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Buhari’s self-defence on appointments, infrastructure

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President Muhammadu Buhari. Photo/TWITTER/NIGERIAGOV

President Muhammadu Buhari has had cause lately, to defend his six-year tenure against accusation of nepotism and glaring discrimination against sections of the country that he was elected and on oath to govern ‘‘without fear or favour.’’ The president is quoted to say through a high official of his government that ‘‘so far, all the policy initiatives, projects and even appointments by this administration have been guided by equity and inclusiveness. There is actually no part of the country that has not been impacted positively in the area of infrastructure, agriculture and economic support initiative based on [the] peculiarities of the regions…’’.

It is unfortunate indeed that the president of the republic feels compelled to defend himself on an issue that should not even arise at all in a well-run constitutional democracy.  Buhari, in his capacity as the president of Nigeria, is the only elected public officer with the broadest nationwide mandate to serve the people. This given, a president, in his high office, stands on a unique pedestal and bears a correspondingly exceptional responsibility to meet countrywide expectations.

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On the strength of the copious provisions of the Constitution upon which his democratically elected government is legally rooted, a president of Nigeria has his duties and responsibilities defined and well cut out for him. In this context, the very first duty of Buhari’s government is to ensure, at all times and at all places, ‘‘the security and welfare of the people.’’  The constitutional procedure to this broad end is well defined variously in sections and sub-sections under the ‘‘Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.’’  The composition of the Government of the Federation is supposed to ‘‘reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there is no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.’’

Section 15(2) enjoins ‘‘national integration’’ and prohibits the State (under the sitting government) from ‘‘discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties…’’ Subsection 4 requires the State, again through the government of the day, to ‘‘foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various peoples of the Federation, to the end that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties.’’ Section 16(2) (b) demands of the State that ‘‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.’’ Of course the State is an entity that functions through the officials of the constitutionally elected government of the day. This is to say that the State is only as true to the spirit and letter of the Constitution as its operating officials of government allow.

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Besides the obligations stated above, a president is, on his personal honour and integrity, on oath to carry them out ‘‘faithfully,’’ to ‘‘not allow (his) personal interest to influence (his) official conduct or (his) official decisions,’’  ‘‘to do right to all manner  of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will…’’

It is not a especial achievement that ‘‘all policy initiatives, projects and even appointments (of a government operation under the rule of law) are guided by equity and inclusiveness.’’ This is the constitutional injunction, this is the spirit of democratic governance, this is an inevitable presidential ‘burden’ and this is what leaders, on oath, do.

If, in his six or so years as president, Mr. Buhari has carried on and been seen to so do, in line with  these and other  constitutional injunctions, there cannot at all be a basis for the widespread  and near-deafening  complaint against his administration; and, for that matter, there would not be the need for a self-defending plea. An entity that is governed based on equity is easily visible as such.    There are essentially two issues at stake here: Appointments and infrastructure distribution. No one will deny that this government has appointed persons from places across Nigeria into public office; no one can deny that this government has sited structures in places all over Nigeria.  To do so would be preposterous. But Buhari can and should simply disprove and shut critics up with facts and figures.

Instead of straining itself with broad claims and assertions, the most convincing way that the Buhari government can dispel public misconception of its efforts is to first, publish, by name, state and local government area, a detailed list of heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government it has appointed since it came into government in 2015. Second, publish according to location in state and local government area, a detailed list of (a) the projects and the monetary values of the projects this government initiated and (b) inherited and completed.

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The contract Buhari and his APC government have with the people contained in the party manifesto. And this should be a key guiding document to what the government does. Under ‘‘Job Creation and the Economy,’’ the party committed itself to ‘‘balance the economy across region by the creation of six Regional Economic Development Agencies (REDAs) to act as champions of sub-regional competitiveness’’ under ‘‘Agriculture and Food Security,’’ the party promised to ‘‘modernise the sector and change Nigeria from being a country of self-subsistence farmers to that of a medium /commercial scale farming nation/producer.’’  In terms of ‘Infrastructure,’ the APC would ‘‘generate, transmit and distribute from the current 5,000-6,000 MW to at least 20,000 MW electricity  within  four years and increasing to 50,000MW with a view to achieving  24/7 uninterrupted power supply within ten years…’; ‘‘embark on a National Infrastructure Development Programme  as a PPP that will ensure  the (a)  the construction of  3,000 km  of Superhighway including service trunks and (b)  building of up to 4,800 km of modern railway lines, one third to be completed by 2019.’’

More than half a decade after, how well these and other party promises have been kept is out there for eyes to see, ears to hear and hands to touch. A promise freely given is a debt; it is only honourable to redeem it. By doing the needful, defence is needless.

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