Restoring Citizens’ Hope: Remarks at the Buharimeter Citizens’ Town Hall Meeting
By Udo Jude Ilo
Let me start by extending my thanks and congratulations to the Centre for Development and Democracy CDD for this excellent work and their dedication in promoting democracy in Nigeria. The work you do and the courage you have shown in your conviction is heart-warming. I also want to thank and recognise the bravery of government representatives here. These are difficult times for the country and it takes a strong heart to attend an event of this nature where obviously a lot of uncomfortable question will be asked about the performance of this administration. I apologise also for my inability to be physically present in this timely national conversation.
More than two years since the advent of the President Buhari administration, there are many questions that beg for answers. It is obvious that the lofty expectations and infectious excitement that met this government’s inauguration have given way to anger and hopelessness. One of the challenges that this government recognized that it will face was the high expectation that heralded it. Understandably, after years of bad governance, unprecedented corruption and economic challenges, Nigerians hoped for a remarkable departure from the past practices of impunity and graft. Accepted that change doesn’t come easy, what has happened over the last two years have not given Nigerians enough reasons to hope. Like they say in my village Achi in Enugu State, it is from the picking of breadfruit that you recognize a child that is going to be greedy.
It is often said and quite truthfully too that it is easy to criticize government from the outside. Some of the challenges that this administration inherited may well be unprintable. So I recognize that government is dealing with a really difficult situation. In some sectors, government has tried but the enormity of the challenges makes it difficult to see these efforts.
They also say where I come from that the goat works really had but its hairs don’t allow people to see its sweat. Therefore we must acknowledge that there has been enormous effort by this government to move the country forward. Sadly if anything, our lives are not better. This is a huge source of worry. Is this government’s best not good enough or is government not doing its best?
I am convinced that Nigeria has everything it needs to overcome its problem. I am equally convinced this government has all it needs to transform Nigeria. That we don’t see this trajectory of recovery is an indictment on this administration. We are witnessing a very troubling period in Nigeria. No time since after the civil war have we seen the kind of tension and bitterness across divides in Nigeria. The stuttering economy is troubling. Inability of governments to pay salaries especially at the state level speaks to a dangerous condition that is now seeing public officers take their lives in worrying circumstances.
Unemployment is not going down and there is a general feeling of frustration. The footprints of violence is expanding- from Plateau to Kaduna, from the marauding herdsmen to a resurgence of Boko Haram, Nigerians are worried about their safety and security. These trends may have their origins from previous administrations but outside of Boko Haram, other trends have worsened under this administration such as the worrying pattern of the Governments’ reluctance to obey court orders. Nothing can justify the disrespect for the rule of law.
The sense that there is lack of commitment to the anti-graft campaign that heralded the coming into power of this Government is fast destroying its credentials of credibility. The leaked memo by the State Minister for Petroleum on the alleged illegalities and opacity in the operations of the Nigeria National Petroleum Cooperation NNPC is terrifying and government’s reluctance to push for any meaningful inquiry is as curious as it is disappointing. Months after the report of the investigation into the allegation of fraud against the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir David Lawal and the then Director General of the National Intelligence Agency Ayodele Oke was submitted to the President, nothing has been heard of it.
These trends undermine the narrative that government is working hard for Nigerians. It seems to suggest that there are different sets of rules in the country.
The discordant tunes from government especially the drama that has surrounded the nomination and Senate confirmation of the Acting Chair of the EFFC suggests incoherence and absence of coordination in government. If the government is at war with itself, how can it function? While we have a duty to appreciate the challenges facing government, it will be difficult for government to justify or excuse some of the events outlined above.
The country requires some very serious steps to deal with these challenges and to restore the hope of citizens in their government. This Town Hall event provides an opportunity for reflection and frank conversation on how this government has fared. The interest here is to find a way to move the country forward, restore hope and improve the quality of lives. This government came into power on the heels of its exceptional manifesto which painted a believable picture of a new Nigeria. Many Nigerians bought into that vision.
The Buharimeter offers the country an opportunity to monitor the effort of government to be true to these promises. Governance and democracy do not end on Election Day. What happens after election is equally important if not even more so. This forum provides an opportunity for us to be part of that democratic conversation. My hope is that we will leave this room with a better understanding of the challenges facing us and a clearer view of the pathway to progress.
Udo Jude Ilo is OSIWA (Open Society Initiative for West Africa) Country Officer.