There are views in some quarters that one cardinal issue that President Muhammadu Buhari needs to confront is how to sustain the country’s unity in the face of national security threat, regional and religious sentiments, writes SAMUEL ODAUDU
“At home, we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems”, said Nigeria’s new President Muhammadu Buhari.
The inaugural speech of the president during is swearing-in ceremony at the Eagle Square last Saturday provided many keen observers food for thought on the man’s sensibility about the Nigerian problem, in this context, the issue of Nigeria’s oneness or unity.
Clearly, one of the daunting challenges the new APC—led government faces is how to sustain the unity nay oneness of the Nigerian federation. There is a popular perception that as revolutionary as the party’s move that swept PDP off and rode into power was, many Nigerians have been raising questions since the outcome of the last general elections. Does the party’s spread reflect the unity of the country from the six geopolitical zones? How would that affect the perceptions of other sections of Nigeria under President Buhari?
It is, however, important to note that Buhari seems to be fully conscious of these sentiments. As a general in the army, former head of state and a prominent leader in Nigeria, he definitely understands the gravity of this reality.
For instance, in his inaugural speech, President Buhari made powerful reflection of Nigeria’s journey of nationhood and the spirit of its federalism. It was a powerful testament to his acknowledgement of regional sentiments about the entity called Nigeria and its numerous problems. Of course, these sentiments are anchored by checkered history.
Going back memory lane, Buhari reminded the nation of the strength and imperfections of Nigeria federalism and the national spirit: “In recent times, Nigerian leaders appear to have misread our mission. Our founding fathers, Mr Herbert Macauley, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Malam Aminu Kano, Chief J.S. Tarka, Mr Eyo Ita, Chief Denis Osadeby, Chief Ladoke Akintola and their colleagues worked to establish certain standards of governance.
“They might have differed in their methods or tactics or details, but they were united in establishing a viable and progressive country. Some of their successors behaved like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house.
“Furthermore, we as Nigerians must remind ourselves that we are heirs to great civilizations: Shehu Othman Dan Fodio’s Caliphate, the Kanem Borno Empire, the Oyo Empire, the Benin Empire and King Jaja’s formidable domain. The blood of those great ancestors flow in our veins. What is now required is to build on these legacies, to modernize and uplift Nigeria.
“Daunting as the task may be it is by no means insurmountable. There is now a national consensus that our chosen route to national development is democracy. To achieve our objectives we must consciously work the democratic system. The Federal Executive under my watch will not seek to encroach on the duties and functions of the Legislative and Judicial arms of government. The law enforcing authorities will be charged to operate within the Constitution. We shall rebuild and reform the public service to become more effective and more serviceable. We shall charge them to apply themselves with integrity to stabilize the system.
“For their part the legislative arm must keep to their brief of making laws, carrying out over-sight functions and doing so expeditiously. The judicial system needs reform to cleanse itself from its immediate past. The country now expects the judiciary to act with dispatch on all cases especially on corruption, serious financial crimes or abuse of office. It is only when the three arms act constitutionally that government will be enabled to serve the country optimally and avoid the confusion all too often bedeviling governance today”, he said.
According to Dr. Aliyu Ibrahim, a psychologist, residing in Abuja, Buhari made serious references in his statement that should stir a new spirit of nationalism in the country. “I think that was a serious statement. But beyond that, I expect that his men should go to work, use that speech as a draft and go on to fine tune it into a concrete national action”, he said. He said history is a powerful instrument that we should not ignore.
Mrs. Obiageli Nwankwo, a senior civil servant, told our correspondent that she dis not expect less from Buhari, after all, Nigerians have heard that kind of beautiful speeches over and again by former presidents. “What we want the president to do now is to go beyond the speech. Let him fashion out an action plan for his government to follow. We need to know what his plans are”, she said.
Speaking to newsmen, Mr Tari Dounana, the Bayelsa chairman of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUCN, stated that the speech showed that the president is prepared to work and fix the country. “The president said that he belonged to everyone and to nobody. That is the kind of words we want from a leader. Thank God Nigeria’s democracy is advancing and we have gotten a leader that will take the issues of workers very seriously,” he said.
A clergy, Rev. Samuel Ayadi, Niger Delta Coordinator of Artisanal Fishermen Association of Nigeria, ARFAN, expressed the impression of the association on the inaugural speech. According to him, “The speech raises a lot of hope and for the new president to even mention the Niger Delta issue shows that he cares. We, the fishermen, have showcased our challenges to him during his electioneering campaigns. We expect him to address pending oil spill compensations, especially the Bonga Spill incident and assist the traditional fishing sector to enable us contribute towards food security,” Ayadi said.
But some observers stated that Nigerians should not allow the president to carry the country’s problems on his head alone, even though he has promised the country many things. The country’s problems, they said, are better handled by collective responsibility. In the coming days and weeks, Nigerians will know better whether or not the president is matching words with action.