Why the President Is Failing, By Femi Akinfolarin

…18 months into his administration what is emerging is the picture of a tired old man, helplessly out of his depth. Mr. Buhari’s psyche makes him put loyalty way above competence, which explains why his coterie of incompetent aides consistently make one bad decision after the other and suffer zero repercussions. There are glaring examples of this.

Mr. (General) Muhammadu Buhari is a simple man. Spartan by nature, he rarely smiles but when he does, one can see that behind his taciturnity might be hiding a jovial man. He stands ramrod straight, which is an achievement for a 74 year old man, and in private moments you can see that he might even be a warm man. This is the picture that was sold to us in 2014 before the elections; as he wore a sexy urbane suit and sat behind a presidential table, while interacting with his adorable grandchildren. He looked like a contemporary man who just might have the solutions to our problems. He definitely didn’t look like the hapless hat cladded Mr. Goodluck Jonathan.

The reasons why Mr. Buhari is failing Nigerians cannot be found on the exterior. You have to look into his psyche to understand the reason why 18 months into his administration what is emerging is the picture of a tired old man, helplessly out of his depth. Mr. Buhari’s psyche makes him put loyalty way above competence, which explains why his coterie of incompetent aides consistently make one bad decision after the other and suffer zero repercussions. There are glaring examples of this.

Immediately upon the inauguration of Mr. Buhari, it was discovered that the National Security Adviser had treated the Central Bank has his personal piggy bank and regularly driven vans there to withdraw funds like in a commercial bank. Mr. Dasuki is currently in detention for those actions but the Central Bank Governor who had carried out his president’s orders in a manner reminisce of the Idi Amin days in Uganda has held on to his post. The same CBN governor has laid waste to the Nigerian forex markets with a string of incoherent policies which have created the perception of incompetence, further weakening the naira. One day, he claims to have floated the naira, the next he requires Bank MDs to only sell forex at a rate that he informs them of. Imagine a scenario where whenever a bank’s customer wants to sell forex at a rate above the agreed rate, the MD has to call the CBN governor for permission, completely truncating the vaunted fairness of the entire system. The international markets are now actively betting against the CBN governor, yet his boss won’t fire him.

Mr. Babachir Lawal, the Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria, obviously learning rapidly from the impunity evident all around him, proceeded to get a contract to provide succour to the devastated North-Central region by cutting grass in a region where millions of misplaced people are starving. The contract was awarded to a company owned and operated by him, even though there are civil service rules against such transaction. Even when he resigned from the company, he still greedy retained himself as the signatory to the organisation’s account. Mr. Buhari has only belatedly asked for a probe after the National Assembly indicted the man!

Mr. Buhari still has about two years to turn around his administration. He would do well to start by washing the Aegean stables that is his cabinet and immediate staff clean. He should fire all ministers and staff who have the faintest whiff of corruption and incompetence around them… Or come 2019, the president won’t even win half the votes in Daura.

The Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Abba Kyari, who is now officially the gate keeper in chief to Mr. Buhari, has been accused in numerous instances of influence peddling and running a cash-for-access scheme. He was accused of taking a bribe from MTN to get their initial NCC penalty reduced and also of receiving funds from Mr. Jide Omokare of Atlantic Energy to reduce the prosecutorial zeal of those chasing him.

Mr. Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army staff, was accused of paying fantastical sums to acquire homes in Dubai a few months ago, while the Minister of the Interior was accused of buying houses in Boston. Mr. Buhari generally does not comment about the alleged corruption within his inner circles. Here his taciturnity is at its best.

But it is this blind loyalty and inability to objectively assess the people closest to him that has always being the president’s Achilles heel. In 1985, even though he knew that the then Chief of Army Staff, Major General Ibrahim Babangida was harbouring evil thoughts against his government, he did not move against him until the coup of August. Also while at the Petroleum Trust Fund, one of the complaints about Mr. Buhari was that while he had performed significantly well, he had also surrounded himself with a cabal of trusted aides who, based on his belief in them, used the Fund to enrich themselves. Of the current crop of ministers, there isn’t a single one that has had a star performance, yet they are retained till date. In fact the Youth and Sports minister, Solomon Dalung has single handedly seized the title of worst minister in the history of the Nigerian state, which is a hard task considering the long list of sub-par ministers that we have had since independence.

Mr. Buhari still has about two years to turn around his administration. He would do well to start by washing the Aegean stables that is his cabinet and immediate staff clean. He should fire all ministers and staff who have the faintest whiff of corruption and incompetence around them. And, replace them with strong technocrats who would have access to the president at all times, while being allowed do their jobs free of hinderance. Or come 2019, the president won’t even win half the votes in Daura.

Femi Akinfolarin, a lawyer, writes from Lagos.

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