Welcome Back, Our Widely-Travelled President

By Casmir Igbokwe

Dear President Muhammadu Buhari, welcome back to Nigeria. It is good you returned two days earlier than scheduled. Good because tongues have started wagging about your long absence from the country.

While you were away, some Nigerians remembered that you recently visited Sochi, Russia, for a three-day summit on gas and trade. Between May this year and now, they said you had visited Saudi Arabia three times. First was for lesser Hajj between May 16 and 21. You were there again shortly after you were sworn in on May 29, 2019. And you were in that same country late last month for a five-day official visit. It was from there that you took off for London on a private visit on November 2. Since assuming office for a second term in May, you have visited six countries. You had, at various times during your first tenure, visited not less than 33 countries.

In your absence, your aides and party chieftains laboured to defend you. One of them is the National Chairman of your All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole. Sounding like a bird with a broken beak, Oshiomhole recalled, “I remember very well, there is no president in recent Nigeria’s history, since 1999 till now that travelled out of Nigeria as much as former President Olusegun Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo did.”

While Oshiomhole was calculating the number of foreign trips between you and Obasanjo, he failed to reckon with the fact that you are yet to complete your tenure. Does he know if your trips will surpass Obasanjo’s by 2023 when you will vacate office?

In critical thinking, Oshiomhole’s undue comparison is called you-too fallacy. Your Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, deployed this same strategy in the heat of criticisms trailing the killing of innocent people in Benue and elsewhere by herdsmen last year. He said herdsmen killed 756 people in two years under your predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan.

Your Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, was more vociferous. He said your travels had not been excessive compared to Nigeria’s past leaders. According to him, a leader can govern from the air, on the road or at the sea. He forgot to add in ‘the other room’. He said frequent travel was the norm in the world today and no amount of crocodile tears by critics would stop that.

My questions to Shehu are: How many foreign leaders have visited Nigeria and spent the number of days our president spends outside? How many times has President Donald Trump of the United States or even Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya left the shores of their countries to spend weeks in foreign lands? And how many of them sign important bills outside the shores of their countries like our President recently did in London with the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Amendment Bill?

In a recent article, Shehu regaled us with the gains of your trip to Morocco three years ago in the area of fertilizer production. Your visit to China, he added, had resulted in Lagos-Kano railway and Mambilla power plant. Your trip to Russia, according to him, also resulted in some goodies including railways, power projects and military procurements. He said many other countries and major corporations had agreed to come here and put their money in the economy. Siemens, Toyota, Hyundai, General Electric and some others, Shehu noted, were committed to investing billions of dollars in Nigeria.

Well, Your Excellency, you need to cross-examine Shehu. He appears to be living in a utopian world. The reality is that foreign direct investment, which was $3.4 billion in 2015, reportedly fell to $1.9 billion in 2018. Your frequent travels did not stop foreign portfolio investors from pulling out N1.87 trillion assets in your first term in office.

The truth is that investors are not Father Christmas. They invest where they will have huge returns on their investment; where the atmosphere is peaceful and conducive. Hence, with the variegated negative news emanating from Nigeria on a daily basis, it is surprising that ‘Shehu’s multinationals’ are migrating to and investing billions in Nigeria.

Dear President, you also need to interrogate your finance team. Reputed for your prudence and discipline, it is ironical that your travels have gulped a lot of resources amid extreme poverty in the land. If the reported N1.3 billion budgeted for presidential travels in this year’s budget and the N3.3 billion proposed for such travels in the 2020 Appropriation Bill were deployed to education, for instance, our universities would experience uncommon transformation.

Mr. President, it is most likely that the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, is not happy that you travelled without transmitting any letter to the National Assembly. In your first tenure, you allowed him to act as president whenever you embarked on long foreign trips. Section 145 of the 1999 Constitution stipulates that whenever the President transmits to the National Assembly a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or unable to discharge his duties, such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President until the President transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary.

The natural questions are: If you had done that in the past, why didn’t you do it this time? Or did you consider your almost 20 days stay outside Nigeria not long enough to ask your deputy to act? Or were you truly uncomfortable with the decisions Osinbajo took as Acting President in your previous travels as speculated?

History has a way of repeating itself. We had a similar scenario during the regime of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. The man was on sick bed in Saudi Arabia for months without transmitting any letter to the National Assembly. A certain cabal allegedly sidelined his then deputy, Goodluck Jonathan. They rather regaled us with stories of how wonderful the president was recovering and the bills he signed from his hospital bed. Yar’Adua eventually died and Jonathan took over. The rest, as they say, is history.

What many Nigerians suspect in Osinbajo’s case is that the current Aso Villa cabal was not comfortable with certain decisions he took as Acting President in 2018.

It was he, as Acting President, who removed the erstwhile Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura. Daura had the effrontery to send his men to invade the National Assembly and harass some principal officers of the Senate without any recourse to the Acting President.

Osinbajo replaced Daura with Matthew Seiyefa, the most senior officer in the service then. But this appeared to have angered the Aso Villa cabal. And when you, Mr. President came back, you did not waste time to replace the man with Yusuf Magaji Bichi, the current DG.

Besides, you moved the National Social Investment Programme (N-SIP) from the office of the vice-president to a new ministry. Not done, you directed Osinbajo to seek approvals for agencies under his supervision. You later divested the man of the responsibility of heading the Economic Management Team and invested the powers in a new Economic Advisory Council. To add insult to injury, Mr. President, you recently, sacked 35 aides working in the office of the Vice-President.

You said the sacking was mere reorganisation and had no political undertone. So, could Osinbajo’s sin be that he is purportedly eyeing the president’s position in 2023? Could it be that his godfather, Ahmed Tinubu, is after him considering his rumoured presidential ambition?

We may never know all the details. But as you get back to work today, Mr. President, I advise you to address this dangerous rumour about a third term ambition. And if I may ask, which country will you visit next? I hope I will not be charged with hate speech for asking this simple question?


Re: Poverty, wealth creation and the Glo example

Casmir, economic empowerment is the only tool to fight poverty. Nigerians are ready to work but they can’t get the means. Bad government and chronic corruption have denied Nigerians funds to be self employed. Government should create a wealth creation ministry to ensure funds are given to the self employed with good conditions. Also, banks should be made to give loans to those in their area of locations. Empowering people brings down crime and builds government support.

  • Pharm. Okwy Njike, +2348038854922

It is always good to give back to the society if God blesses you. Dr Mike Adenuga is a man that used his resources to impact on so many Nigerians from their zero point to hero point. God will continue to guide and protect him for his philanthropy per excellence.

  • Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Sir, I am a retired deputy superintendent of police (DSP) from Benue state police command. Sir, kindly help me find out from the officer in charge National  Housing Fund, police force headquarter, Abuja, what is delaying my payment for I sent in my claim forms since last year 2018 but till now, I have not been paid. Help me so that I get my refund. Thanks and may God use you to get my money. Amen.

  • Etubi, Karubi Samaila, +2348133164384

God will continue to bless Adenuga for his generosity. Like Mother Theresa posited, if you cannot feed all, feed one. Our ruling party should stop buying guns and drugs for our youths during election and emulate Adenuga and what he epitomizes so that crime and other social vices will be reduced. Thank you, Adenuga.

  • +2348134774884

Thanks very much and remain blessed.

  • Okpala-ezennia Augustine, Awka, +2348034706982
  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, November 18, 2019.

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