New Year Speech Angst over President Buhari's New Year Speech

Prominent Nigerians have expressed dissatisfaction over President Muhammadu Buhari’s New Year Speech, describing it as a huge disappointment.

Since the dawn of Nigeria’s independence, there has been an unwritten norm that expects Nigerian leaders to make a nationwide broadcast to Nigerians on October 1(Independence Day) and January 1(New Year Day).

Indeed, Nigerians have always looked up to the two significant days with expectations of what good tidings the government would have for them.

Although it is not uncommon for critical Nigerians to always pick holes on the Nigerian leaders speeches on these days over the years, but the outburst that has trailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent New Year speech has been unprecedented.

The barely over 2,000 words speech had literally passed the blame for the December last year acute fuel scarcity and also talked of improved power generation to 7000MW as well as stability of the economy. The President also told Nigerians that he would not buy the idea of restructuring being canvassed by Nigerians and that government would build roads and railway lines this year.

On Insecurity, he said government would design new methods to combat kidnapping, which critical Nigerians believe is as serious as heinous activities of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen.

Ever since the President made the speech it has been trailed by rains of knocks and criticism revolving around the fact that the new year speech did not bring any hope to the hopeless Nigerians that have in the past over two years of President Buhari’s government been swimming in the murky waters of economic hardship.

Expectedly, at the frontline of the critics is the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which described the new year speech by the President as depressing and completely failed to address serious economic and security issues confronting the nation and for which Nigerians earnestly expected answers from Government.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, who conveyed the position of the party said Nigerians were again treated to another round of false claims and empty promises, which had become the hallmark of APC- controlled government in close to three years.

The party also expressed disappointment that instead of accepting that it has failed, the Presidency attempted to appropriate and claim credit for the achievements of the PDP.

It said instead of inspiring the people, the address ended up depressing and annoying them the more as it held no message and did not proffer any solutions to the problems inflicted by the APC Federal Government on the people of Nigeria. “Instead of offering solutions or providing the indices for development, the Presidency deployed over 2,000 words passing the buck, begging the question, making empty claims and attempting to appropriate achievements of the PDP administration.

“What could be more depressing than the fact that the President, who is also the Minister of Petroleum Resources, did not give a clear-cut solution to the acute fuel crisis bedeviling his nation today?

“The President’s speech neither addressed how to raise the fallen value of the naira nor how to rescue the labour market from the 8 million job losses and acute unemployment being suffered by Nigerians under the APC.

“The address completely failed to respond to issues of corruption under the APC regime, including allegations of budget padding, secret oil subsidy deals, illegal lifting of crude worth trillions of naira, pillaging of Nigeria’s foreign reserve, diversion of billions of naira for insurgency related matters, all by APC interests, the statement said.

The National Publicity Secretary said instead of addressing the critical issues confronting the nation what Nigerians heard was a boring litany of buck passing, lame declarations and barefaced attempt to appropriate and claim credit for achievements and landmark projects initiated, articulated and implemented by the PDP administration, including, the railway, electricity and agricultural projects.

The party challenged the APC Presidency to tell Nigerians which landmark project it has initiated, articulated and executed in its close to three years of governance.

Also, Mike Ozekhome (SAN)), a lawyer and public affairs commentator, did not have kind words for the President over his speech. He had gone into his shelf to dig out suitable vocabulary to describe the speech, which he said was bare, archaic, uninspiring and failed woefully to address the biting sufferings in the land as well as the petrifying and oozing corruption within his government.

Ozekhome said “PMB’s New Year’s address is embarrassingly banal, uninspiring, empty, myopic, unrealistic and bereft of any benefit of historical dynamics. It is an unfortunate metaphor for one who has lost total touch with the people and their aching pulse. The speech comes straight from Stone Age Australopithecus verbiage that never showed any gravitas, sincerity of purpose and honest admission of abysmal failure, total directionless and cluelessness in the current opaque governance of the country.”

The legal luminary said the broadcast neither talked about nor told Nigerians what he was doing about the corruption located within his government, with overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence against those in his government.

Similarly former Minister of Works, Sen. Adeseye Ogunlewe, said the President failed to address critical national issues begging for attention as it was not in tune with contemporary realities.

Sen. Ogunlewe stated that the country could not make any meaningful progress with the current constitution, noting that the insistence of the government to continue to do things the same old way will never yield any positive result.

He stressed that it was not enough for the President to be talking about building infrastructures without talking about how the projects would be funded.

Also commenting on the speech, Sen. Clifford Ordia, representing Edo Central, said he had expected the President to come up with a blueprint on how to develop the Niger Delta region.

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Sen. Ordia argued that the economy of the nation could only blossom if there was peace in oil-producing communities and questioned why the President did not say anything about curbing the killings and destruction of properties by Fulani herdsmen. “I expected the President to have said something about his plans regarding that. If there is peace in the Niger Delta, our economy will be better. The Federal Government needs to develop a blueprint that will address key challenges in the Niger Delta.

“The issue of armed Fulani herdsmen is very serious and the presidency should do something about it. We cannot have peace until the government addresses the issue of herdsmen attacks in many parts of the country.” he said.

Reno Omokri, an author and public commentator, also knocked the president speech in his piece entitled ‘Exposing the lies, contradictions in President Buhari’s New Year address.

Omokri contention is that it was baffling to hear the President still talking about the plan by his government to build roads and rail lines in 2018 when he has barely one-and-half years remaining to end his first tenure.

He also talked about the president passing the buck on fuel scarcity on oil marketers when he has been the substantive petroleum minister. He pointed out that it was characteristic of the President not to take responsibility.

The author also said the President did not tell Nigerians the truth when he said that power generation has improved by 7000MW whereas the Nigerian Electricity System Operator, which is a body required to publish verifiable amount of power generated in Nigeria put the current power generation at 4,108MW.

Omokri asserted that the greatest insult to the sensibilities of Nigerians was that the president’s claim that the government was stabilizing the economy. He said contrary to the president’s claim the indices are there to show that no other administration has destabilized Nigeria’s economy as the Buhari administration. “Under Buhari the nation’s currency shed 75 percent of its value and moved from N199 to $1 on the day he took over to N365 today. We had the record of being named the worst performing currency in the world by Bloomberg in 2017.”

He also mentioned inflation, which was single digit on May 29, 2015 but now 15.91 %.

Chief Edwin Clark, the foremost Ijaw leader, is also disappointed with the New Year address of President Buhari, saying he failed to speak on topical issues affecting Nigerians. “Mr. President was not addressing Nigerians. A New Year speech is an address to the people telling them what you have done or the ones you are doing. The current discussion in Nigeria today is restructuring. Afenefere, governors in the country and all sections of the country are discussing restructuring. The people of the South-South are the most affected and 87 percent of the nation’s revenue comes from the South-South,” he said.

Prof. Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate, said blame passing on the issue of fuel scarcity was the government New Year gift to Nigerians.

Even the Chairman House Committee on Information, Strategy and Publicity of Lagos State House of Assembly, would want the president to walk the talk especially in the area combating insecurity.