Cardinal Anthony Okogie, the Emeritus Archbishop of Lagos, has said President Muhammadu Buhari must do something fast to address hunger across the country.
Okogie said in an open letter to the President on Monday, August 29, that Buhari’s campaign slogan was anchored on change.
He stated, “Today, cries of “hunger” could be heard across the length and breadth of our vast country. Nigerians hunger, not only for food, but also for good leadership, for peace, security and justice.
“This letter is to appeal to you to do something fast, and, if you are already doing something, to redouble your effort. May it not be written on the pages of history that Nigerians die of starvation under your watch.
“As President, you are the chief servant of the nation. I therefore urge you to live up to the huge expectation of millions of Nigerians. A stitch in time saves nine.”
Punch reported that the cardinal said that Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress, promised to lead the masses to the Promised Land.
He said that although it was not an easy task to lead, the President during his campaign offered to take the enormous task of leadership.
The cardinal stated, “Nigerians are waiting for you to fulfill the promises you made during the campaign. They voted you into office because of those promises. The introduction of town hall meetings is a commendable idea. But in practice, you, not just your ministers, must converse with Nigerians. You are the President. You must be accountable to them. The buck stops on your desk. Even if your administration has no magic wand at least give some words of encouragement.”
He said that the President should instruct his ministers to be sincere and polite at the town hall meetings, adding that their sophistry would neither benefit Nigerians nor the President.
“Mr. President, if you want to leave a credible legacy come 2019, in all sincerity, please retool your administration. Change is desirable. But it must be a change for the better. Let this change be real. Change is not real when old things that we ought to discard refuse to pass away,” he added.
Okogie said that the President must take a critical look at his cabinet, policies and programmes of his administration.
He added, “You will need to take a critical look at the manner of appointments you have been making. It is true that commonsense dictates that you appoint men and women you can trust. But if most of the people you trust are from one section of the country and practice the same religion, then you and all of us are living in insecurity.
“The Nigerian economy has never been in a state as terrible as this. You as the President, you are like the pilot of an aircraft flying in turbulence. Turbulent times bring the best or the worst out of a pilot. We can no longer blame the turbulence on past administrations. You know quite well that some of the officials of your administration served in previous dispensations. Blame for what we have been experiencing is in fact bipartisan in character.
“The entire political class needs to come together, irrespective of party differences to acknowledge its collective guilt and to seek ways of saving the sinking ship that our country has become. This cannot be done if some officials of your administration demonise and alienate members of the opposition.”
Okogie said that if a large portion of the blame for the present situation was to be laid on the doorsteps of the entire political class, the search for solution must involve everyone.
He said, “That is why no one should be alienated. All hands must be on deck.
“This is the time to revitalise moribund industries, reinvigorate our agriculture, make our country tourist and investor friendly, and enable our young men and women to find fulfillment by contributing to the common good.
“None of these lofty goals can be achieved without good education. On this particular issue, recent appointments you have made in the education sector raise a question: have you really appointed the best? Still on education, it is important that our universities be allowed to use their own criteria to admit students. It is a gross violation of the principles of federalism and academic freedom for the Federal Government to insist that only a federal parastatal can decide on who gains admission into our universities.”
Responding, the Presidency said President Muhammadu Buhari was already addressing the hunger in the land as advised by Okogie.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said this in an interview with The Punch.
Adesina said Buhari was working hard to ensure that Nigerians bid poverty and hunger farewell in shortest possible time.
The presidential spokesman said, “The respected cardinal asked the President to do something fast to address hunger across the country.
“That is exactly what the President is doing. He is working hard for Nigerians, so that they can say a final farewell to poverty and hunger.”