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FRANK TALK: The great art of hiding behind a finger

By Steve Nwosu

Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim, former Senate President and later, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, is not one given to frivolities.
Though he remains a chieftain of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Anyim is never really partisan when issues of nationhood, peace, unity and progress of Nigeria are at stake.
However, reading through his recent open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, on insecurity and the general state of the nation, one could decipher the obvious pains of a statesman struggling to discuss a matter of urgent national importance, without being accused of partisanship. That is the sorry pass at which we find our country today: any call on the Federal Government to either wake up from its seeming slumber, or to do things differently, is instantly interpreted to mean pursuing a PDP agenda.

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Under a different or more liberal environment, Anyim would have said what needed to be said, without going the long route of dancing around the issues, and revisiting the Willinks Commission of 1957.
The former SGF had hit the nail on the head about the burgeoning unrests, nationality agitations, banditry, kidnapping, general insecurity and insurgency, when he submitted thus: “Military actions or even foreign help alone cannot bring permanent solutions to ethnic conflicts or nationality agitations. Mr. President, you need to create a platform to hear Nigerians out.”

So, how would the President hear Nigerians out. The dishonest and cheeky ones amongst us would say that’s why we have the National Assembly. But then, isn’t the National Assembly part of the problem?
Now, being part of a Goodluck Jonathan administration that organised a national conference, which the then opposition All Progressives Congress, APC (that was calling for restructuring, true federalism and all), curiously refused to attend, and the recommendations of which it has vowed not to implement, Anyim must have since discovered that National Conference and restructuring are a no-go area for the Buhari group. The legendary body language of the President, and even utterances of his henchmen, have made that very clear.

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But, knowing that there is no way Nigeria can move forward without the President listening to other Nigerians from all parts of the country, and who are not necessarily in his preferred cirle of friends and aides, Anyim had to evoke a new nomenclature: Commission of Enquiry, on minority rights.
Luckily, the former SGF intelligently navigated all the traps, coming up with a recommendation that will not only not hurt any egos, but also provide a lasting solution to the skirmishes now threatening the continued existence of our dear country.
Of course, the Presidency cannot fall back on the now-familiar template of responding to such letters – like they do to Obasanjo’s letters.
Nobody will come out to tell us that Anyim has unlimited access to the President and could have gone to speak with him privately,  instead of an open letter. For according to the former Senate President, that avenue was explored as far back as 2018. And Anyim, after the meeting, submitted a letter containing his recommendations, as PMB had requested. Even though it was submitted to his then Chief of Staff, the late Malam Abba Kyari, it would seem that letter probably never got to the President.
I think, believing that earlier letter never got to PMB is a more flattering assumption than saying the President refused to act on it.
And now that a revised and improved version of the letter is now in the open, will the president act? Time will tell.
But while we wait on the President, we should not lose sight about another thing Anyim said: “Every violent agitation originates from a non-violent agitation that was not attended to… Boko Haram started as a non-violent procession”.
But if the former SGF was bold enough to put the blame, and the solution too, at the doorstep of President Buhari (albeit tactically), where it should really lie, others have not been so honest.
What we see, as a result, is that we identify a problem, the responsibility for which should be the president’s, but we find a way to absolve PMB of any blame, and, instead, blame someone else for not fixing a presidential problem.

