Buhari and the Fear of Collective Responsibility


With President Muhammadu Buhari’s fast dropping popularity rating amongst the Nigerian people following his inability to stay true to expectations, there is a growing fear amongst other stakeholders in the All Progressives Congress and it is the burden of collective responsibility they could suffer from Buhari’s probable failure, even when he clearly runs a one-man show, write Shola Oyeyipo and Segun James.

At the start of his 2015 presidential journey, President Muhammadu Buhari boasted some staggering goodwill, which owed largely to a legion of expectations, whether feasible or not, but nothing unconnected to the electoral promises of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Such expectations included the fact that his government would hit the ground running because of the urgency to address the alleged waste of Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) 16 years.

Needless to reiterate that Nigerians saw in the president, a preternatural creature, perhaps, divinely ordained to right some of the many wrongs of the past, including his own misdeeds as a military ruler between 1983 and 1985, when he toppled a democratically elected government. But as time drags on, the wait on Buhari is becoming endless, somewhat and anxiety increases across the various strata of the system.

Some enthusiasts are already beginning to wonder if the government could in fact make any meaningful impact at the long run and the reason points to no other indicator but the prevalent harsh economic weather in the country. Even within the government circle, there is swirling fear that the concept of collective responsibility could catch up with everyone, when in fact, the president is running what appears a one-man show.

But, should the entire government, which extends to the legislature and judiciary, be subjected to stringent public scrutiny and criticism if the government (essentially run by the executive) fails to meet the expectations of Nigerians? Will that be fair on the others, including party members, who have been schemed out of the running of the government?

Whereas Nigerians voted a party they hoped would urgently bring the needed changes, as at today, there is no gain saying that there has not been any significant departure from the usual. For instance, the ongoing trial of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who is also a member of the president’s party, in what many have attributed to politics, and which has pitted the executive and the legislature has not paid off for Nigerians in any way.

While the unhealthy tango between the two arms of government festers against the expectations of many, the president wouldn’t just name his ministers and hit the ground running, instead he opted to wait about six months before naming them and at the end of the day, he failed to bring in angels from another planet but people who had been with him all along. Why then the waste of such precious time on nothing?

Without rubbing it in on the efforts of the men and women of the Nigerian Army, who have helped to technically decimate the Boko Haram insurgents, the growing tension being created by the emergence of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), constitutes fresh fears even as the relics of the Boko Haram is still a cause for concern.

This is coming at a time more Nigerians are daily finding it difficult to access three square meals due to the fast spreading poverty occasioned by government’s poor and untended policies. The economy is technical recession, according to the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun even as the forex policy is forcing manufacturers out of business and in the midst of all these, indications are that the president is not consciously putting the expertise of many of those around him to work in the bid to move the country forward.

There is the worry that the president is getting used to working alone while those around him only watch the result of his sometime poor decision, thereby creating an environment that does not allow for thorough debate, questions, the weighing of options and cross pollination of ideas. As he gets used to dishing out instructions and people-jumping, his cabinet gets ineffectual and he, as much as Nigeria, are the worse for it.

The recent outrage of one of APC national leaders, Senator Bola Tinubu against the junior Minister of Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, which apparently led to the removal of subsidy on petroleum product is seen as an indication that some members of the party are tacitly exonerating themselves from some of the government’s policies. In fact, there is this perception that Tinubu no longer have a say in the government (that is, if he ever did in the first place), whereas he has his own ideas on to move the nation forward, where an ideal party system is in place.

This is however traceable to why the APC national leader fired his comments against Kachikwu when there was the lingering fuel scarcity in the country and Kachikwu was quoted as saying he was not a magician, who could end the scarcity of petrol, the way many wanted it.

Knowing full well the long term political implications of such statement and the blueprints the party had on the ground to address petroleum problem in the country, the APC leader told the minister that he was answerable to Nigerians, in what brought to fore, Buhari’s style.
“Kachikwu needs to know that respect and good performance will do what magic cannot”, Tinubu said, adding that a member of the government “has strayed from the progressive calling required of this administration.”

