and etiquette, especially now that he has decided to challenge fate by aspiring for a second term in office. If the plan is to throw in combatants, trolls and internet warriors to bully his opponents into submission, it would not fly. He needs all the gentility in the world to cajole, coax and convince Nigerians that he means well; that he knows what he is doing; that he is tackling the difficult challenges; that he is not a religious bigot or ethnic supremacist or jingoist; that he would reduce the menace of, if not wipe out, Boko Haram; that he would destroy the rampaging invaders called herdsmen wherever they are coming from; that he would revamp and improve the economy; that he would create opportunities for all Nigerians including jobs for our restive youths; and above all that he will keep all the brightest people closer to him …

I pray it is not too late…

Written by
Dele Momodu
www.thebossnewspapers.com