It Doesn’t Matter if the Cat is White or Black by BEN MURRAY BRUCE

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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 President Goodluck Jonathan, a man to whom I will always be loyal and appreciative.

General 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 suit.

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 Jerusalem.

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.”
And 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 Xiaoping.

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”.

• Mr. Murray Bruce is a Senator-elect and CEO of Silverbird Entertainment Group


  1. Oga Senator-elect Murray Bruce, all these recommendations you are putting forward now, were they also put forward to President Goodluck Jonathan, a man to whom YOU will always be loyal and appreciative to? Because if you did and they were taken on board, I’m not so sure he would have lost the elections. I am sure you know that a good numbers of Nigerians are not naive to expect that General Buhari will just wave a magic wand at all our issues and they will go away. On your usage of military terms in politics, I agree to some extent. It is the PDP that was decimated and not Nigerian or Nigeria. And yes, the politicians with which the war was won can be used to develop Nigeria. If you had contributed to the victory of your party will it be fair that you are left out of the government? Let us be adults and discuss our issues as fair, equitable and just as possible. The PDP has had 16 years in government and all these issues were not addressed. I don’t think anybody in the current PDP can beat his or her chest and say they can teach the men and women in APC how to run a government. The PDP failed spectacularly and that is the reason APC won. And yes, Nigerian have expectation on the APC government, they will be put on their toes and will be assessed in 4 years.

  2. Mr Ajenifuja is on point. As for Mr Bruce, no more business as usual. You stopped shop of saying GMB should help clear the mess created by your party and kinsman. This is a second admittance by a PDP chief that all is not well

  3. Honestly am disappointed at oga Ben bruce,where was Gej when you start you business empire dat you are so appreciative of,oh because he allow you to be senator elect instead of the governor,mr Ajenifuja has address other issuese,when you won I was happy,because of quality debate u will bring fore,so angry dat,can Gej win a contests in which you are involved?, without Gej u will win election anywhere in your wahala anyway, will you declare your salary?

  4. Ajenifuja just said what I have in mind. Furthermore, Mr bruce is from bayelsa, even Gej what have you two done to demilitarized the militant youth? What have you done to alleviate an average bayelsan from their poverty stricken status? Charity they say begins at home. Mr bruce pls remove the dirts in your eyes first before others.

  5. Senator Bruce, Your suggestions to GMB are in order. Indeed, I would also want to see a drastic change in our fortunes with people like you who are already millionaires in your own right, rejecting some of the bogus allowances reserved for senators. I however wish you had given this advise to President Jonathan, our country would have been the better for it had he heeded. Sadly, I’m sure you wouldn’t have proffered this same advise had Jonathan won the presidency. That the tragedy of our situation: self serving politicians and even enterpreneurs. TRAGIC!

  6. Ben Murray Bruce states “….even though my candidate was President Goodluck Jonathan, a man to whom I will always be loyal and appreciative.”
    Then he goes on to advise. Can we assume that President Goodluck Jonathan was his candidate because he was doing things exactly as he advised GMB to do?
    If GMB wants Ben Murray Bruce to “….always be loyal and appreciative.” should GMB not do exactly asPresident Jonathan did?
    So why exactly was President Jonathan his “candidate”?

  7. When a man talks,one should be able to place him where he belongs or politely put,the man should be allowed to preempt himself so as to know his lining. Ben Bruce always thinks that his smartness will always fetch him some good at all times. He feels Nigerians can always be blindfolded and robbed. His smartness has been seeing him through in some other governments but the worst mistake GMB would make is to give a listening ear to Bruce otherwise he will deliberately run his government aground. Where was Bruce when GEJ was running his clueless government,where was he,all these years, when Niger Delta youths were being denied opportunities to be responsible citizens. He never gave his ‘solomon’ advice to any of them until now. Let the truth be told. Bruce was,may be by proxy,part and parcel of GEJ’s government and he applauded him while the looting and stealing were going on and even now,he is praising him as his hero. Let him go to Otuoke and keep that advice. GMB does not need it neither do majority of Nigerians.

  8. Mr Ben Murray-Bruce just showed to Nigerians that he was part & parcel of those failed elite nigerians.Am nt surprised abt him when he became a PDP member.Advising Buhari to turn blind eyes to all past corruption matters is a BAD ADVICE.

  9. Mr. Bruce remains a business man i will always respect atleast from the little i know about him. He is a realistic person and has never shied away from baring his mind no matter whise ox is gored. After reading his piece i now wonder, being close to the president, could it be that he failed to advice GEJ or that his advice were clearly not taken. I also wonder how a person could have so much loyalty and be appreciative of a man who did everything contrary to your beliefs. Could it also be that Mr. Bruce turned a blind eye to the delibrate killing of our institutions and raising of induviduals (sometimes rascals) to national prominence all in the name of politics. If indeed Mr. Bruce wants to be sincere he should have titled his piece “why Jonathan failed” otherwise all i can see now is yet another opportunist mascurading as a social crusader, another politician seeking just his interest. Finally, i hope he doesnt end up wishing he did not win his election when he begins to discover that, the bitter kola is not as sweet as it sounds.


  11. Oga Ben. The same advice you could not give your mentor is now being offered to his opponent. That means you know truth all this while but looked elsewhere due to sycophancy. You are not a leader we are all yearning for. Let me remind you Senate is not galleria as they don’t show movies there.

  12. Mr. Bruce,you will soon find out there is a wide gap between rhetoric and performance in government. It will be cool to maintain your lane and contribute your utmost in policy changes required in the Senate Chambers and elsewhere as necessary.
    If you had the magic wand, why did Jonathan fail so woefully? Why are the people of Bayelsa and your Senatorial Zone one of the poorest in Nigeria? What have you done out of politics to help your constituents and the ever restless youths of Bayelsa protesting a system that is choking them to death in the midst of plenty?
    What has GEJ done except giving you a ticket to represent your impoverished constituents that makes you forever loyal to him?
    Take your own advice. The soldiers that won you the war are not necessarily the ones that will help you hold the city.
    We expect so much from you being a successful business man in politics,not a politician in politics which you are largely not.
    Best wishes.

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