IDEAS Radio 14 June 2019 

President Buhari’s Democracy Day speech

Aghogho Oboh: Alright, it’s ten minutes past four, 99.3 Nigeria Info, your number one news, sport and talk radio station.  I’m Aghogho Oboh, and you are welcome to Public Square, where we discuss all the big and important issues in politics.

And first on the IDEAS segment with Ayo Obe, we’ll be looking at President Buhari’s Democracy Day speech, which turned out to be his Inauguration speech also.

Remember, you can follow the programme on Twitter @PublicSquareNG, @RotimiSankore, @ideasradiong, @naijama, @aghoghoobo, @NigeriaInfoFM.  All those are our handles, if you’ve got comments and questions please let us have them there. You can also send questions to our WhatsApp number which is 08095975805. 

Good evening Ayo Obe and Rotimi Sankore.

Ayo Obe: Good evening Aghogho, and … yeah … 

Rotimi: Good evening.

AgO: It’s a rainy day!

Ayo Obe: It’s been a rainy day, but the focus today is the rain of issues (or not), that arise from the President’s Democracy Day speech.  I don’t know how you see it Rotimi, but it does seem to me that there’s a … there’s an Accountability gap between statements made at Inauguration, after the battle has been fought and won, and the promises made during the election campaign when voters have a chance to say: Well, you’re going to do … you say you’re going to do this or that, and on the basis of that, I will vote for you.  As opposed to, when you’ve … when you are already in position, you are now telling voters that you’re going to do one thing, and whether the voters, we the citizens of the country, are entitled to say to the President: Well, you promised such and such in your Inauguration or your Democracy Day speech. And whether the President can say: Well, I was talking. I may or may not be able to fulfil my promises.

Rotimi Sankore: Well I think that aside from the gap between the speeches and the governance output, in this particular speech, there’s also, you know, slightly a little bit too much rationalisation, trying to explain away things, even though in other parts of it, the President kind of starts on the right path and is flagging the problems as they are going to come up, and then veers off suddenly again.

AO: Well what do you mean?  Can you give me an example?

RS: Well, so, for instance, in paragraph 6, the President says … sorry, paragraph 9, the President says … 

AO: Yes.

RS: … “Terrorism and insecurity are a worldwide phenomenon” which is true, and even the best-policed …

AO: Yes, it’s true.  But it’s something for which we, when President Jonathan  seemed to imply that “And because it’s a worldwide phenomenon, we should therefore get used to it”, we excoriated President Jonathan in his time. 

RS: Yes, yes, so, and, the APC at the time joined in saying that … 

AO: Joined in the excoriation.

RS:  Yes. So the APC is in government now and says it’s worldwide phenomena.  It’s true, and even the best-policed countries are experiencing increasing incidents of unrest.  That part is not true, …

AO: No.

RS: … because, part of the best policing is also governance.  And in that case, those countries that he’s talking about, one or two of them have had terrorist acts committed by lone individuals … 

AO: Or even individuals in groups.

RS: Or even individuals in groups, but it’s either one person, or two or three people commit it, no matter how bad it is, and that’s what it is.  In Nigeria what we have is extremists in one part of the country. Although it is correct to say that they no longer occupy territory, and in that sense the President is correct and there is progress, but their … their ability to attack soft targets at will … 

AO: Yes, but I think …

RS: … you know, and then on the other side there are bandits that just seem to operate … and the problem is not so much the insecurity itself, but what caused the insecurity, which is poor governance, underdevelopment, inequality … 

AO: Well Rotimi, I think we should recognise that there are going to be criminals in every country …

RS: Of course.

AO:  … and so I think there’s an issue of the criminality, and then there’s the issue of whether that criminality creates these feelings of uncertainty.  I mean, if you go to the United States, and you look, if you were to just sit down and look at the figures of people, the numbers of people killed by guns in the United States, you would … 

RS: You would think they are at war.

AO:  Exactly.  And yet, you don’t, sort of, go to the US and start thinking: I’m insecure, my life is at risk …

RS:  Yes, but … 

AO: … even as a black person, you also don’t go there feeling that. 

RS: Yes, but also, it’s not the US that we’re comparing with.

AO: No no no no no no, the point that I’m making is that you don’t even go … even as a black person knowing how many people get killed, you don’t go there with that constant feeling, the narrative of insecurity by being in the United States.  And I think that that is not just because they have police and so on, but because they have a response which involves saying that: Whatever the identity, the motivation, the philosophy, the religion, the ethnicity … that when crimes occur, they have to be treated as crimes and they have to be investigated and the criminals brought to book.  The criminal can get to the tribunal and start saying: Well, I did this because I belong to XYZ. But I think that our fundamental issue … and I think that when the President tries to present it as this sort of a … worldwide phenomenon and so on, terrorist attacks in other countries are treated as … the people are … the perpetrators are apprehended and they are taken to court.  Today … yesterday probably by now … in New Zealand, somebody who orchestrated a terrorist attack on Muslims in that country is being brought before a court. It’s not being said: Ah well, because he’s one of us, or he belongs to this particular group or ethnicity, we now have to make allowances for the way he behaved. He’s a criminal, you commit murder, you commit murder. So I think that in that regard, I would say that if the President, as you say, is setting up the scenario whereby performance may not meet the promise, then that’s not really gonna fly.

