IS PRESIDENT BUHARI REALLY SLOW?
It’s been over 6 weeks since President Muhammadu Buhari took office as President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So much and so less have been said and opined about his time so far, as the head of the Nigerian government. While some Nigerians suggest intense communal prayers for Mr President’s success in the seeming “difficult task” he is saddled with, others believe Mr President should have done better than, or show marked improvement from, his predecessor’s administration in less than 6 weeks.
To be fair to Mr President; however anyone assesses his administration in this past 6 weeks, it is expected that the views of the over twelve million Nigerians who voted to ensure, but failed in, the re-election bid of Goodluck Jonathan, the erstwhile President, would put Mr President on pressure line. So for some Nigerians who chose Mr President as an alternative to Jonathan, but who have not yet believed in him, whose goodwill for Mr President have long waned and queuing behind the former.
These ones usually indicate their desire at seeing Mr President “hit the ground running”, almost insinuating that he hit the ground upon his anal vertebrae sustaining a “spinal injury” in leadership, which has kept him still on the ground wiggling.
President Buhari is already dusting away his first 50 days in office, halfway on the course of the assessment of his “first 100 days in office”. Paramount amongst those who think Mr President is slow in his approach to governance are those who think the Federal Executive Council (FEC) should be operative already and probably should have had three council sessions of contract dishing by now. In my opinion, I think the Buhari administration is only comparable to the first democratic advent of the Obasanjo administration in its take off in October 1999.
I am not so sure how long it took Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to constitute the Federal Executive Council in 1999, nevertheless, the administrative takeoff of Buhari’s administration, whose transiting involved the switch in roles and responsibilities between the ruling and opposition parties, is comparable only to the first administration in the advent of the “fourth republic”.
Every administration after Obasanjo’s, until now, was hereditary to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), at that time victory for the PDP was a “do or die affair”. That period engineered the “godfather” and the “godson” era, when Chief Obasanjo was rechristened as “Baba”, indicating him as the biggest and fatted godfather of his time, who was so politically gifted to know when a political leg is “K” and needed a change, whether upon or against laid down rules.
That was the period when Ministers, Ambassadors, Heads of MDAs were also inherited by an incoming administration. Offices were shared during electioneering campaigns, including those of Presidential aides. It could not be heard of that a President would, while reading his inaugural address, boast of belonging to “everybody and…to nobody”.
It is upon this reason that Nigerians should realise that the ball game of governance has changed, and especially also because the winner’s mantra read “Change”. If Nigerians have not seen any change in President Buhari’s approach to governance, especially as their complaints of his very slow beginning indicates, then I wonder what kind of change they were expecting from Mr President.
One person I know President Buhari is not is the Coach of the Super Eagles, the senior national football team. It is always in football administration in Nigeria that everybody tends to be “the Coach” arrogating to themselves the exclusive knowledge of football. When the game does not go as expected, the coach is replaced immediately because he did not take advice.
Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) may have played governance as a game of football during his time, earning for himself the nickname “Maradona”, but as far as Nigeria is presently constituted, the “business” of governance can never again be “as usual”, nor can it again be a game of soccer for administrators, not anymore.
I do not think anyone is suggesting that President Buhari should have inherited Goodluck Jonathan’s template of governance, which in effect is PDP’s. I do not think anyone would suggest that, and in not suggesting such, I also believe that some Nigerians will agree that formulating an entirely new template for governance, especially when, for the very first time in the history of our political transitions, an incoming administration has to slash its official salaries instead of upgrading them is indicative of a not so easy task ahead. Inheriting an entire public service that is owed in salaries was indeed a change-indicator for the Buhari administration?
Apart from the expectation of some Nigerians who desired President Buhari to “hit the ground running”, expecting him not to mind if the ground upon which he landed and is expected to run upon is smooth enough to permit such short distance dash or long distance race; the President also has the option of choosing the “slow and steady wins the race” mantra for his administrative takeoff. As long as he is not contravening any law that sets a time frame for which he MUST constitute the executive cabinet, he is in order.
Having precedented the office of the head of government before now, his administrative methodology can be trusted until the initial signs of failure are detected. I mean Mr President should be given “the benefit of the doubt” in his approach to governance.
I think some Nigerians are not fair to him, and the effect of his media team is less than protecting the returns on his public image. Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina have reduced themselves to only responding to public opinions on Mr President rather than selling his administrative credentials to Nigerians. This is the reason for the decline in the index of Mr President’s public goodwill amongst Nigerians since he took office.
How has President Buhari faired in 6 weeks?
On his Cabinet: like I suggested earlier, Mr President could be applying the “slow and steady wins the race” mantra to his initial approach to governance: Ministers of the Federal Republic, when appointed, would be representatives of Mr President. Before now, it was regular for ministers to present the problems and challenges confronting their ministries to the President for deliberations and to proffer solutions.
