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An example of profligacy

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Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. PHOTO: SEYLLOU / AFP

On August 16, 2017, there were news reports that some Federal Government officials took their documents to ailing President Muhammadu Buhari in London for his signature. That action was flabbergasting, because it was a clear case of bare-faced profligacy. They wasted money and time and insulted the intelligence of Nigerians.

When the President was travelling abroad for his medical treatment on May 7, 2017, he said that the length of his stay in London would be determined by his medical team. Therefore, he transmitted a letter to the National Assembly in that respect. The Senate declared that Professor Yemi Osinbajo would function as the Acting President pending the return of Buhari from the medical vacation. The upper legislative chamber appropriately over-ruled Buhari’s statement that Osinbajo would only “co-ordinate the affairs of government as Vice President.”

Some northern elders, on May 11, vowed to defend Buhari’s presidency by resisting any move to undermine the current administration on account of President Buhari’s ill-health. What do we , as Nigerian public, find today? The action of the Federal Government officials in taking documents to the President on his sick bed in London to sign, is pregnant with many implications. For President Buhari to hand-over the affairs of the country to Yemi Osinbajo indicates the robust confidence of the former in the latter. What those itinerant officials made us understand was that they had no confidence in the Acting President. Such situation is unfortunate. Consequent upon that, it boils down to the fact that the Federal Government officials were lacking confidence in Buhari himself.

Another implication of the officials’ action is that it was a wasteful exercise. This is so, because the government officials must have expended a lot of money on their air transport to London; also their hotel bills for some days must be stupendous, let alone the inconveniences created for the recuperating President. This is saying that the journey to London must be shrouded in self-service, smacking of corruption. Equally, some extraneous activities might have taken place. For instance, possible windfall profits from the journey might have permitted few personal shopping in London and attendances to private matters.

The number of days spent in London must be deducted from the official annual leave. Further, the unholy trip to London was a veiled attempt to tactically assess the level of health of the President, for possible discussions and comments inside watering holes. An Australian journalist, Sydney Keith Harris, said “In news-reporting, there is the tendency to distort facts from persons to persons.” I agree with him because distortion of information can create paroxysms of hate in the minds of the public. This was what that trip could have engendered.

The reports revealed that it was not the first time such bizarre trips to present documents to the President in London would be taking place. Only this time around, President Buhari felt it was necessary to chide the culprits and to publicise their extravagant action in order to put an end to it. In my opinion, the recession in the country must serve as a catapult to economic greatness, provided our leaders care to learn their lessons. But they are not prepared to do so, as typified by the officials’ junket. Some members of the public have even recommended that the profligate spending be retrieved from the culprits, in addition to their being dismissed from their offices.

Suffice to say they must not go unpunished. Even they would not be relieved of their offices , it is important to punish them by requiring them to refund the ill-gotten windfalls. President Muhammadu Buhari is the third of my heroes in Nigerian politics after the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Alhaji Lateef ‘Kayode Jakande, former Lagos State governor. These leaders were known for their uprightness and altruism. They were well-meaning as public servants. In a country that is racked by recession, Nigeria could not afford to operate two Presidencies – one in Abuja and the other in London.

That would have been profligate spending. Therefore, the culprits must be made to refund the incurred expenses to deter others in future and bring some sanity into public service.

Oshisada, a veteran journalist, wrote from Ikorodu, Lagos.



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