RS: Yes, but so, where I said, the President starts on the right path and then, instead of saying: So, we will then do X, Y, Z, in so so detail, he then starts to rationalize, so … 

AO: Well, he did say that they were going to have this summit of the sub-region …

RS: Yes.

AO. … which I think is probably part of where Nigerian leadership needs to really come into play.

RS: Yes, but, so let me just link the two.  So there is that paragraph 19 where he talks of insecurity, and then if you go to 45, the President then does the right thing by acknowledging that when economic inequality rises, insecurity rises.  So that’s the correct analysis, that’s the correct understanding … 

AO: It’s not the only analysis Rotimi.

RS: Yes, yes but, but he’s on the right path there, you know, without any doubt.  And then he says: “But when we actively reduce inequality through investment in social and hard infrastructure, insecurity reduces”.  So that’s a statement. It’s a correct statement. But the reality is, there’s roughly a hundred million people in Nigeria living in absolute poverty.  And he then says somewhere else, that in the next 10 years … 

AO: We can …

RS: That we can lift …

AO: A hundred million Nigerians out of poverty.

RS: But the only way to do that, is to, one: cover the deficit and stay ahead of the curve.  In ten years it will be too late, because there are over seven million people born in the country every year!   

AO: No!  I don’t think he’s saying that we’re going to wait ten years, and then we’re going to reduce the insecurity with due respect.  I think that what he’s saying is that at the end of ten years we will have lifted 100 million people out of poverty.

RS: Yes, but at the end of ten years, so it’s like if you have … 

AO: We will have another seventy million people born … 

RS: You’ll have another seventy or a hundred million people …

AO: … but they are not all going to be born into poverty.

RS: The President acknowledges somewhere else, that by 2050, that our population would have doubled to over 400 million.

AO: If nothing is done, I suppose.

RS:  Yes, but then what is being done there, about the schools, especially for girls, outlawing forced child marriage, making family planning available universally?  So you know, it’s those kind of things where even when the President starts to acknowledge the problem, states it rightly, states in broad terms in one or two instances what could be done, the President …

AO: I think … let me say this.  Because in an IDEAS, when we’re looking at IDEAS, yes I … I mean to me, as I said, the main part for IDEAS is the Accountability part of it, although there are questions of Integrity when you make promises, when you make statements, and so on.  You are perhaps going into the detail, the minutiae of how these promises, these ideals need to be effected.

RS: Well that’s the governance and accountability aspect.

AO: Well, I mean there’s governance, and there’s Accountability.  I’m not saying that the two are totally separate, but I think that … I’m not necessarily saying that because the President hasn’t said: “It’s time for us to have a population policy, that we … that otherwise any gains that we make” … I mean, yes to me, it’s obvious that whether we have to grow the economy we also have to stop growing the population at the rate that we are growing it at, but I wouldn’t necessarily categorize that as IDEAS issues.

RS: Yes, well we will go into more detail after 4.30 on the President’s speech on areas where it starts to stray.  But there’s a D in IDEAS, which is …

AO: Democracy.

RS: … which is Democracy, and … 

AO: Well, he congratulated himself and the country on a free democratic election, that he respected the ‘independence’ of the Independent National Electoral Commission, and got it all the resources that it needed.  Well, we’ll take that with a bit of a cough, with a bit of an “ahem”; and “that all interested parties” are in … agreed on that. So he’s giving himself a very hearty pat on the back for the Democracy part of the IDEAS.

RS: Well there is a part where … 

AO: Not so sure that the opposition parties which, and all those people who have taken INEC to court, would necessarily agree.

RS: No, no, no, they wouldn’t.

AO: But then, I mean it’s part of the electoral process as we’ve always said.

RS: So there is a part here that is completely unnecessary.  I mean we’ll mention it here as part of the Democracy, part of IDEAS, we’ll look at it in more detail after 4.30.  So the President says something here and you will wonder whether it is PMB or GMB that is speaking. On paragraph 33 he says: “China and Indonesia succeeded under authoritarian regimes.”  It’s an unnecessary statement to add to a Democracy Day speech …

AO: I think …

RS: … given his antecedents as a General, former Military Dictator.

AO: But he also went on to say that India … India succeeded as a Democracy.

RS: Yes, yes, but it is unnecessary to add to his Democracy Day speech.

AO: No, no.  I don’t agree Rotimi.

RS: No, because it tends to remind people that he has been a military dictator.

AO: Well he has!  We should not forget it!

RS: You don’t need to remind people on Democracy Day.

