How Buhari's Policy Slip-flops Demean Democracy

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
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Nigeria is generally seen as a Country whereby the democratic institutions that ought to be made enduring, resilient and vibrant are deliberately undermined, sabotaged and weakened operationally due largely to the desire of the politicians to line their pockets with filthy lucre by circumventing conventions, laws, ethics and global best practices.

However, this unfortunate scenario pales into insignificance and assumes a much more troubling status, when the Country is burdened by the presence of political office holders whose stock in trade is basically the institutionalization of flip-flops in policy articulation and implementation.

When policies and programmes mapped out by government are not coherent and consistently implemented to generate benefits pragmatically and on a utilitarian basis, then the tendency is that even members of the business community across the global community will be too slow to invest their capitals and resources in the economy of such a place whereby government says one thing in the mourning and by noontide the same government says another thing that directly contradicts the one that was said in the mourning. Policy consistency means a lot and policy FLIP-FLOPS demean the essence of constitutional democracy.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the President Muhammadu Buhari – led administration since coming into office on May 29th 2015, has carved a notoriety as one administration that nobody should rely on as regards the veracity and finality of her public pronouncement on their face value because of the regularity of government officials inconsistency and incoherence.

There is therefore a severe dearth of decisive decision making process observable in the administrative style of President Muhammadu Buhari since his second coming as a civilian leader of the largest concentration of black people in the World since 2015.

But the truth is that for Nigeria to be able to navigate through the minefield of gross physical, economic and political underdevelopment, the best quality of leadership expected of the President or any sort of political office holder is the ability and capacity to take decisive decision for that is the essence of visionary leadership.

This much we can read from a fantastic write up titled: “ Decisive decision making and the role of visionary leaders” uploaded on website of www. Dgicomn.com.

This piece precisely states as follows: "Although decision-making as a leader might entail a wide array of components that can hardly be summarized in a few paragraphs, there are some basic attributes that can be observed across the board. Dian Griesel, President of DGI, based in New York City as well as the author of several books, knows from hands-on experience what it takes to be an effective leader today and what leaders need to look for in management."

Also, we are told thus: “Each leader will lead in his or her own way,” says Griesel. “However, when you’re at the front of the room, and people are looking to you for the answers, there are a few basic skills that you should have in your tool kit. These include honesty and transparency, confidence and collaboration. These might seem like broad terms, but they are important enough to create a solid framework for everyone, and specific enough so that each person can put his or her own spin on them.”

The public policy researchers say: "It’s not enough to seem honest, Griesel elaborates, because most people will be able to see right through you. “If you find yourself approaching a task with ulterior motives, it might be time to step back and re-examine. Chances are, your team will sense you’re hiding something from them, and if they find out you’re not telling them the truth, your credibility will likely be shot for any future projects. Approaching your team with openness and honesty will prompt them to trust you more, and make them more likely to trust you in the future.”

"Although it’s nearly impossible to please everyone on your team all the time, seriously considering their strengths and weaknesses—without sacrificing your own choices and opinions—will likely yield positive results and contribute to a good team dynamic. It will make the team more likely to trust you, and expedite future tasks."

Strategically we are yold that speaking of the future, it’s always a good idea to over prepare. "This is more than having a “Plan B” scenario in mind, Griesel explains. She believes you should also have a good exit strategy just in case your decision doesn’t go as planned."

An authority on power and politics within a business organization had warned as follows; “Every environment has their own internal system that is dictated by aspects such as power and politics. These things have as much control over the functionality of an organizational as the individual features of organizational behaviour. Often, they can shift how those components develop and affect those in the environment as well. Their impact-and that of those who control them-can shape the entire dynamics of an organization more so than any other force”.

Specifically, we are warned that: “Power and politics within a business or organization are rather similar to the traditional political structures of government: authority is divided throughout the different parts of the system that power is exerted in.1 There are often different sources of power competing for control, which isn't necessarily a bad thing until someone decides to fight dirty."

The internal politics of an organization, too, can be polarized as everyone will most likely relate to one side of an issue over another no matter how neutral they attempt to remain, the researcher argued.

And then concluded: "All in all, the organizational power and politics in a business can be a fascinating and unique thing that can have a serious impact on organizational behaviour”.

So, all through the whole gamut of the way the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has gone about articulating her public policies and their implementation, there is this deep seated practice of willful flip-flop to such a pattern that most analysts are beginning to ask what really is the leadership ideological mantra of the present Federal government of Nigeria.

