Full tank, flat tires


You almost feel sorry for people who have a pressing need to defend President Buhari these days. Not just those that are paid to scrape bottoms of the barrel in the search of excuses for tardiness, indecision or indifference which are fairly prominent hallmarks of the Buhari administration. There must be a few million Nigerians who had more reasons to have voted for him than his being honest or the idea that Atiku would be a poorer substitute as president. Most of these may have made allowances for shortfalls with his accumulated burden of serial abuse of the nation. Cases have been made that time was needed to shop for the best hands to help him govern the nation; policy options needed careful appraisal which needed time; and change was more difficult to achieve than continuing a rotten system, particularly when you suffer from poverty of ideas. The most committed loyalists of President Buhari must now begin to wonder whether the journey to 2023 will be made with the same vehicle, moving at the same speed on a road that is a lot more challenging. President Buhari started his first term in 2015 with a mixed bag of fortunes and liabilities. At the fourth time of asking, he was trusted by enough Nigerians (and supported by an electoral system that had acquired some immunity from chronic abuse) to achieve the only political goal he had ever sought since 2003: to become president. It was all about him and his image of a spartan leader who was to cage corruption and impunity and re-secure the nation. He did not have much respect for the political party, in part because the type of people who ran all political parties were incurably similar. To the degree that it was indispensable to his personal ambition, he hopped around parties and submitted to alliances when the dynamics of power demanded. It is very likely the case that President Buhari suffers from  congenital distrust of most people who have acquired a level of affluence, influence or other assets that could be used for or against him. The president is a poor manager of loyalty and his threshold for trust defies logic. His comfort zone is extremely narrow, made from a limited reading of the human character and reinforced perceptions from his severely limited and favoured circle. He out-sources responsibilities for major decisions, and still subjects these to perennial scrutiny because he is captive to paralyzing distrust and a penchant for indecision. He appears to be more comfortable with no movement than speed that is product of other stimulants with are not under his full control. At other times, he seems contact to be in a vehicle that is virtually stationary. For a leader elected to make immediate impressions as well as lay foundations for long-term changes, these are major liabilities. Not to accept them or have them thrust in your face without options of ignoring them is unforgivable. Still President Buhari’s legion of forgiving (some would say non-discerning) followers had enough faith to trust him in 2019 with their votes. It will be interesting to find out how many of those supporters, to the degree that they understand the demands of leadership, will make excuses for the failure of President Buhari to shift gear or change style in the manner he governs the nation. Those who thought the president needed all the time in the world to appoint Ministers in 2015 because the nation is not bursting with people that met his puritanical standards must be wondering if the situation is the same, or even worse. There could be a few who have explanations regarding the failure of the President to appoint, or reappoint key aides and other appointees that do not require the involvement of the Senate in screening and confirmation. Except for Ministers, virtually every key appointee of the president are still in place. It is not necessarily the case that laws and regulations have not been broken by silence over the fate of appointees who had served in his first term. What the silence on this issue does is to suggest that like Ministers, they too are posing serious problems over decisions for a president notorious for not taking them. In a context that screams serious deterioration of the  state of national security, it is difficult to make sense of the fact that the National Security Adviser, Minister of Defence and Service Chiefs have not been told whether they will be part of the future or the past. Ministers who may have done well by the estimation of the President ought to have been returned by now. Those to be replaced ought to have been replaced. Key appointees that are involved in management of the economy, the fight against corruption and addressing rising levels of poverty should have been replaced or retained if they meet the standards of the president. The most baffling aspect of the lethargy of the president is that so much energy has gone into procuring a legislature that the president feels more comfortable with. It is fair to say that the manner the presidency and his party laboured to secure this legislature, if he sends nominations to the Senate for screening and confirmation  of Ministers at 9am,  he will get a positive response at 2pm. A legislature eager to go will only wait for the presidency to come forward for a while, otherwise it will join an arm of government that does not share the view that the administration needs a sense of urgency and a mentality that fits a nation facing major crises that cannot wait for the convenience of the president to deal with. President Buhari is not rewarding the faith of his supporters, and is not doing justice to all the promises he made a few days ago by his distant and relaxed approach to governance issues. He cannot claim that he has no powers to act. Many Nigerians will say he is not able or willing to govern owing to severe limitations in character. If they are right, then the nation has more problems than it realizes.   Abubakar wrote this piece from Abuja.

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