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Serve in deed and in truth!

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Buhari signing the 2019 Budget of N8.92 trillion, into Law. Photo/Twiter/AsoRock

As President Muhammadu Buhari commences his second and final term in office today, it is a despondent and, at the same time, an exultant people who are casting a retrospective glance at governance in the last four years, bemoaning the pains of the first term and dancing over the return of the man they trusted four years ago and still trust today to chart a course for the future.  

Whether he knows it or not, and he is better off knowing it, the burden on Mr. President’s shoulders is enormous. Expectations are higher than ever before. The pen and the paper are, therefore, being handed him today to write his name on the glorious side of history or on the more easily accessible ignominious side of it.

No doubt, the groundswell of opinion is that the Nigerian people were shortchanged in the fundamentals of governance by the failure of the Buhari administration to deliver the change promised during the campaigns before it took office four years ago.

The first sign of inherent weakness was the six-month wait before constituting his cabinet, a conclave that turned out to be far from stellar by any stretch of the imagination.

Governance entails prompt and efficient response to the issues of the day as they affect the quality of life of the citizenry. A nation, which runs a structurally defective government, is unlikely to deliver the dividends of democracy particularly in a multicultural setting like Nigeria’s.  

To put it succinctly, Nigeria has not operated a genuine federal system of government and remains a lie unto itself, thereby making administration of the country an unproductive and progress-retarding one of unitary command and control.

Every month, the states converge on Abuja to share the proceeds of oil in a most bizarre and unproductive manner.

Real initiatives have hardly ever been taken to enrich the nation and its constituent parts. Hardly have concrete steps been taken to develop alternative sources of funding. There has been no vision or inspiration behind the policies of government to engender confidence. So, the next four years should not be business as usual as there should be a radical departure from this docility and lack of creativity that have come to define the nation’s warped federal system. 

The Buhari administration has also failed to reflect the federal nature of the Republic in national and presidential appointments into key offices.

For instance, all but two of the heads of security agencies are from one section of the country, sign-posting defective national security architecture in a plural society. There remains, therefore, a sense of alienation and division made worse by the refusal of the president to change course after much public outcry.

The economy has been in dire straits as seen in unemployment levels and other economic indicators.

Corruption remains a recurring decimal. There has been some disconnect between the leaders and the governed. There has been a threat to the rule of law, and the deepening of cleavages in the country. These are undeniable symptoms of bad governance. The root of this malaise is simply and squarely near-absence of economic growth.

Economic growth should mean the happiness and progress of all. This, certainly, is not the case in Nigeria today. Along with economic growth, there should be development of arts and culture, literature and education, science and technology. The many resources of Nigeria must be harnessed for achieving common good and for inclusive growth.  

It is one of the tragedies of African nations, especially in the post-independence era that the fundamentals of governance are often observed in the breach than in the observance of the social contract between elected officials and the people.

The African philanthropist and businessman, Mo Ibrahim, has observed that: “There is a crisis of leadership and governance in Africa and we must face it.”

Governance entails a ‘responsive system’ in the action or manner of administering a country or a state, which is anchored on the premise that the governed are entitled to a modicum of care and attention from the officials of state.

The goal of governance is to create an egalitarian society in which the security of life and property is guaranteed. The last four years have been horrendous in terms of security owing to an apparent disconnect between Aso Rock and the ills that assail the suffering people of Nigeria.

Governance, it must be noted here, suffered in the first two years of the Buhari administration when he routinely flew out of the country for medical checks.

Between June 2016 and August 2017, the president spent about 192 days abroad without disclosing the nature of his health challenge to the Nigerian people. He also failed to transmit power to the Vice President as required by the Constitution on some occasions. This cavalier attitude to constitutional provisions seems to be characteristic of the nature and person of Buhari and must stop in the new term.

In his continued indifference to the necessary restructuring of Nigeria, Buhari seems to believe that the 1999 Constitution is safe in the falsehood of its annoying opening statement: ‘We the People…”

As the world knows, the people of Nigeria did not produce that document. It was imposed by military rulers who held the nation captive for decades, until May 29, 1999.  This lie must be admitted for what it is and that Constitution must change! 

Democracy thrives on the rule of law, guided by the doctrine of separation of powers. It is the conscious decision of the people and their leaders to subject their political future to the power of the ballot box.  

In the last four years, the president and the executive officers at all levels have shown great disdain for the niceties of the law as enshrined in the nation’s constitution, especially respect for the legislative and the judicial arms of government.

Let it be known that the spirit of democracy has to be nurtured and grown. It was Aristotle the philosopher who opined that, “for each government has a peculiar character which originally formed and which continues to preserve it.

The character of democracy creates democracy, and the character of oligarchy creates oligarchy.” It is this character that Mr. President has refused to subject himself to, thereby showing traces of autocracy and denying democracy the depth of root as well as the height of majesty it deserves.

Some citizens have remained under lock and key in spite of several court orders that they should be released. Sambo Dasuki, former National Security Adviser (NSA) and Shi’ite leader, El ZakyZaky are two examples of infinite disregard for court orders.

The executive arm has simply ignored the orders without any convincing explanations or recourse to a higher court for a revocation of the release orders. This is unacceptable and should not be part of the narrative in the next four years of Nigeria’s democratic experience.

In any democracy, the law is supreme, and all other human considerations are subsumed under the law. The American revolutionary, Thomas Paine, once observed that, “for as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other.”

President Buhari must learn how to work with the legislature and stop blaming the legislature for his limitations in budgetary performance even when he hardly submitted budget bills in good time for rapid scrutiny.

The nation first entrusted leadership to Buhari because he promised to be a man for or leader of all. Unfortunately, he has hardly lived up to this promise as he appears to have slid into the mould of a sectional president by default or design.

Indicted officials from other parties suddenly became saints once they decamped to his ruling party. Political appointments have been skewed in favour of some sections or states where he received the highest votes. Bad image for him.

Whether by design or default President Buhari has promoted the narrative that he is incapable of effectively containing the menace of violent herdsmen who have taken impunity to the basest level.

Across the country, they show up at the most unexpected spots and kidnap commuters or attack farmers and communities in different states. There has been few or no arrest or prosecution of any herdsman and the perception is that the president is partial. This is dangerous to national cohesion and stability and it is time to rise and save Nigeria.

There is a palpable feeling of helplessness in the land. The leaders of tomorrow are leaving the country in their thousands, migrating through the hazardous and dangerous routes of the desert across the Mediterranean to Europe or the Americas. Suicide rates have increased because the government appears to offer no hope to the people.

Buhari must address this disconnect as he enters the next phase. Pope Francis’s exhortation on the social contract does bear iteration here: “Every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.” 

Certainly, Nigeria deserves much more than he has offered so far, from a man who has had the luck of leading a country first as an autocrat, running four times for it, before being popularly elected a democratic president and now for a second term! No one is more morally instructed and historically mandated to unite Nigeria and make the nation more prosperous than Muhammadu Leko Buhari!

Good governance is a duty he owes a people who elected him on a platform of reform and change. As he receives the instruction for another four years to be the apostle of change, Buhari, from this day, should simply proceed to obey, serve Nigeria, in deed and in truth!


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