A presidency and its contradictions
APC! Change! The crowds were mammoth and so was the frenzy generated by the idea of the new coalition which had as its presidential flag bearer, a man reputed to possess the talisman that will conjure out of existence, all the problems of the country.
Today, Nigeria is directly experiencing the Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari which was built on great expectations. Alas, the presidency has been mired in incredible contradictions.
The presidency of a nation carries its sovereignty and in most cases, come with humongous powers. In Nigeria, the presidency is a leviathan. Because the presidency is an administrative or governmental entity that surrounds the office of the president of a nation or state usually personified by a man or a woman elected for such purpose, it is usually powerful and awe-inspiring. The news making the roundabout rodents eating up the office of President Muhammadu Buhari is a new low that we never bargained for in this administration.
Sometimes, we wonder what might be going through the minds of people of power and their handlers when they do certain things. When the news filtered in, the reaction was a mixed one. The news elicits both a sort of disbelief and at the same time uproarious laughter because of its incredulity. We never thought that a time will come in this country that such lines will emanate from the governing authority. In an administration that budgets billions of naira for environmental services in the Aso Rock villa, rodents ravaging the office of the President to such an extent that major renovations become imperative is a sad development. What sorts of media handlers are these? Is mediocrity so pervasive in Nigeria that the pinnacle of power in the country is not spared the unfortunate reality?
President Muhammadu Buhari came to power on a groundswell of hopes, expectations and goodwill but the way and manner he has been going about the administration of the country leaves so much to be desired. Nigerians voted out a president that was thought to be clueless, colourless and incompetent and the hopes and expectations of the people were that the APC and more specifically, President Buhari will be antitheses of the ousted leader and sacked political party. Strangely, for a President and a party that came to power on a mantra of change, a good many things about the administration have portended grave contradictions.
The President has been sick and we all wish him well, at least majority of Nigerians wish him well so that he can have the stamina to govern and deliver on his promises. But the secrecy that shrouded his sickness seems quite unnecessary. In an age when information is the currency of the government and at a time when leadership is measured by such things as openness, accountability, transparency and responsiveness, such nondisclosure is never a plus to the administration.
Part of the talking points of the APC during the last election was the embarrassing level of medical tourism among Nigerians, particularly the political elites. But in the second medical vacation of the President, he spent more than 100 days in London where he was receiving treatment. The absence of information about the status of the President’s health gave room to wild rumours and insinuations about his well-being. Initially, those around him were mute and when questions were being asked, they began to release pictures that did more harm than good about his true state of health. This erroneous interface with the public on the President’s health was followed by the pilgrimage of the political class to Abuja House in London to catch a glimpse of him. It was such a huge honour to the select few among the public officials who got such honour as to have a glimpse of the President. All these could have been managed better. The dwindling goodwill or public opinion rating of the President could have been saved so also the taxpayers money that were spent by the public officials who relished the pilgrimage to the President in London.
The President’s speech on return to the country has been mired in controversy. While some hailed the 6 minute – long speech, others have given it a putdown. The attempt by the police to gag the ‘OurMumuDonDo’ coalition that was protesting the prolonged absence of the President from his duty post was in bad taste. The fact that the police gave protection to the counter protesters who came to support the President while mishandling the Charly Boy -led protest was egregious. The right to peaceful protest is inherent in democracy as it is inalienable in man.
For the sake of posterity, our leaders should wean themselves off the monarchical instincts that seem to drive their interactions with us. When addressing the nation, My Dear Citizens is inappropriate. Fellow Citizens would have been better. No President or Governor is a monarch in our constitutional democracy. They are all in power by virtue of the people’s will, therefore, the people must be respected not only as the real sovereign but also as the employer of these public officials. That is the minimum standard that should not be breached again.
To be frank, Nigeria is presently facing serious existential challenges that require tact and forthrightness to address. Being stuck with the idea that Nigeria’s unity is settled and non-negotiable is erroneous. Nothing is settled about our Unity. The numerous agitations and fissiparous tendencies within the country belie such position and mindset.
President Buhari cannot claim ignorance of the cries for the restructuring of this country before his election and restructuring was part of the carrots dangled before the electorates by his party, All Progressives Congress(APC), in the run-up to the last election cycle. The President should again wean himself off such illusion of unity of the country. The country is anything but united.
However, what partisanship could do to the psyche of people is quite worrisome. Despite the annoying romance of APC with blunders and the unforced errors of President Muhammadu Buhari, some dye- in- the wool supporters of the President are incapable of seeing any wrong in the administration nor are they ready to tolerate opinions that run contrary to their perception of the President’s leadership style. Such hailers (the adjective for Buhari supporters on the social media) are anything but patriotic. Blind loyalty is a disservice to both the President and the nation. Such disposition will make the President set in his beliefs and worldviews and render him incapable of considering alternative view points while the nation suffers collateral damage for such rigidity in thoughts.
The wailers (those who will never see any good in the President), who in most cases, members and sympathisers of the Peoples Democratic Party, are pure mischief makers as they find it difficult to come to terms with their loss of power. Being in opposition does not preclude rationality from public engagement. Deliberate fabrication of rumours and willful distortion of truth are as deadly as blind loyalty. The two are at variance with patriotism.
The continuous romance of the APC- led federal government with blunders has once again strengthened the narrative of persistent slide in leadership quality globally. Today, from the East to the West, and from the North to the South, the world is alarmed at the level of mediocrity and incompetence that characterise the leadership of many countries. Those that are not plunging their nations into debts and economic guagmires are busy erecting walls and amplifying imaginary differences that divide humanity. In Nigeria, at the local levels and micro units of the society, what are in bold display are incompetence, mediocrity, oppression and exploitation. No wonder the country is in a mess. No level of the society is spared of this lamentable decadence in quality of leadership and unintelligent decision making in administration.
Dealing with the identified menace of declining quality in leadership requires improving our educational system and strengthening the processes of our socialisation.
On a final note, President Muhammadu Buhari is half-way into his administration, despite his best efforts, a lot more still needed to be done. It is hoped that the President will reach deeper within himself and summon the courage and resourcefulness needed to discharge creditably the hopes reposed in him by the people of this country.
God bless Nigeria.
Toyyib wrote from Owo, Ondo State.