This interrogatory has becime imperative because the deliberate unleashing of policy FLIP-FLOPS directly impinges on the constitutional warning that all traces and tendencies of abuse of power must be eradicated as a matter of statutory obligation.

This is precisely what is said in section 15 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999, as amended, thus; “the state shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power”.

It is an abuse of power for the government to fail in its obligation to properly articulate a public policy in line with the legal frameworks, and set out to meticulously implement those policies or programme for the over all benefits of the greatest number of the good people of Nigeria.

The foundation for these inconsistencies in the current political administration at the centre started in 2015 when it took President Buhari nearly six months to make the composition of the Federal executive council a reality.

A political analyst with Guardian Newspaper of Britain wrote a favourable piece to support the delay in the formation of the Federal cabinet by Buhari and anchored this strange reasoning on the need for the President to pick the best team.

However from the benefits of hindsight, it has since emerged that even after spending six months to select his ministers, many of the ministers did not have what it takes to implement the economic blueprints that the then Presidential Candidate of All Progressive Congress sold to gullible voters because within just few months of taking office, the economy went into a serious recession and when we were told that the recession was over, it emerged that Nigeria had become home to the largest number of absolutely poor people thus overthrowing India which has over two billion population compared to us with less than 200 million- a statistics obtained through series of fraudulent head counts by the ethically tainted National Population commission.

Also from amongst Buhari’s first cabinet, the then Finance Minister was later found to have allegedly lied that she obtained a waiver not to serve her time as a participant of the compulsory programme for all Nigerian under 30 year university graduates-the NYSC.

So the failure of President Buhari to be decisive has done more harm than good as against the public relations analysis that Simon Allison published in THE Guardian of the United Kingdom in 2015

He had written thus; “Choosing a cabinet in Nigeria is a complicated balancing act. One must juggle the need for skilled leaders with the requirement to repay political allies, while navigating the shifting alliances of internal party politics and eliminating accumulated deadwood. Then there’s the need to carefully maintain an ethnic and religious balance, and to make sure each of the country’s 36 states is somehow represented."

The British reporter also errorneously submitted thus: "No wonder it took newly elected president Muhammadu Buhari nearly six months to make his decision”.

“Impatience is not a virtue,” said the president to his critics, who thought that the long delay in naming a new government was bad for business. Buhari was unmoved: “Careful and deliberate decisions after consultations get far better results,” he said.

“The most notable decision involves Buhari himself. The president has taken charge of the ministry of petroleum, which for years has been associated with gross mismanagement and corruption on a grand scale. That Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, must import refined petroleum is as a result of the failures of this ministry, which has resisted all attempts at meaningful reform over the years”.

“Buhari has now gambled his reputation on succeeding where others have failed. If he can turn the petroleum ministry around, he will have gone a long way towards fulfilling his election promises. Helping him is junior minister, Ibe Kachikwu, who is current head of the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation”.

“The influential finance portfolio has been handed to Kemi Adeosun, a former investment bank chief who has a daunting task ahead of her. Collapsing oil prices have slashed the government’s revenue, and stunted economic growth, with analysts predicting more turbulent times ahead”.

As can be seen, this analysis may have been procured because corruption is worst in the petroleum sector, fuel is still being imported, refineries are destroyed even as millions of dollars are stolen under the guise of turn around maintenance of the three refineries and the then finance minister was accused of academic fraud.

Since then it has been one policy flip –flop or the other whether in the electricity power sector, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and even in the public communication office of the President whereby too many contradictory pieces of information’s have been callously unleashed on the public space including the recent one about the number of students of the science school in Kankara, Katsina State who were “abducted”, and released”.

"Hundreds of schoolboys who were kidnapped in north-western Nigeria nearly a week ago have been released, a local official said late on Thursday, prompting joy and relief for families that had been praying for the boys’ safe return.Katsina state Governor Aminu Bello Masari said in a televised interview with state channel NTA that 344 boys held in the Rugu Forest in neighbouring Zamfara state had been freed," reported Al Jazeera.

However, Garba Shehu the SA on media to Muhammadu Buhari contradicted the above information by claiming that only ten students were missing.

When he was found out, he quickly apologized.
The media stated this communication fiasco thus: "Garba Shehu, spokesman to President Muhammadu Buhari, has apologised for saying only 10 students were kidnapped from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina state.

