UNCERTAINTY: A MALODOROUS VARIANT OF CHANGE?
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On the 29th of May( about 3weeks now), I arrived Miami, Florida in the United States of America to attend my son's graduation from the Ross University School of Medicine( RUSM). The first thing I did was to link up with Nigeria on the Internet and on phone. I was eager to hear President Buhari's inaugural speech. I was impressed with its brevity and memorable literary lacings. The quote from Shakespeare on the import of seizing the moment was heart stirring and the catcher" I belong to everybody and I belong to Nobody" was poignant, brilliant and pregnant.
When he finished speaking, I swallowed hard and lingered around as if waiting for more. Somehow, rightly or wrongly, I had expected more from that Speech. It was a speech and a day many Nigerians had waited for with high expectations. In the weeks preceding the handover, if you complained about anything, especially matters related to governance or the economy, you were told to wait till the 29th of May. And so we waited. Among other things, I was hoping to gleam from that speech the economic direction of his government and perhaps some major policy planks in the Socio-political arena. But there was not much. Well, this may be part of the change, I thought. Traditionally in Nigeria, inaugural speeches are usually longer and more detailed, whether new civilian president or new military president.
Then I concluded that the agenda would begin to unfold from the next day, more so as I have held the view that President Muhammadu Buhari has adequately prepared for the job, perhaps more than anybody else who had occupied that position. I had canvassed the expectation that he would hit the ground running. Every day I would read all the Nigerian newspapers on line, listened to Aljazera and CNN, called my friends at home in Nigeria, no news. Then we heard of the appointment of Media Adviser and a senior special assistant on media and I asked why? If we want smaller government, this is where to start. Media adviser is good enough, why duplicate with a senior special assistant on the same assignment. That was how it was, but in this change era, it should not be so. Yet, we shall still have the Minister of Information. By the way, I am told that Presidential advisers are on the same salary level with Ministers, so we already have a minister equivalent. After that, we heard that the President has sent a request for Fifteen Advisers which is equivalent to fifteen Ministers in terms of cost to the people of Nigeria. Up till date, I do not know if the Advisers were approved and who those advisers are, including what they are being hired to advise on. May be, I missed the news. But,I pray that we do not have Presidential Adviser on Domestic affairs again. Mrs Aisha Buhari should be in a position to handle this familiar terrain with ease. All we need is to increase her allowance! Then everything went cold and quiet.
I returned to the Country last week and I began to read all the newspapers afresh, in case I missed something from the online versions. I spoke to my friends in the Private sector about business, and they said everywhere was quiet, that they were waiting for the new President to unfold his economic agenda. That they were tired of second guessing him or listening to the economic projections of the cerebral Bismack Rewane, irrepressible Pat Utomi and their 'trybe' of economic 'seers and soothsayers'. That they needed to hear from the' horse's mouth'.And then I joined in the wait. And what we heard was that the President had travelled to Niger, then to Germany, then to South Africa where he told Nigerians there not to expect an old man of 72 to perform miracles or magic! Thereafter we read of elder Ahmed Joda and some APC party chieftains asking Nigerians to be patient. And I said, for how long? If they told us for how long, then we could switch off and face other things, rather than listen to AIT at 8pm, NTA at 9pm,Channels at 10pm, Silverbird at 11 pm in search of direction from the new government.
Indeed it was in this search for news, that I ran into the drama at the International conference centre in Abuja and at the National Assembly. This has kept us busy since last week, reviewing and analyzing the thriller. Who was the fifth columnist who sold the APC legislators a dummy? Whether he was an insider or outsider, he must receive an award for being the greatest dummy seller in Nigeria. For APC, it was the equivalent of scoring own goal in a World Cup final. But for Nigeria, I have a feeling that it is a good omen. Our Legislators haven blunted the party hard line of division, can now review matters from a common Nationalistic outlook. May be, this will speed up the passage of critical bills like the PIB, the Railway Bill and the recommendations of the National Conference.
Meanwhile the President has returned from his 'nuptial' trips and the transition committee has submitted its report, after reading and reviewing the handover notes from the previous government and the 'Newswatch' has resumed. Looking at the size of the reports submitted by Alhaji Joda and his team of ' transistors', I am praying that we will not need another committee to do a white paper on the report while we wait. Yesterday at a board meeting, during the discussion on the economy, many of the directors expressed concern with the level of uncertainty in the economy and complained that it was not helping business. They emphasized that businesses can not thrive in climates of uncertainty, and the longer the uncertainty, the more inclement the climate becomes. As I am won't to doing, empathizing with the establishment, I joined in the "let's be patient" sermonizing, emphasizing that Preparation comes before success and that the type of change anticipated requires plenty of preparation. In apparent frustration, one of the directors quipped " Is uncertainty part of the change we asked for?" Another answered " It could be a variant". "How?" the other guy retorted. "Because when you move from Gear one to neutral, it is a change", "Too bad!" the first director replied and concluded " If uncertainty is change, then it is a MALODOROUS one". At this point the Chairman of the Board asked for adjournment of the meeting and I supported him.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR