President Buhari: Heads of State are never weaker than in their final days in office
President Muhammadu Buhari should not be impeached. But he must be given the ultimatum to use his final weeks in office to deliver real change for Nigerians.
I have never understood the concept of a lame duck presidency.
Accepted wisdom is that Heads of State are never weaker than in their final days in office, as the authority drains away leaving them “yesterday’s man” – even if they aren’t leaving office until tomorrow.
I have always felt that this was misguided. The greatest of leaders should never be stronger than at the end of their premierships.
In his book “Profiles of Courage” United States President John F Kennedy articulated how the finest of statesmen are those who are willing to take necessary but unpopular decisions, even at the expense of their own political futures.
If you don’t have a political future, you are surely free to take whatever action is necessary in the national interest – no matter how electorally unpopular.
This means that President Buhari actually has a vital window of opportunity to make the kind of decisions his successors may feel unable to – in doing so creating a lasting legacy for himself as president. He no longer needs to consider the needs of voters or vested interests; just the nation.
And even his most vociferous critics should be prepared to work with him.
Elsewhere in the United States, Kennedy’s successor Lyndon B Johnson actively decided not to stand for re-election in order to allow himself to dedicate his final months in office to negotiating a peace settlement in Vietnam, which could have involved decisions which would have been electorally ruinous. In doing so he started a path to peace which would eventually be completed by his successors.
President Buhari has the opportunity to do something similar.
This is why calls to impeach him are as undesirable as they are impractical.
But even though a motion from opposition senators to give the President six-weeks to improve security in Nigeria or face impeachment seems to have stalled, the idea of forcing Buhari from office ahead of his scheduled departure next year is now firmly on the agenda. The legislators behind the move have announced that they “won’t back down”. Their efforts have the backing of prominent Nigerian’s such as Wole Soyinka – and even senators from the President’s own party – even though some constitutional efforts have described them as “technically impossible”.
These calls are not without cause. Try as he might, President Buhari has ultimately failed to resolve a whole range of security problems, ranging from Islamic insurgency in the northeast to mass school abductions in the northwest.
On top of that, recent figures suggest the cost of living has risen by 170 per cent in Nigeria under his leadership.
But the fact is that any move to impeach Buhari would require support by two-thirds of senators. This is never going to happen. And the process for it not happening would in all likelihood take up around seven months of legislative and executive time – when President Buhari only has nine months left in office anyway!
More importantly, Nigerians want their elected officials to be focussed on delivery, not deviousness.
At my political engagement app Rate Your Leader – which allows verified voters to interact directly – and in an abuse-proof way with their local leaders, allowing politicians to carry out a data-driven analysis of what matters most to the people who elect them – the message is loud and clear than voters want politicians to show leadership, and political parties to work together in the national interest. Shenanigans like this – and indeed the President’s response that his opponents are “babyish” – do not impress them at all.
History many not view the Buhari presidency as a success – despite recent endeavours towards improved energy resilience, such as accelerating the use of solar power in the national energy grid, and in his launching of the End Malaria in Nigeria council.
But there is still time for him to bequeath a peaceful nation to his successor and his citizens.
But this will need focussed bipartisan effort. Not legislative scheming.