I have refrained from writing about this. But now I am constrained to do so because some folks say I may have fundamentally changed my views on Buhari as I have recently praised some of his actions and policy direction. I therefore will restate my fundamental position on the Buhari presidency. That I was skeptical about him and did not want him to be President. I am still skeptical. But I will return to this matter.
The vile propaganda against Jonathan was such an unprecedented tsunami that I put up shining armour to support the weak and did my bravest best to counter the avalanche of lies orchestrated by compromised traditional and online media organs and blogs. The false campaigns continue today. Not surprising, I was labeled a dyed in the wood Jonathan supporter in some quarters. Though many who did so know that, save the resource control hat I wear, I have never had any dealings with Jonathan, not with any single person in his presidency, government, his party PDP nor any state government or contractors. I was just absolutely riled up with the fabrications (for instance that Jonathan had set up snipers to kill prominent politicians) or the denials (that his revamping efforts with the rail system, airports, fertilizer and agriculture reforms etc were useless).
The same vile propaganda is now being visited on even respected members of the APC by the party’s rumour factories. And I will continue to hammer on the danger of setting up destructive falsehood factories on individuals and the polity. But Jonathan is gone so let’s return to the issue of President Buhari.
I didn’t want him as president for several reasons, chief of which, is his generation’s iron clad albeit wrong perspective about the structure of Nigeria. This has nothing to do with age. Rather it is a generational sentiment about “one Nigeria” and their brave but absolutely unworkable concept of keeping the country supposedly united. It is understandable. They fought a war over unity and remain emotional about it. Gowon’s name became an acronym during the civil war that read: Go On With One Nigeria. Obasanjo carries his undying love for one Nigeria like an oversized trophy on his shoulders. He talks about it everywhere he goes with holy grail reverence. Babangida talks about the bullets lodged in him as a soldier in the war. Buhari is no different.
They dreamed, still dream and will continue to dream one Nigeria in the peculiar sense of the military mind. Consequently, these generals created and imposed a centralized political structure with all the trimmings of a military command. For decades, the system was grilled into our psyche that today most Nigerians crave dictatorship and worship the unitary system that masquerades as federalism. So entrenched is this system, Nigerians think it anathema to restructure the system. Indeed Nigerians born 45 years ago have not seen true federalism. It existed before the military incursion into power. That period is Nigeria’s finest till date. Yet we are afraid to dismantle the system that has breed horrendous corruption and shocking poverty. We refuse to go forward to the past to start growth and prosperity again. When many Nigerians talk about change, what they mean is to have a strong man who will plug the leakages of corruption and somehow make the present structure to work. But it won’t work unless the structure is radically changed.
Buhari is not likely to radically change the structure. He appears well meaning and seems determined to plug leakages, crank utilities to some efficiency and effect some level of discipline in the polity. But I am of the impression that he is limited by his milieu and the psychology of his generation, by the military notion of wielding and running Nigeria into one strong united, supportive conservatism. In typical fashion he has singlehandedly run the country for months without ministers from his personal command desk.
The chief produce of this mindset is the federation account. Oil was deemed easy money, huge money and therefore everybody’s money. It was by law mandatorily collected into a central pool to be shared among heads of political power blocks. Since the 1960s, billions of billions of dollars have been centrally collected and equally looted by heads of federal, state to local governments. From ministers, civil servants to members of houses of assembly to deal men and crooked contractors, the money is shared and looted. The consequence of the federation account is corruption so endemic that Nigeria has earned a special place among dubious nations. Another outcome is ever deepening poverty and the lack of basic funding, health and employment opportunities for the vast majority of Nigerians.
Yet another consequence is the murderous competition for power for it is common knowledge that getting political power is the surest way to easy wealth. To collect billions of dollars in free rent from the federation account. You do not need to think, to work, to dream. You just get billions every month. And where there is huge easy money to be made, there the mafia and devil dine. This has gone on for some five decades and is continuing up to date. Is Buhari likely to dump the federation account system. No.
