‘The Buck Stops Here’

Several issues have been calling for the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari in recent times. Of the six or seven issues I’ve listed so far, the president has responded to only one: budget padding. And his response was too feeble. The penalty for a heinous crime like budget padding can’t be redeployment. I expected all those involved to have lost their jobs first and then have their days in court. The alternative is for the president to accept responsibility for the crime and then resign. US President Harry Truman reminded all leaders of this heavy responsibility in a notice on his office table: THE BUCK STOPS HERE. Having spent decades outside of government, President Buhari of Nigeria should know that Nigerians always ascribe every deed, good or bad, to the head of government at the time. Lest the presidency forget, here’s a quick reminder of pending issues:

Killer herdsmen in Benue: Thousands of people displaced from Agatu LGA of Benue State have yet to return to their homes. Soldiers deployed to the area to restore law and order are failing in their duty, as more people have been killed in the area and other parts of the state. Many now agree with me that the killers are mercenaries from perhaps Mali, Chad and Libya, not rustic herdsmen who can’t handle a rifle. How many of the murderers have been arrested by security operatives? Over 400 men, women and children are dead already.

Political killings in Rivers: Before yesterday’s polls in Rivers State, we saw gory pictures of headless bodies in the state and in an institution in Abia State. A few days ago, the victims of politically motivated murders in Rivers State included at least two soldiers and a DSS operative. As I write this, voting goes on in the state but the news from there is not pleasant. Will the president condemn cultists and thugs and then go to sleep? When Obasanjo ordered a massacre in Odi after the killing of 10 soldiers or so, it was not hailed because he and the soldiers overreacted. They killed innocent people long after the culprits had escaped. This time, Buhari should fish out the murderers and their sponsors – and then deal with them. And if the Rivers State government failed to cooperate by helping to find the killers, the president would be justified to declare a state of emergency in the state.

Prisoners across Nigeria: Photos of emaciated men recently released from Kaduna prisons are still circulating in the social media. Young commentators especially have been disgusted by the sight. I’m not, because I’ve visited several prisons across Nigeria in the past 30 years and seen how the poor are dehumanised in hellholes called prisons in Nigeria. I’ve seen fungi growing on a prisoner’s body! Skin diseases are common. Malnutrition is evident in their exposed skeletons. Little wonder many die in Nigerian prisons. What is worse? Most of them are not serving prison terms – they have been awaiting trial for years. Some of them committed no crime but were put there by “big” people. Some committed crimes like chicken theft, palm-oil theft and land-trespass offences. President Buhari can intervene by ordering the courts to finish up their cases or grant them bail immediately. Many of them could be pardoned too. At least, the prisons should be decongested to make room for the billionaire looters of our common wealth.

Redundant laws: It’s good to inform the president of the penchant of our lawmakers for time-wasting, despite the humongous amounts they earn as salary each month. A National Assembly that has failed to pass important bills (like the PIB) in 12 years preoccupies itself with “gender equality” bill. Our constitution makes males and females equal: no discrimination because of sex. I wonder what else the gender equality bill seeks to achieve.

In Kaduna State, also, Governor Nasir el-Rufai is trying to tamper with people’s right to freedom of worship and freedom of expression. A state law prohibiting preaching without licence must be in conflict with the nation’s constitution that guarantees those rights. All that is needed to send such law to the dustbin is a suit to be filed by a young lawyer on behalf of all Kaduna people.

In either case – Kaduna or NASS – the right message should come from the presidency: Stop wasting valuable time. Do the work for which you were elected.

Central Bank jobs scam: The charge is that, since July 2014, the Central Bank of Nigeria has hired more than 1, 000 employees but none of the positions has been advertised in accordance with the rules. The beneficiaries have been the children, relations and friends of the rich and the powerful in Nigeria. None of them was subjected to aptitude tests or an oral interview! Since the story broke on Sahara Reporters, many young people have been calling for a bloody revolution to get rid of their oppressors. The presidency has not reacted, up until the time of this writing. But everyone is waiting for a response from the man and the party that have sworn to fight corruption in Nigeria.

It’s not only in the CBN that this act of nepotism has been going on for years. It’s been worse in the NNPC, NCC, NDIC, Customs & Excise, NIS and a few other well-paying agencies. A note from a senator or a governor or a minister or a traditional ruler secures an employment letter in those places. Often, the positions are advertised after they have been filled. The children of the poor then flood the agency’s office with millions of applications and credentials attached. The tragedy of Nigeria is that the rich have refused to invest in businesses that employ people. While they send their sons and daughters to “work” (or while away time) in well-paying government establishments, they ask the poor to embrace farming. How the CBN saga will be treated will define the Buhari presidency and its change mantra.

Moreover… The National Assembly did not disappoint us last week. Those who waited for the 2016 budget to be passed were mere dreamers. Although the legislators have promised to conclude the job this week, after chipping off more rough edges, I’m still not hopeful. One quarter has been lost already. Will the lawmakers and the executive eat into the second quarter also? After March 31, there should be no more excuses for delaying the budget’s passage. We know where the buck stops.


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