President Buhari’s Leadership: Looking Beyond Headlines. | Independent Newspapers Limited
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President Buhari’s Leadership: Looking Beyond Headlines.

Posted: Jun 6, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Magnus Onyibe.
As President Muhamadu Buhari and the APC mark one year in office, the media have been full of screaming headlines in praise or denunciation of the leadership style and its positive or negative impact on the lives of Nigerians. To achieve a more holistic assessment of the new Aso Rock occupant and the new ruling party, we have to look beyond the headlines by focusing more on the trend of events since power changed hands in the presidential seat of power on May 29, 2015. To borrow the phrase made popular by Mario Cuomo, the former charismatic governor of the State of New York, USA, President Buhari and APC campaigned in poetry and are now governing in prose.
Let me explain: Literarily speaking , Presidential adviser, Femi Adesina’s piece in vanguard newspaper on Saturday, May 28,2016 titled “Beyond the Iron and Steel” where he regaled readers with the humane side of his boss, is one of the many headlines extolling the political and social virtues of the ‘new Sherrif’ in Aso Rock villa.  In all honesty, Adesina’s headline article was rendered in very fine prose, which underlines the title of this article and justifies Mario cuomo’s popular political mantra ‘campaign in poetry and govern in prose’.
The kernel of Mr Cuomo’s famous quote is that when politicians are on the campaign trail, they are long on promises, but when they take office, they resort to speaking in prose, when they can’t deliver on their promise, as we are currently witnessing. The truth is that no matter the superlative and fabulous adjectives presidential husbandmen deploy in airbrushing President Buhari, he remains a stern man who is on a mission to change Nigeria, but too much in a hurry to catch economic thieves, than to fix the broken economy.  So my worry is that he has been a tad inflexible in policy formulation and a bit strenuous in his approach to bringing about the change which he promised.
The truth is that, a dispassionate assessment of Buhari’s first year in office would reveal that there has been tremendous adversity in Nigeria and as the saying goes, not even all the spices in India, can wash that away or cover the odium.
Vox populi, vox dei, is Latin phrase for the voice of the people is the voice of God. If you conduct a random vox pop on the streets of Kano, Lagos or PortHarcourt, today you would easily discern that the approval rating of president Buhari by Nigerians is at its lowest ebb which would at best be in the ten percentile level. As Mr Adesina pointed out in his piece, Mr president just laughs at and dismisses public advise which he deems ridiculous and as some of president Buhari’s critics allege, he scoffs at admonition which he considers enemy barb and sets govt’s numerous ‘law’ enforcement agencies after the culprit and that should be of concern to Nigerians.  If in indeed he does the later, it is governance blithe which evens a despotic govt should not be proud to have as legacy.
For the sake of posterity, we must all seek to remedy any vice observed in government high command by offering constructive advice or intervening particularly in human rights, than in socio-political and economic matters, so as to attain a more progressive and not repressive society. That’s the avowed duty of the media as the fourth realm of the estate which should not be abdicated. Publishing screaming headlines of accolades and encomiums on Mr President is, in my view, putting President Buhari in a bubble, and my understanding of his personality from a distance is that Mr President prefers being told the truth including all the warts that may be contained. In that regard, four critical areas in which president Buhari has performed below par in the past one year of being on the saddle are scrutinized below with probable solutions proffered.

Currently the experience with the continuous detention of Ahmed Dasuki, former National security adviser, NSA to former President Goodluck Jonathan, for misappropriating defence funds and Nnamdi Kanu, director of unlicensed Radio Biafra, for agitating for the sovereign state of Biafra ,as well as El Zazarkky, leader of an extremist Muslim Shiite group, for constituting threat to public security, against several court orders granting them bail, erodes president Buhari’s democracy credentials and reinforces his negative reputation as an autocrat which he earned during his 20 months rule between 1984-85. For the sake of posterity and to safe guard the sanctity of our constitution and democracy, we must all frown at selective application or neglect of the rule of law at Mr President’s behest and in consonance with his whims and caprices.

