By Ochereome Nnanna
If not for the burden of my profession, I would not read what media aides of Nigerian public office-holders write. In most cases, they follow the same pattern of wallowing in sycophancy for their principals. They are hardly sobre and dignified in tone, nor do they truthfully address the issues at stake. There is always that “fight-back” thing, which is why some see Nigerian media aides as “attack dogs”.
A write-up credited to Mallam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari last Sunday, was not different. Entitled: “In Defense Of President Buhari: Is This The Change We Voted For? Yes It Is!”, Mallam Shehu really “hit back” at Buhari’s critics but still came out like one who lived in a bubble, not the Nigerian reality. Aso Villa is a bubble. It was created to be so. Nobody who lives off its freebies understands what we are talking about out here, until they come out to join us.
Shehu dug (as usual) into the unending triumphalism of Buhari’s men and his All Progressives Congress, APC, when he referred to what he called the “heavy defeat” of former President Goodluck Jonathan in last year’s election. Buhari scored 15.4 million votes compared to Jonathan’s 12.8 million, a difference of 2.6 million. Compare this with 2011 when Jonathan defeated Buhari with 22.4 million votes to 12.2 million, a difference of 10.2 million. Buhari’s supporters murdered people after that, but Jonathan told his supporters that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian and congratulated Buhari. Compare and contrast.
This triumphalism is no longer a spontaneous jubilation after victory. It is now a carefully-orchestrated political strategy meant to cheer on Buhari and keep the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and their supporters in their “wailing” mode. It is frequently used, especially by Mallam Shehu, to bad-mouth and stigmatise the former ruling party. Shehu is in elements when he refers to 16 years of PDP “rot” (or “misrule”) and “corruption”, forgetting that he was a part of it as the chief media aide of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Vice President of Olusegun Obasanjo’s two-term PDP Federal Government.
Though Shehu was never directly an officer of that government (and might or might not have been a card-carrying member of PDP) he worked for a man who aspired for president on its platform. Shehu could not have promoted Atiku’s PDP presidential aspiration and yet claim he was never a part of the PDP directly or vicariously. I will understand when Femi Adesina, his colleague, talks about “16 years of PDP rot”. Femi had always stood up for Buhari, even when the man hadn’t a chance. Shehu, on the other hand, went from one party to the other with Atiku and only got sublet to Buhari when Atiku became part of the APC.
Yes, there was large-scale corruption during 16 years of PDP. Which government was ever clean? Is there no corruption now? What is budget padding? What about items in the budget Buhari sent to the National Assembly which included things like “rent” for Aso Villa and multi-million naira provisions for “cables”? The economy that Obasanjo inherited from the military was worse than what Buhari met, yet Obasanjo faced his work without blaming the military. The PDP managed some cycles of booms and busts. Buhari should face his own like a man.
Jonathan wanted to save for the rainy day. The opposition invaded the Governors Forum and used it to stop the plan, insisting that the Constitution says the money must be shared. The money was shared. Jonathan in 2012 wanted to deregualte the downstream oil sector. The opposition (which became the APC) sponsored the “Occupy” protests in Lagos and forced Jonathan to drop the idea.
We went on to spend trillions in fuel subsidies; money that could have been used to diversify the economy and prevent the situation we find ourselves in. APC, which has many former PDP chieftains, is also vicariously responsible for our current situation. Jonathan was a weak president. Otherwise, he would not have allowed the opposition to push him around – then out. He would have insisted on doing what was right for Nigeria.
Nigerians settled for “change” when Buhari, as the flagbearer of the APC, came along with his 81 mouth-watering promises. Buhari promised that no Nigerian would go hungry under an APC government. Today, hunger is not just for the poor. The middle class, which flourished under PDP “rot”, has now gone hungry too. APC (including Mallam Garba Shehu) has been systematically denying the promises it made the gullible masses.
Instead of telling Nigerians why the change that Buhari promised is turning into a mass daytime nightmare, Shehu is defiant. He says: “Yes, that is what you voted for”. Fine. The day of reckoning is coming, and Nigerians will “say their own”.
What I found most annoying was what Mallam Garba Shehu described as “the tyranny of expectations”. Aha! So, Nigerians have become “tyrants” because they expect you to deliver on your promises? What an insult! I dare Shehu to go to a Friday mosque in his base, Kano, without escort, and say that. He will be rewarded with some rousing applause, I bet!
Nigerians did not vote for cluelessless. Fifteen months on, there is no economic direction. Nigeria has lost its top GDP rating in Africa, established under PDP’s “16 years of rot”, to South Africa. Insecurity has spread from the North to the South through pipeline bombings, armed herdsmen attacks of local communities and rising hunger crimes.
Yet, there is glaring evidence of enjoyment within Aso Villa with foreign junkets for the health and educational needs of its tenants. The President’s kinsmen and close associates are enjoying plum public posts that should have been shared equitably to among Nigerian groups as the constitution commands. Yet there is little evidence that they are helping to turn the situation around for the better.
Still, Garba Shehu insists it is the change we voted for. #Isorite. #Kontinu.