Is Buhari Baba-Go-Slow?

Is Buhari Baba-Go-Slow?
December 30 11:32 2015

By Nasir Kura & Lanre Solomon

Opinions are divided regarding the scorecard of President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last one month of governing the country.  While some Nigerians believe the President is too slow in taking decisions, actions and making key appointments as well as articulating the specific programmes and policies needed to fulfill his numerous campaign policies, others are comfortable with the reasons given by government officials that the country handed over by the immediate past administration was so bad that the President and his team need to take time to clean the mess before it can hit the ground running.

The President himself said there will be no miracles in addressing the enormous challenges facing the country since he inherited a “virtually empty treasury” and that Nigerians should take their high expectations beyond his first three months in office. He also told the state governors at their first meeting that the first three months of his stewardship will be harsh because it will be dedicated to recovering the funds allegedly looted by officials of the immediate past administration.

Despite the fact it has spent only about about five weeks in power and with the problems it inherited from its predecessor, the Buhari administration has scored good grades in some areas of national life while it is yet to kick-off in some other crucial areas.

SECURITY

One area on which President Muhammadu Buhari based his campaign was security. Aside the fact that his predecessor failed woefully to protect Nigerians from the murderous activities of the Boko Haram sect and other terror groups, the then APC Presidential candidate also had a solid track record in dealing with insurgents in the past, as a military man. Again, during his campaign rallies, each time he took the microphone, he spoke only for an average of five minutes, emphasizing insecurity and corruption as the two major issues he would nip in the bud as soon as he became President.

Now, the retired General in the Nigeria Army has become President and Commander- in- Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Nigerians are therefore right to expect that by now, the bombs should have stopped going off and the Boko Haram sects should have been chased out of the country.

President Buhari and Chad President Idris Deby

President Buhari and Chad President Idris Deby

Even though Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, who spoke to Thinkers Magazine on the President’s scorecard, would not agree with this, the picture coming out of Borno and Yobe states appears bleak with scores of people killed almost on a daily basis by suicide bombers.

Ironically, during the twilight of the immediate past administration, these bombings had seized while Boko Haram elements were smoked out of Sambisa forest but immediately President Buhari took over, the story turned for the worse. This doesn’t appear to be the promise the APC made to Nigerians during electioneering.

As far as Mr. Adesina is concerned, this does not in any way mean the security challenges are not receiving adequate attention under President Buhari. His words: ” The reality is, the same Chief of Army Staff is still the one there, the same Chief of Defense Staff is still the one there, the National Security Adviser is still the one there. You know if the President had removed these service chiefs immediately, people would have said maybe reverse is the case because the people who did the job have been removed. The same people are still there, that just shows you that it’s a swing in the battle against insurgency. But I believe no doubt it’s a war that we are going to win.”

One issue that is closely connected to the problem of Boko Haram crises is the case of the missing Chibok school girls. The abduction of the Chibok school girls was about the major issue that exposed the ineptitude of the immediate past administration and incited both Nigerians and the international community against it. But its over a month now that the new “Messiah” was sworn-in, the girls are still missing. What is more striking about the way and manner the President is handling the security challenges is the  fact that in all his local and foreign trips and events, he has hardly mentioned the Chibok girls. This sort of silence is a source of worry to observers whose hope for the safe return of the girls is beginning to dim. Adesina also has something to say on this: “There are some things you keep close to your chest. There are some things you don’t go about broadcasting and announcing and making noise from the rooftop. But you can be sure that the issue of Chibok girls is dear to his heart and it’s part of the insurgency issue we are talking about. That is why the first two or three weeks of this administration have been dedicated to how to wage a decisive war on this issue of insurgency. What happens to that war will also determines what happens to the girls. The fate of the girls and the problem of insurgency are tied together.”

