With the team of President Muhammadu Buhari in place it is now the hard part, as they say. All the efforts, anxieties and controversies heralding the inauguration of what this newspaper enthusiastically announced as the “Team of Champions” could only be a means to an end: the end is performance, delivery.
Typical of the conduct of the Nigerian variety of liberal bourgeois politics, the focus has been on the ethnic and geo-political origins of those Buhari has appointed as members of his cabinet and other aides. Without prejudice to the constitutional provision for the spread of appointments, this consideration is not enough for any administration facing huge challenges as this one to deliver on its promises.
The people should not only be interested in the compliance with “federal character” principle, they should be concerned about the colour of the ideas of the team members and how they fit into a clearly defined strategy of the development. Forget about the so-called death of ideology, a minister is not only from south or north on the Nigerian map, he or she is also located on the left, right or centre of the ideological spectrum. We should be wary of the neo-liberal deceit that any government could operate in an ideological vacuum. No government exists on the globe without a set of ideas underlying its policies. It does not matter whether or not the ideology is proclaimed. When ideologues are embarrassed about their ideology, they claim to be neutral.
A formidable team is firmly in place and some members of the team are associated with some ideas (snippets of which cropped up during the senate screening); but the grand strategy of this administration is not so visible. The Buhari team will have to summon all the creative energies at its command to articulate its grand strategy (some would call it the big idea or indeed the vision). The vision being advocated here is not the same thing as the slogan of “change.” To talk of change is not say much really; after all “change” is a synonym of “transformation” which the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan preferred as its slogan.
As an aside, it is even curious that even leaders of the party in power, the All Progressives Congress (APC), even talk of the “change mantra” as if the word “mantra” is complimentary in the circumstance. Anyhow, change and transformation are ideologically loaded categories, which should be properly framed by any administration or political party employing them in concientisation. And that is what the ideologues of the Buhari administration should do so that the people know the direction of the government.
In pondering the huge expectations from the Buhari administration and the urgent need to articulate its vision, one is bound to remember one the greatest men of ideas in this land, Bala Yusuf Usman, who died 10 years ago. The resonance of the ideas of the radical historian was felt beyond the four walls of the Ahmadu Bello University where he taught generations of students. He once made an important statement on the importance of a grand vision. It was during the regime of General Sani Abacha when the famous Vision 2010 was being put together by its enthusiasts, among who were policymakers and their liberal intellectuals feeding them with ideas. According to Usman, the mere project of constructing a bridge could sometimes be advertised as a policy or even a strategy of development. A policy could suddenly become a vision while a programme would be announced as a policy. Usman took pains to make the clarification that a vision could require a set of strategies to accomplish it just as a strategy could be approached with some policies, which are carried out as programmes involving many projects.
Usman ‘s rebuke 20 years ago becomes relevant now because the expectations in some quarters of those Buhari has appointed in some circles is that of magicians who could execute all manners of projects. It is wrong to view a minister as a technician working on project sites. It is not the business of the education minister to teach science students in the laboratory (as some persons expect); but it is his job to comprehend the education policies enough to know the advancement to science education embodied in the administration’s vision.
The education minister should have his eyes on the big picture of the administration from the perspective of his ministry where he gives political (and not technical) leadership. The housing minister should not be expected to dazzle the poor people with technical jargons of professional building engineers or architects. He should rather be engaged on his convictions about social housing in a country where poor housing or outright homelessness has become a social scourge. Instead of engaging government officials on the vision of the administration and the policy direction people allow them to inundate with technical details of projects for which contracts have been awarded. Within the framework of the administration’s vision, the education should be asked by which percentage will illiteracy be reduced while the housing minister should tell the people the target to eradicate homelessness.
To be sure, there is a social democratic streak running through the APC manifesto. However, there is an observable dissonance in the rhetoric of different elements of the administration and the party of the President. There are those who genuinely have the passion to truly change the condition of the poor for the better (the President himself is on this side). Among those on board in the administration are also those whose answer to the burgeoning poverty in the land is not more than the shibboleth of “private sector-led economy” as if there is any economy anywhere in the world managed by a phantom private sector. The vision of this administration should be articulated broadly to ensure a synchrony of purpose among the tendencies in government (or is it power?).
It is important to remind those whose discussion of policy does not go beyond “liberalisation and privatisation” that before this administration, there were attempts at visioning. The efforts in the last 30 years included the Structural Adjustment Programme of former President Ibrahim Babangida, Vision 2010 under Abacha, the National Empowerment and Economic Development Strategy (NEEDS) of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Transformation Agenda of Jonathan.
As the Buhari administration embarks on the visioning thing, it should ask the critical question: why is it that rather being reduced poverty has exacerbated in the land despite the visions and strategies recounted in the foregoing? The administration should provide a compass for the team to work with by articulating a strategy of development beyond executing random projects and contracts.
