Augean Stables

Augean Stables

Thursday, May 10, 2018 3:58 pm

Ademola Adegbamigbe

This article, written in 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari became President, is reproduced below for some relevance to the goings-on in Nigeria of 2018

Augean Stables

By Ademola Adegbamigbe

Muhammadu Buhari who was sworn in as President of Nigeria on 29 May 2015 has a Herculean task ahead of him. In fact, he needs to transform himself into Hercules of Greek mythology to succeed.

Hercules was commissioned by Augeans, king of Elis, to help him clean his dirty stables which, for over 30 years, had never been touched. It was expected to humiliate the giant whose ability made him a symbol of power. To make matters worse for Hercules, the king put a caveat: the task must be completed in one day. Greeks wondered how Hercules, despite his enormous power, would accomplish this assignment.

To make sure that what he was about to do was not denied by the king who had promised him one-tenth of his over 1,000 cattle, Hercules brought Augeas’ son to witness the exercise. Hercules first dug two holes on the opposite walls of the stables. He thereafter dug trenches to divert rivers Alpheus and Peneus, through the holes, to wash off the filth. Mission accomplished, a feat that rendered the king’s jaw hanging slack. If Hercules depended on his brawn alone, he could not have accomplished the task in one day. But he combined brawn and brain to confound the king. Whether or not the king kept his vow is neither here nor there in this matter.

TheNEWS 2105 edition when Buhari was sworn in

Like Hercules, Buhari needs to combine energy with creativity to be able to solve Nigeria’s myriad of problems. He admitted these when he gave his inaugural address. In his words: “At home, we face enormous challenges. In security, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head-on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problem.”

Yes, we can! What is gratifying is that, despite all the difficulties which Nigerians face and which Buhari outlined, our people’s endurance is legendary. Half of what we have weathered could have made the people snap and revolt elsewhere, especially in the two weeks preceding the handover. Rather, Nigerians endured, saying in their minds that the bull of the last administration should just be gingerly ushered out of the Chinaware shop. In other words, the new government enjoys enormous goodwill.

To be fair to Buhari, he acknowledged this and that is why he said that no matter how well organized the governments of the federation are they cannot succeed “without the support, understanding and cooperation of labour unions, organized private sector, the press and civil society organizations.” Thus, he promised that as far as the constitution allows him, he would try to ensure that there is responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country. “For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch.”

Buhari’s major assignment is to perform well and extend this honeymoon. Of course, honeymoon can be shortened or terminated with no more effort than snapping twigs. That depends on whether or not a government keeps to or reneges on its promises.

Buhari’s major assignment is to perform well and extend this honeymoon. Of course, honeymoon can be shortened or terminated with no more effort than snapping twigs. That depends on whether or not a government keeps to or reneges on its promises

Right now, Nigerians who have suffered this much are ready to laminate and paste on their wardrobes for easy reference, Buhari’s promises. One of these is this: “No single cause can be identified to explain Nigerian’s poor economic performance over the years than the power situation. It is a national shame that an economy of 180 million generates only 4,000MW, and distributes even less. Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution and close on $20b expanded since 1999 have only brought darkness, frustration, misery, and resignation among Nigerians. We will not allow this to go on. Careful studies are underway during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians.”

Another matter is unemployment, notably youth un-employment which Buhari told Nigerians features strongly in the party’s manifesto. As he put it: “We intend to attack the problem frontally through revival of agriculture, solid minerals mining as well as credits to small and medium size businesses to kick–start these enterprises. We shall quickly examine the best way to revive major industries and accelerate the revival and development of our railways, roads and general infrastructure.”

This article as published in the TheNEWS hard copy in 2015

The new government should keep this at the back of its mind that the same Nigerians who are shouting “hosanna” today can, the following month, week, quarter, year or term, scream “crucify him.” A Pontius Pilate may, this time, not wash off his hand; he may become an interested party.

In other words, the goodwill of the people, and long suffering should not be taken for granted by the new government. The same voters who brought Buhari to power can despatch him into political oblivion. A factor that needs being strengthened here is the electoral process. The government that came to town on the horse of permanent voter card and the verification machine should not abandon this foundation. It must perfect it.

One of Buhari’s quotes that has started trending on social media is “I belong to everybody and belong to nobody.” This should send a great message to those who, because of tribe, religion or personal connections, would want to make the new government bend the rules and take the new President hostage.

As all Nigerians congratulate Buhari on his new position, they are saying “roll up your sleeves sir and get ready to clear the mess or the Augean stables of the past 16 years.”

• This article by Ademola Adegbamigbe, Editor, TheNEWS, was published on page 5 of the 8 June 2015 edition of the magazine.

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