Nigerian Politics: Five Speech Blunders Nigerians Have Forgiven Politicians

Historical Places

It was Chinua Achebe who said that the problem with Nigeria is leadership. His 1984 book The Trouble with Nigeria can be summed up in his introduction: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership.” Achebe further opined that “There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character.” It is hard to argue with Achebe’s position. It is even made harder by the kind of decisions Nigerian politicians display. The situation is so bad that paying of salary, a basic right of workers have now become an achievement.

In Nigeria, a governor once bought wheelbarrows to empower youths. A governor spent millions of money to mold statues of people in his capital. A citizen committed suicide due to salaries owed him and the state government released a statement that against media report they only owe the fellow ten months’ salary not twelve months salary. The list is endless.

The problem is leadership. Perhaps not just leadership. What can we said about followers who vote for these people, followers who defend them on social media or turn a blind eye at their leaders’ failures? There is indeed nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character except that the Nigerian character that tolerates, overlooks and forgives such failures is not as blameless as it might appear.

Now, we take a look back at some of the worse speeches that Nigerian politicians have thrown at Nigerians, which Nigerians not only forgave but rewarded the speakers with high offices and prestige.

1, Telephone is not for the poor. – David Mark.

David Mark

This comment is attributed to David Mark, the then Minister of Communications under the Ibrahim Babangida junta. This comment at then when only hundreds own telephones in Nigeria was a painful truth. But by saying it, David Mark clearly represented the belief of a government that is above accountability, above the people and that has no desire or decency to mask their anti-people sentiments. Today more than a hundred million Nigerians own phones in spite of the prayers and desires of the David Marks.

How did Nigerians take this?

They rewarded David Mark with eight years as Senate president, and so far he remains the only senator who has been in the Red Chamber since the return of democracy in Nigeria.

2, Not even Jesus Christ can conduct free and fair elections in Nigeria. – Olusegun Obasanjo.

Olusegun Obasanjo

Obasanjo caused outrage in 2010 when he went before the world in Washington DC and claimed that not even the deity of Jesus Christ can conduct free and fair elections in Nigeria. This comment beyond the obvious insult to the person, believers and followers of Christ, specifically points at the hopelessness of the Nigerian state. The fact that Obasanjo was a two-time beneficiary of the flawed electoral system presents him as a usurper at best and an insensitive power-drunkard at least.

How did Nigerians take this?

Christian Association of Nigeria called Obasanjo “a devil incarnate” plus other condemnations that followed Obasanjo. Today Obasanjo remains one of the most widely accepted statesmen in Nigeria. To exemplify this, Obasanjo successfully rooted for the winners of both the 2011 and 2015 elections. Whispers now suggest that Nigeria would fared well under him if he had gotten his infamous third term agenda.

3, If what happened in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would be soaked in blood. – Mohammadu Buhari

President Buhari

In 2011 Buhari lost his third presidential election in a row. He lost the first one in 2003 flying the APP flag (against Obasanjo), the second one in 2007 flying the ANPP flag (against Yar’adua). The 2011 loss to Jonathan, a perceived weak minority was not acceptable for Buhari (as usual) nor his supporters (as usual). But, unusually, the refusal to accept the result sparked riots in many Northern cities causing places of worship, properties and lives to be destroyed. Buhari did not caution his supporters. Buhari has never apologized for this. His comment a year later, in 2012, while treasonable is a clear degradation of Nigerians (the baboons and the dogs) whose lives are obviously worth less than his ambitions.

How did Nigerians take this?

They made Buhari president in 2015, the first person to unseat an incumbent president on the polls.

4, We will write this for all to read. Anyone, soldier or not that kills the Fulani takes a loan repayable one day no matter how long it takes. – Ahmed El-Rufai

Nasir El-Rufai

El-Rufai the diminutive politician is Nigeria’s Master of foul utterances. He had called Jonathan a scumbag, a Boko Haram sponsor and planner, a potential assassin etc.In 2017, while in an APC Kaduna parley, speaking in Hausa he boasted thus: “I had fought with two presidents. Umaru Yar’Adua ended in his grave, Jonathan ended up in Otuoke.” None of these comments probably generated as much heat as the fire El-Rufai spat deserves. This is Nigeria.

But one comment that never seems to go away is the one he tweeted about the Fulani in July 2012. It is a threat with genocidal intention. The Fulani herdsmen as at then have conducted sporadic attacks on communities, most especially in Plateau State. Since then, Taraba, Southern Kaduna, Enugu, Benue etc have been added to the map of Fulani attacks. Some of these attacks, like the one in Agatu, Benue had a whole community burnt down.

El-Rufai has tried to downplay the import of this tweet but he hasn’t thought it necessary to delete it.

How did Nigerians take this?

They voted El-Rufai governor in Kaduna State.

 5, Money is not the problem, the only problem Nigeria has is how to spend the money she has. – Yakubu Gowon

General Gowon

This was in 1973. Oil price had just skyrocketed and the government of Nigeria was rich. But not Nigerians. The Civil War had just ended with one of Nigerian then four regions devastated and its people totally broke. Coupled with the pre-war poverty that had now exacerbated, far more than half of the population of Nigeria lived in poverty. Gowon must be such a brilliant leader to not see what to spend the money on.

While he didn’t see, public officials and civil servants did. The high level of corruption and impunity that bedeviled Gowon’s last years in office must have solved Gowon’s how to spend oil money enigma.

How did Nigerians take this?

They regard Gowon as one of the most revered statesmen.

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