RIGHT OF REPLY: Is Biafra the Igbo Boko Haram?
C. Don Adinuba
Kayode Komolafe’s “Still on the Separatist Impulse” (THISDAY, November 4, 2015) is typical of the columnist’s philosophical reflection. Indeed, it has become a trend in Nigeria for individual losers in general elections to play on primordial sentiments so as to make things difficult for the new administration. While claiming to be working for their sectional or religious groups, the primordial leaders are actually using the common people as cannon fodder. Afenifere leaders who worked for Goodluck Jonathan’s his re-election in March 2015 in the Yoruba-speaking part of Nigeria got well beaten by the group led by Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State, who supported Muhammadu Buhari.
When one of their own number, Olu Falae, was kidnapped by a bunch of criminals on September 21, 2015, on his farm in Akure, Ondo State, the Afenifere leaders saw the development as an opportunity to shake down the Buhari administration, and so hit upon the propaganda stunt of the Yoruba pulling out of Nigeria. Now, Igbo political operatives who worked unsuccessfully for Jonathan’s return are seeing in the detention of an overexcited young man named Nnamdi Kanu by secret police as an opportunity to engage the Buhari government from a position of strength.
Both the Afenifere leaders and Igbo political operatives are merely following in the footsteps of erstwhile Zamfara State governor, Ahmed Yerima, who in 2000 chose to be in the eye of the storm in the name of northern nationalism. Yerima, a member of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP), capitalised on the culture of religious politics in the North to launch the Sharia law in the state shortly after the federal administration led by Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian from the South and a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), came into being. Yerima used his state’s resources to propagate Sharia beyond his state.
Still, some elements did not want to be left out of the destructive sectarian politics in the North, even if it meant the ruination of the future of their own people. Datti Ahmed, a well trained medical doctor decided to intone the news to Nigerian Muslims that the immunization vaccine used to protect children from severe medical conditions, was a device by the West to depopulate the Islamic world. He was merely re-echoing the dangerous propaganda by Islamic extremists in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. While Ahmed was busy spreading this scandalous disinformation, I saw my great medical friends from the North reel under an extraordinary emotional burden.
They knew that their medical colleague was exposing a generation of innocent Northern Nigerian Muslim children to great danger, but were afraid of challenging him frontally in public for fear of mob action. The ordinary people had been mobilized in millions against a counter viewpoint, a common practice in undeveloped societies where groupthink, conformity and tyranny of the elite are prevalent, in contrast to a culture of individual convictions, diversity of ideas and inclusion of all kinds of people in the political, social and economic processes that has driven human progress throughout history.
The culture of sectarian politics in the North sowed the seeds for the emergence of the Boko Haram menace in Maiduguri, Borno State. The former state government supported this gang of religious fanatics and unemployed youth known as Ecomog. The gang was used effectively for electoral purposes. But it was a social time bomb. Soon the youth realized that while the state administration was pretending to be promoting Sharia ostensibly for the common good, its top officials were secretly acquiring private jets. They rose against the state government and later against the Nigerian state in 2009, but got pulverized under Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. The heavens did not fall. There were no protests from northern leaders, but when Jonathan, despite being a wimp, attempted to move against the fanatics decisively, there was uproar. A monster was thus created, and all of us are now victims.
This is what happens in a society where everything is politicized, seen from the prism of ethnicity, sectionalism and sectarianism. The innocent people are manipulated to cultivate the victim mindset, with the manipulators projected as freedom fighters. The tough and rough boys recruited by the government of one of the Niger Delta states to return the administration by all means in the 2003 election took to oil theft and kidnapping for ransom after the vote when they became jobless, yet the press joined in the scandal of portraying them as Niger Delta freedom fighters. Once Jonathan empowered the “Egbesu Boys”, they left the Niger Delta in droves for places like Abuja and Lagos to live like Hollywood celebrities. In the Southwest, a bunch of raw elements in the Oduaa Peoples Congress assumed the status of Yoruba freedom fighters in the public imagination. It took some time before it dawned on the Yoruba political establishment that the majority of victims of OPC’s excesses were Yoruba.
One has gone through this entire historical excursion because some Igbo people now seem about to be cajoled into unconsciously creating their own Boko Haram by supporting Nnamdi Kanu. Despite producing some of greatest geniuses in world history, the Germans were led and destroyed by a rabble-rouser, Adolf Hitler. By unabashedly advocating violence against non-Igbo Nigerians, Kanu wants to turn Igboland into a wasteland; the way Boko Haram has messed up the Northwest in the last few years. Igboland was the theatre of the 1967-70 fratricides, from which we have yet to recover fully. Those who think Kanu can be used to negotiate a better deal for Ndigbo from Buhari are in grave error. They have no clue how Nigeria works.