Let’s leave President Buhari alone!
I don’t believe that not constituting his cabinet within one month or so can be seen as a lack of leadership direction. Or should we forget in a hurry that finding best of the best – men and women with uncommon gifts to our national economic and social and security problems—should require a lot of searching and researching, a lot scrutinizing and re-scrutinizing?
If we agree with the wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt, one of America’s foremost radical presidents that “The best leader and the most successful president a nation can have is the one who has sense enough to pick good men [and women] to do what he wants done…”, then, we should agree that President Buhari should take his time to pick good men and women that should work with him in the best interest of Nigeria.
It is important to see that what President Buhari is doing right now isn’t different from what arguably the America’s ever best president, President Franklin Roosevelt did in 1933, when in agreement with his uncle Theodore Roosevelt, spent months in search of America’s best; and who after the long and exhaustive search appointed Mr. Mariner Eccles, a secondary school certificate holder as US Federal Reserve Chairman (Governor of Central Bank); and Henry Morgenthau, a second year architecture university drop out, as US Treasury Secretary (Finance Minister).
Two men who rather than being highly certificated as the norm required, were selected on the basis of their gifts of commonsense, honesty, and patriotism. That Franklin Roosevelt made the right choice was demonstrated in their patriotic, honest, and ingenious gifts deployed not only to stop the great depression ravaging America at the time, but most surprisingly, their uncommon transformation of the US economy into what it has since remained: the world’s best industrial economy.
Almost half a century later, came a man called Deng Xiaoping, who inheriting a devastated economy from Chairman Mao, believing that ‘‘it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice, it is a good cat,’’ spent months in search of China’s best of the best. He did so in full agreement that the greatness of a leader starts with surrounding himself with honest, patriotic, and commonsense men and women.
Little wonder to find these special breed, Deng Xiaoping, who was elected president of China in December 1978, did not appoint his ministers and advisers until early June 1979 . And no sooner had he appointed them than they laboured endlessly until they were able to reverse their country’s economic misfortunes and repositioned it to the ever fastest and longest growing economy in the history of the world.
It was not only Franklin Roosevelt and Deng Xiaoping who surrounded themselves with commonsense citizens. As far back as 1868, Emperor Meiji of Japan too went ahead to surround himself with the best commonsense Japanese, men he believed had the unique gift of patriotism, honesty and ingenuity needed to spy on European countries of Britain and Germany in his effort to champion Japan’s own industrialization.
So, if these great leaders took all the time they needed to carefully assemble the kind of uncommon men and women to help them turn their nations into great economies, why are we rushing President Buhari, who having inherited what could be called the worst economy in Nigeria’s history, needs time to find and screen those who should work with him to turn our economic misfortune around? If there is no deadline in our constitution for the appointment of ministers and advisers, what crime has President Buhari committed than taking his time to assemble those who can help him revive our dying economy?
Why are we bashing him for not taken off when the last administration not only didn’t collaborate with his transition team, but did not vacate the Villa until May 29, 2015 ? What is the rush to appoint ministers when most of the ministries are going to be merged (if not scrapped)? Wasn’t the failure of past governments because of their rush to appease public opinion, driven not by noble and patriotic goals but belligerently, driven by media championing economic saboteurs’ interests? That President Buhari is all out to appoint Nigerians with such rare ingenious commonsense, shouldn’t thorough due diligence and background checks on these Nigerians need time?
Given the enormity of the country’s problem and the level of greed and corruption in our country, which has made trustworthy people increasingly scarce, rather than crucify him, shouldn’t we be praying to God to guide him in his search for those rare Nigerians whose loyalty, honesty, patriotism, selflessness, courage, creativity, talent, and energy should be second-to-none?
Just imagine how most of our so-called experienced and certificated men and women – past shameless governors, ministers, senators, DGs, ambassadors, judges, etc. not only have they soiled their hands in monstrous corruption, but they are also lacking self-discipline, ready to hand their offices to the highest bidders. For this very reason alone, the delays are inevitable or else, Nigerians will embarrass our honest president by digging out their hidden past corrupt practices. And who else is waiting to embarrass the president than PDP, ready to expose the economic atrocities committed by most of president’s cabinet nominee members?
