A Battered Presidency.
By Paul Ogwu
The Nigeria presidency is under attack. This is true considering the barrage of abuse, insult and innuendoes targeted unfortunately at the office. The perpetuators of this act, under the guise of attacking the occupant of the office, are indirectly attacking an institution that should be revered and given all the necessary support and co-operation. Although the current occupant of the office through act of omission or commission and through appointees has contributed in encouraging the opponents to attack the Presidency and office of the President; there should be a demarcation between the two. There are several factors or interest groups that are deliberately through their actions debasing the office of the president. Considering our peculiar situation, this may not be good for the system and the institution.
The emergence of the President and the circumstance that herald his ascending on the seat brought with it some hiccups and turbulent for the occupant of the presidency. This was a President that right from day one had a formidable primordial opposition who feel that their legitimate right is being upset by the then vice president. In addition, the regime inherited some major security challenges. In an attempt to address the security challenges, the preceding regime created a difficult and dangerous situation. Had the Yar ardua presidency not killed the leader of Bok Haram, we would not have witnessed the level of blood- letting and devilish manipulation of some unknown forces that are bent on creating mayhem and disunity. He did well with the Niger-Delta amnesty but in the long run that would be a disaster. This level of insurgency and killing, with the aid of some other equally dangerous societal vices, has hampered the government. The government seems not to have acquitted herself with the fundamental principles of the state which is the security of life and property and the state as a legitimate guarantor of force. Although credit must be given to the government considering the manner it has been able to curtail this new threat to the country survival. She needs to do more to navigate this complex phenomenon: which has been aided by both the domestic and external interests. Apart from the regime of Gowon which fought the civil war, there have not been any other regimes that witness the kind of security challenge witnessed by this regime. Moreover, the civil war was a conventional war fare while the boko haram war has all the attributes of an insurgence, a low intensity warfare and terrorism combined together.
The Presidency is also battered by the opposition. This opposition includes political opposition, regional opposition and the fridge opposition. The political opposition here is the opposition from the newly formed political alliance against the ruling party, the APC. It seems the APC as a political unit and some elements within the ruling political party, in its aim to wrestle power form the president sees the bashing of the presidency and the president as a viable strategy of achieving their aim. We should also be able to demarcate the office from the occupant. Opposition does not entail attacking the occupant in virtually every policy but a way of providing alternative points on both policy and programme. This is why the opposition is seen as a government in waiting should always provide a robust challenge on any policy and programme of the ruling party. The citizenry should be able to see the opposition as a viable alternative to the failed policy of the ruling party. The opposition should endeavour to be the ears and eyes of the masses. The respect of the office of the presidency and government should go beyond an individual occupying the post. The recent directive by the APC on executive bills sounds like a threat to Nigeria and her citizens as our institutions are not as strong as the countries we wish to copy from. The United States institutions are too strong that they have ways of cushioning the effect of such executive blocking. The APC and its spokesperson should tune down the level of abuse of both the presidency and the president. It is the legitimate right of the opposition to attack the ruling party but must be done in such a way that the office of the presidency should be respected. Also some members of the APC especially respected figures and party executive should tune down their level of attack on the personality of the president and face the policies and programme of the presidency. With this, we would all benefit from the varieties of a rich and an all-encompassing opposition.
Added to the political opposition is also another form of opposition within the ranks of the ruling party. This form of opposition, although a little bit different from the main opposition, also makes inferences and attacks against the institution of the President. The permutations and the strategizing for the 2015 election have also contributed in no small way to the battering of the presidency. As it was with the Presidential contest of the 2011, the 2015 election is generating some bad blood within the ruling party. This has resulted in the numerous epistles flying from Abeokuta to Yenegoa and to Abuja. Also the recent decamping from one party to the other is also as a result of the infighting. These are some of the disputes that are open as thousand are still hidden outside the peering of onlookers and observers within the polity. The political disquiet and horse trading is in full gear and we will also witness lots of infighting and re-alignment. As the political gladiators engage in this mother of all battles, we should be reminded that politics is not a 'do and die' affair. They should be rules of engagement and the need to be decent in our fight. The political actors should also be reminded to distinguish between the office of the presidency, the different individuals in the contest and the current President as an individual.
Some people may argue that there is a deliberate gang up against the presidency by some regional and group interest. These contenting interests in their pursuit of the next tenant of Aso rock should equally remember the importance of the institution of the president. Some of the leading group members of these interest groups were once members of the presidency so they understand the sanctity of the office. It beholds on them to make sure that this office is respected as a rallying point for the complex country Nigeria. At times, I wonder if the current occupant of the office actually has had any respite since he took office. It appears he is constantly engaged in act to contain the numerous gigantic forces marshalled out against him. Lots of Nigerians are wondering if he can be able to withstand the level of opposition within the third sphere. The third sphere comprising collections of interest across political and apolitical divide that wants the current president out of the seat of power.
Also among the group of those through their acts and comments are debasing the Presidency include a group of activist, internet warrior and apolitical individuals who not only feel disappointed in the president on his handling of some issues and some members of his cabinet (kitchen and Executive ). These issues include: the handling of the boko haram and other security challenges, the perception on the limited fight against corruption, issues of class of governance and other sundry national and domestic issues. Some of these individuals while fighting the president haul insult to the Presidency. The social media while having countless advantages also provides opportunity for people to express their frustration from social, economic and political issues. I don't know if our leaders take time to go through the numerous posts in facebook, twitter and blogs to understand the enormity of influence welded by the social media. The level of ideas and issues generated by the different chat groups and social media makes most government to be wary of the social media. It is in the social media that governments are openly lampooned by individuals and groups that have limited access to the government to express their views.
Unfortunately for the President and his team, who I must confess seems to be getting lots of policy direction and programmes right; but seem to be losing on the publicity front. Every discerning Nigeria can see the achievements of the government in the railways, air ports, Agriculture, roads and some other parts of the government. The government seem to be doing the right thing in the macro- economic policy and its road map to power but the average Nigeria have not felt the needed impact. The President publicists need to redouble their effort to showcase the achievements of the regime. I believe by now the government should have realised that the print and mass media is controlled by the opposition as a big umbrella. For them to be able to improve the rating of the president and reduce the battering of Presidency, they should fashion out a plan to rivalry the opposition in the publicists and propaganda warfare. The current President through his character and personality seems to be deepening our democratic practice.
The presidency is one of the enduring institutions of any country. The Nigeria presidency represents an embodiment of the Nigeria state and unity. As a result of our diverse multinational and multi lingual composition, we need to distinguish between the Presidency as a unifying institution and the president. We should also know that as we look towards consolidating our national and international prestige, we should be guided by the tenants of not only preserving the presidency as an institution but also projecting the image of a strong nation. We are still a young democracy with a lot of fragile and weak institutions. We should emulate the advance democracy but limit the level we copy their disruptive tendencies. We should also bear in mind that as far as our nation still exist the presidency as an institution will still stand. It is important we preserve the Presidency.
Ogwu Paul Okwuchukwu
Public affairs analyst