“The political system needs reform, but the guards don’t want change”


EZE ONYEKPERE is a lawyer and executive director of the Center for Social Justice. He specializes in development law, including electricity reforms, fiscal governance, human rights and constitutional reforms. Called to the Bar in 1988, he has worked on electric power sector reforms, privatization, trade and gender policy, and education liberalization. He spoke in Abuja at NOSA IGBINADOLOR

It has been seven years since the Buhari administration took office and there is about a year to go. How do you assess the president’s seven years?

A. The Buhari administration was a monumental disaster. A catastrophe of unimaginable and unprecedented proportions, considering who he was meant to be and the messianic impressions he created on himself from the start.

But in retrospect, Nigerians were gullible because it is not about what someone says about themselves or what those who market it say, it is a survey of what it stands for, its philosophies of life and governance.

Nigerians might have been blackmailed into thinking that his first stint in management between 1984 and 1985 was a golden era. This was not the case. He failed to manage the economy during this period and resorted to rationing and barter trade.

I hope Nigerians have learned their lessons, but I’m not too sure because a good chunk of the population is still stuck in a time warp.

It was a time of nepotism and nepotistic governance, just like today. In the thirty years he was not in power, he never gave a lecture or wrote a treatise to espouse his views on life and his philosophies of governance, but the rare times he is intervened in a national discourse, it was to intervene on behalf of dissidents. , narrow, sectoral and religious groups.

You will recall that Boko Haram appointed him to represent them in talks with the government. Why? Did they just see him on the street and name him? Of course not. There had to be a story. These are the facts.

We were the ones who got it wrong, because his background, his life story, nothing showed that he had the ability to lead the country; a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and diverse country like Nigeria. Even security where it was boasted of having more knowledge, we saw the result. Failure!

Look at national unity, we are more divided today than seven years ago, and he started it. At the end of the election, there would be divisions within politics. People voted for this candidate or the other candidate, and people would be equally moved by their losses.

As a leader you have to bring people together, that’s what a leader does. What did Buhari do? He began deliberately celebrating his victory in a way that was offensive. In the interviews he gave, he talked about the 97% and the 5%, the “us” and the “them”, and defined an ethnic group as nothing more than a dot in a circle.

So, he told a certain section of Nigerians that he didn’t care about them, he hated them. Obviously, he is a man without a sense of history. So the administration has been a disaster and his departure in 2023 would be good riddance to the bad trash. Nigerians will celebrate the day Buhari leaves but we will outlive him.

Read also: Roguery of political parties & election 2023

Looking at the country today and the many varied depressing data, what do you think are the opportunities the country has missed as a result of the actions and inactions of the president?

President Buhari had the opportunity to unite Nigerians. He had the opportunity to bring everyone into the national development task in terms of appointments to critical national institutions, even in terms of the way he speaks because the way you speak as president also tells people who you are. Also in terms of how to proceed.

The president claims to be leading an anti-corruption fight, but yet look at the man who has just been elected president of the ruling party. The president’s party is led by someone who faces corruption charges unless the EFCC drops the charges. The president actively supported the election of Abdullahi Adamu.

Former Gombe State Governor Danjuma Goje wanted to run against the current Senate President in 2019 for the seat. He was persuaded to give up his ambition by the presidency, and part of the conditions for him to give up and support the incumbent president of the Senate was that his court case be withdrawn and the attorney general go and file a complaint without after.

Thus, they corrupted state institutions. EFCC has been so politicized. There was a time in this country when when the EFCC arrested people it was considered serious, now everything is ridiculed and downplayed. So this idea of ​​uniting the country was thrown out the window from day one. So there is us and them.

In terms of the economy, the caliber of people he has appointed to lead the economy simply does not have the pedigree. Which of them belongs to the class of Okonjo Iwealas? Which of them is in the class of Akinwumi Adesinas of this world?

Which of them is in the Soludos class? Which of them is in the class of the deposed emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido? Where are the bottom men and women? What original idea did they come up with? The TSA they tout is a product of the previous government.

All the infrastructure projects they run were all initiated by the former government. Yes, the government is a continuity, but you have to bring something new to the table in terms of ideas and strategy. Nigeria has entered two recessions under Buhari, oil production has declined dramatically with Tony Elumelu and Pastor Adeboye telling us that we are losing up to 80% of our oil production. Has this ever happened before? Today, we can’t even meet our OPEC quota.

Under the Jonathan administration, the NNPC was claiming a subsidy for 30 to 35 million liters per day of PMS and there was a huge outcry that people were just bringing documents, letters of credit and no ships were coming and they were asking for money.

Probes have been put in place at both the executive and legislative levels and confirmed, and some people have been prosecuted. So this shows that our real consumption could be 20-25 million liters per day and the rest is just money for “the boys”.

Enter the so-called anti-corruption Buhari, and today NNPC is claiming a subsidy on 65 million liters per day. That’s after two recessions, factory closures and a 33% unemployment rate, the highest in the country’s history.

Do they want us to believe that our consumption of PMS has increased at a time of massive economic downturn? 35 million liters were tainted with fraud. Two recessions later, unprecedented factory closures and the second highest unemployment rate in the world, they now claim we use 65 million liters. Indeed, in one of the months last year, they claimed 101 million liters per day.

What it shows is that corruption has more than quadrupled. Buhari is the oil minister. Do you think anyone can commit this level of fraud and the minister doesn’t know about it? Doesn’t the Minister of State know? 35 million a day was a fraud, so what is 65 million then?

Our GDP has fallen sharply since 2015. Under this government, we use 97% of our internally generated revenue to service debt. We borrow money to pay salaries, we borrow to run projects. So what progress are we measuring? Under this government, progress can only be measured in terms of deception.

Thus, the process of electing a new president has begun and it seems that nothing has changed, either in terms of recruiting leaders and the heinous sums spent in the process. What do you think Nigerians should look at when electing a leader and what kind of political reforms are needed?

I hope Nigerians have learned their lessons, but I’m not too sure because a good chunk of the population is still stuck in a time warp. Much of the population has been deliberately kept illiterate and manipulative over ethnic and religious sentiments.

I just hope against hope that we chose well. First of all, you can see from what happened at the APC convention that there was simply an imposition of candidates and I will be surprised if their primaries are different.

The PDP looks like a big bazaar where everyone wants to be president. Thirty years ago, Atiku Abubakar raced against MKO Abiola. I don’t know the age of his ideas but I just want you to see the picture. The usual faces are still in the running. The few new faces do not seem to have a strong hold on the party apparatus. So to be honest, we’ll probably still end up in the same old circle.

Nigerians should ask themselves what those who aspire to lead them bring to the table. I mean, you ran a state and made it fail and the EFCC is after you and you want to run the country. You’re the governor of an oil-rich state and you owe retirees, but you’re throwing money all over the country and want to do the same at the federal level. Another aspirant tells us that his life ambition is to be President of Nigeria and that is the only reason he deserves to lead us.

The system needs strong reforms, but the gatekeepers do not want change.

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