We join millions of Nigerians to thank God that you have returned home hale and hearty after your extended medical vacation in the United Kingdom. It is a pity that poor communication led to rumours concerning your health situation. But be assured that most Nigerians were happy to see you looking radiant, smiling and humorous. Yes the tale-tell signs of what you have passed through can be seen, but you looked good, especially considering all the rumours.
Sir, you may not remember, but this is my third memo to you. I do this because your paid advisers may have difficulty speaking this way to you. Often political advisers tell their principals what they (Principals) would like to hear! The First two were written during your transition period and your early days in office. I offered some suggestions to you in my sincere belief that you were going to be receiving suggestions and ideas from Nigerians who were desirous that you succeed. One of the things I had said in one of those memos was that after contesting to be President for four consecutive times, you must have come to office more prepared than any other Nigerian. I was convinced that you already knew what you wanted to achieve and that you would hit the ground running. But as it turned out, many of us were mistaken. You took an unusually long time to start running. As you confessed you were somehow overwhelmed by what you saw on the ground. So under your watch the nation went into an economic turmoil – productivity contraction from quarter to quarter landing us into recession( -1.51% GDP in 2016), doubling of inflation (9% to 19%), exchange rate depreciation that crossed the 500 Naira per dollar line at the parallel market by the middle of February 2017 before receding below that line. Every Socio- economic indicator headed south- unemployment, underemployment, and poverty reaching a misery index of 50% at year end.
Beyond the economy, the Socio-political environment was highly inflamed, partly due to the pre-election rhetoric, partly due to election loss reaction but mostly due the words you spoke and the actions you took. The Niger Delta struggle spiked with the emergence of the avengers, and this almost fully strangulated crude oil production and export; and critically reduced gas for electricity power generation. The low-voltage Biafra agitation took a new revolutionary fervour with the emergence of IPOB. At the same time you turned heat on the Boko-Haram insurgents and they responded with increased suicide bombing of soft targets. Also, you launched your anti-corruption campaign focused mainly on the opposition and as would be expected, corruption began to fight back. There is no doubt in my mind that all these affected your health, just as it would to many other people in similar situations including younger people. The world noticed how Obama greyed quickly!
But I am hoping that you must be pleased with some glimmers of hope that have surfaced in the country in the last few weeks. I am certain the actions which the Vice-President, your ministers and the CBN took while you were away received your endorsement. There has been some bit of psychological easing in the air and hopes are rising as Nigerians search for signs that things are improving. Sir, being aware that you are about mid-way in your 4-year term and that you actually have about one full working year before the noises and preparations for 2019 begin to distract from governance, I believe that you would like the current momentum maintained and possibly accelerated. In fact your concluding remarks in your address on your return last week that ‘you would allow the Acting President continue while you take some more rest’ suggests to me that this is actually what you want- sustenance of the new emerging momentum. It is in line with this that I make the following three suggestions:
- Ask the VP to exclusively focus on the economy
Thankfully the constitution seems to assign strong role to the Vice-President on the economy especially the Chairmanship of the National Economic Council. I believe that he will need to put all his focus on this Mr President, to allow you time to broaden and deepen the anti-corruption war which I believe deserves your full time. Many Nigerians believe you are the best man to fight corruption in Nigeria and given the enormity and pervasiveness of the problem, much more attention is required. I believe that the VP has passed the recent test you put him through, and should be empowered to do more. If the economy begins to power up and the ANTICORRUPTION war begins to dig down, then our nation will resume a steady ride to the top.
- Maintain the current mode of national reconciliation
For the economic recovery to be sustained, a further decompression of the national tension will be critical. So much relief will follow from at least two actions of the President. Order the immediate release of Nnamdi Kanu and El-Zakky. The courts have already ordered so and most recently the courts have quashed most of the charges against Nnamdi Kanu. The release of these two men will signal the return of a ‘ new and improved’ PMB and will do so much to lower tension. If this is followed with some quick appointments that recognize the diversity of Nigeria like appointing someone from the South East into the National Security Council, then this changing mood will lighten up further and many more Nigerians can begin to have a better sense of belonging.
- Re- start action on the implementation of the 2014 national conference recommendations
Sir, this is the second best opportunity for the work on implementing the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference to begin. If you were not sure that was a valid option, when you assumed office I will be really shocked if you still think so now. I believe that in the last two years a kind of consensus has emerged that this inverted and unstable federation must be restructured if we must avert implosion. It is so refreshing that a number of leading Northern compatriots have raised their voices in support of this inevitability. The West raised the tune, the East joined and raised the ante and thankfully many in the North have tuned in. No need to waste more time. I sincerely urge you to seize this opportunity before it becomes a major campaign issue and slips out of your hands.
Mr President, I am certain that these few suggestions will help your Presidency in no small ways. I trust that the period of your rest must have given you time to reflect on this burden you struggled so hard to take on. Certainly this is a complex country to govern and so no one man, no matter how well intentioned and well endowed can do it with his own ideas alone or with his style only or at his pace only. There is an overriding need to work in unison with all arms of the government and to give every Nigerian a sense of belonging.
Welcome home Mr President and do not hesitate to take more rest anytime you need it (Home or abroad) and do not allow your handlers create a wedge between you and the people that elected you into the office. As you have seen, this country will run with or without any body. That is the irony of life. So please, take as much care for your health as you will wish. May God bless you sir.
Mazi Sam I. Ohuabunwa OFR