President Buhari just addressed the Nigerian nation on the occasion of her 59th Independence Day anniversary. Here are five things we learned about the state of the nation from the President’s speech.
1. Buhari looked really good today
The man’s delivery, albeit a recorded one, was almost smooth, given his standards.
Not a word was mispronounced, there was no rambling or irritating drawl. One could make out specific words from listening and he threw in a smile towards the end for effect.
President Buhari used to look all frail, emaciated, dour and almost like he wanted no part in his own speech, on previous addresses. This was remarkably different, however.
The makeup and prep teams who got the president fired up for this address deserve some raise at least.
2. Social media really worries Buhari
There’s been so much bile, propaganda and divisive rhetoric in Nigeria’s social media space and for the umpteenth time, President Buhari had a paragraph or two dedicated to Nigeria’s “Twittering, Facebooking, Instagramming and WhatsApping children of anger.”
Buhari said: “Our attention is increasingly being focused on cyber-crimes and the abuse of technology through hate speech and other divisive material being propagated on social media.”
“Whilst we uphold the constitutional rights of our people to freedom of expression and association, where the purported exercise of these rights infringes on the rights of other citizens or threatens to undermine our national security, we will take firm and decisive action.“
“In this regard, I reiterate my call for all to exercise restraint, tolerance and mutual respect in airing their grievances and frustrations. Whilst the ongoing national discourse on various political and religious issues is healthy and welcome, we must not forget the lessons of our past – lessons that are most relevant on a day such as this.“
“The path of hatred and distrust only leads to hostility and destruction. I believe that the vast majority of Nigerians would rather tread the path of peace and prosperity, as we continue to uphold and cherish our unity.“President Buhari
3. Vice President Osinbajo may not be doing well with the social programmes
In the last couple of weeks, rumors have made the rounds concerning a strain in what has been a cordial relationship between President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Matters took an interesting turn when Buhari set up an economic advisory council which will be reporting to him directly, amid rumours that the president has asked Osinbajo to seek approvals from his office to run agencies within his purview.
A few sources in the presidency had also told Pulse that Buhari was on his way to taking the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP)—the billion Naira social welfare scheme which has always been domiciled in the vice president’s office—from Osinbajo’s desk.
There was some hint in Buhari’s Independence Day address about this happening eventually.
“Our ongoing N500 billion Special Intervention Programme continues to target these vulnerable groups, through the Home-grown School Feeding Programme, Government Economic Empowerment Programme, N-Power Job Creation Programme, loans for traders and artisans, Conditional Cash Transfers to the poorest families and social housing scheme.“
“To institutionalize these impactful programmes, we created the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development which shall consolidate and build on our achievements to date. To the beneficiaries of these programmes, I want to reassure you that our commitment to social inclusion will only increase.“
This essentially means that the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development will now be overseeing the NSIP.
What is unclear is if Osinbajo’s office will now be forced to hands off the NSIP completely. Is this what Buhari was trying to tell us?
4. President Buhari is not cool with $9.6B P&ID deal
Nigeria is doing everything to avoid paying the sum of $9.6bn owed Process & Industrial Development Limited (P&ID), a British Virgin Islands-based engineering firm.
The deal, signed in 2010, was mired in corruption and sharp practices. You can read all about the deal here.
Addressing world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) recently, President Buhari called the deal a scam and an attempt by corrupt foreign and local players to rip-off the Nigerian state.
In his Independence Day address, Buhari doubled down his attack on past Nigerian leaders on whose watch the deal was signed.
He said: “The P&ID Arbitral Award has underscored the manner in which significant economic damage has been caused by the past activities of a few corrupt and unpatriotic Nigerians.“
“The policies that we are putting in place today are to ensure such criminal and unpatriotic acts do not go without consequences. Our renewed partnership with the 9th National Assembly will facilitate the swift passage of enabling laws that will institutionalize these anti-corruption efforts in our criminal justice system.”
5. The FIRS boss is not doing well at all
On August 8, 2019, President Buhari queried the boss of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Babatunde Fowler, for worsening tax revenue since 2015.
In the query signed by Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, Buhari had stated to Fowler: “Accordingly, you are kindly invited to submit a comprehensive variance analysis explaining the reasons for the variances between the budgeted collections and actual collections for each main tax item for each of the years 2015 to 2018.“
According to Premium Times, “In 2015, FIRS set N4.7 trillion target but was only able to make N3.7 trillion in the actual collection. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the target collections were N4.2 trillion, N4.8 trillion and N6.7 trillion but the actual collections were N3.3 trillion, N4.0 trillion and N5.3 trillion, respectively.”
In his Independence address, without mentioning the FIRS by name, the president made it clear to FIRS boss Fowler that he’s got to sit up.
There have been rumors that the president is itching to fire Fowler for poor performance.
In his Independence Day address, Buhari said: “Our revenue-generating and reporting agencies will come under much greater scrutiny, going forward, as the new performance management framework will reward exceptional revenue performance, while severe consequences will attend failures to achieve agreed revenue targets.“
Finally, the President’s speech shows that all is not well and Nigeria has a long long way to go.