Unlike some of the arrogant spokespersons of the administration who talk at the people instead of talking to them, Amaechi’s recent plea is actually humble and persuasive. He retails the usual yarns about the rot they “met on the ground” which was in fact “worse than we had anticipated”.
I gave my prescient response to this line of argument on May 29, 2015, when I delivered the inauguration lecture of my friend, Nasir El Rufai, in Kaduna. I told Nasir (and sent him to his Oga in Abuja) that this is not an argument that we, the people, are going to accept from a change government. I will have the text of the lecture sent to Rotimi Amaechi so he can find another thing to say, as we say in Naija.
But I must insist: he was very humble in his plea to Nigerians. He sympathized. He empathized. He claims to fully understand the difficulties Nigerians are facing especially as everybody is broke and the definition of change starts with having change in your pocket. He then claims that change also involves a change in the structure and they need more time.
Great attitude, great message. This is the tone, tenor, and mien that this government’s spokespersons should adopt in talking to the people. The Buhari can do no wrong fundamentalist supporters, whose strategy is intimidation, name-calling, bellyaching, forming inbox egbinrin ote groups to malign people, etc, should go and read Rotimi Amaechi’s approach and learn how to better present the President’s message.
If you adopt Rotimi Amaechi’s strategy, I will respect your view. You have the right to hold the opinion that President Buhari is superior to Jesus Christ and Mohamed. Present it with humility and learn to accept other people’s right to differ and to see him as a fallible one of us who can and who does make mistakes and who will continue to be heavily scrutinized and critiqued in accordance with democratic norms and practices. There is no way you can expect us to allow you to turn Nigeria into a theocracy in which President Buhari is Theos. To each his or her own way of helping the administration help Nigeria according to the dictates of their conscience.
Back to Rotimi Amaechi. One can only encourage him to continue to make his case in that light. That is how to engage the people when you are serving them. One also hopes that he will graciously respect the people’s right to reject his pleas on one ground: right message, right attitude, terrible philosophy.
You see, as humble as Amaechi comes across, his pleas to the Nigerian people still come from that unchanging philosophy of national sacrifice as defined by Nigeria’s political elite since independence. It is as if there is a school where every member of the political elite goes to learn by rote that once you are in government, you must master the art of expanding your tastes and privileges while insisting that the people must sacrifice and tighten their belts.
This is the informing philosophy of Rotimi Amaechi’s latest plea to the people for patience. Honourable Minister, we hear you but we do not accept your message sir. A gbo sugbon a o gba.
People say we should always suggest solutions when we write since we, writers, and not the people running their lives in government, are supposed to come up with the solutions. Okay, here are solutions I will suggest to Mr. Rotimi Amaechi to help him better sell his pleas of patience to the people next year:
1) We want to know what your current retirement package is in Rivers state.
2) You spent time as Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly before spending time as Governor for eight years. Are we talking of one retirement package or were you sentenced to two retirement packages for life, one for your time as Speaker and the other for your time as Governor? This is Nigeria. It can happen.
3) Fundamentally speaking, what is the logic behind life pension for those who spend two terms of office in a mad country that does not respect pension for teachers, nurses, and civil servants who put in over three decades of service? Does this make sense to you, Mr. Amaechi? Does it make sense to you that these humongous life sentence of pension also involves choice houses – sometimes in the state capital and Abuja -and regular replacement of your jeeps?
4) Does it make sense to you that you are combining whatever this life pension is in Rivers state with the statutory emoluments of your current station as a Federal Minister? How do our “development partners” in the developed world hear this unbelievable things about us and still take us seriously as a country?
5) Mr. Amaechi, are you aware that in the Senate, there are more than twenty former Governors combining life pension with the immoral and amoral emoluments of the Nigerian National Assembly?
6) The other day, your fellow Federal Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohamed, was grumbling and complaining about Daily Trust. Daily Trust had put the number of jeeps in his convoy at six and he said that he uses only five and not six jeeps in his convoy. He has sacrificed one jeep in line with change. Mr. Amaechi, what do you think of this? What is the size of your own convoy? When you travel all over Europe, Canada, USA, Australia, etc, for meetings with your counterpart Ministers in those places, have you ever seen a Federal Minister in a convoy? Many of those Ministers ride bicycles to meet with you because it is more convenient. If they drive their car to work, their parking spot in the Ministry is not free. Their parking fee is deducted annually from their salary.
7) The solution to having your message accepted is simple: let the structural change you are talking about start with the will to block this particular drain on the Nigerian people. Start by being the sacrifice that you preach. Renounce your pension in Rivers state. Cut out your convoy. We shall support you. We shall have your back.
8) Once you have renounced your own pension in Rivers state, become a crusading voice for an across the board revocation of political pension in our system.
9) Your peers are dangerous. They will ostracize you. They will try to silence you. If they see that your message is resonating with the people, there will be assassination attempts against you. Risks are part of the sacrifice you must be willing to take for the people. Anyway, you are part of the culture I am describing to you so you know what to expect from your fellow people in the circles of affluence and privilege if you go rogue and start a movement for the revocation of political pension and the abandonment of our obsessive convoy culture.
10) Do these things and come back in May 2017 to plea with the people for patience. You will find eager and listening ears. For now, I am afraid, you’re wasting your time and our time.