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BuhariWatch: ‘A period of consequences’ – Part 1

By Martins Oloja
16 September 2018   |   3:55 am
The title of this piece is taken from a speech in the House of Commons in late 1936 in which Winston Churchill, the then British Prime Minister warned: “The era of procrastination...

[FILE PHOTO] President Muhammadu Buhari. PHOTO/TWITTER/APCng

The title of this piece is taken from a speech in the House of Commons in late 1936 in which Winston Churchill, the then British Prime Minister warned: “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”

There is a correlation between what Churchill warned his people about in 1936 and what Nigeria’s leadership is offering us at the moment. There are reasons to believe that the president and leaders of his party, still do not understand what former U.S President, Barack Obama implied when he said that, ‘elections have consequences’. More critical now is that they are still not aware that the era of procrastination, the period of half measures and propaganda in political communication have come to an end.
Too bad they still do not know that we have actually entered a period of consequences, yes consequences for their actions – since 2015.

In the beginning, there was a warning about the implications of a mediocre presidential bureaucracy. It was noted on this platform that the first Secretary to the Government of the Federation was not competent to hold that office. One of the reasons for that conclusion was that the SGF was never in the mainstream public service and since he would have to supervise about eight permanent secretaries, for instance, it would be difficult for him to cope with that tough job. Then, when there was an undue delay in appointing the SGF too, we drew attention to the risks in allowing the Office of the Head of Service to be issuing statements about the presidential bureaucracy instead of the SGF. They didn’t listen. It will be recalled too that this column drew attention to the fact that even the Chairperson of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) then was too old and too weak to be operationally efficient as an executive boss. I had then noted that the combined effects of an inexperienced SGF, docile Head of Service and fragile Chairperson of Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) would result in an inefficient presidential bureaucracy. I had added then predicted a preponderance of spirit of errors in the office of the president, which would be largely run by yet another inexperienced Chief of Staff, who was a journalist and bank chief (from the top).

The first SGF’s inexperience showed quickly in a grass-cutting scandal that was avoidable. Even the replacement for the SGF was said to be a better person but still incompetent as he too never worked in the mainstream civil service beyond winding down of the then office of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) where the current Head of Service too worked as an accountant – when the President was its Chairman under the Abacha regime.
What was worse, since March 2017, the term of office of the Chairman of the FCSC expired. She was replaced barely two months ago when Dr. Bello Tukur Ingawa was nominated to the Senate. He has not been screened. In other words, President Buhari’s presidential bureaucracy comprising the SGF’s office, the engine room, the office of Head of Civil Service of the Federation Service and the Federal Civil Service Commission – has been a very week one. And that has been largely responsible for a lot of institutional weaknesses that have marked the administration.

We drew attention to this several times. But this administration doesn’t work with groundswell of public and expert opinion. Had there been a sound presidential bureaucracy headed by a resourceful SGF, even the fake NYSC certificate scandal could have been resolved before the provocative and self-serving insults of some law professors and presidential advisers worsened the former Minister of Finance’s burden of guilt. I have covered the presidency long enough (for three decades) to know that an experienced and artful SGF could have resolved that with the NYSC even after a revelation by the news media.
After all, a serving Director General of Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NIBRRI), Abuja, Dr. Joseph Ali, was made to do his National Youth Service while in office as DG under President Obasanjo. NYSC has the details of when Dr. Ali was reported to have evaded the compulsory service.

Here is the thing, the Buhari administration saw last Friday just one of the consequences of allowing mediocrity as a fundamental objective of the presidential bureaucracy.

It’s same for the unresolved clearance of the EFCC Acting Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, who has been acting since November 2015. Lack of dynamic capability needed in the presidential bureaucracy has been responsible for the humiliation of Magu since 2015. The senate acting on two separate letters from the DSS DG then, Lawal Daura, twice rejected his nomination and a federal court of record has reaffirmed the power of the senate to reject and confirm Magu’s nomination. But the law professors who are part of the president’s problem have said the law does not matter, the president should keep him. Sooner than later, they will know the consequences of procrastination in lobbying the Senate to confirm Magu, who has been working very hard for the presidency. Yes, this is a period of consequences!