Kudos must however be given to the President for at least showing a body language that suggests that he is committed to putting an end to the scourge of terrorism. The kind of support he has been able to garner from neighouring countries and western nations, under the auspices of G7, is awesome. It shows that he has the integrity and clout to command the respect of world leaders who have said over and over again that they are ready to work with him to bring an end to the Boko Haram carnage.

President Buhari has visited Chad, Niger and will also visit Cameroun after Ramadan. He also hosted the meeting of Lake Chad Basin Commission in Abuja where decisions meant to sharpen the battle against terrorists were taken.

One fundamental observation about the President Buhari’s handling of insurgency is the way world leaders were falling on themselves to work with him in the way they never supported his predecessor, Dr Goodluck Jonathan. Their interest on the present administration clearly suggest that there is something fundamentally different between the two men which the world leaders see. The support is beyond logistics needed to win the war, they have also promised to support him in rebuilding the three frontline states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. Even Chad and Niger leaders commended the decision of the President to relocate the Boko Haram command centre to Maiduguri to give more bite to the counter-insurgency efforts.

Famous lawyer, politician and National Secretary of Labour Party, Barrister Kayode Ajulo told Thinkers Magazine that: “Without doubt, from the report of our war against Boko Haram elements, I saw a President who is ready to go extra length to see to the end of the insurgency. No price is too big to pay to ensure peace in our nation and we need not play politics with such sensitive issue. President Buhari is a decorated soldier and he is indeed behaving true to type. I commend his actions so far on the fight against insurgency.”

While it looks like the government is getting things right in terms of sound policies and strategic alliances, Nigerians cannot wait to begin to see results.

CORRUPTION

Aside the issue of insecurity, the second most important factor that gave President Buhari victory in the last election was the alleged positive disposition of the last administration towards corruption and his avowed anti-corruption stand. The President did not only promise to deal with corruption decisively but also pledged to declare his assets publicly and make other appointees do same.

One month after inauguration, President Buhari is yet to appoint ministers and aides, aside spokesmen. Both the President and the Vice President are yet to declare their assets publicly and most Nigerians seem not to be buying the excuse that the Code of Conduct Bureau will have to verify the assets first before public declaration. For Nigerians to take the President’s commitment to accountability serious, he must declare his assets publicly as quickly as possible.

Talking about leading by example, the President’s credibility rating however soared high after the first meeting he held with state governors. The President told them that the days of impunity and recklessness were over. He also condemned the way the Excess Crude Account was depleted by the immediate past administration, saying he would use the next three months recover stolen money in billions of dollars from the officials of that administration.

In his second meeting with the governors, the President urged them to seek alternative ways of making money and forget about executing white elephant projects so that they can save enough to pay their workers. At the end of the day, the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo discovered that 3.8 trillion was illegally  spent by NNPC in two years while the Excess Crude Account was depleted by about two billion dollars in seven months. Most Nigerians believe these  startling revelations are what the country needs to oil the wheel of anti-corruption and receive funds needed to execute people-oriented projects. More important is the fact that this was the first time a Nigerian President was forcing an extremely opaque organization like the NNPC to open its book to the public through the National Economic Council (NEC). To most Nigerians, this was a statement of intent being shown by President Buhari in his determination to stamp out corruption from the country.

Since President Buhari came to power, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission  (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and the Nigeria Police Force suddenly became visible in enforcing laws and dealing with suspects in more serious ways.  We also heard a strange but positive story that our refineries can now begin to function effectively from this month. It was like the two sectors were bedeviled by a certain jinx which the sound of Muhammadu Buhari alone just removed automatically. But, Barrister Ajulo said he wasn’t impressed because its routine practice for the EFCC and the ICPC to harass governors after their tenures and fade away after sometime. Adesina on the other hand, however, believed that the two agencies were merely working with the body language of the new President.

Observers also see the President’s decision to sack the NNPC board as a step in the right direction. He promised to run a lean government and it appears that he is living up to promises.

