By Olayinka Oyegbile
I must confess that for the first time in many decades, I actually sat down in rapt attention to listen to a Nigerian presidential speech to the end.
Unfortunately, the last time I did that was during the early days of military President Ibrahim Babangida who was a master of histrionics. He knows what it means to deliver speeches and raise hopes. I said unfortunately because that was before he derailed and started playing Nigerians like football leading to his being nicknamed Maradona, or Artful Dodger (apologies to Charles Dickens).
All presidents or heads of state after him have been disastrous as far as speech delivery or writing is concerned. Dull, uninspiring and tepid. During Buhari’s tenure, I had written in this space about A PRESIDENT IN SEARCH OF SPEECH WRITERS. In that piece I wrote about how insipid and sour the president’s speechwriters were. I also recognized that even if they were good Buhari lacked the garb to deliver anything inspiring. That era is gone. Omi titun tiru.
President Bola Tinubu’s July 31st nationwide broadcast is my focus today. The speech was well written and somehow masterfully delivered. As a journalist, teacher of journalists and discourse analyst, I give it to the speechwriter(s) that it was well crafted. For once, since the return to democracy, we have a president who knows the benefits of having well-written speeches. The balablu crowd would be wondering what has happened to the man they were mocking as incoherent during the campaigns.
However, the delivery of fine speeches is not where it ends. The detail is in the implementation of what has been written. The president in one of the meetings with the governors and other elected officials had told them point blank that they should not expect pity from the populace, “We campaigned and danced to it that we can do it” he reminded them.
Now we must put their feet to the fire and continue to ask questions, questions that would make them uncomfortable not because we don’t like them but because we want the best for our country. The speechwriters have done their best to perhaps capture the president’s mind in those fine words; is the president ready to act by those words? Did he actually authorise those words to be written and did they capture his mood and essence? We are waiting.
From the title of the speech AFTER DARKNESS COMES THE GLORIOUS DAWN, one could see that it shows the president’s understanding of the precarious situation the country is in. But how does he plan to dispel the darkness and welcome a glorious dawn?
He said, “The subsidy cost us trillions of Naira yearly. Such a vast sum of money would have been better spent on public transportation, healthcare, schools, housing and even national security. Instead, it was being funnelled into the deep pockets and lavish bank accounts of a select group of individuals.”
Mr. President, sir, we have heard all these before. In fact, all those who had presided over the affairs of this country before you have said the same thing over and over again. What you intend to do to stop this is what you should have told us. You said the subsidy money, “was being funnelled into the deep pockets and lavish bank accounts of a select group of individuals.” What I can deduce from this is that you and others before you know where these “lavish bank accounts of a select group of individuals” are. So why are you all squeamish and can’t reveal them and punish them? Why did you all decide to punish the “common man” whom you all claim to represent in the corridors of power? Are you all without balls? Why are these shadowy individuals more powerful than the government? Do you intend to be different?
Or is it because as you said, “This group had amassed so much wealth and power that they became a serious threat to the fairness of our economy and the integrity of our democratic governance.” You claim to have cut their supply of ill-gotten wealth, but how are we sure they won’t ambush us again at another end if you don’t expose and punish them now?
Sir, with your action, I am afraid “The whims of the few” is holding dominant sway over the hopes and aspirations of the rest of us. You have rightly acknowledged the fact that “This period may be hard on us and there is no doubt about it that it is tough on us. But I urge you all to look beyond the present temporary pains and aim at the larger picture.” The question is: is the present hunger and starvation in the land not going to make us blind (or purblind) before the larger picture appears on the horizon?
You said, “In a little over two months, we have saved over a trillion Naira that would have been squandered on the unproductive fuel subsidy which only benefitted smugglers and fraudsters.” Thank you, sir. However, since you didn’t say what would happen to those who bled the county this far, is the saved money going to be used to revive any of our comatose refineries since the past budgets for them have disappeared into the “deep pockets and lavish bank accounts of a select group of individuals.” The sacred cows you all couldn’t summon the courage to deal with!
We are going to take you by your words: “Fellow Nigerians, I made a solemn pledge to work for you. How to improve your welfare and living condition is of paramount importance to me and it’s the only thing that keeps me up day and night.” Hmmm.
Let me stop here to allow you, “Get back to work in order to make this vision come true.” So, help you, God.