Nigeria: A Governance Postponed, By Jaafar Jaafar

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When ex-Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, decided to postpone the general elections for eight weeks on the premise of ill-preparedness of the country’s electoral commission (INEC), the nation protested. The country dangled precariously on the precipice until it was rescued after the announcement of Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the March 28 presidential election. Our protest was borne out of the fact that the postponement of elections was a clear plan by the then ruling party to tighten its belt and perfect its rigging plans. That failed, and it is now history.

But the man who flew the satanic kite at Chatham House, ex-President Jonathan’s National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki, is still maintained in office. Nigerians are nonplussed on why Dasuki is still in office as NSA, against Section 151 (3) of the Nigerian Constitution.

The stakes are high for the Buhari administration. Looking at the cargo of promises he came into office with, the president was expected to immediately “hit the ground running” – a catchphrase that is slowly replacing the party’s “change” slogan today. From promising 5,000 naira ($23) as monthly social welfare package, to free feeding in basic schools, down to taking the nation’s economy to a utopian state and fight against insurgency, the president seems reluctant to start solving the nation’s hydra-headed problems.

Grossly indecisive and terribly unassertive, President Muhammadu Buhari is still searching for who to appoint…

While the president received widespread praise following his decision to relocate the military command centre to the hotbed of terrorism in Maiduguri, yet Boko Haram attacks are escalating as the terrorists have so far killed over 450 Nigerians in the last five weeks. In addition, pipeline vandalism is on the rise, as the country’s national petroleum company, NNPC, said last week. Cessationist agitation under the banner of Biafra is equally rising in the South-East.

President Buhari campaigned vigorously, traversing almost all the 36 states of the federation. He was full of life, eager to be elected to kickstart his programmes. Strangely, the president is procrastinating on issues of governance. Grossly indecisive and terribly unassertive, President Muhammadu Buhari is still searching for who to appoint Private Secretary, Deputy Chief of Staff, Chief of Staff, Special Advisers, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, among others. We are not even talking about ministers, who would be members of the Federal Executive Council.

Without ministers, there is limit to what the president can achieve, as his approval limits set by the constitution has a ceiling. Rumors are ripe that President Buhari may not likely appoint ministers in the next two months.

It is quite strange to have a 73-year-old president leading a country with 180 million citizens, a country bedeviled by insurgency, militancy, systemic corruption, poor medicare, power crisis, rising destitution, etc without even a private secretary. One wonders who sets the schedule for Mr. President or manages his correspondences.

On April 15, while unveiling his economic policies at a Lagos Business School breakfast meeting, the then president-elect, who spoke through his director of policy, Kayode Fayemi, said his government would appoint ministers two weeks after inauguration. It is now more than a month after the president’s inauguration on May 29.

Just before the inauguration of the current Eighth National Assembly, the president sought approval to appoint 15 advisers. About a month after, President Buhari has only appointed ONE adviser in person of Femi Adesina.

A Nigerian music legend, Alhaji Mamman Shata, once observed that, “it is impossible for one man to move a roof as even three people wobble”. It is quite strange to have a 73-year-old president leading a country with 180 million citizens, a country bedeviled by insurgency, militancy, systemic corruption, poor medicare, power crisis, rising destitution, etc without even a private secretary. One wonders who sets the schedule for Mr. President or manages his correspondences. It is obviously impracticable. His claim is that former President Jonathan left a “huge mess”, which precipitates his delay in making key appointments. Agreed Jonathan left a “huge mess”, but wouldn’t appointing helping hands hugely assist in clearing the mess? The president thinks otherwise.

The president’s action also smacks of nepotism as the new chairman (of INEC), Mrs. Zakari, is related to the president.

Due to the absence of communication from the nucleus of the executive arm, Buhari goofed last week by reversing the decision of the outgoing chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega to handover to the most senior officer in the Commission. In the absence of communication from the presidency, Jega rightly handed over to the most senior commissioner. Had there even a private secretary appointed by the president, a notification would’ve been sent from his office to the commission’s outgoing chairman, notifying him on who to handover to.

But eight hours after the handover, the president reversed the decision, strangely through the office of the Head of Service. By convention, the directive ought to have come from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). The president’s action also smacks of nepotism as the new chairman, Mrs. Zakari, is related to the president. Last week the president set the nation sparking when he appointed his kinsman, Lawal Daura as Director General of DSS. In support of Buhari, his defence league, mostly on the Internet, reeled out a select list of his predecessor’s appointments, showing bias.

Feelers in the presidency say the president is at home with his solo governance, taking advice from a few gerontocrats surrounding him. A 75-year-old Mamman Daura (an older nephew of the president) is the most powerful man in the president’s life.

But Buhari is causing for himself avoidable image crisis. He has put himself on the defensive at this early stage of his administration. Releasing the list of appointments in piecemeal and favouring a section of the country is not doing good to his image. While I believe Buhari will balance the slant in future, I also believe that countering with a select list of appointees under Jonathan is not a good shield. Buhari is not the clannish and parochial Jonathan we voted out. In my opinion, any form of comparison is an insult to Buhari. Comparing Buhari with Jonathan is the worst PR stunt Buhari voltrons could engage in.

Feelers in the presidency say the president is at home with his solo governance, taking advice from a few gerontocrats surrounding him. A 75-year-old Mamman Daura (an older nephew of the president) is the most powerful man in the president’s life. Daura is said to be vetoing most decisions.

All Nigerians have a stake in this ‘change’ project, and are not happy to see the change supremo having a wrong start and deferring key policy pronouncements. The sooner President Buhari bolts into action, the better he placates the nation against protesting the postponement of governance.