The President travelled with the smallest teams in the recent times; just about 20 people to Germany for the G7 meeting. He was doing all these things to cut cost of governance in line with the harsh economic realities of the moment. He has also promised to prune down ministries and agencies. In fact, if not for the constitution which makes it mandatory for him to have ministers from all the 36 states of the federation, the President would have stuck to only about 20 ministers.

MEDIA

The President is so far pressing the right buttons and playing his cards very well as far as media relations are concerned. He has engaged two famous journalists as media aides.

To start with, the two gentlemen successfully pulled the chestnut out of fire by making him talk to journalists on his first day in the Oval Office. The President also did not spoil the occasion. He made the journalists believe he was ready to join hands with them to move the country forward despite the challenges troubling the nation.

In a very friendly atmosphere, the President sought the cooperation, understanding and support of journalists for his government. He confessed that he had inherited “virtually empty treasury and massive debts in billions of dollars as well as extremely high expectations.” He sought the protection media from the fury of those who he believed cannot wait to begin to March on him.

He also interacted individually with all journalists present at the meeting and sought to know them by name and medium. He cracked jokes with everyone on that day. At the end of the parley, everyone was so excited about the gesture and commended the President for his extraordinary show of humility.

Asked if this gesture was a fluke or that it would be a continuous one, Adesina told one of our correspondents that: “We should be positive. Morning shows  the way the  day will go. The fact that he went to interact with them shows that he values them and will  continue to relate with them. I am convinced there is going to be amicable working relationship.”

Few days later, the accreditation tag of the German Radio/Tv Hsusa Service State House Correspondent, Mr. Ubale Musa, was restored by the media and security departments of the Villa following directive by the Presidential. According to Adesina, the President believed that Ubale’s expulsion from the Villa on the instructions of firmer President Goodluck Jonathan was unjust, and had to be corrected. This move also raised the profile of the President in the minds of members of the State House Press Corps and the media community in general. Indeed, the President has become a press-friendly democrat.

POLITICS

This is an area in which the President’s rating so far is not impressive. The President said at the beginning that he was not going to intervene in the choice of leadership of the National Assembly and that he was going to work with anyone who emerged as leaders. Whether the President was physically involved or not, the party which also said it was not going to zone the offices, decided to conduct a sham mock election for the candidates. One, the mock election was seen to have been stage-managed to favour chosen candidates of the party and two, it was an own goal because it made the PDP know where APC was headed and strategized against the ruling party. Another own goal, on the day the National Assembly was going to be inaugurated, the APC also called a meeting of all APC lawmakers and the Bukola Saraki group took advantage of that. The rest is now history.

The Yakubu Dogara group also defied the party and he became Speaker of the House of Reoresentaives. Instead of the party to to let go and call his members and unite them, the party leadership, forgetting that it was the same Tambuwal syndrome which the old ACN championed that had come back to hit the party, started threatening fire and brimstone.

The APC, which saw a sitting president congratulate its own candidate before results were called, forgot all that and vowed not to make peace with its erring members. And when APC submitted a list of principal officers to the two chambers for enforcement, the party ignored the geo-political considerations which worsened the division in the National Assembly.

The House of Representatives issue was particularly messy. especially. On the fateful day of June 25, 2015, APC lawmakers who wanted to force the speaker to read the party’s letter on the floor, turned the green chamber into a motor park. This sheer mismanagement of situation has called the capacity of the ruling party to govern Nigeria to question. The discordant tunes coming from the Presidency on whether to intervene or not and the way it watched the whole thing degenerate into an embarrassing situation also calls to question the ability of Mr. President to operate efficiently as the leader of a ruling party.

Barrister Ajulo gave zero mark to the party on this, saying it has failed to come to terms with the fact that it is no longer an opposition party. Ajulo argued that the party was not prepared for leadership at the national level, hence the early internal wrangling over National Assembly positions.

