This "Change" Is Killing Us: Open Letter To President Muhammadu Buhari
Dear President Buhari,
It is with a deep sense of humility that I write to convey to you my sincere feelings on the state of affairs in our nation and my home State, Akwa Ibom. I am doing so as an ardent supporter who devoted his time; risked his safety; staked his integrity and passionately and vociferously defended your candidacy during the 2015 presidential election in defiance of the strong campaign of calumny mounted against you by those who never wanted you to be the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
If I had any other practicable and convenient channel of communicating with you, I would have graciously explored it. Accept my sincere apologies if you are discomfited by my resort to public engagement through this open letter.
During the electioneering campaigns, you went round the country and vigorously propagated the message of change and solicited the support and votes of the Nigerian people with a solemn undertaking that our precarious situation will be ameliorated upon your assumption of office. I was persuaded by your promises. Majority of Nigerians went to the polls on March 28, 2015 and overwhelmingly elected you as the president of Nigeria because you promised change.
The slogan was 'Sai Buhari'.
For once, I found dignity in my Nigerian citizenship. Many Nigerians, myself inclusive, kept vigil to monitor closely the events and controversies at the National Collation Centre. We were willing and prepared to march on the streets and defend your mandate if the Godsday Orubebes' of this world had suceeded in truncating the final collation of results.
I shed tears of joy when the then Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, declared you the winner of that fiercely contested election. It was a marvellous and glorious experience. The feeling was simply indescribable. Upon your declaration, you proceeded to the National Secretariat of your party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) where you addressed a world press conference and reiterated your mantra of change. That night, I slept like a little baby because I felt that a responsible, incorruptible and courageous leader had finally emerged in Nigeria in my lifetime to lead our country out of the precipice.
My dear President, ten months after your historic assumption of office, it has become increasingly tedious to defend the change we proudly supported and voted for. The hitherto much taunted "body language of the president" seems to have evaporated.
It is true that the corruption infested Goodluck Jonathan's regime and those before him had greatly destroyed, vandalised and polluted our country. It is also true that you met Nigeria in a terrible state. We are not unmindful of the myriad of challenges your administration is facing: from financial constraints due largely to low prices of crude oil at the international market; security problems orchestrated by the Boko Haram sect, the rampaging Fulani herdsmen and the very delicate agitation by the Pro-Biafran movement, etc. Nobody is expecting you to perform miracles or "turn things around overnight" as erroneously suggested by some of your aides.
The fact of the matter is that responsibility is the hallmark of leadership. What was the change gospel about if things were to remain the same? Yes you have a four year mandate. But ten months is enough time to resolve certain pressing and critical issues in the country and set a very precise and clear direction for the nation. There are problems that only require a firm presidential directive to solve but which has been neglected.
Mr President, just in case you are oblivious of the cost of fuel across the country, may I report to you that contrary to the pronouncement of your administration, fuel is not being sold for eighty six naira (N86) per liter. As at Sunday the 13th of March, 2016 when I wrote this open letter, I bought fuel at N125 per liter. In some places, it is much costlier than that. Does it mean that the federal government is incapable of keeping to its promises and enforcing policy decisions? It is not enough for the government to give excuses, the issue is that people are suffering because of the sheer incompetence of government.
If there is one problem that we expected the change government to address with vigour, it is the issue of epileptic power supply in the country. Before your election, our power generation was over 4000 megawatts. Data from Nigeria Electricity System Operator (NESO) showed that by 9.48am on Wednesday, 9th March, 2016 power generation was 1,580.6MW, with the Ikeja Electric getting 237.09MW; Abuja, 181.77MW; Eko, 173.87MW; Benin, 142.25MW; and Enugu, 142.25MW. Others are Ibadan, 205.48MW; Jos, 86.93MW; Kano, 126.45MW; Kaduna, 126.45MW; Port Harcourt, 102.74MW; and Yola, 55.32MW. See the Punch Newspaper report of Thursday, 10th March, 2016.
Despite this terrible power situation, the Minister Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, SAN and the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) have gone ahead to implement a new electricity tariff regime. In other words, while the administration is insisting that the old tariff regime is not "commercially viable and sustainable", the reality on the ground is that Nigerians are being made to pay higher for darkness by a government that promised change.
Under your watch, commercial banks in the country are still carrying out illegal and unjustifiable deductions of funds belonging to their customers. Banks are still collecting inexplicable and offensive charges. Telecommunication service providers are still holding their subscribers to ransom in various ways. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) have respectively failed to stop this unwholesome practices. The Nigeria Police Force is still perpetuating extra-judicial killings and extortion.