Shehu apologised in a post on his social media handles on Friday.

Over 300 students were kidnapped from the school on December 11, after an attack by bandits."

"They were, however, rescued on Thursday and arrived in Katsina on Friday.

While Aminu Masari, governor of Katsina, had said over 300 students were missing after the attack, Shehu had claimed that some of the abducted students who escaped told the military that 10 of them were taken away by the gunmen".

The presidential spokesman, however, said he was sorry for the “incorrect communication”, adding that it was not his intention to downplay the seriousness of the situation.

“I apologise for the incorrect communication citing that only 10 students were kidnapped at the science school, Kankara,” he wrote.

“This communication of numbers was provided by persons that should ideally know. These numbers were seen to conflict with what was available at that time.

“Please understand that this communication was in no way done to downplay the seriousness of the situation", he had said, in a belated but illiterately crafted attempt at confusing gullible Nigerians the more.

But Garba Shehu is not alone.
The majority of the Federal Government officials from time to time, engage in double speak which has graphically painted President Muhammadu Buhari as someone who believes in using organized confusion as his governance mantra.

Not long ago, the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) published a 50 percent tariff hike but Festus Keyamo who is the Minister of state for labour said there was no price hike only for the minister of power to announce a reversal of the hike after 24 hours.

By that Tuesday, January 5, 2021 it was reported that Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo on Tuesday denounced purported hike in electricity tariff by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC. Most papers quoted him as denying any sort of tariff hike.

Then on January 7th, 2021 it was reported that the Nigerian government has directed the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to suspend the implementation of the recently reviewed tariff.

NERC on Tuesday increased the electricity tariff payable by power consumers across the country. The hike in tariff which varies, based on different consumer classes, took effect from January 1, 2021. This unambiguous public notice which even a newspaper like Thisday ran as a commercial full page black and White advertisement was repudiated by a minister under the same central government.

The Niger Delta Development Commission is perhaps one place whereby this deliberate policy inconsistencies has assumed a life of its own because within two months, the same government constituted and failed to inaugurate a substantive governing board but has twice appointed interim management committee and then sacked it and appointed interim administrator. They went finishing for some kind of excuse and found a willing tool in a judge of a high Court who is said to habe granted an injunction against the earlier appointee. What a deliberate and sustainable programmes of deceit and deception!

In the petroleum sector, the NNPC within few days said they will rely on import of petroleum and then has just announced that it is shopping for one billion United states dollars to repair the Port Harcourt refinery.

The other time the same NNPC said it was cheaper to buy petrol from the small neighbouring Niger Republic which is not even a crude oil producer in the category of Nigeria that ranks as the seventh biggest global crude oil producer. Nigerians kicked against this unwise move and then the FLIP-FLOPS.

What these inconsistencies do to the economy of Nigeria is to ensure the ballooning of poverty and the expansion of public sector corruption.

This is why what Bishop Kukah said is true.
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Most Revd. Matthew Kukah, had reportedly continued his criticism of the leadership of the country, stating that the privileged few were busy looting the country dry and seeking repentance in foreign pilgrimages. Kukah also described the country as a huge wasteland, huge debris of deceit, lies, treachery, double-dealing and duplicity.

Bishop Kukah warned that darkness was setting in as the sun quickly recedes, so there should be a sense of urgency. The Catholic Bishop spoke while delivering a sermon entitled ‘A Nation in Search of its Soul,’ at the wake keep Mass for His Grace, Archbishop Peter Jatau at St. Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral, Kaduna.

He said that the privileged few were milking the nation dry, with mass looting of the nation’s resources. According to him, “We sin at home by stealing the nation’s resources, but we seek repentance and forgiveness in Saudi Arabia and Jerusalem in the guise of lesser or higher pilgrimages. “We make money from abandoning projects duly paid for by governments, which have adopted ‘contractocracy’ as a governance mechanism. “We are allowing others to use our money to develop their own infrastructure. Our elites all assembled in Dubai for Christmas and also to welcome the new year. “As virtue recedes into the sunset in our country, there is an urgent need for us to pause and take stock of what is required to save our country,” Bishop Kukah added.

Nigerians must wake up and demand accountability and transparency.

*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs @www. huriwanigeria.com , [email protected] , www.thenigerianinsidernews.com .

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Emmanuel Onwubiko and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."