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Nobody wants to be caught saying that Buhari is actually the problem, even where that is clearly the case.
If PMB refuses to assent to bills passed by the National Assembly, after series of rather derogatory to-and-fro, the same lawmakers blame everyone in the presidency, except the President who refused to append his signature.
In fact, the art of beating around the bush and dancing around the problems that confront us as a nation has now been elevated to the level  of statecraft under the Buhari-led APC government, especially whenever the blame is supposed to be the President’s.
Only last weekend, a reputable lawyer, frustrated with the drift of the country, allegedly encouraged the military to effect a change of government and pledge allegiance to Buhari and the constitution. Unbelievable! So, what’s the reason for the change then? To help Buhari sack his cabinet? To get rid of the National Assembly? What manner of constitution would the regime uphold? Definitely, not the operative 1999 Constitution. What a way to beat around the bush! On this coup matter, however, I’m with the military. No, to coup! We must suffer this hardship together for another two years! We brought it on ourselves. As we say in our local street lingo, WE DIE HERE!
It reminds of that 1984 classic poser by a detained official of the then ousted Shehu Shagari government thus: How can we allow the driver of a crashed bus to home, while we arrest and detain the bus conductor? Curiously, GMB was also the military head of state at the time of that travesty.
But nobody dances around our Buhari problem today like the current leadership of the NLC. It only flexes its muscles when state governors and the National Assembly fall out of line. But if it is the President and Presidency, NLC loses its voice. That is why strikes have now been decentralized to JUSUN, ASUP, NARD etc. For Ayuba Waba, Buhari can do no wrong.
We even dance around the reality of our present economic problems. When Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, squealed that the economy was on the verge of collapse, and that government had been printing money to share to the states at FAAC meetings, the entire Presidency arsenal was unleashed on him. Funnily  enough, the CBN governor and the minister of finance, who intended to deny the allegation, ended up validating it.
But the truth remains that every government, from time to time, prints money to meet shortfalls in revenue earnings. However, the printing is usually a temporary measure, which is always backed by real time resource value. However, when the printing is not value-backed, and goes on an on, like in Idi Amin’s Uganda or Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, it pushes up inflation. In our case, it might even be the main cause of the collapse of the Naira against other major currencies, but we keep blaming importers of toothpicks alone.
Incidentally, after denying that government was printing currency notes to meet shortfalls in revenue earnings, the NNPC, which is the biggest contributor to whatever is brought to the table for sharing at FAAC, hinted that there might not be anything to share for the month of May. Meanwhile, after the import of that statement dawned on it, the oil behemoth recanted that the lack of money did not, however, mean that business is bad. Please, what else does that mean?!
And following on its heels, information is now filtering out that the FG is contemplating cutting workers’ salaries and merging ministries, departments and agencies as a way of saving cost. The Kaduna State Government just cleared house in its civil service. Who does that in an economy being celebrated as having emerged from recession in record time? Or is someone also playing politics and dancing around the recession thing?
Like NNPC, NERC (the national electricity regulatory commission) is also dancing around the issue of new tariffs. On one hand they tell us there won’t be an increase, while on the other hand they remind us that they can’t continue fuel price subsidy (NNPC), and that it is an agreed periodic pricing review ((NERC). But everything boils down to higher pump prices and higher tariffs. Consistently saying one thing and doing another! Deliberately misdiagnosing the problem, so that we can continue to live in denial.
Of course, there is no better illustration of this deliberate misdiagnosis than the alleged herders/farmers clash narrative of the Federal Government. Rather than face the truth that Fulani militias, probably from outside the country, are wreaking havoc across the country, we are inadvertently indicting Nigerian Fulanis for a bloodbath they know nothing about. We claim the agents of death are pastoralists who crop farmers are preventing from grazing their animals. We then go on to justify why they must be allowed to bear arms on the one hand, and on the other hand give order that arms-bearing herders should be shot on sight. But nobody ever gets shot.
And that is what now raises the suspicion that some politicians are sponsoring the massacres for some diabolical reasons. It does not matter if they swear by all the holy books in this world that they have no hand in it. That is neither here nor there. For their actions and inactions continue to put a lie to all the rhetorics and holier-than-thou posturings.
Let us for once call a spade by it’s name. If the President has fallen short of expectations, let’s be honest enough to admit it, tell him so, and help him make amends. This is more honourable than trying to hide behind a finger, by raising wild allegations of an impending vote of no confidence and plot to truncate our democracy, as well as these other allegations that we’ve come to know as prelude to planned clampdown on real and perceived opposition elements.
For the records, although I suspect that this latest frenzy over a no-confidence vote might not be unconnected with what Reps Minority Whip, Ndudi Elumelu, said at last week’s PDP meeting, when he revealed that several colleagues were also expressing dissatisfaction over the state of the nation under the Buhari Presidency. A no-confidence vote is one of the finest tests of democracy. It is not unconstitutional. What is unconstitutional is trying to stop it by subterfuge.
But I won’t explore that angle further, before someone asks me; are you in PDP?