President Buhari: The bigger the head, the bigger the headache


As I was saying last week, given the large amount of money set aside in the budget for the comfort of President Buhari, his family members and the top echelons of the presidency, he is not on a moral high ground to put pressure on members of the National Assembly to drop their silly plan. Hence, another headache for Buhari is his gradual but steady loss of the much-needed moral authority that can compel positive attitudinal change among high-ranking public officials, including legislators.
Sometimes I sympathise with the President, because he might genuinely be interested in changing Nigeria for the better. But the physical and mental infirmities associated with increasing old age, entrenched military habits of thought, and conflict of interests between him and key members of the Northern establishment who fanatically supported his presidential ambition – all these constitute real obstacles for the President on the road to actualising the kind of change we need at this time. On top of that, he still has to grapple with the daunting challenges of increasing poverty, unemployment, preventable diseases, deepening economic and security issues he inherited from his predecessor. Unfortunately, APC leaders and government officials, instead of honestly acknowledging that they grossly underestimated the enormity of problems left behind by the immediate past administration and did not have any well thought-out plan to deal with them,  are still blaming former President Goodluck Jonathan for every bad thing happening in the country right now and insisting that Nigerians should continue to be patient with Buhari because it “would take a minimum of eighteen months to revive the economy.” Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, recently reminded us that the President promised change but Nigerians want magic. The change would come, he says, but it would follow a process and it would be enduring. Things deteriorated in the sixteen years PDP was in power, and this is the ninth month of the present government. Adesina claims that Nigerians want everything to change for the better immediately, but that is unrealistic. Furthermore, “Nigerians have always complained, and we should learn to stop complaining and believe more. What government needs at a time like this is cooperation and support. If you have elected  government because you believe it can bring change, and you have not allowed it to isolate what the problems are and articulate what the solutions would be, and you begin to have all these complaints, I think it is not natural. There must be realistic expectation, and realistic expectation will demand that people are patient, supportive and encourage the government. This government is working for the people. Rather than complaining, let us cooperate, support and encourage.” Femi Adesina is a thoroughbred professional doing his job to the best of his ability. However, I disagree with the “sermon on the mount” he delivered at Radio Continental for the following reasons. First, it is not completely right to blame PDP alone for the deterioration in quality of governance since 1999. Of course, as the ruling party at the federal level until May 29, 2015, PDP bears the biggest burden of blame for mismanaging the country in the period under consideration. But politicians in other political parties, including those that came together and formed the APC three years ago, failed in their responsibility to use the National Assembly as a platform to ensure that PDP Presidents performed their duties creditably. Instead, federal legislators from these parties connived with their PDP counterparts to despoil the country. Besides, unless one is operating with the false assumption that corruption, mediocrity and ineptitude exist only in the PDP, the decay in governance was not restricted to the federal level. Before the last elections that swept the PDP out of power, many non-PDP states and local governments were poorly governed. Thus, when Buhari and his lieutenants blame PDP for everything that has gone wrong in the country since 1999, they conveniently ignore the role politicians from other political parties played in entrenching corruption, impunity, nepotism and mediocrity at the three tiers of government. In addition, Femi Adesina is blaming Nigerians unfairly for expecting magic from the new government. Now, responsible leadership is about service delivery, not about wishful thinking or uncritical belief in the exaggerated reputation of a single individual. Buharimaniacs should be reminded of the Igbo proverb that says, “He who brings faggot-infested firewood to his house has invited the lizard for a visit.” Has Adesina forgotten so soon the fantastic promises made repeatedly during the presidential campaign rallies nationwide by Buhari and prominent members of the APC, and how they completely dismissed Jonathan as “clueless” and “incompetent,” with the pledge to bring about rapid improvement in the economy, security and job creation if Buhari wins? Because Nigerians are yet to experience the rapid improvement promised by APC after about nine months in office, with no sound economic blueprint for rebuilding the economy, it has become fashionable for public officials with more than enough resources to escape the brutal effects of expanding jaws of poverty to  blame Nigerians for having “unrealistic” expectations from government. They are condemning Nigerians for trusting Buhari, for believing he is a man of his words who would not deceive them by making promises he knew he cannot or would not fulfil. Anybody who accuses Nigerians of complaining too much, of expecting President Buhari to perform magic should go and re-read or listen again to the campaign speeches of Buhari, Osinbajo, Bola Tinubu, and Lai Mohammed. The President promised, inter alia, that Boko Haram would be defeated by the end of December 2015; but Boko Haram is still carrying out wanton destruction of lives and property mostly in the North. APC promised that if the party wins the presidency, the federal government will give free meals to pupils in public primary schools nationwide and pay unemployment benefit of five thousand naira to twenty-five million jobless Nigerians. It also pledged to eradicate fuel queues and smash the wicked cabals responsible for fuel subsidy fraud and recurrent fuel scarcity in the country. Not only has none of these promises been fulfilled, the President himself has disowned some of them. Many Nigerians now think that during the electioneering campaigns, chieftains of APC completely obsessed with capturing power from the disorganised PDP were willing and prepared to say anything, promise everything, to actualise their objective. Now that Buhari has won, the party is in serious dilemma because it cannot deliver on the  promises, an object lesson to the effect that it is very easy for politicians to promise heaven and earth when seeking for votes but much more difficult for them to deliver on those promises after they assume power. In a sense, Femi my friend is correct. Most Nigerians are gullible; they tend to believe what they hear repeatedly from a “big man” or “thick madam,” especially if the individual in question is from their ethnic group or belongs to the same religion with them. That is why APC’s propaganda machine was effective in making Buhari’s supporters believe that he is the messiah to rescue them from the existential condition E.M. Forster described as the “slough of despond.” When Femi Adesina accuses Nigerians of complaining too much even when the government is trying “to isolate what the problems are and articulate what the solutions would be,” he forgot that the same invalid argument was used to justify the unnecessary delay of Mr. President in forming his cabinet. At that time, we were told that Buhari was taking his time to select the very best and avoid making mistakes in his choice of ministers. Judging by the antecedents of some of the people in the ministerial list when it was eventually announced, the five months delay was in vain. Similarly, it is still quite possible that very little will change in the lives of suffering Nigerians after Buhari and his team have “isolated our problems” and “articulated solutions” to them. Consequently, President Buhari must be prepared for more headaches from now until the end of his tenure. After all, he went round the country asking Nigerians to put the load of being President on his head, when he should have continued looking after his farm in Daura quietly out of public scrutiny.