Austerity: Buhari Should Lead By Example


In tough times, as Nigerians are increasingly being required to fasten their belts, limit their use of fuel, manage higher prices and in-affordability of foreign currency and make other related sacrifices, it is necessary to call on Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari to lead by example in the interest of peace and progress.

In a recent Al Jazeera interview, when the President was asked on why he will be keeping his children in school abroad, affording dollars at the official rate while other Nigerians were deprived of similar luxuries; the President responded that “those who can afford it, can.” This is the very thing Nigerians voted against and away from. Buhari himself and no cabal, or big company should have an advantage in purchasing dollars over a small individual or business entity. All sectors are equally important in a nation’s economy. Small enterprise, SMEs are statistically the greatest employers of labor by far (70% of employment) and not big business. If Nigerians do not have the jobs small enterprise employment accords them, how will they be able to purchase the goods made by the low employing handful of cabal industries? From social welfare handouts?

Nigerians are tired of decades of disparity and institutionalized disadvantagement by the rich, politicians and cabal over the poor/masses. This is said to be the root of the chaos and terror bedeviling the nation.

While Nigerians queue for petrol for their vehicles, it is unseemly for Nigerians to see their President affording fuel for his trips all over the world, many seen as highly unnecessary. There is hardship in Nigeria; due to the possibly erroneous policies of the government, fuel scarcities have persisted. Nigerians would like to see a President and Minister of petroleum who is concerned by this crisis and sits at home till it is resolved.

As Nigerians support a war against corruption and pray for establishment of and success of the instruments against this terror; the exposure of Buhari’s budget being ridiculously padded has been quite a let down. How can the government that is supposed to lead the battle against corruption be also so corrupt? The amended budget reportedly saw only about N17 billion deleted out of over N670 billion in padding. This means the 2016 budget is still corruptly loaded. How can Nigerians be asked to sacrifice while ministers and other heads of service and members of the Presidency have made official plans to rip Nigeria off of billions of Naira, “in our faces!”

The ruling party’s “hooliganism” and political corruption and the diminishing and decapacitation of the electoral system is not encouraging either. Nor is the apparent subversion of the State Security departments seen to be used for sectarian and political agendas and as permissive and complacent in other matters. Law must be maintained by those on top as by those at the bottom.

So as not to lose public support and good will, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is called upon to lead by example. It is time he takes serious steps to rid his cabinet of all corrupt elements no matter how highly placed as well as reposturing himself as a Nigerian leader concerned with the problems of the people and as an equal citizen employed as the top public servant.

Good examples of leadership can be gleaned from stories of blessed Jesus, the Prophet of Islam and the like. These were true public servants.

In a story of Caliph Umar Bin Abdul Aziz of the wealthy Umayyad caliphate, it was narrated that once when his wife came into his office at night to discuss house matters, the Caliph asked her to kindly turn off the lamp with the words, “let us not use State oil in the lamp to discuss personal matters.”

‘One day, according to the narration, the Caliph was sitting in his private chamber examining a pile of State documents. The dim light of the room was adding to the serenity and sombreness of the place and the Caliph could scarcely feel the arrival of his wife, Fatima, till she addressed him, “Sire! Will you spare a few moments for me? I want to discuss a private matter with you.” “Of course”, replied the pious Caliph, raising his head from the papers, “But, please put off this State lamp and light your own, as I do not want to burn the State oil for private talk.”’

It is time Buhari fires his corrupt members of his cabinet no matter how good their records of performance may be. Buhari must personally be an example and set examples. Unlike Jonathan, Buhari knows what corruption is. He knows that stealing is corruption. It is time for honesty and empathy from the new government.

Dr. Peregrino Brimah; @EveryNigerian