President Buhari also has to apologise for the Boko Haram and the #EndSars demonstration because he has been unable to solve either of these problems. At the bottom of all these problems is the failure of inclusiveness and diversity in Government. It is no use bringing statistics to show that perhaps the lack of diversity, inclusiveness, etc is exaggerated. When a people have a perception in politics, the leaders have to deal with that perception. The answer is not to dig a trench and engage in trench warfare. If the people are unhappy, the role of the leader is to find out why and to make them happy. If Nigeria has a problem with smuggling, the answer cannot be to close the borders. If Nigerians feel that appointments are skewered in favour of some nationalities, the answer cannot be to bury one’s head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich. If there is general unemployment and hunger in the nation, these challenges must be met. If the National Assembly, Governors, etc are over-paid, cut their salaries. Deal with the problem. Can Nigeria afford an over paid and bloated Government? Where are the reforms to cut spending, initiate efficiency and get a better return on investments?
Many of Nigeria’s problems stem from incompetence, which enhances corruption. Government must adopt transparency as its shield of defence. In any case, in today’s world, to do otherwise is to court trouble. The ministers should have clear instructions about what they should do – let us assume the President wants, even for visual purposes only a return of the groundnut pyramids. The instruction is given and a time line is drawn; ditto for cotton, sorghum, etc. the NNPC is given some strict definable objectives. Mr Sango – GM Kaduna Refinery revives it in 18 months. Mr Ukwor– to do the same for Warri. I know that each of these would bring a long list of required new purchases – all sorts of problems. But Mr President has been Minister of Petroleum before, and still is. If the objectives are not met, then those appointed leave their jobs. What instructions were given to the Minister of Sports? How does one evaluate his work? What if after COVID-19 the President decides to cut expenditure by X% – mainly by savings from bloated government, inefficiency and so forth? What is the Government’s scheme towards more excellence in education beyond Goodluck’s scheme? Why is Nigeria not competing with Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Jamaica in sports? There is so much to do but so little time. But there is time to shine the torch of Leadership.
So Mr President’s apology will include that he gets what the #EndSars protest was about and that the protest has energised him and he now will energise the protesters to complain as he continues to amend and deliver.
The President must talk to the Nation, talk to Nigerians, not read a speech. Even if the talk is written he must make it sound like a conversation between him and his people. He must accept his failings and how if he could would change. He must explain what being a Nigerian means to him and where he wants to take Nigeria and the Nation to. 1983 was a mistake. He has to own it. He must empathise and seek to draw his people to him; all of them. He must show that he loves them. He would call on them to bring Nigeria to its greatness. We have been given so much. We must succeed.
Dr. Cole, OFR, is a former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil.