‘It’s doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white’ – by Ben Murray Bruce

Interesting article by Senator-elect & Chairman of Silverbird Group, Ben Murray-Bruce.

Now that Major General Muhammadu
Buhari (rtd) has been chosen by the Nigerian people, it is my duty as a
patriotic Nigerian to help him succeed even though my candidate was
Pres. Jonathan, a man to whom I will always be loyal and appreciative.
Buhari is about to mount the saddle and I for one am in a very good
position to tell him some home truths because as a senator-elect, I
have a very fulfilling job awaiting me and I do not need a job or
favours from Buhari so I do not have to play nice.
Looking at the personalities he has
appointed to his transition council, I am wont to believe that General
Buhari needs to expand his circle of friends and advisers.
As a military strategist, the
president-elect must be familiar with the principle that the people you
use in subduing an opponent are not necessarily the same persons you
will need in rebuilding the territories you took. I may be using
military terms, but I am sure General Buhari is aware that politics is
war by other means and therefore many of the rules of war and peace
apply to politics.
The General will be best served if he
thinks of what is best for Nigeria rather than what is best for his
party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), and its chieftains.
He must remember that in Nigeria’s
subjective politics, it was his person that the people voted for not
his party and he should therefore serve the people the dish they are
angling for.
And what are the expectations of Nigerians from General Buhari? Definitely not business as usual.
The president-elect ran on a promise of change and while that change
was not really defined by its chanters, Nigerians defined it as a change
in their situation.
To borrow from the famously potent
prayers of Mountain of Fire and Miracle members, the Nigerian masses
defined change as a situation where wealth and power must change hands
from the elite to the masses by fire by force and they see General
Buhari as the enforcer angel that will bring about this change.
With this type of expectation,
Buhari’s honeymoon period with Nigerians will not last very long if he
does not take drastic steps to adjust Nigeria’s economy to the
realities of falling oil prices and a dearth of buyers for the Bonny
Light Sweet Crude.
To put things into perspective, when
the United States started buying less and less of Nigeria’s oil, we
looked to China as an alternative buyer of oil but it has since come to
light that whereas America spent $101 billion on clean energy between
2012-13, China spent $125 billion within the same time frame.
The above data should alert Nigeria
and other nations that look to China for oil markets to the fact that
China is even ahead of the West in the search for alternative to fossil
fuels as a source of energy.
Buhari may wish he did not win the 2015 elections when the reality of our economic situation sets in.
In his December 2014 Channels Television interview, Buhari said he was
going to “stabilise the oil market”.  The General will learn soon
enough that today’s oil market is a buyers’ market.
And the General’s choices are limited
because he cannot (unless he is extraordinarily brave and politically
callous) do the obvious and sack civil servants. Yes, he will
eventually have to reduce the over bloated federal civil service, but
before he can do that, he has to build up political capital by reducing
the overhead of the Executive and persuade the Legislature to follow
Austerity measures must start from
Aso Rock. This means that luxurious multi car convoys must be reduced.
The presidential air fleet has to go, by way of being auctioned off or
sold to local airlines. Estacode allowances must be slashed and the
president’s entourages should be lean while non-essential foreign
travels should be banned.
The president-elect should not
underestimate the big difference these small changes can make and their
capacity to buy him enough credibility with the labour unions, the
kind of credibility that will see them accepting cuts in the federal
workforce and reduction in pay and entitlements.
A small change like flying commercial
instead of by private jet saved Britain a whopping £200,000 when the
thrifty British Prime Minister, David Cameron, flew to America to meet
President Barack Obama on a regular BA flight.
Nigeria is in for very desperate
times if we do not tighten our belts while our major foreign
exchange earner is facing global challenges.
Russia, a nation that
many will say is more prepared than Nigeria for the shocks occasioned
by the drop in the price of oil devalued its currency by 11 per cent in
just one day.
While Russia is taking these steps,
the world is watching to see if Nigeria will continue to spend hundreds
of billions annually sponsoring its elite on pilgrimages to Mecca and
I mean, no economist will get why a
nation with over 60 per cent of its people living in poverty at the
best of times, will spend almost 1 per cent of its annual budget
sponsoring pilgrimages for its elite who can afford to go to the Holy
Land on their own dime.
I for one do not get it. A pilgrimage
is meant to be a sacrifice of a believer. How is a pilgrimage still a
sacrifice when someone pays for you to go? The Nigerian government is
sending people on holidays not pilgrimages!
I daresay that the money being spent
by the Nigerian government to airlift pilgrims to both Holy Lands is
enough to educate all the almajiri in Northern Nigeria. Wouldn’t God
and humanity be better served if we looked after the less privileged in
our midst?
General Buhari has his work cut out for him and he does
not have time to be bitter about who said what, when and where. He must
let go of any desire to pay any of his traducers back whether they be
from the last 16 years or as far back as 1985.
Four years is only enough time to fix
Nigeria. Any time spent on other ventures is time taken from this most
important of assignments.
And let me say that General Buhari should
not allow himself to be pigeon holed by people who dangle ideologies
instead of realities. Yes, the APC may have styled itself as a
progressive party, which in itself is a contradiction because Buhari is
a conservative, but Buhari should not bother about that.
Whether the philosophy is progressive
or conservative or liberal or free market, he should go with what
works because as Deng Xiaoping once noted: “It doesn’t matter whether a
cat is black or white, if it catches mice it is a good cat.”
it is fitting for me to end with a mention of Xiaoping. No other
contemporary world leader, in my opinion, closely mirrors Buhari as does
In 1966, Xiaoping was dethroned from
his powerful party positions by loyalists of Chairman Mao as was Buhari
in 1985 by loyalists of his Chief of Army staff.
Xiaoping suffered
house arrest, loss of earned privileges and was consigned to political
limbo for almost a decade as was Buhari.
But then Xiaoping bounced back into
favour and became China’s leader in 1976 and thereafter jettisoned his
life long belief in Mao’s Cultural Revolution and introduced the “one
country, two systems” policy that allowed communism and capitalism to
coexist in China. This is similar to Buhari’s conversion from an
anti-democrat who believed power flowed from the barrel of a gun to a
democrat who accepted democracy as the best form of governance and
capitalism as the natural economic policy of a democracy.
But this is where Buhari has to learn
from Xiaoping.  Xiaoping refused to demonise Chairman Mao, his
predecessor who had purged him from power and placed him under house
arrest after stripping him off his privileges. Instead of bitterness,
Xiaoping believed that Mao’s “accomplishments must be considered before
his mistakes”.
This is how Buhari must treat his
predecessors. He must not demonise everything that was done by previous
administrations and mark those who served in those government as
persona non grata. He must take the bitter with the sweet and make use
of the best brains Nigeria has to offer, for as he said on December
31st, 1983, “This generation of Nigerians and indeed future generations
have no other country than Nigeria”.


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