PRESIDENT OBAMA FORCES PRESIDENT BUHARI INTO ACTION
Twelve years after his first bid for the presidency, three months after he knew for certain that he would lead Nigeria and almost one full month after his formal inauguration, President Buhari is nowhere to be found.
There is a total absence of leadership, not to mention governance. This is not about there not being any cabinet because it may not be imperative that the government must necessarily function with the assistance of ministers. The point is, if the President has decided to govern without ministers, he should inform the Nigerian people accordingly, and not keep the nation guessing.
Indeed, given the nation's reported dire finances, it might even be more cost effective, for the time being, that the Federal Executive Council (which the Constitution refers to as “the Executive Council of the Federation”) comprise Permanent Secretaries who should be charged with oversight of their respective ministries, departments and agencies, as the case maight be.
However, in the case of important portfolios such as Defence, Finance, Petroleum, Power, Justice, etc the President ought to nominate, as soon as possible, renowned technocrats with established track record as Ministers, to drive the reforms in the above named sectors.
Furthermore, to the disappointment of most Nigerians who yearn for earnest governance, the President is yet to name his principal advisers, several weeks after the immediate past National Assembly expeditiously approved same.
Till date, the offices of Chief of Staff to the President, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and others remain vacant. Though in recent times, I have read about certain individuals claiming to be representing the “Chief of Staff to President Buhari” at different events.
To the extent that the President has not officially named any such aide, one can only guess that the media is referring to Colonel Hammed Ali (retired), the former Military Administrator of Kaduna State who has served for many years as the chief of staff to Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired), i.e. before the latter became President. Which begs the question. If Colonel Ali enjoys the President's confidence, why the delay in appointing him to continue in that capacity? Otherwise, why not name another competent person to the office?
Among other critical administrative issues that require attention, due to the absence of an SGF to act as an arbiter, there is now an unprecedented aberration where two persons are reportedly claiming to both be the Director General of the National Productivity Centre, a national embarrassment that has been ongoing for over a month.
Meanwhile, there is still no clarity as to whether or not the President has decided to retain the appointees of former President Goodluck Jonathan in the very strategic offices of National Security Adviser, Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Navy Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Director General, Department of State Services (DSS), Director General, National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI) etc.
If the President has decided to retain Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retired) and other military/security chiefs from the previous Administration, it is the President's preogative; but there should be clarity. Though I mentioned it in my previous article, PRESIDENT BUHARI'S THREE UNNECESSARY FOREIGN TRIPS, it bears repetition.
There are indications that the absence of effective direction or coordination at the apex of Nigeria's national security apparatus is aggravating an apparent supremacy contest between the DSS operatives and Nigeria Army Intelligence Corps (NAIC) personnel at State House, Abuja. Though this rift seems to be deepening, the President has not deemed it fit to intervene.
This unfortunate indecision and tardiness by the President regarding almost every matter is not only crippling statecraft at home but also conveying an unintended impression of incompetence to the international community. Do I need to remind us of the President's recent, needless gaffe in which he reportedly referred to Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Angela Merkel as “President Michelle of West Germany”?
This obvious lack of professionalism in the management of the President is not lost on our so-called foreign allies. Hence, in the White House press release announcing the imminent visit of the President to Washington D. C., United States of America on July 20 2015, something which I belive is unprecedented, happened.
Contrary to the convention, President Barack Obama's press secretary made a point of stating expressly that:
…“In addition to hosting President Buhari at the White House, the United States will welcome President Buhari's senior advisors for consultations with U.S. counterparts and other events aimed at building on the strong U.S.-Nigeria relationship. (Italics and underline are for emphasis)
Though it is condescending, I have to say that I am grateful to President Obama for diplomatically 'warning' President Buhari not to “waka come” White House without being accompanied by the latter's advisers.
I believe it is insulting because it is taken for granted that Heads of State and/or Government, even though newly inaugurated, always travel abroad with a minimum complement of principal advisers. So for the White House press office to have explicitly couched the communication in that way, is quite embarrassing.
But who am I to question the wisdom of the White House to send a signal to a President who has been travelling all over the world (Chad, Niger, Germany, South Africa, maybe also United States of America???), holding official meetings and carrying out state functions without key aides?
Let me be very clear. I am neither a fan of the United States of America nor President Obama, not being impressed by their recent refusal to extend critical technical support to Nigeria's military and security establishment on the pretext of generally unfounded human rights allegations.
I believe the President should be engaging with the true friends of Nigeria who supported us when we needed it most. The art of diplomacy and bilateral relations ought to be conducted on the basis of what I choose to call enlightened reciprocity.
Perhaps addressing those of us, his admirers who are increasingly becoming frustrated with the underwhelming start of his presidency, Mr. Buhari recently remarked that, at 72, the nation should not expect much from him. The question is, why did he offer himself for the most important office in the land?
Before what are currently a few murmurs build into a crescendo of vehement protests, the President needs to urgently assemble a competent team, who should get down to business immediately. Nigerians did not elect him to moan all manner of excuses daily without taking commensurate remedial actions. Nigerians are perfectly capable of complaining themselves and indeed are already doing so.
The President should know that Ronald Reagan, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest American presidents, assumed office at the age of 69 years and served two full terms of eight years. The key to his success was to surround himself with the best and the brightest that America could offer. The President should do likewise and do it real fast. The patience of Nigerians seems to be wearing out very quickly.
Written by Dr. Kolawole Kayode.