Wasteful, irrelevant visits to Aso Villa
Since President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected for a second and last term, he has been playing host to groups generally known as traditional rulers, campaign organisations, political associates, business groups and special interest groups, lobbyists, attention seekers and political jobbers. Just about everyone with some access wants to be seen to be on Buhari’s side, as loyal, besides seeking one favour or other. And of course, as the one political leader elected by popular vote across the length and breadth of the nation, he has to make time out to receive these people. To an extent, it is the right thing to do. After all, a true leader must be accessible to his followers to listen to their requests, complaints, commendation, sycophancy and related matters.
One of such visiting groups recently was a certain Progressives in Academics (ProAcad) led by one Dr. Bolarinwa Bolaji and which like others visited the president and according to reports, offered a number of proposals that included how to tackle the challenge of Almajiri system. The most extraordinary idea from these ‘academics’ however, was a bizarre suggestion that Buhari should begin to groom a successor.
Coming up only two months into a fresh four-year tenure, this proposition is ridiculous and absurd. Indeed, the president, possibly taken aback by such an abnormal suggestion, found it so, for he was quoted as saying that, “To me, this is very funny. I think if I identify anybody, I’d create more problems for him or her.” Buhari was only being polite not to describe the ProAcad suggestion in a word appropriate to its despicability. But he is right, if recent experience on political godfather-godson relationships is an indicator.
That a group of highly educated persons (which, we should think, academics are) would make this proposition in a country that is run by not a monarchy or an autocracy, not an oligarchy or a stratocracy but constitutional democracy operated by representative government elected by popular vote, we dare to say that these intellectuals are a disappointment to all that intellectualism stands for. Pray, does it require such deep thought to grasp that, in Nigeria’s current system of government, the successor grooming is, in principle, antithetical to the openness, free choice and open competition that underpin a democratic practice.
A conscientious student of Nigerian politics in recent times would see how much of a woeful failure such ‘successor grooming’ effort has failed, to the chagrin of both the groomer and the groomed. An example is the bitter disagreement between so-called political godfathers and godsons, which occurs so often on the landscape of Nigerian politics. Against this backdrop, it is both unintelligent and unpatriotic to push this idea to the president. Dr. Bolaji and his group have, by this untoward proposition, seriously detracted from whatever value they can possibly add to Buhari’s government specifically and good governance generally.
To meet the highest public officer in the land should enable the most beneficial use of opportunity by intellectuals to offer S.M.A.R.T- guided solutions to the challenges of governance and to make requests in the interest of the greatest number of citizens. ProAcad failed woefully in this respect and wasted a rare chance to even exhibit some intellectual rigour. This is pitiable. We choose to believe though that this group is not typical of Nigerian academics.
As earlier noted, the president of the country is a’ man of the people’ and he should, as much reasonably possible, avail himself of the chance to meet them. It is good public relations. But taken too far, as it appears to be lately, it becomes empty public relations and a waste of precious executive time. And in truth, a president’s time is supposed to be highly valuable.
Buhari is not elected to receive an endless stream of visitors. He is elected to govern the country in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution. There is enough work in this regard such that he can minimally spare time for this particular type of visits. In this regard, it is important to note that the president is the one who should plan to meet with different interest groups and the people in their domains when it is expedient to do so. He has been given the resources to do so. The people have the right to ask their leader to visit them. Nigerians should allow him face the job at this time. The president needs his precious time to think through burning issues of national interest and respond with the required sense of urgency and responsibility –including constituting within the shortest time, a cabinet to assist him run the country. Regrettably, this is a constitutional stipulation that the president has been unable to meet three months into his second term.
There is so much work to do to repair the systemic dysfunction of Nigeria at this time. Whereas there shall never be an end to requests to have an audience with him, we urge Buhari to shun distractions and focus forthwith, on the job he is elected to do.
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