By Suyi Ayodele

The New York Times in its June 11, 2024, edition described Nigeria as a nation of 200 million citizens who are skilled at filling the gap for government. Let me quote it directly: “A nation of entrepreneurs, Nigeria’s more than 200 million citizens are skilled at managing in tough circumstances, without the services states usually provide. They generate their own electricity and source their own water. They take up arms and defend their communities when the armed forces cannot. They negotiate with kidnappers when family members are abducted. But right now, their resourcefulness is being stretched to the limit.” For writing this, our federal government thoroughly abused The New York Times at the weekend. It said the newspaper lied. You and I know it is the government that lied, denying the truth!

The piece, written by Ruth Maclean and Ismail Auwal, with graphics supplied by Taiwo Aina, is titled: Nigeria Confronts Its Worst Economic Crisis in a Generation. It dwells deeply into the ailments of the Nigerian economy under the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration. It says: “People in Africa’s most populous nation are suffering as the price of food, fuel and medicine has skyrocketed out of reach for many. Nigeria is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with skyrocketing inflation, a national currency in free-fall and millions of people struggling to buy food. Only two years ago, Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria is projected to drop to fourth place this year. The pain is widespread. Unions strike to protest salaries of around $20 a month. People die in stampedes, desperate for free sacks of rice. Hospitals are overrun with women wracked by spasms from calcium deficiencies.” The newspaper knows where the problem lies. Again, I quote it: “The crisis is largely believed to be rooted in two major changes implemented by a president elected 15 months ago: the partial removal of fuel subsidies and the floating of the currency, which together have caused major price rises.”

The naked truth by the foreign newspaper drew the ire of the government. Rather than address the issues raised in the article, the government resorted to blame-game. Bayo Onanuga, President Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, who responded on behalf of the government said that instead of blaming Tinubu for the current pains in the land, Nigerians should blame General Muhammadu Buhari, whose government, Onanuga accused of spending $1.5 billion monthly to defend the Naira! To Onanuga, and the presidency he represents, Tinubu should be absolved of all blames because he inherited the present economic problems from Buhari.

The above is the thinking in the circle of power. Everybody else must be blamed but themselves. I wonder what Onanuga was thinking when he penned all the incomprehensible verbiage contained in his rejoinder to The New York Times piece. What is the difference between Buhari and Tinubu? While Buhari was borrowing the “$1.5 billion monthly to defend the Naira”, what did Tinubu, Buhari’s godfather say? Or, if indeed, Tinubu made Buhari president, did he not have the responsibility of ensuring that his protégé did the right thing in government? During the 2023 electioneering, when Tinubu said that he would continue with the policies of Buhari, what exactly was he talking about? In the last one year, how much has Tinubu committed to support the Naira? When, about two months ago, Onanuga and other Aso Rock clappers said that we should thank President Tinubu for making the Naira to appreciate against the dollar, which magic did the president use then? What is the simple explanation of floating the Naira?

Nigerian government officials need neurological attention. I mean every alphabet in these words. I say so because I believe that most of them are suffering from auditory hallucination. Everyone in government appears to hear voices and noises that are not in tandem with the reality on the ground. The groaning in the land is too loud enough for the deaf to hear. But those in power hear something different, non existing reality! That calls for serious medical attention.

Medical experts are on the same page that auditory hallucinations are associated with schizophrenia and other mental health conditions. They explain it as “a disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel and behave clearly.” Nothing, in my opinion, aptly describes our leaders than this definition! If I were to be the only one to choose those who get to power, the first parameter I would set would be for all government officials, or would-be government functionaries to go for a mental health examination. When leaders are cut off from the reality of the situations of the masses, the poor in the society suffer. This is our case in Nigeria now. Those in charge of our affairs are far away in distant lands. They are as unfeeling as they are as unapologetic about their abysmal failure.