Buhari Can’t Effect Any Change Using Same Old Method – Ogunye | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Buhari Can’t Effect Any Change Using Same Old Method – Ogunye

Posted: Jun 6, 2016 at 4:00 am   /   by   /   comments (16)

Barrister Jiti Ogunye, is a Lagos-based constitutional lawyer. In this interview with TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, he spoke on President Muhammadu Buhari’s one year in office and other critical issues. Excerpts:

It is over a year that President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn-in. How will you assess his performance so far?

Now I know that it is customary to do the assessment of an administration after the usual 100 days in office, one year, two years, mid-term assessment and then at the completion of the term.  So, it is appropriate that Nigerians are assessing this administration one year after the administration came to power.  My own assessment is as follows. One, sadly, this administration has not engaged in the task of reengineering statecraft, our politics, our economy and reengineering our society  with the speed, urgency and the critical state of our situation require. And so, it is fair to say that starting off, this administration has been lethargic, sometimes tentative and very casual in its approach to the need to reinvent governance. Change connotes transformation, a transmutation from one form to the other. It suggests that indeed, there is a movement from one position to another. So, when during the electioneering campaign, Nigerians were told that there is going to be a change, people expected that there will be swiftness in bringing about that change.  Change does not mean change in presidency. In its true intent, it means a change across the board, horizontally and vertically. As I have stated, unfortunately, we have not seen that speed and the swiftness of action that we ought to have seen.  We can give examples. One notorious one which we live through and is now behind us was how long it took this administration to form a government. We didn’t like it because we thought this administration should have hit the ground running.  The explanation that the president has given is that he had to take stock. He said there was no proper handing over to him; that he had to be debriefing permanent secretaries to know what was going on in government. And that what they have come to learn, they by their own self discovery; not through handing over note. This is true because nobody was going to put in a handing over note that they stole the humongous amount that we now learnt they stole.  Who will write in a handing over note that the money that was budgeted for fighting insurgency was shared and used to fund elections? So, the Buhari administration has to discover through intelligence gathering, anti- corruption agencies and other means and they were able to piece together the information they need to run government.  But in spite of that, my submission is that the administration could have been more speedy, recognising that we are talking about a wasting asset. A four-year term mandate is a wasting asset; you have to use it with speed, diligence, integrity and the awareness that the urgency of now and our dire situation requires that we must act fast.  As a matter of fact, if other countries had the luxury of time to attend to their situation, we don’t have it, given where we are now.

How has he fared on the issue of security?

This administration came principally to deal with three things- One, security; two, economy and three; corruption. As much as this administration has tried to deal with the challenge of insecurity, in particular Boko Haram, for which rightly, I give this administration a passmark, it does appear to me that the administration in tandem with the change objective has not realised that going forward, we will have to overhaul completely our security apparatus in order to make the country secure. Security is not brought about only by waging a war, which is necessary. The war against Boko Haram is a necessary war because the insurgents declared war on Nigeria. They hoisted their flag and were killing Nigerians, enslaving women and committing all manners of atrocities. So, Nigeria rightly had to declare war on them. That to me is a necessary war. But to secure Nigeria, we don’t just have to wage that war and possibly win it and then sit back and delude ourselves that we have won the war.  On the issue of security, this administration ought to realise that Nigeria cannot be policed by a unitary police force in a Nigeria that is pretending to be a federal country and practicing federalism.  The police force is under 320,000 personnel. The last time, we were told that the police wanted to recruit 10,000 persons and incidentally, those who applied to take that job were over 800,000. When you want to secure our country, you have to do that with the recognition that the police force has failed in securing our country.  It is not just about buying equipment for our police. It is not just about increasing their numbers. It is by recognising that given our variegated security challenges, diversity, geographical disparity and our different peculiarities, we will need a police force that is thoroughly localized, that understands the criminal psychology of that local environment and is poised to deal with those security challenges even within the context of overall policing strategy in the country. I had expected that in the past one year, this administration would have gone to the National Assembly with an executive bill to immediately amend the constitution, section 214-216 that provides for the police as a unitary police in the federation; and secondly to amend the Police Act that will make it possible for Nigeria to have its own federal police to deal with federal offences  while states will deal with state offences so that states can have their own laws based on a prototype national legislation. With that, you won’t have State A having a different police law from State B. It will be a law of general application that will allow states and even local governments to have their own police. I thought that this administration would have done that. The fact that it has not done that does not make it appear to me that it understands the kind of reform that needs to take place in order to secure Nigeria. So, it is not a war-war situation. It is about recalibrating the security apparatus and making it to be suitable for the kind of security challenges that we have, such that if we have that and each state were to cater for its police force, overall, we may now have more than two million policemen in Nigeria. That will solve the problem of unemployment and saturate all the nooks and cranny of the country with law enforcement agents. That has not been done by the Buhari administration.

