In the now customary fashion of a New Year broadcast by the President, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd) delivered a 34-point message on 1st January. The rather hollow speech was filled with half-truths, outright lies, and significant omissions.
The speech starts with an attempt to drum up patriotic sentiments, saying that after sixty years “we are standing tall in the comity of nations as one country united under the will of God”. But those who are standing tall are the few stupendously rich. The backs of well over a hundred million poor people have become bent from the burden of increasing costs of living which they can hardly bear.
As a report last year puts it “Nigeria is making more millionaires than ever”. In fact, under the APC regime, the country has recorded the fastest growth in millionaires and billionaires on the African continent. At the same time, it has also secured the infamous position of the country with the largest number of extremely poor people in the world!
The social inequality is simply sickening. The wealth of Nigeria’s five richest men could end extreme poverty in the country. And the worst part of it all, as Oxfam reports, is that most of the wealth of these “big men” have simply been stolen from the public coffers. $20 trillion were stolen between 1960 and 2005.
We can of course imagine just how much more has been stolen over the last fifteen years. The “recorded substantial gains” of the administration’s so-called “anti-corruption drive” is the most disingenuous articulation of sakamanje. Corruption in high places has continued to be the norm under this regime, despite the fighting corruption shakara it came up with as part of its “Change” mantra wayo in 2015.
And without batting an eye the retired Major-General tells us that “your voices have been heard and we would continue to listen to you”. As if that were not enough, in the same sentence he claims to be “committed to the unity of Nigeria to ensure every region of this nation is safe for us all, while guaranteeing that the future is also secure for the coming generation”.
This is the same government that was called out for its lawlessness and penchant for repression by The Punch newspapers barely a year back. Has it turned a new leaf since then for the better? On the contrary, the regime has become even more heinous in definitely not listening to the voices of the people that it might have heard over the last year.
And it does not stop at that. Journalists, whistle-blowers, humanists, and others have been brutalised and detained over the last year. In some instances, the “crimes” of such Nigerians have been for something as petty as using a former SIM card of the president’s daughter (bought from a telecoms company, years after she last used it!) And what of the three people arrested for allegedly insulting the president on social media, who were charged with committing cyber-crimes?
No sir, you never listened to us. You are deaf to our concerns. Where the poor were whipped with koboko you now whip us with scorpions. And your talk about ensuring safety would have been laughable were it not so tragic. And the neoliberal policies of today would rather make the future insecure for coming generations except today’s working-class people and youth kick this regime and its policies meant to make the rich richer and the poor poorer into the dustbin of history.
The lies continue “on the economy”. Is it true that “growing food related inflationary figures” have been reduced? The simple answer is a capital NO! Bloomberg reported mid-December that inflation was at its highest in almost three years on food costs, with annual food inflation acceleration increasing to 18.3%, from 17.4% in October.
“Transformation through rehabilitation, modernization, and expansion of the railway system, national roads and bridges” is also little but razzmatazz code for chopping and cleaning mouth, to borrow from Abami Eda Fela. And all sections and parties of the thieving bosses have their mouths soiled in this more chop and less infrastructure drama.
A Premium Times investigation in July takes us into the “multibillion naira railway fraud” from Jonathan to Buhari. And we equally recall Rotimi Amaechi the minister of transportation urging the national assembly to desist from probing a $500bn Chinese loan for road construction.
And just by the way, Mr Amaechi who’s never had much identifiable source of wealth outside politics is one of the top ten richest politicians in the country, with a worth of $780m. But he is at the lowest rung of that list. The number one position is held by the former Lagos state governor, APC leader, and aspiring presidential candidate come 2023 – Bola Ahmed Tinubu himself, with $8.4bn (and that’s just what could be traced to him).
Beyond the simply vexatious lies, probably the most insulting paragraphs of this tract of barefaced lies are those reaffirming commitment to the people of Nigeria especially the youth which it describes as “our most valuable natural resource”. Coming from the butcher-in-chief of Lekki who never expressed a word of regret about the 20-10-2020 massacre when he delivered a fire and brimstone speech two days after; this is rubbing salt on open wound. Maj-Gen. Buhari and the entire pack of wolves constituting this vampirish regime have blood on their hands. Animals in human skin, as Fela taught us, cannot dash us human rights.
There are lies of omission as well as lies of commission in the Major-General’s speech.
He fails to tell us that the health of the poor masses is not a priority for the regime, even in the midst of a global health emergency. Two decades after the Abuja Declaration commitment made by governments of African countries to set aside 15% of their annual budgetary provision for provision of healthcare, and in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 budget’s provision for the health sector is barely 7%.
He fails to tell us that the regime and its supporters care less for public schools and honouring agreements reached with university teachers, allowing an ASUU strike to drag on for almost a year.
He fails to tell us that, in contravention of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2019 one third of the states of the federation have failed to pay workers the paltry N30,000 and even some who had started paying have illegally been making deductions from such miserly take-home pay that hardly takes any worker home.
And since he cannot tell us these, we cannot expect him to tell us the interconnectedness of the things not said. The class of rich people, in and out of government, do not use the public health system, nor do they send their children to public universities. While COVID-19 has barred them from jetting away to Europe for healthcare, they still access top-notch healthcare services in expensive private hospitals in the country. As with health, so with education. A year and a half back, The Sun reported that a major reason why the country’s education system suffers is that the rich send their children and wards to study abroad. These include Mr President.
S/he who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. We cannot rely on the goodwill of Maj-Gen Buhari (retd) or the class of rich people to make life better for us out of their benevolence. We have to fight to win even that which is legal like implementation of the National Minimum Wage Act! The president like those before him can and will continue to come and beguile us with lies year in and year out.
We must however tell ourselves the truth. We are not in the same boat. The secret of their wealth lies in our pauperisation. We must fight for improved funding of public healthcare and quality education. But we must fight for even more. We must fight for system change. For as long as the exploitative and oppressive capitalist system still stands, the rich will take back whatever reform we win today, somehow or the other, as soon as they can.
The ultimate lie is to believe we can build a new Nigeria and indeed a better world, without revolutionary overthrow of the lying, thieving vagabonds in power and the pro-rich people system they represent. Labour, as the NLC motto clearly states, creates wealth.
The working-class whose labour creates the wealth which the crop of millionaires and billionaires feed fat on must rise, and with it, the entire poor masses and youth. We must take power and democratically run society as self-governance of the working people, by the working people for the working people.
by Baba AYE