By Moses Ochonu
I want to construct this essay on a simple word that has come to define the Buhari administration so far. That word is “will.” In the last four months or so, the recurring rhetorical ritual oozing out the Buhari administration can be reduced to the word “will.”
Hardly does a week pass without one reading a press statement, interview, or pronouncement with the word “will” as its organizing lexical superstructure. From Buhari, we constantly read that the government “will soon” begin the trial of those who connived to steal our collective patrimony in the oil sector. This was preceded by the statement that he “will soon” make the findings of the government’s investigations into these crimes public. We are still waiting.
Most times, the word “will” is followed by the word “soon,” addicting urgency to the expectational emotions elicited by “will.”
Buhari also says repeatedly that his government “will fight corruption to a standstill” but, body language aside, we have not seen any sign of this happening in five months of an increasingly underwhelming presidency.
I have read statements from the president promising that the government “will soon” reveal the names of those who plundered the nation’s resources. Sometimes, it’s a variation on the same theme: that the government has already recovered some money from the culprits and “will soon” declare these retrieved amounts to Nigerians.
From the Vice President, it’s been the same story of “will.” We hear from him that the government “WILL soon” start paying the N5000 monthly allowance promised to unemployed youths. Just two days ago, a newspaper report quoted him as saying that the government, you guessed it, “will” make provision for unemployed youths in the 2016 budget — whatever that means.
From the VP we also get the revelation that the government “will soon” set up a 24 billion Naira infrastructure fund. The government, moreover, “will soon” release its economic policy direction.
From the VP’s desk we also got the news a few days ago that the government “will soon” reduce the price of fuel.
Everything with this government is in the future tense and never in the past tense of having already done something or having already set in motion the mechanism for implementing a campaign promise or program. Nor is it ever in the present tense of we are currently doing this or that.
It is as though we are still in election campaign mode where promises couched in the language of the future and of promissory expectation are the staple of public communication. This increasingly irritating and empty rhetoric of futuristic governmental pronouncements is encapsulated in the recurring, and now redundant, use of the modifying word “will” to qualify programs that citizens expect the government to be pursuing already.
Even lesser actors in this administration have been infected by the “will” virus. The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, regaled an expectant nation with tales of miraculous refinery turnarounds in the first two months of the Buhari administration. He told us that the refineries had begun working at near full capacity and that, with additional on-going maintenance work, the refineries “will soon” be producing at full capacity.
Alas, this was not a true reflection of how things stood in regard to the refineries, for Premium Times has just published a story sourced from the NNPC’s own monthly report, which states that the refineries operated at a miserable 1.9 percent of their installed capacity in the month of September! The question to pose then is, what was the basis of the rosy prognostics of the first couple of months of this presidency, and how did we get from that positive outlook to this depressing station in just two or three months?
Obviously, the entire NNPC narrative does not add up, and the promise that the refineries “will soon” be producing at full capacity stands contradicted by the current revelation about their true state. The NNPC example illustrates the pitfalls of excessive reliance on the “will” device; sooner or later, facts, cold hard facts, emerge to disrupt the promises embedded in the “will” rhetoric.
It is clear that the “will” and “will soon” public communication devices have functioned as an instrument to deflect public critique and to buy time for a government beset by its own impractical promises and crippled by an inexplicable reluctance to pursue a clear, discernible, and decisive agenda.
In the current climate of great expectations and a seemingly overwhelmed presidency, the futuristic language of “will” and “will soon” have come handy to insulate the government from the growing public realization that the familiar problems (fuel scarcity, unpaid wages, poor electricity supply, a shrinking economy, and an acute infrastructure deficit) have persisted in the era of “change.”
The Buhari and his officials may be enamored with the convenient meaning of the word “will,” but I’d like to recommend another meaning of the word “will” to this administration. The word “will” does not just mean an intention to do something; it also means determination, courage, and decisiveness in doing something — as in having the will to do something.
In other words instead of Buhari and Osinbajo always telling us that their administration will do this or do that, why don’t they simply show us the will to do it. Why don’t they just have the will to do that which they are promising to do? We are getting tired of hearing what they will do. We now want them to muster the will to do those things.
A government whose favorite word is “will” should now become a government possessing the will to get things done, a government with will. So instead of “we will do,” how about “we have done,” or “we have begun doing”?