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Opinions of Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Columnist: Gabriel Amalu

Minimum expectations

There are minimum expectations from those in charge of our affairs, at the federal and state levels, but it appears we are in a season of great disappointments.

From President Muhammadu Buhari, the nation expects answers to the insecurity in the land, while from the governors, the workers are asking for minimum wage. In a parody of Charles Dickens: Great Expectations, the minimum expectations are not being met.

Last week, the president himself admitted as much. He said he was ‘taken aback’ at the resurgence of insecurity in the land, and his opponents and concerned Nigerian have lampooned him to no end, in a manner likening him to Pip, the lead character, in Great Expectations.

Pip had his ups and downs, and despite the opportunity to learn to become a gentleman via the support of a roguish benefactor, he could not meet his great expectations, including gaining the affection of Estella, when he wanted it most.

But Buhari shouldn’t be Pip, because he still has time to deal with the insecurity monster threatening to upend our country, and as a retired General, he is considered to have the capacity to deal with it.

For many, taming insecurity in the land was why he was elected in the first place. The President must therefore not fail in the primary reason for his election and re-election. For this column, the President’s challenge is applying the same medicine, which is glaringly ineffective.

Last week’s brouhaha in the National Assembly, is a pointer that even among Buhari’s admirers, they expect him to buckle up.

The senate president who hails from the epicentre of the resurgent insurgency confirmed as much by his remarks, even though he did not ask for the president’s head, unlike the minority leader in the senate. For the two chambers of the National Assembly, it is time to say goodbye to the service chiefs, who have overstayed their welcome.

While clearly the service chiefs, who have reached their retirement age, should be allowed to go home and rest, I doubt if new security chiefs would be expected to deal with the other internal insecurity in the other parts of the country.

As I argued last week on this page, the present federal government must come to terms that the present security architecture is not working, and unless necessary changes are made, the president should not be ‘taken aback’ if the entire country is suddenly engulfed in crisis.

And the reason for the severe insecurity across the country is partly because the policing structure is grossly ineffective, and you cannot be applying the same medicine that is not curing an ailment, and wishing the sickness will just disappear.

To make matters worse, it appears the feared Islamic State of West Africa Province or Boko Haram, are getting fresh funding, as they are reportedly getting access to new weaponry, even as our country’s capacity to keep fighting is getting overstretched with the unending war.

So there should be concerted effort to deal with the internal security challenges in other parts of the country without involving the army, so the army can concentrate their efforts in the northeast. That is where the need to restructure the policing architecture comes in.

If states and local governments that have the resources are allowed to establish their own policing architecture, albeit with clearly defined limited powers; to a large extent, insecurity in other parts of the country could be dealt with. That relief will allow the nation’s military concentrate in the northeast.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is hoped that corruption is not part of the challenge causing the resurgence of insecurity in the country. Every day we are assailed with allegations of grand larceny by officials of the past regime.

Just like the Sani Abacha loot saga, cases of looting of our common treasury under the past regime, continues to surface every day. Most repulsing are cases where the officials convert monies meant for arms purchase to buy houses and exotic cars.

While everything humanly possible should done to recover the looted funds, Nigerians pray that similar acts of banditry is not going on under the table presently. The recent allegation by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that corruption is alive and thriving under the present government should not be dismissed with a wave of hand.

Apart from getting elected to fight insecurity, the other reason why President Buhari was elected is to fight corruption, and to a large extent there are evidences that past corruptions cases are being unearthed and prosecuted.

Even Buhari’s fiercest critics would agree that reasonable successes have been achieved in the fight against corruption. But, the president should also worry, whether similar acts of corrupt practices as happened in the past are being replicated by those serving in the present government.

If it is happening then the war against insecurity in the land will not make progress, after all, a prolonged war can become veritable avenue for corrupt enrichment; just like in the past. So, this column hopes that on the two fronts, the president will meet the minimum expectation.

On their part, the new minimum wage is the minimum expectation from the state governors. According to media reports, some states, including the centre of excellence, Lagos, have started paying the minimum wage from last month.

The states which are yet to agree on the modalities for payment with the labour unions are being threatened with strike by the workforce. They should not wait for workers to down tools, before they do what the law provides. More importantly, the minimum wage is truly minimum.

For this column, there is no excuse to delay the payment of the new minimum wage, considering the cost of living in the country. The excuse by some states that they cannot pay is not tenable, because it doesn’t reflect in the lifestyle of those in the corridors of power.

They all live well, while the workers, especially those at the low-level cadres are living in penury. So, if truly any of the states can’t pay, it should reflect in the lifestyle of those in charge.

One minimum expectation President Buhari has failed to deliver, is the rescue of Leah Sharibu, the lone Dapchi girls left behind, after others were released by the Boko Haram.

Our great expectation that President Buhari would secure her freedom has further been dampened by the searing news that she has been raped and made a mother by the leader of the sect.

Perhaps, her ordeal will remain one of the greatest tragedies of modern Nigeria. With the government failing Leah, I pray for the mercy of God on her.