Buhari Should Taste Like A New Wine
Continuity amidst Controversies
Whether the elections were free and fair or not, President Muhammadu Buhari has been declared re-elected to succeed himself as he boasted while results of the election were being awaited.
The rest issues, especially whether those protesting against the results, particularly the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the strong contender, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar could have remedy in the courts, shall be affirmed by time, if the judicial system is really independent.
While the court cases will last, governance will surely be on course even after May 29, 2019 when the incumbent’s first tenure ends. So, it is worthwhile to be bothered with, whether the new ‘Buharic’ wine will taste sweet like a new wine in a new wine skin in the second democratic tenure. Will he turn a new leaf?
What Buhari Wants to Do
The President-elect has already declared a new offensive by saying that he will go tougher in the second tenure. Concerns as to his getting off the brass tracks are therefore not rhetorical but rife.
The poser is coming from the background of how he and his marketers assured Nigerians and indeed the world during the 2015 campaigns that the General has turned to a democrat who could provide the long awaited good governance in Africa’s most populous and resourceful but impoverished country.
This assurance was unfortunately to be short-lived as events soon played in the first tenure. Many wept profusely that they were sold a dummy in the 2015 electioneering campaigns. And some say in reality life is still not on their side. This position is despite some laudable achievements of the incumbent administration heading for a second term, May 29, 2019.
Those apprehensive of what may come of the second tenure seem to be getting hopeless again, albeit in a self-defeatist attitude to life.
Indeed, some aspects of President Buhari’s leadership styles, behaviours and policies and programmes: vindictiveness; procrastination; lack of inclusivity in governance; over bearing influence of cabals; buck passing and ‘scapegoatism’; perceived harsh or palliative policies and programmes instead of fundamental economic policy thrust; levity for rule of law, equity, lack of fair play, misconception and muddled use of tools of national interest and justice worry some people.
Other perceived disturbing issues are unceasing ethno-religious conflicts; insecurity and ‘propagandization’ of efforts to curb same; unfriendly government/public communication climate and propaganda-based public information management; alleged discriminatory anti-corruption fight; uneven spread of appointments and crisis of acclaimed integrity. All of these threw up misperceptions against the incumbent and his government, despite some laudable programmes so far.
These issues, notwithstanding, and despite the groaning by some Nigerians, President Buhari who many said would be voted out of office by angry and hungry Nigerians, is to remain in power till 2023, God willing.
Given the above antecedents and perception problems, it is expected that that the former military dictator-turned civilian leader after unsuccessful attempts will take advantage of his re-election, to change misperceptions about him and his leadership behaviour. He is also expected to perform better to deliver more realistic results in different sectors to improve the economy and the citizens’ standard of living.
What He Should Rather Do In Second Term
What then are the solutions to make that new ‘Buharic’ wine sweeter for Nigeria and its once-rated happiest citizens in the world? It is those solutions that come up next in the rest of this article.
At the inception of the first civil regime, President Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) surprisingly delayed taking off governance in full swing. Instead, the government engaged in nearly using the whole tenure to blame past administrations, mostly that of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. It also rather spent more time consistently entertaining the people with lots of standup comedies to trivialize and divert attention from serious national issues. The APC and the government turned to opposition party against itself. Therefore, many critics summed up the scenario as lack of preparation to govern.
As a government and party now to succeed itself as boasted by President Buhari before official election results hit the media, there ought to be no room for delaying taking off of governance and making appointments swiftly, come May this year. Thank God, he has given indication to that effect. He should really do as he has hinted.
As the country stands after the elections which raised tension in some parts, uniting the various political, ethnic and religious divides is a paramount thing to quickly do. Unlike in the first tenure, the President and the APC should jettison politics of acrimony and extend hands of fellowship to all groups within and outside its fold. Thank God that President Buhari, unlike before, has promised to run an inclusive government in the next tenure. He should match words with action on this promise.
He and his party should phase out the ethnocentric and bigotry informal policies of “95%” versus “5%” and “I am for everybody, I am for nobody” which have caused sentiments and sense of exclusion among some sections of the country.
To create national cohesion, appointments, projects, contracts and scholarship awards and other benefits, should be evenly spread to all parts of the country in line with constitutional and statutory provisions, unlike in the first tenure. Competent professionals and technocrats should form large part of appointments into sensitive positions on non-partisan basis.
The principle of national interest has been bastardized by many regimes, including the current administration. Exactly what the concept means is a puzzle, as regimes and governments define it to suit their personal, political, ethnic and religious interests.
National interest drives policies and programmes, security of lives and property and leads to national integration and prosperity.
Thus, Buhari in his second tenure should apply national interest doctrine in managing insecurity; ethno-religious conflicts and development programmes. He should take the whole country as his constituency, and avoid being aloof to the problems of some parts of the country. He should not fend ignorance about heinous acts meted out by one group against others, nor treat the attackers with favour while the victims are rather punished with State might.
