Sunday, June 13, 2021 1:00 pm
By Michael Ovienmhada
All I can say is: Nduka Obaigbena, how did you penetrate Aso Rock to get a sit-down interview? You are definitely the man!!
Now, to the nitty gritty of the interview. On one level, we now know for certain, without any doubt whatsoever that the man being interviewed was Mohammadu Buhari. He is alive and he is well. Is anyone still in doubt? On another level, he is keenly aware of his environment and he has his wits around him. He answered every question without equivocation. Many times, I wanted to clap, not because he was doing an excellent job but because, largely, he exceeded our expectations— not by articulating any groundbreaking concepts for a Seachange but just by being present. Let’s take a few of the questions.
On foreign Investments. He was quick to blame the lack of foreign investments on youth discontent. The truth is that youth discontent is not like a petrol tanker traveling on the express road, falling, and bursting into flames. Youth discontent is sneaky. It is in the open, yet it is hidden. A young man looks to his left and to his right. There are no factories where he can go to earn a daily living. As he is standing by the roadside, an old friend from the neighborhood drives by in his flashy Venza. He picks him up for a beer at the local bar. His friend’s real job is Yahoo or kidnapper or bandit or Boko Haram. A new chapter begins for him as he becomes a potential recruit. Buhari’s government needs a Think-Tank on job creation.
When asked about lopsided appointments, he began to tout merit. I found that particularly disingenuous. The interviewers could have challenged him some more. We have precedent, plenty of it that he could have rested upon in dousing the notion we all hold about his biases in appointments. No one denies that the new COAS merits his position. However, we have a unique situation on our hands where Igbos are not represented at the highest levels of decision making. An Igbo General as COAS would have earned the President very loud accolades with the added possibility of solving the IPOB matter at the same time. One less theater of war at this time cannot be an undesirable proposition.
I was surprised that the interviewers did not make the question about Twitter a wider question about shrinking wiggle room for the Press in Nigeria. Considering that, that is their primary constituency and that they are in the frontline of the brunt of the attack on free speech, I am befuddled that they let him slide.
The story the President told about two Southwest governors who came to him asking for help on matters of insecurity left me confused. Was he overtly telling them to do whatever needed to be done to give himself room for plausible deniability?
When pressed on State police, he told yet another story. My take on that would be that he would not hesitate to sign a bill establishing State Police. I could be wrong.
They covered a wide range of issues but the one that is going to ring a bell around the country for the next two years which has defined his administration and will carve his legacy, would be, for me, his ‘groundbreaking’ idea to reclaim grazing routes. How did they let him slide so easily on a matter that bothers all of us? Cows, cows, cows and more cows. I wish I could have been a fifth man on that interview crew. This is what my response would have been. Mr. President, you have given a great answer to the question about cows but may I point to you that you may need to modify your views on this matter for the following reasons?
1. At the time of the gazette you are referring to, Nigeria had a population of less than 60 million people. Rural urban migration was minimal. Population has grown to 200 million people.
2. Villages have grown into towns and towns have grown into cities. Narrow two lane roads have grown into express lanes. In a particular instance, an airport has grown in a previously designated cattle route.
3. Mr. President, when you look at the map of Nigeria objectively, you will see that the land distribution makes the resuscitation of grazing routes a difficult proposition. Borno State has a land area of over 70,000 sqkm. Whereas, all six States in the East have a combined land area of less than 29,000 sqkm with the added fact that erosion has eaten up much of their viable land. How can we reasonably ask them to give up land for cows?
4. Mr. President, the farmer whom you say should come and ask for compensation from the herder is dead. His wife has been raped. Your remedy may have worked when Nigeria was yet innocent in the 50s and 60s. Not anymore. Not now, Mr. President.
The crew could have pushed the President seriously on this matter. They may have been constrained for time. Maybe.
Overall, we are glad to have this scoop and to the crew at Thisday and Arise, may your wings grow wider, may the wind of heaven continue to propel you to greater heights as you continue to seek the greater good for the greater number of the people of this potentially great country. Long live Nigeria.
Michael Ovienmhada. [email protected]