A situation where the President on his own suspends the constitution with respect to the rights of individuals that he deems guilty rather than relying on court judgement, is an anathema and a throwback to the days of military despotism which should not be condoned by Christians, Muslims, civil society organizations or international comity of nations. Given the judicial atrocities being committed by existing special judicial bodies like the EFCC, ICPC and CCB, l loathe to think of what a monster the proposed special courts dedicated to adjudicating on corruption matters for speedy dispensation of the burgeoning number of cases would be.
The truth is that the number of cases awaiting trial are rising simply because the anti graft agencies don’t conduct proper investigations before they arrest suspects and haul them into the public arena for mob justice that would earn them cheap accolades.
A situation whereby Mr president rejected the advice of experts- ministers, economists, development strategists and sociologists-in his transition committee who recommended removal of fuel subsidy but was only convinced nearly one year after to remove the obnoxious subsidy based on survey by the directorate of state security service, DSS according to Shehu Garba’s vanguard newspaper interview of May 28th,is frightening. Removing fuel subsidy was an economic case, not a security matter. If Mr President’s mandate to DSS was to gauge the mode of Nigerians to determine if fuel subsidy removal would lead to riots, that were ok, but if otherwise, then Nigerians are in deeper trouble than they ever imagined.
The situation reminds me of the police maxim “lf you don’t trust the police, call a thug”.  Apparently, Mr President did not trust the judgement of the economists and ministers that he appointed into his transition team and later cabinet, so he invited DSS operatives to help him determine if fuel subsidy was good for Nigeria or otherwise.  Such attitude and approach to governance have dangerous implications which need no further elucidation. A powerful panel of accomplished economists, similar to the eminent political, religious and traditional leaders , headed by Abdulsalam Abubakar that went on a peace mission to Aso Rock, should be formed with a view to weighing in on President Buhari with respect to economic policies formulation.  The three former central bank of Nigeria, CBN Governors, who recently recommended naira devaluation , foremost economists like Akintola Williams, Micheal Ani ,Pascal Dozie amongst other seasoned and eminent business leaders across the spectrum, should take the initiative.
By the same token, international relations have been a bit tardy. Depicting Nigeria and Nigerians as very fraudulent to the potential investors in the numerous international fora where our dear president has been wooing entrepreneurs for investments in Nigeria, is to say the least tacky. Mr President should borrow a leaf from Australia. Following a recent racism related schism in Australia, the prime minister is reported to have said “Racism in Australia is work in progress”. While not admitting or denying the social vice, which is obvious and applies to other climes-perhaps to lesser degrees-he dexterously handled the matter and deflected the negative labelling of his country and compatriots by spinning it in positive light. That is vintage diplomacy.
Already, some of the wealth is on their way back home from the USA that has just promised return of $300m and France that recently returned a Nok culture artefact. Although the sing-song of Nigerians being massively corrupt and this negatively labelling both good and bad Nigerians has now abated, to strengthen Mr president’s prowess in diplomacy, a powerful interventionist group to be led by former Commonwealth Secretary General, Emeka Anyaoku, with Maitama Sule , Bolaji Akinyemi and Olisemeka on the team, would be in order.
The fourth area of challenge is the handling or mishandling of matters concerning the oil rich but highly volatile Niger Delta zone. As somebody described President Buhari’s new policy of unleashing the military on the recalcitrant militants posing threat to critical national assets, it is like using a crusher to smash a wasp perched on human scrotum. The collateral damage is better imagined.
As a retired army general, President Buhari like General Abacha and Obasanjo before him, intuitively respond to the stimuli of military force which is their professional calling, but in political settings, horse trading is the tool for conflict resolution not deadly force which is reserved for external enemies.
Inherently, democracy which is unlike military autocracy-whereby disagreements are viewed as mutiny-thrives in agitation, but conflicts of interests are also wired to be resolved through negotiations.
Remarkably, President Buhari informed his audience at Chatham House London, February last year that he was switching from being a military autocrat to a democrat. Naturally, it is not a mean or easy task to undergo such transformation from a dictator to a democrat without hitches, so the change could be fraught with withdrawal syndrome, like spasms which are symptoms exhibited by addicts such as smokers and drug abusers while transforming from a negative attitude to a fairer one.
Symbolically, President Buhari’s identified areas of short comings or issues on which he is punching lower than expected in democracy and leadership ethos, are the four sore points earlier highlighted with suggested remedial measures. In the final analysis, apart from the virtue of integrity, it has been revealed that President Buhari is also a kind man-as revealed by Femi Adesina, which in my view, is one of the most undervalued virtues in leadership. In the light of the foregoing, president Buhari’s milk of human kindness should be tapped into especially with respect to mercy for Nnamdi Kanu and Ahmed Dasuki, El Zarzakky, Femi Fani-Kayode etc whose freedom have been abridged as they remain in incarceration despite court ruling in favour of their release on bail.
Mr President should also base his policies more on economic and social opinions of seasoned experts than relying on mere instincts, intuitions or secret service reports because some tasks are better delivered by those who are honed in the trade.
Onyibe, a Development Strategist and Futurologist, is a former commissioner in Delta State government.