Memo to President-elect Buhari [1] Orji Uzor Kalu

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I am certain you have not shaken off the fatigue brought to bear on you by the strenuousness of campaigns. Traversing every nook and cranny of our great country is no mean task. And for you, this is the fourth time you have done it. The first was in 2003, the second 2007, the third 2011 and the fourth 2015. I am sure in all your travels you bore one thing in mind: the eagerness to witness firsthand the sufferings of Nigerians, which had been the major propeller of your presidential aspiration. Contrary to the negative press you proved your detractors wrong by pulling through the rigours of electioneering without disap­pointment.
You could recall I passed the same way in 2007 when I ran for the presidency. I knew what I saw and experienced. Nigeria indeed is a very huge country in every respect. Those who refer to it as the most populous black nation in the world are absolutely right. Nigeria is larger than many people had estimated. It is a very expansive, beauti­ful and rich country in all ramifications. Its weather is almost clement all through the year, with an excellent soil for cropping – in season and out of season. Going round the country and interacting with its peoples gave me enormous relief, and unburdened my heart of some of the prejudices I had always harboured. I know you feel exactly the way I do, though there could be some variances here and there. The results showed that I came third in that election (in terms of majority votes polled and states won). I have never regret­ted ever embarking on the adventure in the first place, because it has made me a better Nigerian, more compassionate and realistic about the sufferings of the rural people. Let me make it very clear that the reason I threw my hat into the ring for the presiden­tial race in 2007 was borne out of a burn­ing desire to right the wrongs of our nation and build a society in which every Nigerian would be free to express himself, live in any part of the country without let or hin­drance, get justice without prejudice, experi­ence equality in the distribution of national wealth and be protected. The era between 1999 and 2015 would go down in history as the most dramatic for Nigerians. It was a period characterised by mixed fortunes. Despite the efforts of subsequent administrations to address the many ills of our country not much has been achieved, except for a few giant strides made by the Goodluck Jonathan Administration. To be honest with you, many Nigerians received the news of your emergence as the presidential candidate of the All Progres­sives’ Congress (APC) with apprehension as a result of the information fed to them about you on the social media. But those of us who knew you very well knew that you were not exactly what the media painted you. I know that you are a martinet, no-nonsense general, with a stickling appetite for excellence. I have not forgotten how flexible and firm you could be. You exhibited this much when I brokered a peace meeting between you and former President Ibrahim Baban­gida and now late General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in my Igbere country home during my tenure as the governor of Abia State. That meeting, which lasted two days, showed your real person. You were down-to-earth, dispassionate, articulate, and sagacious. Even when the situation be­came somewhat misty you were calm and calculated. You had your eyes fixed on the achievement of the purpose for the get-to­gether. In the end everybody was happy and satisfied. Though we have not seen too many times thereafter your personality and generosity of heart still loom large in my sub –conscious­ness. Without any equivocation, I wish to state that I had been praying silently in my heart that God would one day bring a man like you to sit in the saddle and steer the ship of state. The prayer has nothing to do with party affiliation or any primordial sen­timents. It was borne purely out of personal conviction that a man of your stature and character is who we need at this critical time. When the APC held its national conven­tion to elect its presidential standard-bearer the fight was strictly between you and Atiku Abubakar. Many of my associates in your party preferred you to other candidates and told me so. But deep in my heart I was won­dering how your choice as candidate would affect the chances of our party’s candidate Goodluck Jonathan in the elections. That was when my apprehension grew. Your style of campaign and the tacitur­nity you showed while it lasted were vintage you. I must confess that only a few other Ni­gerians could have maintained their cool in the face of mounting hate campaigns such as were staged against you. It got to a point that I started asking if at all you had a strong media team and, if at all you had one, why it was not returning fire for fire. Neverthe­less, beneath the veil, I saw the sagacity and urbaneness of a man ready to move Nigeria to another level by leading by example. All the beautiful things people have said about you would have been counterproductive if you had run your campaigns the same way the opposing camp did. If not for your diplomacy and tact, the pol­ity would have ordinarily been overheated. So, if I am asked I would say you were the first to demonstrate a sincere desire to make peace reign before, during and after the elec­tions. The Abuja accord and other peace ini­tiatives would not have produced any posi­tive results if you had not disposed yourself favourbaly to them. I watched very diligently your campaigns. You never for one day abused anybody or used foul language against anybody for that matter. Another strong point of your cam­paigns was issues you raised which bothered on the continued survival of Nigeria. You harped on security, job and wealth creation, agriculture and fight against corruption as the main thrust of your campaigns. All these must have influenced the choice that Nigeri­ans made on March 28. Now that you have been overwhelmingly elected by Nigerians as our next President the heat has now turned from President Jon­athan to you. Nigerians are impatiently wait­ing for May-29-handover-date to start expe­riencing the new life you promised them. Nonetheless, I do not think it is going to be that easy. In fact, it will be a Herculean task. You know what it means and takes to clean the Augean Stable! The decay in our social system is not a task that can be accom­plished in one day, not even a year. There is too much corruption, laxity and indiscipline among Nigerians. Probably you foresaw the huge damage corruption and indisci­pline would inflict on our national psyche when you championed the War Against In­discipline (WAI) in your first coming. The national orientation strategy worked like magic, while orderliness became the order of life in our