Buhari’s best and the rest of us

Dear Mr President

As you round up your presidency and move towards handing over to the next administration that will be determined in February and sworn in May 2023, it is understandable and expected that you take stock of your tenure, try to summarise your activities and lay claims to your achievements. All leaders do the same, from the club president of the country club to the chairman of the old school association to the outgoing managing directors of our private companies and parastatals as well as the vicars of our churches.

Generally speaking, they tend to give an account of their activities by reminding us where and how they met the organisation and by showing us where and how they are leaving it.

The implicit but clear message of their account is that they have done their best and that their best has added value. In your case Mr President, you seem to have opted for the method of explicitly saying “I have done my best…”

We are told that you started this “I have done my best” narrative and posture sometimes mid last year (2022) in private conversations, the narrative however became official late last year when in Washington, while you were welcoming the Secretary-General of the Abu Dhabi Forum, Sheikh Al-Mahfoudh Bin Bayyah and his deputy, Pastor Bob Roberts of the US who came on a visit to you. As a measure of how convinced you are of the narrative and how deliberate it is, you went to on reiterate the narrative in December during the dinner for your 80th birthday. Perhaps because it appeared to be a strong narrative or at least not provoking strong negative reactions, you went on to repeat the same narrative in your end of the year and new year message.

Like a child who comes home late at night and gets no noticeable reaction from their parents or guardians then pushes the envelope and dares to come early next morning, the thrill of that message and the silence of many observers must have emboldened you to add last week in Bauchi that you have not only done your best but you have not disappointed anyone. No Mr. President, everything has a limit, let’s not go there, let’s not go beyond acceptable or better still tolerable limits.

With your most recent statement, you have gone beyond the tolerable limit and you deserve a response.

Lest we become guilty of what we accuse others of doing or not doing, today’s epistle is an imperative missive with which we must calmly but clearly say to you that you have disappointed many of us.

For the benefit of those that might wonder why you were not cautioned or why some of us did not at least react when you started saying you had done your best, let us make use make clear that “doing one’s best” is a subjective and intrapersonal index of activities that dwells on efforts and intentions whilst “disappointment” is an interpersonal index of activities that dwells on agreements, expectations and outcomes. In the light of this, it becomes easy to understand why a student who though has tried his or her best might still fail an exam or a debtor notwithstanding all good intentions and attempts might still not be able to make payment. In both cases, based on outcome, the teacher, creditor and other stakeholders are disappointed.

Whilst we at it, it might help here to remind all that the word “disappointed” (that comes from French “disappointer”) literarily means to miss an appointment, not to meet an expectation and or an agreement. Appointments, agreements and expectations are by their very nature interpersonal and therefore social, the consequence of this reasoning is that it is at best whimsical when not manipulative or vexatious to say “I have not disappointed you…”, the best a party in a relationship can say is “I hope I have not disappointed…” with the humble wish of a getting a positive response. Even when a host or hostess of private dinner party says “I hope I have not disappointed…”, they tend to do so just to fish for compliments and most normal dinners or guests will be eager to fib just as a matter of courtesy. Not so with a president that is elected to manage a country and matters of life and death of a people.

Dear Mr President, undoubtedly your administration has done more than a bit in improving our infrastructure, the minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, who is arguably the best performing minister of your government is also arguably your best spokesperson. For anyone who dares him, Fashola has a convincing and verifiable list of your administration’s achievement in terms of infrastructure, he also has the wit to situate infrastructure as the foundation of all other developments.

According to the gospel of Fashola, we are to seek first the establishment of good infrastructure and every other thing shall follow. We thank you very much and we cannot even thank you enough for the strides made in infrastructure but alas, that was not what was advertised as the main dish before you got our votes.

I know this might sound harsh to you and those who continue to think you are faster than Bolt, wiser than Solomon, and cleaner than a whistle but fact is our agreement, appointment with and expectation from you were to improve our economy, secure our insecure lives and properties, fight corruption, fix power and eliminate the fuel subsidy “scam”.

We are now close to eight years since you got the power you so much desired and our economy based of the price and availability of essential items and services such as food, drinks, transportation, and building material is not, rather…

I am sure you have heard this a lot but it is worth repeating here that one of the reasons many found you acceptable if not attractive was that it was believed that as a General you will be able to commandingly deal with our security issues, well Mr President, close to eight years since you won, our lands and lives are not safer as promised and expected. Candidates that want to take over from you are still promising to fight corruption, I am sure you will realise, if not agree, that their promise is an indication that you have not won the war on corruption that you promised us.

It might be a hard blow for you but my not mentioning the state of petrol and trajectory of its subsidy might be perceived as immoral by readers so let me simply ask you this: Do you think you have disappointed us in the management of a ministry (of petroleum) you opted to manage yourself?

Dear Mr President, some passionate or even mischievous simpletons might consider this epistle too harsh, pure partisan or anti you but you and I know the truth: if you had delivered and you have not disappointed us, the presidential candidates of opposing parties would not today be promising the same things your promised eight years ago, they would be promising something else and the candidate of your own party would be consistently and clearly shouting “let the good work continue” but they are not, are they?

Join me if you can @anthonykila to continue these conversations.

*Prof Anthony Kila is Centre Director at CIAPS Lagos. www.ciaps.org. He is a regular contributor to The Frontier.




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