Letter to my president on his re-election bid
I know you will be far away in our colonial masters territory to relax and probably hold some meetings with them before returning to the country. Age is no longer on your side and considering the responsibilities on ground, you need your health strong enough to tackle the great challenges of managing a diverse entity like Nigeria. No doubt, you have one of the hardest jobs in the world; taking over the largest and one of the fastest growing economies in Africa is no small work.
We have waited too long and the day finally came upon us as you declare for a re-election into presidency in 2019. This is a welcome development considering your constitutional right as a citizen as contained in chapter IV of the 1999 constitution. Even though, some people are referring to your statement in 2011 and that of Rotimi Fashakin (a chieftain of APC) in 2014 that you will only use one term due to old age but I also reckon with you, the rut in the system is too gruesome and you can’t just leave things like that. As humans, there are times we make statements out of ignorance, only to be faced with facts, realities and we need to re-evaluate our status.
As the president of the most populous and diverse country in the world, you have really done your best despite the high expectations and the media hype about your prowess and intolerance for corruption. My generation did their best in bringing you to power with the expectation of being their Saviour because the previous administration was either too slow or not delivering on expectations. They did their best (including the selfish ones) to canvass votes for you in the North, East, West and South of Nigeria. In the early 2014, the narratives had changed for you and the odds were against the incumbent; everyone thought of you as the messiah coming with a magic wand to solve their perennial problems. How courageous of you to have accepted such a mantle in the worst of times in the history Nigeria’s democracy. History will remember you for this courage. The courage you had then is still intact and that’s why you have decided to listen to the strange voices again to seek a re-election into office. After all, it was part of your military training that a captain does not abandon his ship, he must drown with it. Whether the people see this perspective is their choice to consider.
The intent of this letter is to keep you abreast of the happenings in and around Nigeria since you took office since 2015 and perhaps, you may evaluate your decision again as you have done recently. Ideally, this is the job of a special assistant but I would do it as a voluntary assignment more like my contribution to the progress of Nigeria as an eligible citizen with the same constitutional rights.
Despite having your hands full and working day and night in Aso Rock, it will interest you to know that since 2015, all indicators of good governance have gone south. The youths who canvassed for you in 2014/2015 have lost more jobs than ever before. Unemployment rate that has reduced from 7.6% in 2012 to 4.8% in 2014 has returned back to growth (5% in 2016). According to Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), 272 firms shutdown in 2016 alone and the reasons are not farfetched as articulated by proshare- Absence of conducive environment and lack of basic infrastructure. To make matters worst, most of the technology startups that keep your grandsons busy are also running out of the country, probably to Ghana, Ethiopia or Kenya where the conditions are more favorable. One of the surveys conducted by the Bank of Ghana recently revealed that Nigeria was one of the 10 sources of Foreign Direct Investment in the country. More Nigerian businesses are finding homes in Ghana and other neighboring countries.
On Economy, even though population has witnessed tremendous growth from estimated 165 million people in 2012 to 184 million in 2016, GDP which should ordinarily represent how wealthy we are has declined from $553bn in 2012 to $363bn in 2016, although with a slight improvement in 2017. As a result of growing population, GDP per capital has also crashed from $3,182 in 2014 to a mere $1,976 in 2016 and economic growth shrank to 1.6% from 4.2% growth in 2012. The economy was one of the three cardinal points on which the All Progressive Congress campaigned in 2014. Others are Corruption and Security.
Corruption has been a part of Nigeria since inception but the kind of corruption in the fourth republic is what could make the likes of Awolowo, Zik or Ahmadu wake from their grave and begin to cry. The country has been raved by selfish politicians with nothing to offer the existence of the federating unit called Nigeria. From 2014 when you took over and started this fight against corruption, indicators by Transparency International has shown that our corruption perception index (CPI) has drastically declined. It means we have moved eight steps up the league of the most corrupt societies. Between 2011 and 2014, we moved from 143rd to 136th most corrupt country in the world. We could imagine that the corruption in the country was started by the opposition party that ruled the country for 16 years (1999-2015) and your government has not left any stone untouched to pass the blame. However, data has shown that more than 70% of the people in previous government are ruling with you in the current government. It might not be what you imagined when you founded CPC but in order to clinch power, you needed to team up with a necessary distraction.
According to this survey, Nigeria is ranked 32nd worst countries to live in with some undesirable comments such as “It is a corrupt country with self-hating people and it operates the biggest Drug Syndicates in the world. It is also the Scam Capital of the World. It is home to Boko Haram (Islamic Terrorist Group) that operates North of Nigeria“. A similar survey of 13000 people by Quartz looked at 65 countries in the world for expats considering factors such as quality of life, personal finances, cost of living, healthcare, security; Nigeria ranked 63rd most undesirable place to live in for expats. Therefore, I think we might need to revisit your strategies at keeping Nigeria safe and desirable.
The median age in Nigeria is 17.9 years (2015) and it is projected to be about 22.4 years by 2050. This attests to the fact that Nigeria is a young country with young people running economic and political affairs. As a matter of fact, in 1985 when you were head of state, the average age was 17.5 years and you were just 33 years old. If at 33 despite lack of access to modern technological advancement, you could lead an entire country; you can imagine what our current 35, 40 and 45 year old can achieve if older people like you can coach and provide a democratic environment for their emergence. This is coming from a perspective that young people are the energy that drives a country’s future and should be given an opportunity to perform their civic rights. If the likes of Barrack Obama, Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy were Nigerians as at the time they were presidents of the most powerful economy in the world with nuclear codes, what would they be doing now? Running your social media accounts deceiving the same people you are constitutionally bound to protect and serve? I think it’s not too late to consider your decisions as you have always done to relapse on seeking a re-election. Rather, find capable young person (s) of your choice to groom for leadership.
I was particularly disappointed at one of your ministers who claimed to be your student telling a 48-year-old Nigerian to go and be a councilor first before dreaming of becoming a president. I argued that this is not from you because it can never be your intentions to discredit a 40 or 48-year-old from becoming a president. This is like saying, nobody should be president until they are above 70 or 80 years of age when we all know that irrespective of the good intentions, the energy for proper execution is dwindling. We have both seen cases where heads of security forces in Nigeria went hiding and disobeyed your order; you didn’t know until three months after. Even after you knew, you couldn’t wheel the hand to fire them. They are still serving in your government.
We need you alive sir because your wealth of experience in governance and nation building is unarguably important and very necessary for building the Nigeria of our dreams.
Mr. President, please stay alive for our sake.
Less I remember Mr. President, considering chapter VI, section 137 sub 1(g) of 1999 constitution as amended; will you be resigning your position as the petroleum minister before election? Our industrial production rate has moved from +1.5% in 2012 to -5.7% in 2016 and value of export has reduced from $94bn in 2012 to $34bn in 2016. Interestingly, value imports also reduced by a wide margin which automatically means that the economy was paralyzed within that period.
May God bless you with long life.
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Adetunji Adeniran is a civil engineer and social entrepreneur based in Lagos.