FG’s Car Gift to Niger what the people are saying.

IT is strongly believed in some quarters that President Muhammadu Buhari is too laid-back and aloof to have a full grasp of the enormity and complexity of the socioeconomic challenges bedeviling Nigeria. And, sadly, it is becoming increasingly difficult to dismiss such insinuations with a wave of the hand because many of his decisions and actions truly tend to give him away as someone whose approach to governance is, to put it mildly, lackadaisical. Or how else do you situate a government that runs an economy marred by an accumulation of huge local and foreign debts turning itself to a Santa Claus and dolling out money to other sovereignties as if it and its citizens are comfortable? A while ago, many Nigerians only read or heard it in the news that their president had donated $1  million to the Taliban, an ultra-conservative Islamic sect that currently calls the shots in Afghanistan.

The president could not be bothered by the fact that he presides over a secular state where religious sensitivity is highly recommended in order not to be misconstrued as tilting the balance of advantage in favour of any religion at the expense of others. He donated money that the country did not have, as it were,  to Afghanistan, a pariah state ruled with an iron fist under draconian Islamic laws. And as if that was not disturbing enough, some N1.141 billion has reportedly been approved to procure vehicles for the Republic of Niger! The official rationale for this controversial act which borders on insensitivity and profligacy was that the vehicles were meant to help Nigeria’s neighbour to beef up its security.  Ironically, there is massive insecurity in Nigeria and the country is, in all probability, borrowing the money it uses to prosecute the war against terror that is far from being won.  And that is aside from the inadequate provision of basic public goods and services owing to the paucity of funds. It is evident that the official donations do not take the mood of the nation and the parlous state of the economy into consideration. 

And that is most unfortunate because every good manager appreciates the imperatives of situational approach to management and the lack of wisdom in attempting to give what you don’t have. This is the kind of impunity that is described as too in-your-face. Without mincing words,  the report that Nigeria recently authorised the procurement of vehicles to the tune of N1.141 billion for the Republic of Niger is one more instance of abuse of power and the misuse of privileges by the presidency and all those associated with the executive running of government in the country. For if the truth be told, Nigeria is currently undergoing tremendous economic challenges that make life difficult for most of its citizens. It is therefore profligate and insensitive for the leadership of the country to be making donations in billions of naira to other countries when basic issues confronting its own citizens have yet to be addressed. The purpose of the latest donation may seem appealing because the improved security of the beneficiary may impact Nigeria’s security positively since the two countries share the same border. However, the reality on the ground is that the donor nation is also currently mired in its own deep-seated, pervasive and seemingly intractable security challenge which must be addressed amid the tottering economy. 

To be sure, it is not in contest that international relations and diplomatic gestures are within the purview of the president, but it ought to be clear that the president cannot afford to continue to use his discretionary powers in such a way as to threaten the legitimacy of his own government by taking steps that could attract the displeasure and angst of its incredibly tolerant citizens.  There is no gainsaying that there is palpable feeling of dissatisfaction in the land arising from what is construed as poor governance by many.  The government should not be taking decisions and actions that tend to exacerbate such anxiety. No citizen can be happy that the government is gifting money out to other countries when the same government is spending about  90 per cent of its total revenue to service debts and, by implication, borrowing to pay salaries and finance other overheads. 

Citizens cannot be comfortable with their government assuming the role of a Father Christmas outside the shores of the country when the tertiary education has been in a comatose state for six months because it claims it has no money to honour the agreement reached with the university lecturers. Not a few Nigerians are displeased with their government doling out money to outsiders when the supply of basic utilities is poor and their tariffs are always going northwards. Certainly, the opportunity cost of the government’s gifts to foreign nations is substantially high against the backdrop of the humongous lack that exists domestically. And the decisions that birthed such donations can simply be described as suboptimal and insensitive. 

Is it not also intriguing that while Nigerians are still smarting from the use of their resources to construct a controversial railway from Kano to the Niger Republic, an official decision that many believed was predicated on sentiments rather than sound economic judgment, they are now being confronted with yet another questionable donation to the same country? That is plain official tactlessness that assails the sensibilities of the citizenry. The presidency is enjoined, in the present circumstances,  to stop forthwith, its questionable donations to other countries. It should not be seen to behave as if it is unfeeling and could take the citizenry for a ride ad infinitum. Otherwise, the citizens may become more strident in calling its legitimacy to question.  It is therefore in the interest of legitimate governance for the presidency to always take into consideration the mood and welfare of Nigerians when taking decisions rather than simply working on its own impulse and benighted premises.