BETWEEN May 22 and June 5, I ran a three-part series on Buhari’s one year in office. In that discourse, I did not pass a verdict because one year was too short for such. However, I did say that it was simply a critical examination of the president’s vision, attitude, policies, pronouncements and processes and to draw observations for better performance. When I embarked on the exercise, I knew from the word go, that no matter how restrictive the scope was and despite every effort to remove myself from the centre of action, the exercise was still going to turn out contentious, because of the way we view government and public office. It is even worse now. As a result of the hunger and deprivation, we are taking recourse to criminalizing holding of public office.
If you read the reactions last week and more that might probably feature on this page, you would see the topic was indeed a hotly contested one and in all the reactions you would see anger and some of the factors that hold us down and may continue to do so until we have a leader who can transcend them. Or the people would resolve on their own to do away with them because of contradictions they provoke. I am talking about religion, ethnicity and group interest.
Today’s essay is still on the president and his administration, not about assessment but revealing to him some salient points he needs to know if he is to make a success of his outing as a civilian president . Let me make a point, and this is important, it is not that the president or his aides may not know some of these points but from experience I know a leader can forget his best options in the thick of action; and for the advisers, I can disclose one thing: many of them may not see one-on-one with their principal for more than two times through the duration of their tenure and when they do see him, most lack the courage to tell him the bitter truth.
Some even advise to gain. Let me make some clarifications and then go on to the message I have for the president. An average Nigerian wants his leader to fail especially when they are not of the same political association, tribe or religion. This is why whether what our leaders do is good or bad we seem to have a particular mind set about it. This should not be; governance and development should take over once elections are over. The victorious leaders ought to take the lead in enthroning this order by the way they act, the pronouncements the make and of course, forming an inclusive government. Being outside government for me should not be an excuse to constitute a cog in the wheel of progress even though many believe, constituting a hindrance seem to be the only language our leaders hear. Nevertheless building a nation is a collective task.
Tatalo Alamu, a columnist with The Nation made this observation in the edition of Sunday, May 22 2016: “At no other point in its history has Nigeria been in greater need for a visionary political genius. The next 12 months will show whether Buhari is truly the man we have been waiting for or whether we have to tarry awhile.” I concur and think that is the import I got from the deluge of responses that followed the essay I referred earlier. The president must use this period to register a positive impression that would be beyond argument or risk losing the huge goodwill that brought him to power. There is need to properly define the change philosophy so that Nigerians can key in. Corruption should be more than arresting and trying to collect back stolen funds from those who occupied public office. It should be expansive and include reorientation and provision of incentives that could make corruption unattractive. Unchecked individualism is enough to breed corruption. The president should define whether he wants to run a capitalist or welfare state. For now there is ideological confusion.
The Kitchen Cabinet is very restrictive and that is affecting vision and perception and the Biafra and Niger Delta developments are the greatest casualties. The bigger effects can also be seen in the filling of strategic appointments and the grievous activities of the ministers of Education, Internal Affairs and Agriculture. Ogbe at a time of great food insecurity gives emphasis to establishment of cattle grazing fields and importation of grasses; there is talk of North-East Development Commission at a time the government is pursuing small government.
Encounter with the law can do with some polish. We can do without storming homes, media trial and the detention of persons. The government is not primed to do the big enterprise but it can certainly excel ratifying normal things disturbing us. If our leaders read, they would have seen the strategy proffered by Funke Egbemode twice in her column in The Sun. And what did she say? Answer: “Agric Minister do six mechanized farms in the six zones; Aviation Minister bring four airports to international standard; Health Minister give the nation one excellent health centre in each of the six zones; Education Minister recreate 10 universities for a start; Internal Affairs Minister make the police to work for a start; Sports Minister reintroduce catch-them-young programme and make three stadia of international standard in addition to teaching the youths how to fish; Power Minister insure steady power supply and let Works Minister start in at least 20 crucial roads and the rest should excel in one or two things. Finish” Cabinet shake up is necessary just as it is important to split the power and works ministry. Buhari needs more astute economists and of course a seasoned politician with a national outlook. I want to believe that the president knows that the issue of power management and making a success of it is beyond good intentions and I want to believe that he knows that he has between now and May 2017 to prove to Nigerians that he is capable.