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An agenda for national rebirth (2), By Hassan Gimba

In the same “Change Must Begin with the Leader” written on 06/07/2020, we observed: “In Nigeria, they promised us ‘change’ and we fought to bring in its champions. Some lost their capital, others their health, while some paid the supreme price, but we all heaved a sigh of relief and proclaimed, “It has come!” We wanted change, and we thought fairness and justice would take the place of selfishness and impunity; that transparency and accountability would replace corruption but, above all, that our lives and property would be secure.

“We have seen how our leaders of old discarded our homemade cars, foods, clothes, hospitals and schools and embraced those of foreigners for themselves and their families. Our most vulnerable slept on empty stomachs while our leaders were collecting stupendous salaries and allowances. We thought the change would bring leaders who would put everything for the wealth of the land to cascade down to the least of us.

“Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio had two lamps, one bought by the state and the other from his salary. After finishing state work with the state lamp at night, he blew it out and lit the personal one for his private work.

“So, what has changed? Anyone who tells me I must first change before my nation changes is not fair to me. He is just mocking me. People are just a crowd. They need a leader to become a nation. I just need to be led out of the woods and that was why I voted. A crowd cannot change anything except to cause chaos and anarchy, but a leader can.

“We can attest to this even from simple clothing. Many of us wear our watches on the right because we grew up watching General Yakubu Gowon do so. Before the coming of Alhaji Shehu Shagari as president, many typical northerners’ gowns (Babbar Riga) had a “just there” embroidery, but Shagari came with the Shagari style – full embroidery covering the chest down to the stomach. Now, you may be called a clown if you wore a gown with small embroidery. Nigerian men, especially those from the north, used four yards for their jumpers and trousers. Then General Sani Abacha, like a bolt from the sky, came with his tazarce and redefined how we dress. Wear a four-yard jumper now and risk being viewed as half-naked. President Buhari, too, has brought back a hitherto dead mode of dressing – wearing a collar neck shirt with a caftan.

“At the state level, a state I know very well is Yobe. When Bukar Abba Ibrahim was the governor, his followers took to wearing his type of red Dara cap. This mimicking of leaders is seen in the way many admirers of the current governor, Mai Mala Buni, are adopting, apart from a certain cap, his idiosyncrasies.

In ‘What Have We Done for the Next Generation?’ written on 03/05/2021, we wrote: “God sends prophets to lead people to cleanse their hearts and (to) become new. One by one, people change internally and get transformed individually and, collectively, a changed society is born. There is always the one who is a society’s mirror.

“The lack of leaders who love this country has been our problem. While the current crop of leaders had the best of everything, they have not improved on what they got for those coming after them. The great public school system that groomed them is no more. They prefer to send their children abroad for tertiary education and private schools for their primary and secondary education. The American government recently said about 14,000 Nigerians pursuing graduate and undergraduate degrees across communities in their country spent $501 million (about N190 billion) last year (2020). And this is just America!

“The public health system that took care of them while growing up is a shadow of itself, as private hospitals and clinics have taken over. The leaders now indulge in medical tourism, spending billions of naira in hospitals abroad. In 2016, PricewaterhouseCoopers in its report stated that Nigerians spend $1 billion annually on medical tourism. It also said that 60 percent of it is from oncology, orthopaedic, nephrology and cardiology patients.

“It is unfortunate our generation has not replicated for the next generation what the last generation did for us. Instead of even giving them peace to do for themselves what we failed to do for them, we are bristling and threatening to push them into turmoil…If we have failed in taking care of their welfare, we should not fail in securing their lives in a united Nigeria and giving them peace to thrive.”

On December 3, 2021, writing on the topic: ‘The PDP will not return to power, the APC has lost it…and Nigeria is the loser!’, we said: “Nigeria at that time and the APC, in particular, were ripe to be owned by the people. Had it been told that he could not pay for the form, contributions from the masses alone would have bought it many times over. From then, he should have made it known that members should contribute periodically, no matter how little, towards the upkeep of the party and we would have by now achieved a real people’s party, the likes of which were last seen in the days of Aminu Kano’s Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU). It is an opportunity missed.

“The second opportunity missed was the day he was sworn in as president. He famously said he “was for everybody but belonged to nobody”. Laudable. And that was what everybody expected because, in the political history of Nigeria, no campaign was ever as intense and nationally engaging as his was. The election that saw him emerge as president was unlike any other before it. It was not like Obasanjo’s, certainly not like Yar’Adua’s, and surely not like Jonathan’s.

“Buhari was elected by Nigerians, not by APC members alone, not by northerners alone, and not by Muslims alone. He was voted for across the board, if you may.

“Therefore, the election was an opportunity to unify Nigerians for Nigeria, irrespective of political leanings, tribal roots or religious beliefs. Buhari could have been the ‘father of the nation’ if he had picked the best from among the various tendencies that abound in the country. There are patriots in all political parties, tribes and religions, just as there are crooks in them as well.

“He should have jettisoned the idea of “winner takes all”. Nigeria’s case is unique and was especially so at that time. Nigeria would have been united and the better for it by now.

“They don’t do that in America, you’d say? Well, they don’t budget for feeding and buying utensils for the president in America either. The president of America feeds his family from his salary. The president there caters for his family’s needs from his pocket.”

Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime.

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