nation. And things seemed to be working. I still believe we need something like WAI if you can reenact the magic that made it work in 1983-85. However, I still believe nothing can work in Nigeria until indisci­pline is uprooted. Even the fight against cor­ruption takes its root in discipline. A disci­plined person is orderly, humane, polished, and a stickler for excellence. So, if you could succeed in making a majority of Nigerians disciplined then you would have solved 40% of our national malaises. It is indiscipline that breeds dishonesty, garrulity, tendency to steal, deviance, and other forms of anti-social behaviours. Those more vulnerable to these ills are the youths who are easily influenced by their environ­ment. This is why there is the need to intro­duce WAI brigades and other paramilitary organizations to complement the efforts of the existing ones in the fight against immo­rality and crimes in our society. Don’t mind those that would want to discourage you from towing this path. In any case, I know how single-minded and emotional you could be when matters relating to the development, peace and stability of Nigeria are concerned. This will make it almost impossible for any­body to attempt to ill-advise you. I read where you were quoted as having denied that you promised to deal with insur­gency in two months. I give it to you: you never at any time gave a timeline on when insurgency would be defeated. All you said was that Boko Haram would be a thing of the past soon. But I have to advise you to work extra hard to achieve this goal as soon as possible. Let nobody deceive you, Nige­rians expect too much from you, because of the myth that has been built about your ability to tackle Nigeria’s socio-economic problems. In my consideration, you will become an automatic hero once you can solve the problem of security within 180 days of your presidency. Already President Jonathan’s government has started the fight in a very convincing manner. The communities re­covered by our troops in recent weeks point to the veracity of this fact. You can swiftly build on what he has put in place, applying your military background to deal with the matter more clinically and tactically. I am glad to note that you attributed one of the causes of the emergence of Boko Haram to poverty in one of your recent interviews. I agree with you totally. However, I wish to add that injustice also played a negative role in heightening the insurgency. The death of President Musa Yar’Adua and the poor han­dling of the succession to his position could have a part to play in the emergence of Boko Haram. The existence of Nigeria is predicated on the need to continually maintain equity, jus­tice and fair-play at all times. The heteroge­neous nature of Nigeria makes it suicidal to alter the tripod on which it stands. The un­official rotation of the presidency between the north and south could be said to be one of the smartest and most practicable ways of sustaining national cohesion and unity. Because of the mutual mistrust that exists among the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria there is the need to be perpetually vigilant to ward off the activities of political ideologues and mischief-makers bent on truncating our fragile democracy. To deal with the detrac­tors requires additional wisdom and acuity. I believe that you have sufficient experi­ence to deal with insurgency, no matter the coloration it may assume. I recall with nos­talgia your days as the General Officer Com­manding Third Armoured Division, Jos. It was in the heydays of the dreaded Maitasine Sect. You dealt them a cruel blow to the ex­tent that they could not regroup ever since. This brings us to the issue of corruption. As you read this memo Nigeria is haemor­rhaging as a result of corruption. Unless corruption is crushed we cannot make any headway in development. Corruption has gone deep into our social system to the point that it now threatens our nation. The recent national assembly elections exposed the rot in the system. You must have read about how INEC of­ficials colluded with moneybags and corrupt politicians to doctor the results of elections in Abia North Senatorial District. Unfortu­nately, the same sordid situation obtained in some other senatorial zones in Abia State where election results were brazenly altered with the active connivance of corrupt INEC officials. Though we have vowed to seek redress in the tribunals it would have been better not to allow the national disgrace to occur in the first place. Nigeria has come of age, such that it should be able to conduct untainted elections. I must not fail to bring to the attention of Your Excellency the disgraceful activities of security men who openly worked with some politicians and INEC officials to change the result of an election in which a clear winner had emerged. Results collated from the field showed I won the election convincingly. Why INEC substituted my name with that of somebody that lost still beats my imagi­nation. You should as a matter of urgency set up a panel to advise you on how to make elections in Nigeria less controversial and burdensome. If possible you can dust up the report of the Justice Uwais Presidential Panel on Electoral Reform. It is painful that the report of the panel, adjudged as well-ar­ticulated, should be allowed to gather dust in the file cabinet. Many other similar reports should be given the same treatment. The economy is one area some of your acerbic critics express fears. This may be due to the fact that your first coming did not address many serious economic mat­ters. Your focus then was on indiscipline and corruption. This time round the global community and Nigerians expect you to fashion out functional economic policies that will address grinding poverty, instabil­ity in exchange rates, unemployment and communicable diseases. You cannot afford not to tackle the economy and in less than three months bring down the exchange rate of the naira and boost other indices that de­termine growth. The restoration of the economy will be achieved more easily with a frontal war against corruption. Chances of rapid eco­nomic growth are possible under your ae­gis if you put round pegs in round holes. One of the identifiable problems in the past was the over-politicization of ap­pointments to various political offices, often leading to favouritism and nepotism in making choices. You require men and women with the right attitude and experi­ence to help you to reengineer our socio-economic system. I will raise other issues with you in the second part of this memo. Meanwhile, rest assured of the support of all Nigerians behind your visionary leadership. We are very optimistic that things will work out for the better, provided you stick to those promises for which majority of Nigerians gave you their votes.


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