Some times the brief from the Ministers captures only what the bureaucrats in the Ministries want the Ministers to forward. In which case, Mr President only hears what his Ministers and their Permanent Secretaries have conspired to let him hear. The Permanent Secretaries may have before now understood one language in transition takeover ceremonies, but now that the handover game has changed, they will also be cautious, as they will not be briefing any Minister, but rather be receiving Mr President’s brief from them. Of course Change has come and it is here.
At the retreat for APC governors sometime last year in Port Harcourt, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State revealed how some of his Permanent Secretaries cornered him with some files while he was still new in office, prodding him on how they had prepared his “settling down in office” enrichment, claiming that they kept the files awaiting his taking of office as governor. It was however clear to him that what these men were trying to do was to tie him down to their corrupt tendencies, so that when questions are asked some day about their criminal financial excrements, they would whisper into his ears “sir, it is about [that business in] the beginning”.
It is therefore strategic for President Buhari to seek personal audience directly with each Permanent Secretary and to familiarise himself with the problems and challenges of each Ministry before formulating his briefs for the Ministers he would eventually appoint. The change here is tailored at the President briefing his Ministers personally instead of their Permanent Secretaries, who would find special files to help them “settle down well in office”, before pointing to the ones Mr President should see. Now the President sees and knows about each case in a ministry before any of his ministers. I think this is Change. Whoever said “Change” has no price tag on it?
So whatever time Mr President is taking to conclude on those who should join his government and the responsibilities they would shoulder, is profiting and in the right direction. In the face of his promise to “kill corruption” Mr President must ensure he does not compromise this “fight” by appointing any corruption-ladened individual into his cabinet.
Whoever has his name on Mr President’s list and has a case file with any of the anti corruption agencies should be excused from any executive or ministerial appointment. This is fair and square in spite of whatever contributions and support he rendered Mr President in his aspiration.
Mr President must avoid any finger pointing at his administration, especially in the area of corruption: he is yet to show a committed political will to fight corruption otherwise, as his short-term administrative assets determinant, Ibrahim Lamorde, Chairman of EFCC should have returned to his superiors in the Nigeria Police as possibly an Assistant Inspector General, and Colonel Hamid Ibrahim Ali Rtd would have since resumed at the EFCC Headquarters as Chairman. He is also a Hausa/Fulani man, so what?
Again, the aftermath of the National Assembly leadership elections has thrown light on, and opened the eyes of Mr President to, the calibre of men who joined the All Progressive Congress (APC) from the PDP. In my opinion, some of them who helped Mr President’s ascension to leadership should be politically compensated in other ways than assigning Ministerial portfolios to them. The gulf and mutual suspicion between the members of the original APC and the members of the nPDP is clear for Mr President to see, and this is another clear opportunity President Buhari has in restraining men of the nPDP using the brooms in their hands as whips over other members of the APC; in and with the active collaboration of their brothers in the PDP.
They hope to take as much as they can from the APC and leave to take charge of the PDP as potential leaders of the party. President Buhari cannot stop this, but they can stop him, if Nigerians look away. If the Party leadership failed to take control of the initial satanic stubbornness in the party and they lost a whole independent arm of government, it will be foolhardy for Buhari to concede any more grounds in his own “arm” to those who see themselves as better presidents, in their vain imaginations and thereby consolidate their treachery.
Mr President may have delayed the appointment of his Ministers for too long in some opinions, but in mine, he is just on a good course and his speed also is good. On his appointments so far, majority of which are of his personal staff, are in Acting capacities for institutions of government, a sort of Ad Hoc intervention in leadership, put in place to watch his back while he is distracted by other “more pressing assignments” of office.
It was quite disturbing that the President could no longer trust the men who provided him bodily protection and he needed “his own man” over the Directorate of State Services (DSS). Until he appoints a substantive Director General, Daura will run the DSS.
I see the protest by the PDP on the appointment of Amina Zakari as Acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as very childish and unbecoming of adults. First and foremost, the said Amina Zakari is an appointee of erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan and any indictment on her, by reason of her appointment into INEC, should be the full responsibility of the PDP and their former? leader. To the best of my knowledge President Buhari inherited Amina Zakari from the erstwhile PDP government, period!
If Amina Zakari was eminently qualified to be a National Electoral Commissioner of INEC under the Jonathan administration, she is also eminently qualified to be an Acting Chairman of the Commission during Buhari’s administration, having also participated in the election in which President Buhari was a candidate without the present protest surfacing at that time, this is indeed how not to be an opposition party. Where was the PDP when Amina Zakari umpired in the 2015 Presidential elections just three months ago?
On the Boko Haram Insurgency: I think it was reasonable for both Ike Ekwerenmadu, Deputy Senate President and Femi Fani “Olukayode”, Jonathan’s parrot” to retract the press statements credited to them at various times, which insinuated that the drive of the insurgency is more drastic now than in the era of Goodluck Jonathan; nothing could be farther from the truth.
