Not a few Nigerians may have been stunned when President Muhammadu Buhari bared his mind, revealing that he is upset by the poor living condition of Nigerians, especially the less-privileged in the society. This may appear startling, considering the notion that leaders, particularly in third world countries like Nigeria, are shielded from the ordinary citizenry and are consequently not in the know of their living conditions.
In contrast, however, President Buhari, who easily identifies with the talakawa (Hausa for the common man) and within whose rank he has a cult-like followership, is a leader whose principles, prejudices and predelictions have over the decades, whether in or out of power, been centred around the poor and disadvantaged Nigerians in particular and humanity as a whole.
While playing host to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, ministers, service chiefs and heads of security and top government to a breaking of fast at the Presidential Villa in Abuja Monday, President Buhari said: “When I drive around the country what upsets me very much is the status of our poor people in this country – you see young people, the so-called almajirai with torn dresses, with plastic bowl. They are looking basically for what to eat.
“The question of education (to them) is a luxury. I think Nigerian elite we are all failing because I think we should have a programme that will at least guarantee some basic education for our people, no matter how poor they are.”
The president frowned on the inability of the Nigerian elite to address the welfare and educational needs of the less-privileged in the society in order to ameliorate the pathetic situation. He said the federal government had already introduced people-friendly programmes like the School Feeding and TraderMoni to alleviate the hardship being experienced by the less-privileged across the country.
He commended the vice-president for successfully managing the school feeding and trader money programmes
“I welcome the vice-president’s initiative of the school feeding programme. If you check in your localities the enrolment into schools improved because a lot of children can get at least one good meal a day. This is the position of this country. But, culturally some of us are quiet merciless, we don’t care about what happen to others we just keep on moving forward.
“This `market money’ I warned the vice-president I don’t like him to be mobbed, especially the way I see hefty women coming and confronting him, he should be very careful. These are very good initiatives.
“Initially, I was quite reluctant but I must admit that they are very good programmes and they endear this government to a lot of poor people because of these N5,000 or N10,000 being given to them as loans.
“They are fantastic programmes and I have to admit quite honestly that the vice-president was ahead of me by insisting on them. But he knows me if he insists I will say `okay go and do what you like.’ He did it and I’m very pleased as he is being very successful,’’ he said.
Speaking on behalf of those at the event, Vice-President Osinbajo thanked the president for inviting them, Muslims and Christians, to the breaking of fast with him.
He said regardless of ethnic and religion affiliations, Nigerians must continue to be their brothers’ keepers and must work towards building a united nation. He also condemned the attitude of politicians who are bent on dividing the people along ethno-religious lines.
“I must say that there are some reasons I had always looked forward to the Ramadan session. But some of those reasons are now being seriously challenged. The first of those reasons is that during the Ramadan meetings are usually very short. But, unfortunately, last Wednesday Mr President seemed to have destroyed that very good notion by taking us through the longest FEC meeting in the history of the Federal Executive Council.
“So, we shouldn’t expect anymore that meetings will necessarily be short during the Ramadan. The second is that some of my friends are far less troublesome during the Ramadan. People like Lai Mohammed, Abba Kyari, Adamu Adamu they are usually very well behaved during the Ramadan. But I’m not even sure that that is true anymore.
“So, I think that all we can truly expect now from the session is possibly what it was meant to do, which is to remind us of some of our responsibilities to ourselves as brothers and to our fellow men/women, especially our roles as leaders. I think it’s auspicious that this particular Ramadan falls at the eve of the new term in office,” he said.
In as much as President Buhari’s humane gestures and social intervention programmes are commendable, it is expedient to draw the president’s attention to the fact that unless they translate into tangible deliverables that will improve the socio-economic lives of the people they will remain mere thoughts and a mirage.
We, therefore, urge President Buhari, who will be sworn in for a second term on May 29, 2019, to try as much as possible to see to the pragmatic implementation of his poverty alleviation programmes as well as other programmes like the Anchor Borrowers Scheme, in order facilitate Nigeria’s diversification from over-dependence on crude oil and build a virile economy.