The Rule of Law, not of Man, must also henceforth be seen as the highest guarantor of realization of National Interest and harmony among the constituent parts and groups in Nigeria. Rule of Law must be seen to be ensuring adherence to constitution and other laws; fundamental human rights; equality; checks and balances among organs of government and an independent judiciary whose decisions must be respected by everybody, including President Buhari.
These principles must be adhered to so as to avoid arbitrary, dictatorial and vindictive use of power.
More so balance of realization of the desires of the individuals and groups served by government alongside those of the State is what basically protects national interest and stability. Hence, the aspirations of every Nigerian, zones and groups should be allowed to materialize while those of the government and political parties are equally realized.
In line with the philosophies of National Interest and Rule of Law, President Buhari, the so-called anti-corruption Czar, needs to sustain the crusade for the betterment of the country. However, same treatments should be equitably given to all suspected corrupt persons irrespective of political party, tribal and religious affiliations.
Institutional; technological, social and moral measures should as well be utilised in attempting to curb all forms of corruption.
Above all, a responsive and responsible approach to governance, wherein, the people are listened to and policies and programmes are carried out to enhance their standards of living is the surest measure to abate corruption.
It might amount to asking for too much, but it has become imperative to requests that all so-called politically exposed persons held in detention over alleged corrupt matters; religious and civil detainees should be released and granted Presidential pardon. Non-detained “politically exposed persons” having alleged corruption cases, could as well be given opportunity to settle out of court.
If these demands are too big to accede to, then a lesser one is to release detainees that the courts have granted bail but are still held at the orders of Mr. President.
Any of or all of these demands if timely acted upon by President Buhari before May 29, this year, would make people say that the new ‘Buharic’ wine taste good. Apart from public relations benefit to Mr. President, any of such gestures would also appease where those detainees hail from and douse ethno-religious and political tensions in the country.
Far more important is even for President Buhari to come up with a modern, clear and consistent development policy thrust and a workable plan for the management of the national economy. This is because the experimental policies and programmes of the administration in the areas of foreign currency; anti-corruption crusade and social intervention programmes such as the N-Power and Trader Money though useful have been seen by many as mere election campaign tactics and palliatives incapable of fundamentally turning the economy around.
To successfully place Nigeria in the comity of top capitalist democracies in the world, our quest for industrialization through scientific inventions, manufacturing, Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) and Knowledge-based economy models have to be pursued vigorously. Therefore, practical skills and entrepreneurship education and training programmes; restructuring of the polity to stimulate regional growth; privatization of viable sectors; provision of industrial infrastructures and attractive foreign policies need to be implemented to catalyze development.
Although pushing an economy ahead might not really depend on an economic team alone, events have proved that it is important to always have one in the country. Thus, President Buhari needs to appoint a real economic team to comprise scholars, technocrats and professionals from various disciplines concerning economics, finance, agriculture, development studies and allied areas so as to guide development processes.
This panacea and the rest ones advocated earlier might work better with the relevant ministries steered by qualified and competent academicians and professionals. Hence the President should appoint the best hands in the country to handle finance, budgeting, economic planning, commerce, agriculture and industrial positions in the next tenure.
Even in doing so, the penchant for concentration of appointments in one part of the country as well as putting so many lawyers onto positions far from their calling should, also be avoided so as to place the country on a better match towards development.
It needs to be noted that President Buhari who is now a politician, should learn to play politics instead of the militaristic approach that characterized his first tenure like his former military regime. He should apart from playing by the rules, play along with the legislature and the judiciary. He should respect the heads and members of these organs as well as their independence and respect decisions from them. He should also transparently involve them in national matters that need their roles, so as to avoid bickering that could affect the pace of governance.
All the measures advocated so far, will amount to nothing even when applied, except, effective information and communication management is made an integral part of governance and development processes.
Therefore, in the second tenure, the government needs to provide an open communication climate that would make public opinions matter in policy formulation and implementation as well as make government to be proactive and strategic in enlightening the people about its activities and those of its officials.
In these regards, the government ought to see public information, communication and stakeholder relations management beyond journalism profession and press secretary’s functions which wrongly take on roles beyond its purview, hence ineffective.
To effectively use information and communication to drive good governance and mutual relationships among stakeholders, public relations discipline and qualified practitioners in the profession are the best trained for those purposes. They therefore, ought to be enlisted to handle the ministry of information, relevant agencies and advisory communication positions in the presidency and other arms of government.
Burden of Leadership and Integrity
The burden of leadership is to make every stakeholder feel a sense of inclusion and enjoy the common good. Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari in his second outing in civilian administration is expected to serve as an impartial father to provide happiness for the greatest number of Nigerians.
He indeed needs to transparently and indiscriminately do mostly things that the people need, not what he wants alone. That way, he might etch his name in gold and keep his integrity.