Before your ascension to the presidency, a dollar sold for about N150. Currently a dollar goes for between 250 to N370 at the forex market. While the present depreciation in currency value may not be peculiar to Nigeria, the attendant effects on the economy and the well-being of Nigerians are self-evident and require no elucidation. The government has clearly not done enough to address this anomalous situation.
By Section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government" (sic). Although incessant killing and massacre of people of various communities across the country by the well armed Fulani herdsmen predated your administration, there is reasonable basis to say that they are now more daring and emboldened than what we witnessed in the past.
The recent killings in Agatu community of Benue State adds credence to the view that the herdsmen seems to enjoy immunity from the Nigerian State. The federal government so far has not demonstrated serious commitment to end the bloodbath and bring the culprits to justice. While I commend the feats recorded by the federal government and the security agencies in its ongoing onslaught against Boko Haram, it is unfathomable that innocent Nigerians are being killed and slaughtered in Rivers State simply because of their political persuasion.
During the reign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), membership of the opposition party was treasonous especially in the South South region. That was the reason why a State like Akwa Ibom during the Godswill Akpabio dictatorship witnessed unprecedented murder(s) and kidnapping of opposition figures and critics.
It is therefore very saddening that even under the Buhari/APC-led federal government, the conscientious people of my State (Akwa Ibom) who risked their lives championing Buhari's message of change are still being haunted, humiliated and intimidated by Godswill Akpabio and his army. The case of Akwa Ibom is just so pathetic. The people were denied their constitutional right to freely exercise their franchise both at the March 28 presidential election and the April 11, 2015 governorship election.
The European Union, the American Embassy in Nigeria and the Nigerian Civil Society Election Situation Room all returned a unanimous verdict that the Akwa Ibom elections was a total sham which should not be allowed to stand. Even the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in their separate reports discredited the make-believe gubernatorial election. Several lives were lost. One of victims of that State sponsored terror, a 22 year old Mr Federick Richard Okon, from Mbierebe Akpawat village in Ibesikpo Asutan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State was only buried recently on Wednesday, 9th March, 2016.
Till date, no one has been prosecuted for the killings and violence that marred the Akwa Ibom elections.
Justifiably aggrieved by the outcome of that fraudulent election and in line with the advice of local and international observers, Mr Umana Okon Umana, the APC gubernatorial candidate, filed a petition at the Election Tribunal seeking a cancellation of the so-called election and presented over 350 documentary evidence and called 52 witnesses. The Tribunal partly agreed with him and nullified the election in eighteen (18) out of the thirty one (31) Local Government Areas of the State.
On their part, the Court of Appeal in a well considered judgment nullified the entire election and berated the Tribunal for ignoring the unchallenged evidence of over voting based on both the Card Reader and the Voters Register and the evidence that there was no collation of results which were never contested nor countered by the PDP and the other Respondents. On further appeal by the PDP, the Supreme Court did not only reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal but also set aside the partial nullification of election by the Tribunal.
On the day of the final judgment, Akpabio stormed the Supreme Court in fanfare some minutes before the Chief Justice of Nigeria and other Justices of the seven man panel returned from break to deliver their verdict in company of retinue of aides and supporters. The moment Akpabio entered the Supreme Court, movement of people were restricted by security men at the Court. His conduct inside the Supreme Court gave the impression that he merely came for celebration. Several reports in the media quoted him as declaring just before the judgment that it was "all over".
Mr President, where were you when all this was going on? Sir, I do not know of any president in the world who came to power on the platform of an opposition political party that has totally undermined and destroyed the party that brought him to power the way you have done. Respectfully Sir, you seem to operate under the illusion that for you to effect change in the country, you must abdicate from partisan politics.
In the name of non interference, you have allowed very bad people to assume underserved leadership positions through undemocratic means. Your seeming nonchalant attitude has emboldened predators to infiltrate and compromise critical institutions of state and organs of government at the peril of justice, national cohesion and development.
Least I forget, without consulting with anyone, you came to Akwa Ibom State and picked an ally of Godswill Akpabio and a card carrying member of the PDP, Senator Udo Udoma, as the ministerial nominee to represent the State in the Federal Executive Council. Respectfully Sir, that singular decision was/is a spite on the conscientious people of the State who supported and are still supporting you in the hope that you will protect them from the oppressive tendencies of Godswill Akpabio and his proteges. You may need to watch the video clip on YouTube showing how Akwa Ibom people reacted in Uyo the capital to your victory at the election. It speaks volume of the expectations of Akwa Ibom people.