In early 2015, not a few people were concerned about president’s penchant for appointing core northerners and Muslims as chief executives of government agencies and departments. But enthusiastic ‘Buharists’ said the concerned people should shut up and allow the man to choose those he would like to work with – to change Nigeria. It was so worrisome at a time that a major newspaper on August 1, 2016 wrote an editorial on ‘Buhari’s parochial appointments’. The remarkable editorial followed a July 10, 2016 report: ‘Buhari’s appointments: A Tilt towards the North’.

Before the editorials on sectionalism, parochialism and nepotism, signs of tyranny and undemocratic cultures had begun to show through the then Director General of Department of State Services (DSS) who began his job noisily in September 2015 when his men invaded the Akwa Ibom State Governor’s House in Uyo and raided the guest lodges therein in a commando-like manner. The DSS operatives then stormed the place, breaking doors and windows without the knowledge of the State Governor or the State Police Commissioner. The Service claimed to have found some caches of arms and stacks of hard currency, which nobody saw till date. This story came at a time the nation was still waiting for details of the drama of the DSS arrest of former National Security Adviser, (NSA) Sambo Dasuki, who was charged with unlawful possession of arms and ammunition and money laundering. He is still in detention.

While that nation was still smarting from the Daura’s incipient tyranny, the man, Daura showed part of the stuff he would be made of when two months after the Uyo operation, he got DSS operatives to throw out a former Director General of the same DSS from his 50, Alexander Street, Ikoyi home, Lagos despite a subsisting court order barring such irrational act.
Specifically, Are, the DG, DSS under former President Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999-2007, was reportedly thrown out of that official quarters on December 2, on the orders of Daura who had asked him to leave the said quarters, allocated to him(Are) in 2010 by Ita Ekpeyong, Daura’s immediate predecessor in office. Are was said to have claimed a right to occupy the house in line with a provision in the service, which permits all its retired DGs to live throughout their life time, in the apartments allocated to them. It is a subsisting condition of service. But the action of Daura then was so brazen as reported that Tell, a news magazine wrote a two-page editorial as its front cover story: ‘Saving DSS from Daura’ in its December 21, 2015 issue. News magazines rarely writes editorial as its front cover. Tell concludes in the significant editorial that, ‘…We fear that the DSS under Daura will continue to embarrass Buhari and the country if he is not called to order or removed entirely…”

But no one called Daura to order in this democracy until the same DSS operatives invaded the residence of Supreme/Court of Appeal Justices in a ‘sting operation’ and arrested seven Judges on allegation of corruption and false declarations in October 2016. Some of the judges’ doors were smashed in another commando-like style in their official quarters. Most of the pieces of evidence said to have been picked up from the judges’ closets were never tendered during their prosecution. To this again, Tell wrote another two –page editorial: ‘Saving Nigeria from the DSS’. The editorial in its October 31, 2016 edition concludes that, ‘The point needs be much stressed as the President’s body language here, in the absence of any official statement, seems too tolerant of the appearances of the DSS’ resort to grave extra-legal excesses, especially of the use of force and nocturnal tactical escapades – practices now in overdrive – in the arrest of persons presumed innocent by law’. The man, Daura has just been removed and replaced as a consequence of his lawlessness and arrogance.

Despite the complaints and fear of northern domination of the polity, President Buhari has not relented in appointing key chief executives who are mostly from sections of North West and North East – who are also Muslims. A list of most of these presidential appointments can be embarrassing but the most fearful one in this election year, which will definitely affect perception of people about President Buhari’s suitability for a second term is the list of security and intelligence chiefs in a complex federation like this: The National Security Adviser, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Director General, DSS, Director General, NIA, Inspector General of Police, Comptrollers- General, Customs, Prisons and Immigration, Minister of Defence, Minister of Interior, Civil Defence Commandant General, Director, Chief of Defence Intelligence, etc, are all mostly from the far North. Besides, they are mostly Muslims. These are officers of the law of Nigeria who will be trusted to over see security arrangements for the next elections all over the country. Again, in this period of consequences, President Buhari who has not lived up to his promise to be a president for the nation in his inaugural speech will see some consequences of all these parochial appointments. At his inauguration, the president said, ‘I belong to everybody and belong to nobody’. Is this promise still credible? Is Buhari’s integrity overrated?

Next week, we will continue with this conversation on how the President’s other performance indices will impact on this period of consequences.