Open Letter to His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
It is still my pleasure to write you once again. This is the fourth in my series of letters to you. I have, however, for some reason, chosen to make this one open.
In all my letters to His Excellency, I have always offered one piece of advice or another as part of my contribution to the success of your administration. I still crave the indulgence of His Excellency to offer some more advice especially at this critical time in our national life when such advice is sorely needed, what with the myriad of economic , social and political traumas that are plaguing the country. Indeed, the situation we have on our hands requires the attention of every Nigerian in order to see how best we can get out of the woods.
2. Mr President, it was not really my intention to make this letter open. I was, however, constrained by the fact that I have been writing letters to you and, at some point, sought audience with your good self without success. I had expected that meeting with you would afford me the opportunity to offer some more advice, even if they are considered insignificant. I must say with all sense of modesty that as a politician, two-time governor of Sokoto State, former National Chairman of ANPP, one of the strongest opposition parties at that time, and indeed the party which was the first to offer you the ticket to contest for the highest office under my watch, and a former Presidential candidate in the 2007 elections, as well as a founding father of my former party, the ruling APC, I deserve to be welcomed to see Mr. President face to face. Unfortunately however, your tight schedule has hampered the appointment. As the last resort, I thought it wise to use this medium. At any rate, I wish to underline the fact that I am using this medium in good faith.
3.Let me begin by suggesting to His Excellency that you should adopt some of the strategies employed by your predecessors for purposes of achieving national unity and inclusiveness in governance. You will recall that after the keenly contested presidential election in 1979, His Excellency, Alhaji Shehu Shagari and his party, the NPN entered into alliance with the NPP to form a national government. The result was that NPN produced the Senate President while NPP produced the Speaker of the House of Representatives. In the same vein, His Excellency, Olusegun Obasanjo, during his first term as president saw the need to form an all-inclusive government by inviting people from the APP and AD and gave them appointments including ministerial positions. It will be recalled that Obasanjo gave two ministerial slots to APP and two to AD and at the same time he appointed Mahamud Waziri, the then National Chairman of APP to the position of Special Adviser on Inter-governmental relations. By so doing, he did not only douse the political tension that existed then, he also tapped enormously from the experiences of different people. You will recall also that His Excellency, Alhaji Umar Yar’Adua, formed a unity government in 2007 by appointing people from opposition political parties into his cabinet. By so doing, he reduced tension and divisiveness in the polity. Remember that it took you close to six months before you came up with your present crop of ministers. But if you had adopted the approach of your predecessors, the stress, the anxiety and the high expectations that were wrapped upon you would have been reduced significantly. Mr. President should know that the country is so vast and therefore endowed with a lot of resourceful and highly talented people who could help you achieve maximum result in the management of the affairs of the country. One could imagine that for more than a year now, the previous government is still being accused of one wrong doing or another instead of you and your team to hit the ground running. But if that strategy of drawing qualified and experienced people even from the opposition parties was adopted, I am sure things would have been different and there would have been less bickering or politicking in the management of the economy and other social services. At least, relatively speaking, the aforementioned former presidents enjoyed some advantage of calming down the political tension then and at the same time had the opportunity of working with other political parties whose contributions at that time could not be relegated to the background.
4. A common example that could be cited here was how Obasanjo tried and succeeded in winning the hearts of the other opposition governors. He brought them so close to him that he even considered some of them as his sons. For instance, when the former governor of Zamfara State, Ahmed Sani Yarima, introduced Sharia in the State, religious interest groups including tribes and other ethnic minorities, felt threatened and called for all forms of penalties and condemnations of Yarima’s action. But somehow, in his wisdom, Obasanjo simply began to bring Yarima close to him and even regarded him as his political son. He even, at one time, remarked that it was a political Sharia and that it will pass with time. In the meantime, he continued to relate with Yarima and eventually extended his hand of friendship to other political heavy weights from the opposition parties. Those of us who served as governors during the Obasanjo era had the opportunity of offering him quality advice because of his open-door policy. For example, part of the advice and suggestion I offered to Obasanjo through the then Honourable Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was that all allocations accruable to all tiers of government throught the Federation Account should be published in the national dailies so that Nigerians could be kept abreast of what was being allocated to the tiers of government. Okonjo-Iweala passed the idea to Mr President and it was adopted. This policy of openness and transparency in the financial and fiscal management of the nation’s resources is still being applied till today. Many opposition governors found it very easy not only to relate with other PDP governors but also with their president thereby bridging existing political gaps and lessening to a great extent any tension that may have arisen within the polity. It has also helped to foster maximum support and co-operation at all levels of government as every governor or local government council chairman saw that everybody was practically reaching out to one another for the benefit of all. It was therefore high time that Mr. President began to reach out to everybody, especially those who could help him achieve success in the onerous task of building the nation. He should also initiate, as quickly as possible, the policy of working with all governors including those from the opposition. Meetings should continue to be organized from time to time so that all governors could relate very well with one another while Mr. President supretends over them. This will certainly go a long way in ensuring unity and bridge the gap created by elections and other highly sensitive issues related to region and religion.