AO: Well, with due respect, again I’m going to disagree, because I think that in the first place, a lot of Nigerians … and even, I remember during the campaign, the Vice-Presidential … the running mate of Atiku Abubakar, Governor Peter Obi, was rather held up to a lot of … comment on social media when he cited the gains that had been made by China in its eradication of poverty for many … or lifting people so many people out of poverty, and I think it’s important for … so that when people sort of say: “China did it”, and he says: “Yes, China did it as, (and Indonesia by the way is not an autocracy, Indonesia is a democracy … 

RS: Currently, yes.

AO: … rather like us.  And it’s been one for as long as we have.)

RS: Yes, but we know that he’s referring to Generals … is it Suharto or Sukarno?  That’s who he’s referring to, the former military dictator in Indonesia.

AO: I don’t know.  Yes, we had military dictators and they had military dictators, but for the past how many years, that’s not been where they’ve been making their strides in their economy.

RS: But he referred to it here, not me.

AO: He didn’t refer to Suharto.

RS: No, but he said China and Indonesia succeeded …

AO: Well I would say that he’s …

RS: … under authoritarian regimes.  He’s referring to the military dictatorship in Indonesia, and that’s not the democracy.

AO: Let me finish now.  I would say that he is wrong in saying that Indonesia lifted its people out of poverty under a military dictatorship.  But I think that the important thing is that to the extent that Nigerians think that it is necessary, that these things can only be done when you have this Dictatorship, Command and “I will not tolerate” and all this type of thing, that it’s important for us to be able to say that … for him to also to say: But that that’s not the only method of taking people out of poverty.  India did it as a democracy. Because many Nigerians do think in terms of China when we think of lifting people out of poverty, but we also know, and we should be able to say, that the reason why Nigeria now has the largest number of people living in poverty, is because India’s efforts at lifting people out of poverty, which have been taken as a democracy, are efforts that have been succeeding too, and that we can succeed in that regard as well.

RS: Ok.  Alright just to double check, so it’s Suharto.  There was Suharto …

AO: Suharto and Sukarno.

RS: … and there was Sukarno, yes.  And both were Generals, and it’s Sukarno that was the earlier one.  I mean the one that just unleashed mayhem on trade unionists, lawyers, journalists … 

AO: They were killing Communists, they were fighting the Communist menace.

RS: Yes, and Communists, but in the process killing journalists, lawyers, trade unionists, students en masse.

AO: Oh yes.  I mean the fact was that Indonesia’s situation was not simply just having an authoritarian regime, it was also having a regime which killed large numbers of its citizens in the, so the fight there was not about … the issue then was not about lifting people out of poverty.

RS: Yes, but you see …  That’s the point I’m trying to make here, on Democracy Day, when you reference mass murderers …

AO: He didn’t mention any of them by name.

RS: Ah ah!

AO: Oh Rotimi!

RS: He doesn’t have to mention them by name!  If he says that a country made progress under authoritarian regime, he doesn’t have to mention them by name.  Just mentioning the country reminds people that know history … 

AO: Ok.  Let me say again, Indonesia did not lift its people out of poverty during the time of dictatorship.

RS: Like I said, I’m not the one that said so.

AO: I didn’t say that you were.

RS: The President said Indonesia did.  

AO: (Sigh)

RS: So it’s a wrong reference.

AO: There are times when one has to say that the President is not omnipotent or omniscient.  He got it wrong. And I’m entitled to say so.

RS: Yes, that’s what we are pointing out.  He got it wrong and it was a wrong example, because people who don’t know history will sort of go around repeating that the President said that Indonesia lifted people out of poverty.

AO: Well, we are doing a circular argument.

RS: Yeah, sometimes it’s important.

AO: We are just saying the same thing.  I mean, I would rather that we were to, that we had been able to look at some other things in the President’s speech, but  unfortunately …

RS: But that’s a key democracy aspect … 

AO: You’re saying it again.  We’re actually now … Unfortunately, we’ve come to the end of the IDEAS segment.  

So, we tried to look at whether there were IDEAS issues in the … I’m sorry that we got  a little bit bogged down on matters that are not necessarily of overwhelming interest to Nigerians who want to look to the future about whether or not the President’s Democracy Day comments and promises can be something that we later turn around and say … that we can later hold him Accountable for.  Accountability of course, goes with Integrity because we do know that in the past, the President had said that: Those promises were not made by me. These ones come from his mouth, but as I said, they come after the event. But, on the IDEAS segment we are certainly going … on IDEAS radio, we are going to be looking the way that the President is going.  We are here on Friday, two days after the Democracy Day; the Senate has been inaugurated, apparently no list of Ministers has gone. I hope we’re not all going to expire of old age before that happens, but I have to say Goodbye to you now, and to thank you all for listening to IDEAS radio. We shall be with you next week! Check us out on www.ideasradio.ng or follow us on Twitter @ideasradiong.

AgO: Alright, so we’ll take a quick break on Public Square.  When we come back, the President’s speech will be before us. Please stay with us.