How will you rate him on his fight against corruption?

On corruption, this administration also has a pass mark. Partisan objectors, detractors, cynics and pessimists can doubt the efficacy of the anti-corruption war. They can pooh-pooh and bad mouth it. They can be dismissive, but take it or leave it, unprecedented things are happening in this country on the war against corruption.  These unprecedented developments can serve as veritable examples and precedents to enable our society not to treat anybody as a sacred cow anymore. I have argued that if a Senate president can be tried for corruption-related issues by the Code of Conduct Tribunal, it then makes it possible for governors while in office to be tried by the CCT because they don’t have immunity in that regard. It is the constitution that gives them immunity to prosecution; it is also the same constitution that says that the CCT can try them even while in office. So, it makes it possible for many people who thought they were sacred cows yesterday, who ought to be held accountable for what they have done to this country to be brought forward to face justice.  Also, in the history of this country, particularly civilian administration, we have never had a time when military top brass are subjected to trial. In the Second Republic, the military left on its own term.  In fact, Gen.  Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) was treated as a hero. He even rode a horse to Abeokuta, having successfully handed over power to Shehu  Shagari. So, was Shagari  the person who is going to have the nerve or guts to then start investigating the past military administration that handed over power to him?  Also in 1983, when the Shagari administration realised that it had become so unpopular, it then resorted to bribery by buying Mercedes Benz to senior military officers in that era in order to frustrate the possibility of a coup being staged against it. So, in the past, military top brasses were treated as a special class of people, they are the untouchables, and when they leave office, they still have soldiers guarding them for life. Obasanjo became president in 1999. Apart from the late (Sani) Abacha  that he (Obasanjo) investigated for obvious reasons, possibly because Abacha sent him to jail, he never investigated other military leaders, including Abdulsalami Abubakar that handed over power to him.  This is the first time that an administrator will say ‘Yes, I am from the military. It is possible that people may accuse me of not maintaining the sanctity of esprit de corps but if you have done this to this country, the country must hold you to account’. So, I believe the anti-corruption fight ought to be strengthened, better institutionalised and better organised such that it will no longer matter whether we have a president that is not supportive of anti-corruption fight, the anti-corruption fight will still go on.  All these needs to be done but on the war against corruption,  this administration has started in the right direction.

How will you rate President Buhari on the management of the economy especially looking at the statement made by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that he is not sound on economic matters?