“APC is still in opposition despite being the ruling party. It is as if no plan is made by the party on how to rule the country. The in-house squabbling within the APC is too early and too soon; it gives validity to the position of many stakeholders in the polity that the APC is nothing but an amalgamation of selfish interests who do not have national interests at heart. Is this the time for such wrangling? Is this the time for power tussles?

“The continued tussle leads some of us to wonder whether indeed the APC leaders are aware that their tussles would inevitably have dire consequences on President Buhari’s ability to deliver on the party’s many promises. There must be a point of politics, and a point of policies; it appears that the chieftains within the APC have a problem distinguishing between the two, and they are certainly oblivious of the fact that their prolonged power struggle at this point in Nigerian history is unwarranted,” the legal practitioner said.

But State House spokesperson thinks the leadership crises at the National Assemby is beyond party politics. Adesina disagreed with Ajulo, saying “every Nigerian should be concerned because what is his happening has implications for governance. It has implications for the change Nigerians want to see. So, every Nigerian should be concerned.”

Political analysts also frowned at the insistence of the party to impose leaders on the National Assembly, wondering whether the party’s constitution says it must decide who leads the National Assembly if it has majority. They believe that imposition of leaders from outside the two chambers was the reason most National Assembly leaders did not last long in the early years of this democracy while imposition of candidates at all levels contributed to the downfall of the PDP.

APPOINTMENTS

One issue that has continued to keep Nigerians in suspense is the kind of cabinet President Buhari is planning to constitute and how they are going to put heads together to put the country back in shape. Considering the fact that President Buhari is an experienced administrator – former minister, former governor, former PTF boss, former Head of State and a four-time presidential candidate – who should have an idea of what he wants to do, how he wants to do them and the calibre of people he wants to work with. ‘why is there no cabinet in place?’ This frequently asked question cannot be said to be misplaced.

Again, the President won election over two months ago and Buhari’s critics believe the period is enough for him to make up his mind on who becomes the Chief of Staff, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, advisers and ministers. To these critics, the fact that these key appointments  have not been made shows that the President is not prepared for the office he is holding.  The delay in making these appointments has slowed down the wheel of government considerably and it is for this reason that Barrister Ajulo told Thinkers Magazine our correspondent that the President need to be careful so that he won’t be tagged Baba Go Slow.

“President Buhari has no luxury of time for honeymoon. Nigerians need him to take-off immediately, remember one of what we had against President Jonathan goaded by Buhari’s team was that he is too slow and we can’t afford to have or see another President to be slow again. He need not wait for when he will be called Baba Go Slow, that’s if he has not been given the name already,” he said.

To corroborate Ajulo, at the moment there is no comprehensive action plan on infrastructure, healthcare, power and no articulation of specific programmes and policies needed to bring the country out of the woods. Even the plan of action for the actualization of the promise of paying N5000 to extremely poor and unemployed Nigerians is not in place yet. There is no specific step or direction or policy statement towards fulfilling the promise of giving Nigerians 5000 megawatts of electricity every year and this is because there are no ministers, no SGF, no advisers yet to carry out these tasks on behalf of the President. For how long can the President and Vice President continue to run the government alone?

Perhaps, bearing in mind the adage that says slow and steady wins the race, Adesina is of the view that Nigerians must be ready to wait until the President is ready to make the appointments because whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.

“We will wait for as long as the President is ready to do that. Its his prerogative which he will do when he is ready. By the way, there is no vacuum in governance because the permanent secretaries and technocrats are there. Decisions are being taken by them and they are getting authorization. There is no vacuum,” Adesina said.

The Presidency has also given the impression that it is still studying the recommendations of the Ahmed Joda transition committee which will determine the number of ministries and agencies that will stand.

In a response to PDP spokesman, Olisah Metuh’s 30-day appraisal of Buhari’s administration, Adesina said the extent of rot Buhari inherited from Jonathan was so bad that the administration has to take its time to clear the Augean’s table before it can begin to work properly.