PMB: The dangers of one-man-show By Steve Osuji

To match Interview NIGERIA-BUHARI/

Perversive aura of power We must not grant President Muhammadu Buhari too much comfort. We cannot afford to blink or take our eyes off the ball. Not anymore; not after all the tormenting disappointments that have emanated from that Aso Rock Presidential Villa since 1999. Why should a President Olusegun Obasanjo have failed so woefully having rode into the scene with cognate experience none else in Nigeria’s history had? Yet he managed to set us back many years. Did we not think that President Goodluck Jonathan brandishing a PhD, and all that shoelessness, was indeed a breath of fresh air? But he fouled our air so much we are still choking.

The mere fact that the sheer aura and majesty of power would circumscribe both the holder and beholder is enough reason we must be even more on our guards now and not assume that the long-awaited messiah has finally arrived. It is true that comparatively, PMB is imbued with finer character and personal integrity, but there are a dozen other virtues begirding transcendental leadership and transformational governance.

It is for these reasons that we, the watchers of all the Estates of the Realm, must wear our skeptic’s cap always and set it askew at an irreverent and annoying angle. Now more than ever before, we must not be afraid not provoke and run against the grain of popular leaning. And like my brother Azu Isiekwene once said, we must not stop at ruffling feathers, we must make sure to pluck some feathers. Especially so when we are sure we are doing so in the interest of both the man in the pristine prison of the Villa and the hapless fella on the street.

The breeding a benign dictatorship This is why we must not fail to sound the alarm about what is clearly an incipient one-man government and the making of a leviathan; a benign dictatorship. It is not acceptable and neither is it justifiable that PMB would take almost half of a year to form a government. We simply do not have that luxury of time. He tells us he will not appoint members of his cabinet till September. We hear the Senate may not complete ratification of nominees till end of October and we know that it would take these men and women upmost of another six months to master their not so simple environment and begin to deliver any reasonable result.

Why should we hand over one full year of our lives to a man we elected to office to play around with as he wishes? There is absolutely nothing PMB is doing now that he could not have done with the full complement of his cabinet in tow. It is a dangerous fallacy for one man to imagine he could reform a deeply rotten system all alone in a few months.

In fact, the dangers and shortcomings of the President discharging executive functions in the manner he has been doing are numerous and indeed, scary. First, most of the activities so far – wholesome and positive as they may be – are at best ad-hoc and direly limited. He does not have the option of robust debate and a weighing up of numerous alternatives to arrive at the best options.

One example was the setting up of the Adams Oshiomhole-led panel to probe the management of the Excess Crude Account during the Jonathan era. It had one month to report back to the National Economic Council (NEC). But it took all of one month to find out that the panel was inadequate and indeed awkward for that assignment. It took one month to know that audit firms are better suited for the job. That was one month wasted and several opportunities lost.

Another shortcoming is that the country has remained at a standstill and will be so till a cabinet is formed. A visit to federal secretariats will prove this. It was not that diligent activity was the hallmark of the Nigerian civil servant, but ask anyone of them now and he will tell you there is nothing doing since the new dispensation. Again, it is not for fun that the weekly cabinet meeting is held: it is for setting broad policy guidelines, tracking implementation and reviewing performance and progress taking place simultaneously in all sectors. No one person can do this alone.

What really is the purpose of the current exercise of having permanent secretaries review their ministries before the President one at a time? This exercise, which is taking months to carry out, would have been better accomplished in a one week summit under a full cabinet. This way, even the ministers would benefit immensely and at the end of the day, the President would set the tone for his presidency and government in the purview of all – the appointees and civil servants. So we would have done in one week (and with better result) what we have been grappling with for months.

And there is the more foreboding danger of the President getting used to the current situation of ‘working’ alone and all the minnows around him falling all over themselves when he sneezes. He is in danger of creating a debilitating environment that does not allow for debate, questions and a weighing of options. If he gets used to dishing out instructions and people jumping, his cabinet would be ineffectual and he, as much as Nigeria, would be the worse for it.

Now and for as long as the President’s slow motion lasts, the budget is in abeyance, most projects are abandoned, work cycle is lost and funds are disbursed whimsically from the presidency.

APC’s slumbering new era? If PMB is taking things slow to dredge the rot in the system, are governors too, who have followed his example, also dislodging sludge? It is worrisome that most of the ruling APC governors have conveniently neglected to initiate governance; even second term governors.

If Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State (a first timer) could get started immediately, what is holding up Governors Akin Ambode (Lagos), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), among others? Why is it taking Governor Rauf Aregbesola (Osun) almost one year to form government? This precedent is dangerous and unacceptable. Apart from the fact that they are running government from their breast pockets, some fellow will come tomorrow and take all of two or three years to form an executive council (exco), standing on Aregbesola’s example.

One sees absolutely no benefit in a president or governor hedging to form government upon inauguration. None.

PRESSID: Let’s not throw Jonathan away with bathwater

One of the most ingenious initiatives of former President Goodluck Jonathan was setting up of the Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development (PRESSID).

The scheme, which is in its third year, selects about 100 best of Nigeria’s first class graduates for scholarship in the best universities abroad. The idea is simply to harness a critical mass of thinkers and leaders in all spheres of life for Nigeria’s future. The US has perfected this strategic initiative, reaching beyond their borders to poach the best from around the world.

The successful candidates for the third batch for the 2014/2015 academic session, who have been offered admission in universities across the world, have been left hanging since President Buhari came to power. If these young Nigerians are being denied their well-merited national scholarship, which they have already won, by the new government, they at least deserve to be informed formally so that they may move on with their lives.

America, Israel, China, etc., lead the world because they make serious effort to select and groom their very best minds. It is hoped that PMB would sustain PRESSID.


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