5. It is of fundamental importance that Mr. President adopts an open-door policy so that people can meaningfully contribute to your success. Mr. President should remember that you contested for the office of President three times and failed. But the fourth time you contested, with the contributions of many people, coupled with various structures of parties, wisdom, advice, and a host of other resources and strategies, by the special grace of God, you have become the President. That is the beauty of people’s contributions which will ultimately lead to success. Reach out to as many people as you can, particularly to people who have at various times occupied positions of authority like Obasanjo . The man has a lot of wisdom and experience on how best to manage this country. His advice is vital and could help you greatly.
6. Another important area of great concern to many Nigerians is the fight against corruption. Since the EFCC as an organization is saddled with the all-important task of fighting financial crimes, there is the need for Mr. President to work diligently towards overhauling it in order for it to meet up with the modern day challenges of fighting crimes and corruption. You should remember that in spite of your zeal and commitment towards fighting crimes/corruption, there is nothing you have so far added to the commission in terms of operational or structural repositioning. Nothing! Everything about the EFCC is what you met as established by former President Obasanjo. The core staff, the Heads, the operatives, everything! Nothing has changed! Perhaps even the same methodology of dealing with everything associated with suspects. It still surprises many Nigerians that EFCC targets mainly people from the opposition party. Even Obasanjo who some people accused of establishing the organization as a tool of witch-hunt against his known and perceived enemies, had cause to pounce on many people suspected to commit crimes regardless of tribe or political party affiliation. So many known ruling party chieftains suspected of fraud were arrested and so many governors from the PDP were investigated and thereafter arrested. For example, two Senate Presidents, Adolphous Wabara and Chuba Okadigbo were all investigated of fraud and arraigned before the courts. Also, two serving governors of the time, Dieprieye Alamieyesieya of Bayelsa State and Joshua Dariye of Plateau State, were investigated and arraigned before the courts. Also arraigned were then Minister of Internal Affairs, Dr Mamman Shata and Minister of Internal Affairs, Sunday Afolabi. Even civil servants occupying the position of Federal Permanent Secretary, Mrs Akerele, as well as former Inspector General of Police, Mr Tafa Balogun, were arraigned and prosecuted. As it is now, Mr. President would be surprised to hear that there are hundreds, if not thousands of petitions before the EFCC against some members of your party, the APC, but sadly enough, they can neither be investigated nor arrested probably because they are sacred cows, or because they have a way of forcing the organization to look for other preys instead. Unfortunately these preys must be from the opposition party. Mr. President should note that all citizens of this country, whether they belong to your party or the opposition, look up to you for good governance, meeting up with their expectations as well as honest and sincere dealings. It is not fair at all that you allow an organization under your watch to continue to be selective by perceiving people mainly from the opposition as criminals while others are ignored as if they are free from petitions written against them for years! It is therefore curious that not a single known individual from the APC is either arrested by the EFCC or is even known to be under any serious investigation. One wonders how many former PDP men and women who have held various key positions and who are now in the APC have been taken to the law court by the EFCC. The question on the lips of many Nigerians is: Are all these crimes committed only by those who remained in the PDP? Another question is: Is the APC as the ruling party shopping for new converts in order to shield them from arrest or investigation?
7. In conclusion therefore, I call on Mr. President to have the large heart to accept criticism no matter how bitter. As the President of Nigeria a country with a lot of complexities, you should accept different shades of opinion as well as constructive criticism so that the country will move forward. People should therefore be allowed to continue to contribute their quota as that will give them some sense of belonging which is the hallmark of participatory democracy.
Kindly accept my sincere support and co-operation at all times.
Alhaji Attahiru D. Bafarawa
Former Governor of Sokoto State.
17th September, 2016.