Instead he would fatten the federation account and share even more money to the governors and ministers and many other rogues licking their fingers in anticipation. I don’t see Zamfara State, for instance, raising its internally generated revenue but the governor will expect more money from Abuja. All the governors are waiting.
Let’s look at another of the “one Nigeria” produce: The Petroleum Equalization Fund. This is one of the several legs of the subsidy boobytraps we are enmeshed in. The PEF was created to ensure that the price of petroleum products are the same across Nigeria from Gusau to Abriba. The government pays haulage subsidies to truck owners for transporting fuel to different parts of the country to ensure that fuel price is uniform. Solid example of market distortion. Now you know why fuel tankers are multiplying on our roads. What is even more amazing is that in spite of the equalization fund, the market has ensured fuel prices are disparate across Nigeria today. Yet the Petroleum Equalization Fund and fuel truck owners remain very much in the lucrative business of haulage subsidies. Few talk about this market distortion and corruption outlet.
Many talk about the subsidies that come with importing petroleum products. For years, this rogue business has made instant billionaires. Tank farm businesses blossomed while yam farms shriveled. Now the business have been slammed shut by Buhari, and I say well done, from the fast deal men to the octopus called the NNPC, I am wondering if this is not just another well meaning bad case of centralization. Would concentrating the importation of fuel in NNPC solve the national question of unsustainable subsidies? Let’s wait and see.
I do not think Buhari is mischievously evil as some of his past colleagues were. He may indeed mean well for the country as even former President Obasanjo declares he was for the country at every opportunity. But my great worry is that he like the other generals is deeply ingrained with the centralization virus. The fear that Nigeria may fall apart if revenues are not centralized and government does not play Santa Claus. So Buhari as well meaning as he may seem is not psychologically equipped to grapple with the core of Nigeria’s problem: undue controls and centralization with the federation account as a worshipped and revered goddess.
I will believe absolutely in Buhari the day he announces that he wants to begin the constitutional process of ejecting the federation account from our body politic. The day he declares that Nigeria will no longer operate a unitary system but true federalism where the federal, states and local governments will live on their internally generated revenues. That is when heads of governments will begin to work, to create enabling environments to attract businesses that will pay taxes and improve social services to ginger citizens to pay taxes. When serious men not thugs will be in government. Do I see Buhari dumping the federation account and unitary system? No.
But I pray for him. I pray that the Almighty opens his eyes and direct his mind to radically restructure our sociopolitical and economic system. The hard truth is that he has emerged President. I must therefore pray that he succeeds. I will not hesitate to praise any milestone he scores on nor waiver criticism if he dashes our hopes. I pray that he is bold enough to walk away from the “one Nigeria” mentality to deliver a truly federal and modern nation where systems not strong men ensure probity and prosperity. That he will have the willingness to smash the federation account, that central cesspool of corruption and executive laziness in Nigeria.
Some folks have asked me what will happen to oil resources if it is not shared as decreed by the constitution put together by Abacha and “wise men” of that generation. My answer is that all oil revenues except derivation to oil producing areas, be saved as Sovereign Wealth Fund for long term lending to agriculture, industry and social services across the country. When Emeka Oparah and I recently visited Obasanjo, I put this idea across to him. Indeed as I had said elsewhere before, he did accept that Norway is doing the same thing with about a trillion dollars in its sovereign wealth fund, the largest in the world today. Norway is looking for profitable havens across the world to invest in.
But Baba Iyabo said it was too late for Nigeria to do the same thing. I was not surprised. He is of the “well meaning” centralization focused, one Nigeria and sharing formula generation that fought the civil war. But that era is gone. It is time to think real change. Structural change. Not just policing and money gathering change. I will support President Buhari but I hope for 2019, we are able get a man as well meaning as Buhari yet modern enough to create a modern state where the constituent parts generate wealth not share wealth. A modern economy that attracts vast long term foreign investments not a state where sharing mushrooms corruption, thuggery and indiscipline. On this I stand.
. Tadaferua, a public affairs commentator wrote from Lagos

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