Obasanjo is being mischievous.  What knowledge of the economy does Obasanjo himself has? The Economic Team he set up, the same people later came to ruin Nigeria, people like Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala and others.  Now she is distancing herself, saying that they messed up as if she was not at the heart of it. She was labeled the Coordinating Minister of the Economy under a Goodluck Jonathan, who was totally aloof and has no knowledge about what was going on.  So, Okonjo- Iweala bore more responsibility on how the economy was mismanaged than Jonathan or anybody.  We will just be humouring ourselves if we said that the buck stopped at Jonathan’s table as president. The truth is, the buck didn’t stop at his table. In fact, he almost didn’t have a table because there were several people who were wielding power on his behalf when he was there as president.  The super oil minister, Diezani Alison- Madueke,  Okonjo- Iweala, Stella Oduah, who later became a Minister and Jonathan’s wife, Patience.  Also, remember that the person who head-hunted Okonjo- Iweala the first time was Obasanjo. So, all the statements by Obasanjo that Buhari had no knowledge of the economy but only on security matters is trash.  However, the question remains: how has Buhari fared on the economy?  I will use two poles to give my assessment. The first pole is that the administration’s effort to conserve funds, using the structure of governance to combat and possibly eliminate graft, and cut wastages has been a success.  Though there are rooms for improvements but the administration has succeeded.  I can mention the Treasury Single Account (TSA), verification of workers which has led to ghost workers being identified all over the place. I can mention the deliberate efforts to cut unwieldy allowances of government functionaries and officials. I can mention the streamlining of ministries from 42 to 24.  I can mention the streamlining of position of permanent secretaries just to cut cost. All those things are very solid achievements. It takes an administration that has courage to do that. However, the second pole is how the administration has managed the Nigerian economy at large, not just cutting waste and using structures to fight corruption.  To me, it has fared poorly.  Could the Buhari administration have performed better using the same economic structures, paradigms, solutions that are largely dictated by Benton Woods institutions, IMF, World Bank and their scholars, market theologians and economists who always insists that the market must be allowed to regulate prices, foreign exchange rates, to determine who gets what and that government must just lay out the regulatory framework and allow the market to dictate. If those are the paradigms Buhari is using, if these are his strategies and solutions, could he have performed better?  No.  For example, a lot of people complain now that there is scarcity of forex not just for manufacturers, but even for students schooling abroad and they are blaming the Buhari administration that forex is not available for their children to school abroad.  That is a selfish way to look at it. Should we be schooling abroad?  That is the question.  So, in tackling the issue of scarcity of forex for students schooling abroad, what is the policy of the administration on it? Has the Buhari administration looked at Nigerians in the face and say “we are sorry; we are on the wrong path? This is a country where the first university, University College Ibadan was founded in 1948, 12 years before independence. It was rated as the best in the Commonwealth. Over the years, we have allowed our tertiary education to be run aground. Individuals are now the ones creating all sorts of places which they labeled ‘universities’. A particular church in Nigeria has two universities; one in Ogun and the other in Kwara. All sorts of people are now having licences. At the last count, Chief Edwin Clark has one. All sorts of Dick, Tom and Harry are having universities. So, the federal government has pulled back from education. Therefore, we will strive to ensure that those who are there now finish their education. In the next three years, no forex will be made available for any student to go abroad to school again.  We will invest in our universities; expand their capacity to admit more students so that each of our federal university can take 20,000 to 50,000 students. We will build more hostels, recruit more teachers and we will turn education into a revenue earner for the country, such that on the African continent and Europe, people can be coming here to school. Nigerians are going to Ukraine, Russia, Ghana, Benin Republic and to the end of the earth to go and look for university education.  Why should that be so?  So, we will revitalise the educational system and turn it into a revenue earner so that people will be trooping here to get education and it won’t be the other way round”. Those are the tough decisions a leader has to take. That is the way to revamp an economy.  But has the Buhari administration done that since coming into office a year ago?  No. President Buhari can’t do that because one of his daughters is schooling overseas.

Comments (16)

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  • Jun 9, 2016 at 12:29 pm SnowMan SAGACITY

    Jonathan has a case to answer. Jobless people should blatantly cease mentioning Okonjo’s name in such aspersions like this again.

  • Jun 9, 2016 at 12:28 pm SnowMan SAGACITY

    Haters should go and  wash their buttocks with “Rodo” Pepper. Saboteurs pervading the Nigerian politics at the top and below her, were the key frustrating Herods, Pharaohs, Nebuchadnezzars and the Jezebels. Dr Iweala played her part and STRONGLY STOOD FOR WISE SPENDING AS WELL AS CONSERVATION OF INCOME.

