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Making drudgery of a presidency

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Abdulrasheed Maina


Delay is dangerous, especially in governance, and can destroy the greatest of statesmen. Hence, those who understand life say leaders are successful only when they have broken the chains of procrastination.

It is a lesson President Muhammadu Buhari is learning, if he is learning at all, at a great cost to his reputation. Even if he has earned nary a pity on his predicament, this is really the right time for him and other leaders to know that expectations of the people should not only be met but met with dispatch. Otherwise, continued delayed action which has trapped his presidency in self-inflicted crisis will do even greater damage to the nation.

Procrastination actually destroys an empire because by the time procrastinators wake up, postponed issues may have gone unmanageably viral. This is what happened when President Muhammadu Buhari delayed action on many issues, especially on the report of a panel he set up since April to investigate corruption allegations against two principal officers of his government: the head of presidential bureaucracy, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

The president took action only last week when the consequences of delay had remarkably overwhelmed his presidency, already rocked by what has become known as Mainagate, and dented further the government’s reputation.

But trouble was embedded in the Buhari presidency from the beginning on account of the drudgery the president has made of his presidency. Indeed, the crisis over mysterious reinstatement of a sacked pensions officer, Abdulrasheed Maina, who had absconded over corruption allegations, since 2013, could have been avoided too if the shop was properly manned and the office of the SGF had not been left vacant for so long.

What is more, anxiety over the Mainagate crisis grew into another genre of crisis last Wednesday when there was a reported clash between the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF), Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita and the Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari over leakage of a memo to the President – on the Maina’s recall controversy. All these have advertised presidency out of step with itself and would have been deftly prevented by a competent SGF, who is not only the strategic coordinator of national public service but also the secretary to all the government’s councils.

The SGF, a creation of the constitution, is the official head of the presidential bureaucracy and in that capacity, the coordinator of governance for the presidency. And so, the Head of the Civil Service reports to the President through the SGF. That is why any person, even a senior permanent secretary acting as SGF cannot direct the Head of the Civil Service to do any bidding. It is thus clear, in the circumstances, that the long absence of the SGF has fuelled the chaotic moments in the presidency including the credibility crisis that the reinstatement of a dismissed pensions officer through a strange letter from an unlikely quarters, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, bred. All these anomalies, of course, could not have been perpetrated if the president had acted on the report of the Vice President on the suspended SGF and Head of the NIA submitted to him since August.

Even as the President acted on the report last week and sacked Babachir David Lawal and the Director General of NIA, Ambassador Ayo Oke, appointments into the critical presidential bureaucracy are still inconclusive: Boss Mustapha has since taken office as the new SGF but the office of the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) is still vacant. The immediate past chairman retired from that office about six months ago. Indeed, there was no Chairman of the FCSC when the Attorney General’s strange letter on Maina’s reinstatement was delivered to the Federal Civil Service Commission and there was only an acting Chairman from the rank of the serving Commissioners. That is not the requirement of the constitution, which gives the Federal Civil Service Commission the responsibility to recruit, promote and discipline civil servants. The constitution provides that a substantive chairman cleared by the Senate should head the Commission.

Besides, the very important external arm of the central intelligence service, the NIA, has since April this year been vacant. The president did not fill that critical vacancy last week when Mustapha was named the SGF. Meanwhile, the Office of DG, NIA in any case, is too important to be left for an officer in an acting capacity. These are some of the glaring cases of presidential inaction or drudgery that have put Buhari’s presidency in crises.

It is indeed unfortunate that the presidency allowed these critical vacancies to linger unnecessarily. But the most worrisome has been the delay in the implementation of sundry presidential panel reports that would have settled some of the issues seamlessly. This dithering has, obviously not been helpful to the presidency and the nation. These avoidable and damaging delays are, indeed, an insult to Nigerian citizens.

By delaying information on what the truth is over the $43 million discovered in an apartment the EFCC claimed belonged to the NIA DG’s family remains unacceptable. So has been the report on corruption allegations against the former SGF, even as he has been fired and may yet face prosecution. There should not be procrastination in disseminating information that feeds democracy at a time when citizens are anxious about the effects of rampaging corruption on development. To say the least, this mismanagement of internal operations of the presidency has certainly affected the confidence building mechanism of the government of the day.

There is no doubt about who should take responsibility. The buck stops at the desk of the president. It is therefore time for president to re-examine his strategy and restructure his presidency for operational efficiency and credibility.

Certainly, elections ended since March 2015 and governance began since May that year. The nation expects internal cohesion and synergy between the governing party and the presidency on one hand and the bureaucracy and the leaders on another. This is the least Nigerians deserve if there would be any meaningful national development.

The president who has the responsibility to face the rescue of this failing nation should note that the people have already started assuming a perception of him as a time waster, even over mundane issues. From the outset, he lost time in constituting his cabinet and what Nigeria got eventually did not inspire anyone as a team of the best and the brightest.That is why he should borrow a good leaf now from Benjamin Franklin who warned procrastinators long ago that, “Diligence is the mother of good luck, and God gives all things to industry. Work while it is called today, for you know not how much you may be hindered by tomorrow. One today is worth two tomorrows; never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.”

Remarkably, the job in the hands of President Buhari, nation building, picking good team members, dealing with corruption and widespread insecurity requires utmost urgency! He should therefore put an end to procrastination, unimaginably lethal in its capacity for robbing man of time.



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