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The political bumps to avoid

By Victor Peter
21 May 2015   |   3:56 am
FEW days to the May 29 handover date, two major talking points have remained in the front burner of public discourse as Nigeria marches to a new start. Surreptitiously though, there is a third.

bumps-suebransFEW days to the May 29 handover date, two major talking points have remained in the front burner of public discourse as Nigeria marches to a new start. Surreptitiously though, there is a third.

One, the possible composition of General Muhammadu Buhari’s new cabinet  and who is qualified in character, experience, exposure and acceptability to lead the Senate, as well as the Lower House and other leaders of the legislature.

Understandably, these deserve the scrutiny and attention they are getting seeing that any mistake would spell doom and largely put a clog in the wheel of the incoming administration.

Equally, such mistakes will hamper the delivery of the much elusive dividends of democracy and put the nation at grave risk having come this far in search of a people-centred leadership.

This is why it has become expedient to expose the President-elect to some dangerous political bumps likely to pose a threat to his government; if for nothing, to assist him steady himself in this crucial time when decisions that will make or mar his administration are taken.

The covert talking point among most discerning Nigerians is the possibility of our man of the moment to rebound. Those who expressed this concern are probably fearful of his military background, forgetting that for the General to submit himself to the democratic process of selection of candidates of his party depicted readiness to abide by democratic norms.

Although only time and happenstance will vindicate him, it is critical that GMB be cautious and governs by the law of the land.

While everyone who contributed to the success of the All Progressives Congress party (APC) at the election deserves a pat on the back, a moment comes, and that moment is here, when national interest is allowed to stand taller than parochial or party interest as the nation considers who will lead in all the strategic positions in the new administration.

There is no doubt that this season calls for a deeper reflection before deciding who becomes which minister or not.

While GMB seems transparently concerned about the future and progress of Nigeria, it is not impossible that certain personalities who see the emergence of the APC as an opportunity to either accumulate more wealth or remote-control activities, might work at cross lines. These are speed brakers Buhari must be wary of.

In all democracies, beyond the passion to serve fatherland, the equitable distribution of political offices plays critical role in determining the speed, shape and manner of progress by any administration. However, this must not be above competence, dignity and resourcefulness.

Since the buck stops on the president’s table – vilified or applauded – for the success or otherwise of his government, the President-elect must take a studied look and critically examine the issues that led to the failure of President Goodluck Jonathan’s government and avoid them as best as possible.

As a highly principled and incorruptible man – character traits that endeared him to Nigerians – it is important that Buhari watches out for booby traps that some greedy and selfish politicians might put on his path to undermine him.

Not just that, it is also important to avoid walking the same path that burnt President Jonathan’s fingers and gave PDP the bloody nose it deserved.

And, one quick lesson to take away here, is that if he bends too low to feather the interest of any politician at the expense of national interest, such a politician like those who advised his predecessor will not be there when Nigerians begin to throw stones at his government when it falters.

Invariably, such a politician will not stop the PVCs when they make a return to the polling booths after four years.

There is no doubt that critical to establishing himself as a leader who means well, the President-elect must fight some urgent battles especially against graft. But care must also be taken to ensure that it is not turned into a political witch-hunt tool.

President Jonathan for instance where he ever showed the will to fight graft was deceived into fixing his guess on the wrong people, while those who walked his corridors and dined with him, daily, had their 10 fingers on the national till. It cost him re-election.

One recalls how, strangely, President Jonathan ran unjustifiably after perceived political adversaries with the EFCC, while in a typical case of double standards, his government openly fraternized with those who were arraigned, tried and convicted of financial crimes!

In Jonathan’s government, we had the allegation of missing $20 billion from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) account by former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi ignored; the banking czar was forced on compulsory leave for blowing the whistle.

The EFCC was also unleashed on Sen. Bukola Saraki of Kwara State, two years after he left office. Curiously, even when the same Saraki had got a clean bill from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2006, Jonathan’s government made him their prime target after the former governor activated the alarm over the fuel subsidy scam. Today, the same alarm has yet to stop sounding over the fuel subsidy scam!

While these cases and many more present a picture of a government that was irredeemably on auto self-destruct, perhaps, the case of Chief James Onanefe Ibori, a former governor of Delta State, typifies another wrong move in the name of anti-graft battle by the outgoing administration.

When Ibori still enjoyed a rosy relationship with President Jonathan, he was treated as a saint to a point that his case files were missing in government records! Ibori today is still serving a jail term in the United Kingdom after a ridiculous and curious trial in Nigeria.

Buhari would have to steer clear of such self-serving leadership style, for truth remains that Nigerians wanted a change and he presented a better alternative. It, therefore, means that no politician will save the President-elect from defeat if Nigerians feel he has failed to deliver on his promises.

This underscores the need to allow whatever pending cases against any politician to run full cycle without undue interference.

Indeed, in all societies that function well around the world, systems were never built around individuals, but made to be independent such that it gives everyone, irrespective of religious or party affiliations, room to achieve their God-given potential.

This is why the President-elect must ensure that the selection of ministers, advisers and aides enjoy popular participation rather than primordial sentiments.

• Victor, public commentator, writes in from Lagos