  • Jun 9, 2016 at 12:26 pm SnowMan SAGACITY

    Dr Okonjo is undoubtedly a great woman of priceless virtues. She helped the Nigerian economy a great deal. Haters should bath on the Transformer!

  • Jun 7, 2016 at 7:32 pm Fikayo Dickson

    Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala would
    never have collaborated with any of the presidents she served under at the
    detriment of jeopardising the economy of her beloved country Nigeria. She kept
    proper records of all her dealings at the Ministry of Finance, which I really
    think is commendable, the facts and figures were clearly spelt out and made
    public for any one who had doubts or questions with regards to Nigeria’s

  • Jun 7, 2016 at 7:32 pm Afeez Lawal

    Mr Ogunye
    should be more knowledgeable and exposed based on his antecedents, he has
    however chosen to ride on a biased terrain as to insinuating that the bulk of a
    failed economic system be shifted to the former minister of the Nigeria. This is
    insensitivity at its peak and it is unacceptable.

  • Jun 7, 2016 at 7:30 pm Rukayat Ibrahim

    It is of no
    use mounting up the entire intricacies of a failed economy on the former
    finance minister, who by the way has no veto power to control the economy.
    There were other stakeholders in the the president’s cabinet whose decision
    equally dictated what became of our economy.

  • Jun 7, 2016 at 4:46 pm DonDesmond

    Dr Okonjo-Iweala cannot be held responsible for how the Nigerian economy was allegedly mismanaged. This is because nothing of such happened when she was a minister.

  • Jun 7, 2016 at 4:45 pm DonDesmond

    What evidence does Ogunye have to show that Dr Okonjo-Iweala killed the economy of Nigeria? He is very good at opening his wide mouth to talk anyhow.

  • Jun 7, 2016 at 4:45 pm DonDesmond

    People like Barrister Jiti Ogunye should focus much of their attention on law practice rather than put their eyes in what they don’t know. He should stop insulting Dr Okonjo-Iweala.

  • Jun 7, 2016 at 4:44 pm DonDesmond

    I am of the firm view this constitutional lawyer does not know what he is talking about. Dr Okonjo-Iweala did not in any way ruin Nigeria.

  • Jun 7, 2016 at 3:40 pm Nina Olusoga

    Stating such statement against Dr Iweala isn’t fair. Dr Okonjo
    Iweala never ruined the economy rather she managed it effectively and prevented
    it from ruins.

  • Jun 7, 2016 at 12:44 pm femihassan

    Barrister Ogunye instead of attacking Obasanjo you took time to face Dr Iweala. Did she offend you? Moreover she did not destroy the nation’s economy.

  • Jun 7, 2016 at 11:12 am kenajayi

    Mr Ogunye, you said that Dr Okonjo-Iweala and others
    ruined the economy. Who are the others and how did they ruin the economy? Reading
    through your article, I couldn’t believe my eyes that a lawyer could write like
    that. These are all allegations. I wonder why the editor of the Independent published your article. Hope you are not one of those lawyers seeking attention?

  • Jun 6, 2016 at 5:50 pm Adebola Adesheyin

    hungry lawyer taking  will do just anything, including making false allegations against
    Dr Okonjo-Iweala whenever she receives any national or international
    recognition for her work. The pattern is clear and Nigerians should be alert to
    it. But Dr Okonjo-Iweala will not be intimidated from going on with her life
    and performing her duties. She will not give in to cowardly and unmanly

  • Jun 6, 2016 at 5:47 pm Adebola Adesheyin

    groups’s latest attempt to implicate Dr Okonjo-Iweala falsely suggests that they
    are suffering from an ailment that may be described as Chronic Cerebral Amnesia
    (CCA) because they simply have no grasp of the facts.

Comments are closed.