Because the economic mess is really mind-boggling and far bigger than we can imagine, fixing the problem means that everything involving the solution should not be rushed. With these in mind, we should be patient with the president who wants to get it right from day one; otherwise, bad choices would come to hunt him throughout his administration. Or, do we want him to appoint today and sack tomorrow ?
We all know that whoever rushes to build on collapsed foundations, without first clearing the debris, removing the earlier foundations, and building newer and stronger foundations, should be doing so just in vain. So, let President Buhari take all his time, time needed to ensure that the people he eventually hires are credible, sincere, honest, and patriotic, and above all dedicated to turning Nigeria around.
My advice to the president should be: remain focused with all your decisions so long as they are made in the overall national interest without allowing himself to be distracted by the current myriad of criticisms, for those in this business of endless criticisms are the same members of the elite class who have since our return of democracy stolen our commonwealth.
The mistake they are pushing him to make is to hurriedly appoint their friends into his cabinet, who can easily ambush his administration and eventually work together to continue the stealing. The hijack of his government could not be different from the way these ruthless technocrats hijacked Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, and Jonathan administrations to the extent that they were always holding unofficial Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings before the official ones with the president. It was at these unofficial FEC meetings that these narrow-interest pushers agreed on how to smuggle in economic sabotaging policies formulated not in national interest, but purely in meeting their sponsors’ greed.
For the first time in the history of this country, let’s all rise to give our thorough-minded, corruption-free president our patriotic and unflagging support, irrespective of which side of the political divide we’re. Or else, the enemies of our great nation will soon go back to scavenge and plunder our nation’s wealth as they did during the Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, and Jonathan administrations.
Another advice to the president is to go after the thieves without fear or favour. He should do so in full agreement with Marcus Cicero that “the greatest incitement to crime is the hope to escape punishment.” It doesn’t matter how long and how much it should cost to ensure that the thieves eventually face the law. After all, it was Ronald Reagan, who said that “they [the thieves] can run but cannot hide.” Our law should be supreme and whoever disobeys the law should be fully punished and as a deterrent.
And to fully fight the cancer called corruption head-on, the president should as a matter of urgency send a bill for the creation of “Nigerian Anti-Craft Court”, where corruption cases are speedily and judiciously executed. This is because of what benefit is it to our commonwealth if most corruption cases last for years, to the extent that in most cases with some legal technicalities employed, the big fish end up being left off the hook?
Talking about the urgency to release capital votes, let’s not forget that most of the so-called capital projects never underwent thorough public procurement processes and execution planning, not to mention having some evaluation and monitoring plans accompanying them. So, the insistence that money for capital projects should be released is simply insisting that such money be sent down the drain as has been the case since the return of democracy on May 29, 1999 .
Take for instance the over padded constituency projects. Should this government go ahead to release such money as past governments did, which could go to ex-senators and ex-reps? Shouldn’t that amount to handing them more free money they could hardly account for other than to pay off the cost of their last elections?
Another piece of advice should be to send a Fiscal Responsibility Act Amendment Bill to the National Assembly which should make it a serious crime offence for any public officeholder to ever spend public money without appropriation. Neither should states borrow money from banks without the CBN and Debt Management Office (DMO) approval, nor bonds without approval from Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) and DMO. With the amendment bill insisting on all borrowings be only for capital projects, no longer should government borrow to pay salaries.
Also the Fiscal Sunshine Bill (FSB) should be sent to National Assembly, such that all public revenues and expenditures should be made as publicly transparent as the sunshine. Full disclosure — including online posting — of all revenues and expenditures of the three tiers of government, their sources and where and how they are spent and why, should be fully disclosed online for citizens to see, scrutinize, and send in their disagreements.
FSB should include e-contracting, which should mandate that all public contract awards should be done in the open and posted online for all to see and scrutinize. Also Workers’ Bank of Nigeria (WBN) should be created to ensure that every public worker, including political officeholders should not only have their salaries paid into their accounts with WBN, but all the payments made to any public officeholder is subject to public viewing and scrutiny (for freedom of information).
Enwegbara, development economist writes from Abuja