By Morak Babajide-Alabi
This piece was first published in the Sunday Vanguard of November 29, 2015, a couple of months after Nigeria’s President Muhammad Buhari was sworn in. It generated a lot of criticism from supporters of Mr President and the All Progressives Congress (APC). But not much seems to have changed till date.
For the next couple of weeks, I shall be writing a series of letters to Mr President on the state of the nation. I felt, before I started, I should refresh the minds of my readers with this letter. While this was kind of general, in subsequent weeks I will be focussing on particular topics. Enjoy.
Dear Mr President,
May I seize this letter opportunity to congratulate you on your success at the last General Elections (2015) in which you won convincingly. Pardon me this is coming late.
This is the first in the series of letters I shall be writing to you, first as a Nigerian with the love of the country at heart and secondly, as a Citizen in Diaspora. I should, however, let you know that in my reasoning I shall take the position of a diasporan more than that of a citizen living in Nigeria. This is not out of disrespect for a country of my birth, but to express my views from the perspective of a “voluntary outsider”.
It is fair to say I represent a large number of Nigerians in Diaspora who saw hope for a better future for the country in you. Our reasoning at that time was that you have had the opportunity, though short-lived, of ruling Nigeria before, with enviable records among former leaders. So by reasoning, you knew the enormity of the job you were applying for and the fact that it takes more than mere desire. Although many from the opposition warned us that times and situations have changed, we were too “loyal” to believe them.
Your Excellency, there is no doubt that the support you had in the Diaspora was unequalled in the political history of Nigeria. Although we were aware that, technically, we were disenfranchised because of our locations, we did all we could to sensitise the Nigerian masses, through blogs, social media posts, etc that it was time for a change. Our access to uninterrupted power supply and cheap broadband made it very easy for us.
Some of us did not limit our support to the internet. We followed you every time you ventured outside Nigeria. One of such occasions was on the 26th of February this year (2015) at the Chatham House where we stood outside the doors (in cold) to support you. On this day, there were three groups of Nigerians at the periphery of the venue. The first group was the APC sympathisers, the second was concerned non-partisan Nigerians who believed in your Change Agenda and had come to support you with their presence. The third group was the unruly crowd that was allegedly “recruited” all the way from Manchester to disrupt your presentation.
Immediately after the programme, a friend rang me to reveal his plan to go back to Nigeria and contribute towards her development. He was so confident in you and your change agenda that nothing could dissuade him from carrying out his plans, he said. His optimism for a new and better Nigeria was infectious.
My friend is not a politician. No. He is, on the other hand, a technocrat. He had ideas in his head that can move Nigeria forward. According to him, the atmosphere at home (Nigeria) had not been conducive for him to explore these ideas, but his confidence in you knew no bounds. He was not the only one in this category.
Your Excellency, your campaigns ideas were “powerful” for anybody not to be persuaded that Nigeria is in for a good deal immediately you were elected. You were suave, well-spoken and knowledgeable of what the people wanted to hear. You knew what Nigerians were complaining about under the incumbent government, and all you did was promise them everything Goodluck Jonathan could not provide.
Mr President, we could not stop loving you when you stated that security and corruption would be your focus, while steady electricity supply would be top on the agenda. For us Nigerians in Diaspora, there is nothing that keeps us away from the shores of the country mainly than these three “evils”.
Sir, it is over (or almost six months) but nothing seems to have changed at all. I realise the fact that you warned us that you are not a magician, therefore Nigerians should not expect any “miracle”. We are not demanding for much, but what you promised us during the elections. However, these promises seem to be taking “so long” to be fulfilled.
Your Excellency, I ran into my friend last week, after so many months of no information about his relocation plans to Nigeria. And it is sad to tell you that he is no longer relocating to Nigeria. He told me a few weeks after your inauguration he wanted to visit Nigeria, but his family advised that he should “chill for some time and let the President settle down” before coming. When he consulted with his family and friends on the ground in Nigeria a few weeks ago about his plans, they told him he must be mad he still nursing the thoughts of coming back to Nigeria, as nothing has changed.
Mr President Sir, my friend is no longer coming to Nigeria, so also are his ideas not coming. His people told him nothing has changed in the country. They told him electricity is still as unstable as the availability of fuel in the country. He was told that the dreaded Boko Haram is still killing people in the north, despite your assurances that the group would be history immediately you win the elections. What about the endless queue at the fuel stations? The cabals are still operating.
Sir, what are your plans for the country? Thousands of Nigerians abroad are asking this question. They need concrete answers to security challenges, power generation and distribution, jobs for all, Boko Haram, corruption and many more. But all they are hearing on daily basis is how much the past administration had plundered the country’s economy. They are, also, wondering if you or your party did any proper “homework” before drafting the manifestos? They want to come home and assist you in developing this great country, but the basics of life must be present before they can venture into it.
Sir, the only returnees now are the 500 Nigerians “allegedly” deported last week by the United Kingdom government. What was your reaction to the number? Did you laugh it off or you shook your head and asked: “Is there any Nigerian left on the streets of UK?” Nobody has been able to explain the number, sir. But the “foundation” for it was laid by Nigeria’s Acting High Commissioner to the UK, Olukunle Bamgbose, a few weeks ago.
Did you read his interview with the media after your deputy, Yemi Osibanjo visited the UK? He said the UK government was hounding Nigerians in their hundreds and desperate to send many back home. He disclosed that a total number of 29,000 Nigerians were Lagos-bound forcefully, courtesy of the UK’s Home Office. Some of them were reported to have lived in the UK for decades. Obviously, they would have picked up one trade, career or the other that they can apply to the Nigerian situation.
In conclusion sir, many countries may be rejecting the “asylum” applications of Nigerians not based on fairness, but your promises of a “dreamland” called Nigeria, after May 29. Unfortunately, your dream is not coming through, on time. Based on your elections manifestos alone, these deportees need not worry on how to survive in Nigeria. But we have to understand the fact that reality is different from promises. Your manifesto has refused to leave the dream stage to reality. What’s happening, sir?
Letter to Mr President was published in the Sunday Vanguard of November 29th, 2015. CLICK HERE