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President Buhari Left Me Uninspired

Tubde Odediran insists that President Muhammadu Buhari’s Democracy Day speech must be rewritten to capture Nigerians’ collective dreams

President Muhammadu Buhari / Photo credit: State House
President Muhammadu Buhari / Photo credit: State House

“China and Indonesia succeeded under authoritarian regimes. India succeeded in a democratic setting. We can do it.” President Muhammadu Buhari on June 12, 2019.

Expectations were set high for June 12, Nigeria’s new Democracy Day. It was supposed to be a big day and one for big ideas.

The presidential swearing-in ceremony was sort of delayed so that the invited world can rejoice with Nigeria and learn about our journey into the future.

But President Buhari gave a dull, flat and unambitious speech, and makes me question his understanding of Nigeria’s potential for greatness.

The premise upon which President Muhammadu Buhari based some of his best dreams and assumptions raises serious concerns.

The content, depth and distance of the vision in the speech lay a shaky foundation for national development.

His path and models towards making Nigeria great within a decade are filled with holes and gaps that render the entire speech unsavoury.

To insert China into a significant speech is to imply that in the President’s mind, there is something attractive and rewarding in the authoritarian ideology

The President happened to think there are two paths to greatness – authoritarianism or democracy.

It is deeply worrying that an authoritarian system would even be mentioned as a road to greatness on the day that Nigerians were celebrating freedom and democracy.

To insert China into a significant speech is to imply that in the President’s mind, there is something attractive and rewarding in the authoritarian ideology.

This sentence is a dagger to the heart of those who believe Democracy Day delivers all the ideals of a democratically-run society.

It is also a warped thought to raise Indonesia and India as beacons of success that Nigeria can emulate. No way!

India and Indonesia are not a prototype of economic success for Nigeria, and using them to set our sights on any dream dwarfs our collective expectation.

There is a danger in the calculation that there is anything good Nigeria can achieve from an authoritarian system of government.

As a military professional, Buhari stands the risk of falling back on the use of force to make changes.

However, Nigerians put him in Aso Rock not to be autocratic, but democratic.

Nigerians do not want him to share any ideology that run contrary to the spirit of June 12, which is democracy.

It is also a warped thought to raise Indonesia and India as beacons of success that Nigeria can emulate. No way! India and Indonesia are not a prototype of economic success for Nigeria, and using them to set our sights on any dream dwarfs our collective expectation

It was through authoritarianism that the June 12 debacle was unleashed by former dictators, generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha.

It was through dictatorship that the winner of the free and fair election, Moshood Abiola, was punished and murdered. It was through that same mechanism that hundreds of Nigerians were murdered for expressing their freedom of speech.

One is tempted to draw the conclusion that General Buhari has not been paying attention to what is going on in China at the moment.

Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens are protesting a law that would allow the Chinese government extradite Hongkongers to mainland China.

The reason this unprecedented protest is festering is that Hong Kong, once a British subject, has tasted democracy and resists authoritarian government in China.

That is not a good example to cite on Nigeria’s democracy day. It is, in fact, an antithesis.

More disturbing is the President’s perception that Indonesia and India can be cited as a framework for our economic master plan over the next 10 years.

India and Indonesia are not our models. Indians live in as much squalor as Nigerians, and Indonesia is Singapore’s poor neighbour. If these two countries are Buhari’s dream for Nigeria, we have no ambition.

The standard for measuring prosperity among nations is the Legatum Prosperity Index.

One is tempted to draw the conclusion that General Buhari has not been paying attention to what is going on in China at the moment

On this measure, in 2018, Indonesia ranked 49, China 82 and India was 94 and. Our president ignored countries where the people are really doing well, such as the Scandinavian nations, Switzerland and New Zealand, to pick countries where an average citizen struggles nearly as much as Nigerians as his target for our national aspiration.

It is a miss, myopic and non-stimulating.

India is a nation that I interact with daily and travel to frequently, the last time in May, 2019.

There is not a lot for Nigeria to wish for in India, and citing India as a model by the President shows how stymied his goals of greatness are.

India is so similar to Nigeria. Animals roam the streets, waste is dumped on the streets and driver’s licenses are delivered at home without testing.

There is not a lot for Nigeria to wish for in India, and citing India as a model by the President shows how stymied his goals of greatness are

India is as primitive as nations come and many Indians are as eager to leave their countries for UAE, US or UK as Nigerians.

The first time I visited India, I was so struck by the similarities. It was a sort of homecoming. Cars horns were blaring freely.

You could almost think you were in Nigeria, although India is not as hopeless only because they can point to a massive railway system and a more stable electricity and water supply.

India and Nigeria have the unenviable classification of unsafe counties to travel in the index compiled by the travel organisation, International SOS.

Multi-national companies will not allow you to explore the streets of India or Nigeria alone when you travel on official business.

Indonesia is a huge archipelago in South East Asia. Like India, it has done really well from where it started since independence.

Its people are enjoying a better standard of living.

However, it has yet to brandish itself as a developing nation. Sitting atop Indonesia is Singapore, a mere city-nation less than one per cent in size, which became independent from England only five years after Nigeria.

Buhari could have pointed to Singapore – which is number 21 on the Prosperity Index – in his monumental speech,. Through an ambitious programme and disciple, Singapore has today become a fully developed nation.

Each time I go to Singapore, I marvel at the quality of life. It is a miracle of a country.

President Buhari has failed to set a path to Nigeria’s greatness. We need another speech. What we got was not good enough. It was uninspiring

Her neighbour, Indonesia, is where Singaporeans go for a cheap vacation. Colleagues tell me how they would go for a weekend of golf in Indonesia because it is a low-cost economy. Indonesians dream of living in Singapore.

Indonesia would like to become Singapore but it has a long way to go.

It is just a struggling nation, with potentials but not yet an aspiration for other nations, except for President Buhari.

When the President chooses countries he would like Nigeria to become, he has to lead a dream. He needs to understand what Nigeria can be and have some ambition for his people.

Nigeria cannot be a nation that wants to become an India or Indonesia. We have the human and natural potentials that demand that we aim higher.

That democracy day speech has to be re-written. It needs to capture our collective dream.

Mr. Buhari is probably too old and rusty to see the dreams on the faces of our young.

Their ambition is for Nigeria to become the next Singapore, Finland, UK or Silicon Valley. They plan to build electric cars, robots and create the next Facebook.

They want a thriving music industry. Their dream is bigger than the president’s.

President Buhari has failed to set a path to Nigeria’s greatness. We need another speech. What we got was not good enough.

It was uninspiring.

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