IT is becoming increasingly clear that the political class has no respect for the common man. As a matter of fact, the political class holds the rest of the citizenry in utmost disdain. If not, what is the justification for the commencement of the campaign for President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election amidst the not only abominable but alarmingly disquieting happenings in the country? Nigerians are in serious pains and anguish, yet the only concern of Alhaji Adebayo Shittu, Communication Minister, who appointed himself the head of a group campaigning for the president’s re-election, is how to persuade the president to seek re-election. Nigeria is currently in turmoil but the most important task Alhaji Shittu has assigned himself is how to ensure the re-election of the president. The self-assigned task is not only gnawing but extremely annoying because it is coming ahead of the official time set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the commencement of political campaigns.
INEC had in 2017 warned politicians against campaigning ahead of the 2019 general election, saying such is against the Constitution and the Electoral Act, but that apparently does not mean anything to Alhaji Adebayo Shittu, who, while answering reporters’ questions at the State House, Abuja, last Wednesday, said that the South-West office of the campaign group would be inaugurated on January 20.
While the president reserves the right to seek re-election and the minister cannot be denied the right to support his choice candidate, the move, coming months before it is allowed, speaks of extreme desperation to impress the president. Not only is the timing grossly inappropriate, it also portrays the minister as someone who is so cut off from reality that the feelings in the land matter a little to him.
Nigeria is currently experiencing fuel scarcity that unleashed untold hardship on the citizens during the yuletide and has increased the rate of poverty in the country as food prices have skyrocketed while transport fares have hit the roof, yet the only concern that Alhaji Shittu can express is ‘to help the president make up his mind to seek re-election.’ The rate of unemployment in the country has reached an all-time high, yet this does not mean as much to the minister as organising a campaign for the president’s re-election.
On New Year’s Day, 17 people were killed in Omoku, Rivers State, while several people were also killed in Kwara State. The following day, Tuesday, herdsmen killed 20 people and injured 30 others in six communities in Benue State. On Wednesday, the day the minister revealed his plan, a suicide bomber snuffed life out of 10 people worshipping in a mosque in Borno State. That same day, Boko Haram insurgents killed some people in a bomb attack in Adamawa State. That same Wednesday, the country suffered its second transmission grid failure within 24 hours. The country was practically boiling, quality man-hours were being wasted in search of petrol, people were being mauled, homes were being destroyed and several states were thrown into blackout. Yet, the uppermost plan in the minister’s mind was how to get President Buhari back in office. That was the height of insensitivity. What a country? What manner of leaders?
The most urgent task before the president now should be how to save the ship of the state from capsizing on his watch, not seeking re-election. The president should devise means of stopping the killing by Boko Haram insurgents, curtailing the slaughter by herdsmen and improving life and living in Nigeria. Instead of jumping the INEC’s gun to start a campaign for the president’s re-election, Alhaji Shittu will do well to deploy the human and material resources in the ministry he superintends to create employment opportunities for teeming unemployed Nigerian youths. The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector is a veritable platform for generating employment opportunities but we have not seen much of that in this country.
Anger and violence are escalating in the country because hunger and anguish are on the rise in the land. So, the concern of those saddled with leadership responsibilities should be to put an end to the people’s sufferings, not seeking tenure renewal. If the President improves the lot of Nigerians, it will be much easier for him to get re-elected. If he fails in that respect, jumping the INEC’s gun will not translate into any edge for him.
Currently, oppressed Nigerians are going for the jugular of their oppressed compatriots. This is why politicians are gallivanting about with utmost contempt for the people’s concerns, believing that they are beyond the masses’ anger. But the oppressed attacking the oppressed is usually the first stage of a massive protest. Before long, the oppressed who are attacking other oppressed people will realise that pouring their anger on their ilk is counterproductive and go for their oppressors.
For those who might have forgotten, it was the uncontained citizens’ anger that sparked the Arab Spring. A stitch in time saves nine.
By Sulaiman Olanrewaju