Mr Udo Udoma is today reaping where he did not sow. Here is one very self-centered and egoistic politician from Akwa Ibom that does not have any affection for his people. He only cares about his selfish interest and that of his elitist cronies in the PDP. Udo Udoma has failed in his first critical assignment as Minister of Budget and National Planning given the recent budget imbroglio.
As if that was not enough humiliation for Akwa Ibom people, you sacked the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mr Dan Abia, who merely occupied the slot of Akwa Ibom State and replaced him with Mrs. Ibim Semenitari from Rivers State. Frankly, I have no problem with the removal of Mr Abia for whatever misconduct he may have committed.
However, by the provisions of Sections 3 and 12 of the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment, etc) Act 2000, the position of Managing Director of the NDDC is statutorily rotated every four years among the oil producing States. That has been the practice. Therefore, any replacement for Mr Abia, whether in an Acting or substantive capacity, should have come from Akwa Ibom State until the expiration of the State's tenure. Simply put, Akwa Ibom has been cheated. It amounts to robbing Peter to pay Paul. Even if the growing support of Akwa Ibom people for your administration means nothing to you, the State should be given her rightful place in federal appointments and citing of projects being the highest oil producing State in the federation.
My beloved president, you suffered from fraudulent elections on three previous occasions before Nigerians finally elected you in 2015. You fought up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2003 and 2007. In 2011, you declined seeking remedy in court having lost faith in the nation's judicial process. But your party, the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), went to Court and fought up to the Supreme Court and lost.
Experience they say is the best teacher. Even if you were to fail in every other aspect of governance, it should certainly not be in the restoration of the sanctity of the electoral process. You also have a historic responsibility to champion revolutionary changes in the Judiciary.
It is not defensible for you to sit back and say that you "will not interfere" when you have not effected a system or mechanism that stops other people from interfering with the judicial and electoral process. Nobody is asking you to help rig elections or inflence court judgments. All we are saying is that nobody should be able to do what the president himself has refused to do. Leaving people who staked their lives supporting you at the mercy of electoral predators is sinful and wicked. You have left the weak and vulnerable in Akwa Ibom State at the mercy of Godswill Akpabio and his army.
Sir, the current Inspector General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase, is an ally of Godswill Akpabio having served in Akwa Ibom State during Akpabio's regime as Commissioner of Police at a time politically motivated killings and other crimes were rife. That was why he instituted frivolous criminal charges against a lawyer, Mr Leo Ekpenyong, who has written series of petitions to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Akpabio. The EFCC till date has refused to act on those petitions. What then is the war against corruption about when people like Akpabio are allowed to walk freely and infiltrate critical institutions and organs of government in the country? Is Mr Solomon Arase not one of the saboteurs in your government?
Sir, without the support of the Democrats, President Obama would not have recorded his achievements in the United States of America in the last seven years of his presidency. The Republicans rarely give him a chance. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has succeeded because he has the support of the Conservative Party both in parliament and in the country. This explains why both leaders are very interested in the affairs of their parties. Obama is currently backing Hillary Clinton for the White House because he knows that if the Republicans win the November 8, 2016 presidential election, many of his landmark reforms like the ObamaCare will be truncated.
Since you came to power, your party the APC has recorded more defeats than victories. The APC is today fighting a cold war with itself. There are various camps: the Tinubu camp; Atiku camp; Saraki camp; your own camp and so on. Few days ago, it was Tinubu's daughter who led market women to protest at the APC Secretariat in Abuja. Across the States, members of your party feel abandoned. Even though I do not belong to the APC, I believe that what goes on in the ruling party will ultimately affect the entire country. If there was responsible leadership in the PDP, Nigeria will not be where it is today. The division and leadership failure in the PDP culminated in the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan at the polls.
Looking at the National Assembly today, one can clearly see the signature of your bad politics and error in judgment in the name of "non interference". If you had appreciated the fact that the composition of the leadership of the National Assembly will affect your administration, Senator Bukola Saraki would not have been the Senate President today. As long as the status quo remains, you will continue to face embarrassment and resistance from the National Assembly.
As a final postscript, permit me to say that the faith of the Nigerian people in your administration is eroding at a worrisome level. This is the hard fact that Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Mr Femi Adesina, Mallam Garba Shehu and other image managers of your administration may not tell you. You may need curtail your oversea trips if that will make you to fully appreciate the true situation of things in the country.
This "change" is killing us and the time to truly change things in the country is now.
I sincerely want you to succeed and may you succeed. May God give you the insight and the courage to do what is right for our nation.
Your loyal subject,
Inibehe Effiong (Esq.).
Legal Practitioner and Convener, Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD).