Buhari: Enough Of The Blame Game

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I am going to begin this essay by citing a few quotes on the subject of “Blame”, which is something the Buhari administration has been very much obsessed with since his assumption of office. The late U.S president Dwight Eisenhower was once quoted as saying, “the search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expedition”. John Burroughs, a famous English Writer also was once quoted as saying, “you can get discouraged many times, but you are not a failure until you begin to blame someone else and stop trying”.

Finally I must not fail to mention this quote by a not too famous American, Dee Dee Artner who said this, “Blaming others is an act of refusing to take responsibility “. She continued by stating, “when a person can’t accept fact or reality, they blame another person or the situation instead of taking responsibility”.

Now the term responsibility does not mean the president must own part of the failures of past administrations or that of his predecessor in particular, it rather means that he must take the responsibility of trying to fix the wrongs and failures of past administrations by beating a new path and inspiring the nation to assist him in the task ahead, and not waste time or dissipate energy blaming Jonathan. The damage is already done. The question is how are you going to fix it?

For the past 15 months or more, the President, his ministers and many APC stalwarts have taken turns in blaming the Jonathan administration and his PDP criminal cohorts for all the wrongs that presently beset the country and for the economic mess he inherited, with him the President actually leading the assault or crusade.

Is the President right in his criticism of Jonathan and his administration? The answer is yes and no. Yes, in the sense that the worst corruption ever experienced in the annals of Nigeria’s political history did take place during the Jonathan era. No, however in the sense that the economic hardships, corruption, political instability, ethnic disunity and other attendant problems presently abound in the country did not start with the Jonathan regime but with administrations before him, both military and civilian.

Does this in any way absolve Jonathan from blame, of course not? But the reality is that the blame game is being overdone. Presidents are elected to solve problems and not to whine about the hand dealt them. The fact is that the President spent 3 election circles seeking the office of the presidency and so there is no way he can claim he did not anticipate these problems nor was he oblivious to the responsibilities of the position and the task that awaited him. Besides he sought the job. No one forced it on him.

For me personally, blaming others is an important avenue of denying responsibility or a sign of the inability to complete a task because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. Blame as we all know has been a very common, ancient and well defined device for trying to feel better about one’s inability to effect change and deflect present and future charges of failure. There is a popular saying, “kick the person responsible for your troubles and you won’t sleep for a week’.

What the President, his vice Osibanjo, Lai Mohammed and a host of his ministers and political associates have done in the past months has been to double down on this blame thing but the extent to which the strategy has worked as a protective shield against perceived charges of failure is doubtful. However with the President recently stating that he will continue with the strategy despite widespread calls for him to stop and desist is to say the least unfortunate and disappointing, because it definitely will not generate the kind of sympathy and absolution he expects if he fails to deliver on the promises he made during his campaign.

Just like the U.S President Barack Obama stated in a recent campaign rally for Hillary Clinton, “Democracy in a diverse country does not work if you continue to demonize others”. The point here is that blaming Jonathan and the PDP repeatedly does not enhance our democracy, nor does it put food on the table of every hungry and starving Nigerian family.

As many have pointed out before, including yours truly in many essays and fora, back in 2008 after Barack Obama became President of the United States, he did not waste any valuable time nor did he dissipate energy blaming President George Bush who through his irresponsible tax cuts while at the same time fighting a war plunged the country into the worst economic recession the country had ever experienced since the depression of 1939. Instead, what he did was to assemble the best economic minds both from academia and Wall Street, irrespective of party affiliation to tackle the country’s economic problems.

He introduced an economic stimuli, bailed out Wall Street, especially the banks which he considered too large to fail, saved the housing and auto industry which is now making record profits. He invested heavily to the extent the Republican controlled congress would allow him on infrastructure and construction.

8 years later, while preparing to leave office in January with a public approval rating in the 50”s, we can see the impact his policies have made in the U.S economy. Millions of new jobs have been created, a decline in the unemployment rate from close to 10% when he took office to slightly over 4% today, a national health Insurance scheme was passed into law amongst other accomplishments. All these probably would not have been possible if he had spent the first 15 months of his administration blaming George Bush.

In 1983 when the President first emerged on the political scene after overthrowing Shagari in a military coup, what Nigerians saw was an unvarnished version of him, but even then he was seen as incorruptible and as someone who had the bonafides to get things done and to fix problems, despite the perceptions of autocratic tendencies, which some see as manifesting itself in real time today.

It was this perception that Buhari rode to power. So for the President to start laying so much blame on the feet of Jonathan instead of seeking the best technocrats and economic experts to help him fix present societal wrongs, and especially the economy does give credence to the narrative held in some quarters that he was manifestly unprepared for the job of the presidency and that he did not have the intellectual curiosity to find out what problems awaited him nor was he prepared on how to solve them with regards to the economy.

One of the most important attributes of leadership is “character”, so for this President to insist on doubling down on this blame crusade is what some will describe as a moral naked moment. There is no doubt he has done a good job fighting corruption, but when it turned out that he continues to protect and cavort with such corrupt personalities like Amaechi, Atiku, Tinubu and a host of others who now enjoy immunity from arrest and prosecution due to their membership of the APC and when he and his party’s officials consistently refuse to disclose how his campaign was funded which in the president’s alternate universe was clean and corruption free, it begs the question, is this the change we were promised? The truth is that for the past years these men have been far from being angels playing the harp nor are they suddenly paragons of virtue. Tinubu in particular is the banana in the tail pipe as well as others because individually and collectively they clog the essence of what the word change is all about.

There are some who after reading this article may feel like I am being too critical of the President. Far from it. All I am doing is to articulate what I think the President is doing wrong or have failed to do. My criticisms or points of correction is not borne out of hate or dislike.

Accepting honest criticism in good faith is a good attribute to have as a leader. If the President does not have around him people who would point out his mistakes to his face, then he is not being well served. He does not need “Yes men” around him because in the end it will do his Presidency no good. I want the President to succeed, because if he does, it is to the benefit of the country. There are millions of Nigerians of all ethnic groups, of all religions and of all cultures, languages and traditions who are less concerned about what was, or what is.

They want to know what will be, and what future awaits them, their children and grandchildren under this President and not who to blame. They want to be inspired, motivated and filled with hope and optimism for the future. They don’t need or ask to be reminded about the ills of the previous administration, because they are already aware of it, that being the reason why they voted for the President after rejecting him thrice.

In my opinion the President must desist from painting a portrait of a Jonathan Presidency that was a complete and utter failure, not when he is commissioning some of his projects. Corruption laden, yes, there was a lot of it but he was a man who also accepted defeat honorably and handed over power peacefully thereby setting a template and precedence we hope future Presidents will follow.

As a country beset with too many ethnic, economic and social issues, including some asking for secession, the President must strive to ensure that at the end of his presidency, posterity will remember him as a symbol of this country’s quest for peace and reconciliation. He must try to enter history as a peacemaker and not a blame meister.

The President must strive to recast himself as an optimistic father figure who represents the people’s aspirations for justice and fairness. When recently I read a comment by the President to the effect that his three and a half years of incarceration taught him a lot about social justice and fairness, I was inspired, but to see him turn around and appoint two justices from the North to the Supreme Court after all the hue and cry about his lack of fairness in his appointments into federal positions I began to wonder the sincerity in his comments about fairness and social justice. All the same I remain an optimist.

I must end this essay by quoting an American writer Charles Glassman, who said, “If we always think the other guy is the reason for our lack of success, then it’s time to start planning ways to lift ourselves up, rather than planning to take him down”.

Nnanna Ijomah, is a New York based Political Science lecturer.

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Articles by Nnanna Ijomah