We cannot continue this way, all in the name of democratic governance. For once, President Muhammadu Buhari should love himself and fight off the blame being accumulated at his doorstep on account of the seeming incompetence, misconduct and politically incorrect utterances of some of those he has privileged in running his administration. The point was best made by the chairman of Federal Government’s Anti-Corruption Committee, Prof. Itse Sagay, that President Buhari should consider a bit of autocracy to tighten up.
The import of that suggestion by Sagay is that it was made by someone who could pass for a member of the kitchen cabinet of the administration. When such a man frustratingly and publicly assumed such critical stance, some positive response is expected. Surprisingly, the Nigerian elite, who, in such circumstances, out of mischief or plain ignorance of figures of speech, might have descended on Sagay for allegedly instigating Buhari to decline to authoritarianism, are maintaining studied silence. All Sagay was saying was that, under the tenets of democracy, Nigeria is being stunted with inhibition in healthy governance. Something like democracy cannot be conveniently flaunted to allow criminals escape the wrath of the law for looting the national treasury. Without mincing words, democracy also involves and must be so seen to involve firmness as well as timeliness, indeed mercilessness to even the most favoured beneficiaries of democratic governance.
In matters of appointment to public offices, the benefactor will always carry the burden (blame) for the conduct or misconduct, performance or non-performance of the beneficiaries, mainly because of a seeming unlimited loyalty to the beneficiaries. It is, of course, natural to have ties with some of the appointees, be they friends or acquaintances or even relatives. But loyalty to such appointees must end the first minute the appointee takes office. In fact, the popular refrain is that it is the sole responsibility of any appointee to keep the job. Retaining such a job should be strictly on the principle of reciprocity. In other words, the only gratitude an appointee can extend to his benefactor (in this case, President Buhari) is never to be involved in any infraction to warrant the intervention of Buhari. Put clearly, any minister or chief executive of a parastatal must not only sink or swim but be left to sink or swim all alone. Such firmness is akin to the mild autocracy to which Sagay alluded.
There will always be a risk of controversy for anybody in President Buhari’s position on intervention in such matters. What will be the standard to warrant such intervention? How many of such appointees have access to the Villa? On the other hand, especially chief executives of parastatals may be at the mercy of supervising ministers for unwarranted victimisation. This is most unlikely since ministers are not school prefects to impose discipline in abuse of their power. There must have been an issue in dispute and properly investigated in which the accused (chief executive of the parastatal concerned) was given right of fair hearing. A parastatal’s chief executive dissatisfied with the discipline imposed, especially arising from a probe report, should have the right and be allowed to challenge any proceedings arising from the probe report. That, by the way, is with even serious reservation on the integrity of our judiciary. Despite that shortcomings, it is a better way out.
What is more, there was the case of a chief executive of a government regulatory parastatal suspended by the supervising minister for alleged misappropriation of public funds to the tune of current standard of almost a billion naira, if not more. Waving injustice and a petition to the National Assembly (specifically, the senate), there was a public hearing fully covered by the media at which the minister concerned gave a full account of the deeds and misdeeds of the chief executive concerned. It was all jaw-dropping. That chief executive remains supended, if not dismissed from office, despite all his blackmail of ethnic solidarity against the minister. Even if a parastatal chief executive suspended by a minister were to be returned to office following challenge or complaint against the disciplinary action against him/her, such a step should not be by the executive or National Assembly. The judiciary should be allowed to perform its constitutional duty of affirming or nullifying actions of the executive and National Assembly. Robbed of that function, the judiciary may as well be scrapped.
Worse still, in an instant case in which the Presidency ordered a suspended chief executive of a parastatal to return to office, no justifiable reason was given to the public. It seems Nigerians are being underestimated or even taken for granted as was also the case of Mr. Maina, a man on the run for alleged financial crime who was smuggled back to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Since the suspension of this particular chief executive of a government parastatal by the supervising minister was to make way for a thorough probe of the allegations of financial crimes against him (a legitimate step under civil service regulations), it was possible the Presidency had reasons for ordering the man’s return to office. It is not a favour but the right of Nigerians to be told such reasons. Whatever its arrogance in not giving Nigerians the reasons for returning an official suspended by a minister to office, Aso Rock harmed itself with the consequent dishonourable insinuations attracted from the public, despite the pretence one way or the other. Being Nigerians, there will be more of such officials to be suspended in the future, since others might have been allowed to escape. What would be the moral for such disciplinary action?
In the whole show, was the minister slighted or undermined? Surely, there are points for and against such view. But there is no doubt that, without giving reasons for apparently overruling the minister, he was exposed to public ridicule of being taunted that he should have resigned. Even a minister cannot have his way all through. You win some, you lose some, as obtains in cabinets all over the world. Those expecting him to have resigned are either those who lost power and, therefore, are up till now hopelessly waiting for political calamity or are ignorant on the value of serving the country. A minister serves, not to destabilise the country but to ensure the success of the administration. American President Donald Trump routinely publicly contradicts Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and only lately publicly overruled National Security Adviser General McMaster on whether special prosecutor Mueller (has) established “incontrovertible” proof of Russia’s complicity in interfering in American political/electoral system. Have these two abandoned President Trump?
The longer President Buhari serves his first term in office, the more he can feel great satisfaction with keeping his campaign promises, especially in specified areas like internal security, except that virtually every seeming gain is allowed to be neutralised by fresh debilitating challenges. Did Buhari inherit the criminal menace of the Fulani cattle herders? If yes, but surely not at the present magnitude. Something has gone wrong. Only that wrong can explain Fulanis killing non-Fulanis in Taraba and Fulanis killing fellow Fulanis in Zamfara and Sokoto states. For the avoidance of doubt, no head of government anywhere in the world will embark on the war front to contain the situation. President Buhari can only delegate that responsibility with necessary power and authority to the career professionals in the security sector. Whatever favour may determine the choice for that unenviable responsibility subsists till the target is achieved within a stipulated time. When Buhari ordered Police IG and his men to relocate to Makurdi without ultimatum, I mentioned that important gap in this column, implying that the task was uphill. On the other hand, with a clear ultimatum from his Commander-in-Chief, Police IG would have responded “It is done, Sir,” or he would not stay long on the job. So indefinite was the posting to Benue State that the police had time for launching a book in faraway Lagos.
Did Buhari inherit Boko Haram? Surely, even on an almost invincible scale. Both through negotiations and military conquests, scores of the Chibok girls have since been rescued and, so it seemed, Boko Haram was subdued. Even that is proving uncertain with the creepimg resurgence of the insurgents recording fresh captives. The latest in Yobe, with the figure put at 50 school girls kidnapped, must be very embarrassing. Can such violence be visited during campaigns for 2019 elections?