I concede to the fact that at the twilight of the Jonathan administration, territories captured and “Caliphate” by the insurgents were reclaimed up to the complete ransack of the “Sambisa Forest” and some rescue operations vacated during the dawn of this administration.
Since the assumption of office of President Buhari, no territory in Nigeria has been ran over by militants like we experienced during the Jonathan administration. No Boko Haram flag planted anywhere. What Boko Haram has succeeded in doing in recent times is to wage a “psychological war with propagandist intentions” against the government. No improvised explosive device-ladened vehicle has ramped into any government building yet but what we have had is the unconventional use of children as explosives-ladened carriers of their deadly inventions.
Clear enough is the fact that the current attacks are likely from loyalists of Boko Haram who were unknowingly sieved into the population evacuated as refugees from their hideouts in “Sambisa” probably living amongst others in Internally Displaced Persons’ camps.
These are the ones keeping the terrorism project in Nigeria on course. The fact that there are no inter or intra border crossings of militants like we knew in the days of Jonathan shows that the time for complete rescue is near, especially if the few cells operating internally within Nigeria and which has likely spread is contained, there will be respite.
On the Bailout Funds for States: In this I see a double faced President Buhari. Relieving the States with a bailout is not a problem but I expected a Buhari who had earlier said he was not going to concede to the request of bailout to stick to his words and request the governors to limit all their incomes and further spendings to paying all arrears of workers salaries before confronting any other challenge in their States. So in dishing the $2bn bailout to States, I see Mr President speaking from both sides of his mouth and this is very unfortunate. I am very disappointed.
It is also my concern that this administration could seek other ways of channelling resources meant for each tier of government. A sort of spending-authorisation institution other than the Office of the President and State Governors. It is anti-people to put so much money under the purview and approval of one man, who, if not accountable and thrift, runs his State into financial crisis. This government should task all governors to evolve peer review mechanisms to upgrade their internally generated revenues (IGR) bases.
It is therefore in this regard that I suggest that any funds meant as loans drawable by State governments, as set aside by President Buhari must demand a ‘show of cause” for such loans sought before facilities can be granted. Time is “now” to make State Governors accountable for every Kobo they spend while in office.
The “immunity clause” in our laws that protect principal executives of government from “whatever” prosecution should be downsized to expose them to criminal prosecution by the institution of the “Office of the Independent Public Prosecutor”, who alone shall be granted the mandate to investigate and prosecute every political office holder protected by “constitutional immunity”.
On the duties of the EFCC: I must commend the present collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). This has given some Nigerians a sense of “Change”. As long as every prosecution and conviction of every corrupt individual is according to the rule of law, so be it. The present prosecution of high profiled cases is a course in the right direction. However, these prosecutions must go beyond that of arresting and detaining former governors only.
There are many politicians who served as Ministers who should be answering criminal charges against them. There are Senators on tow too, especially that of the cases against the Senate President, who is alleged to have pilfered Kwara State funds when he was governor of the State and deposits in the Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria (SGBN) when he was Managing Director of the bank. These deposits included mine, as a National Youth Service Corps member who has savings in the Wuse Zone 5 branch of the bank in Abuja.
I am pained and I want justice for my less than N500 lost to the floundering of that bank. I know what value of money that was in 1991 when I served.
So I am very desirous of EFCC prosecuting Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki for allege corrupt practices and also the Nigeria Police should step up their case against Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, the Senate Leader, who is alleged to be a facilitator of the Boko Haram insurgence. Enough of the mental torture I am made to suffer and endure by having a possible financial crook as a Senate President and a possible terrorism-sponsor as Senate Leader.
To continually allow these men lord it over me with such burdens over their shoulders is disservice to heads-in-air Nigerians. As much as politicians who no longer hold offices are been prosecuted for their past crimes, those who are in office and have questions to answer and who the immunity clause does not cover, should all also face public prosecution immediately.
As suggested above, the Office of the Independent Prosecutor should be established and institutionalised to prosecute every office holder covered by the immunity clause. Immunity should not be total. It should rather not protect an individual from criminal prosecution but the office he occupies. For example, if a State Governor is indicted for a crime he committed probably while he was a minister should not be protected by the “constitutional immunity” meant to protect the “Office of the Governor” rather than the “person of the governor”.
In my opinion, if President Buhari has shown cause for me to report the above about him, I therefore wish to posit clearly that I do not see Mr President as been “slow” in his approach to governance; I see him as rather careful and pragmatic. If some still insist that he is slow, I still do not see anything wrong in been “slow and steady” to win a race than to “hit” an undulating “ground running”.
This can cause a thigh or an ankle strain. Footballers will tell better how many days such injuries keep them out of the game of football. So in clear essence there is nothing wrong with President Buhari been “slow and steady”, for only “time will tell” if we are on course or not. If we endured the PDP for 16 years, we can at least give President Buhari his first 100 days…shey beko?