Nothing more can better exemplify the one-man-show disposition of the president than the recent disclosure by the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), that he was handed the three ministries in order to reduce government cost and that he has been playing a role of supervisory since he headed the position. He made the disclosure during a federal government town hall meeting held at the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.

“Buhari decided to merge three ministries in order to reduce the cost of running government. Whether I can cope with three ministries or not, let us be clear on this. On the one hand, we have spoken about the cost of running government and in trying to mitigate or reduce that cost, the President, in his own wisdom, decided to merge three ministries together. So, my work really there is supervisory and directional,” Fashola said.

While the APC-led government appears to be fast losing its staggering goodwill amongst the suffering Nigerians and blaming its ineffectual styles and policies on the past administration, some of the very critical attacks on the government have been coming from the president’s Northern kinsmen and this is unlike the norm.

For instance, a factional chairman of the APC in Kano State, Hussaini Mairiga, last week, described the Buhari administration as a failure. “From the looks of things, President Buhari has betrayed the confidence of the Nigerian masses, who voted for him massively into power,” Mairiga said, lamenting that a lot of people now go to bed without at least one square meal, while others had fled their homes because they could no longer provide the basic needs of life for their loved ones in a chat with newsmen.

Also, last week, during a town hall meeting and policy dialogue organised by the Alumni Association of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (AANI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Information and National Orientation, with the theme: ‘Towards Effective Implementation of the 2016 Budget’, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, appealed to the government to review policies and programmes that are not in the interest of the people.

“Those in authority should appreciate the fact that they hold power in trust for the people. They should listen and be prepared to make policy changes that address the welfare of the common people. Change has been said to be constant. Therefore, there is no problem if government would review policies and programmes.

“If a policy doesn’t work there is nothing wrong in reviewing them. In my view, policies that are anti-people should be discarded and realigned in line with prevalent realities, where Nigeria has critical problem is in the area of policy implementation.”

The Sultan added: “At times, changes come with difficulties, but it is important that both the government and the governed should accept with clean hearts that after the days of suffering there would be days of rejoicing. If we get it right in the 2016 budget, every other thing will fall into place.”

The monarch applauded the different efforts of the present administration towards re-positioning the Nigerian economy in the path of sustainable development, stressing that all hands must be on deck in ensuring that government delivers on its mandate.

Another notable Nigerian, also a Northerner, Second Republic president, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, broke his silence in an interview with African Independent Television (AIT), where he declared, as some others, that Buhari was a failure in office. According to him, unlike former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who had achieved a lot in office, there was nothing Buhari can point to that he achieved for the whole period he was head of state between 1983 and 1985.

“Now, I may ask Nigerians, what are Buhari’s developmental strides as Nigeria’s head of state for the period in question?” Your answer is as good as mine; none for his whole time in office. Jonathan may not be the best, but I can mention three to four breakthroughs in Nigeria that occurred under his five years in office.”

Some of such, according to him, were that trains were back on track, construction of 125 modern Almajiri schools and 12 universities in a short period of time, and in the agricultural sector, where the Jonathan administration became the first Nigerian government to eradicate the high level corruption in the distribution of fertilisers and ghost workers in the civil service.

Similarly, one of Nigeria’s most outspoken clergymen, who had been a die-hard advocate of the Buhari-led government, Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka recently came down hard on President Buhari, accusing him of indifference to the country’s worsening economic situation.
Mr. Mbaka, a Catholic priest and lead minister at the Adoration Prayer Ministry, Enugu, said: “It is not easy everywhere; hunger everywhere. As the president is fighting corruption, some of us are praying that he will equally fight hunger. Hunger is in the atmosphere.”

In the opinion of the revered man of God, there is nothing wrong in reviewing policies if they do not work. He said that when policies and programmes of government are not achieving desired results, they should be reviewed and realigned in line with prevailing realities.
“Some people were saying Father Mbaka started preaching against–whatever. The issue is that Father Mbaka is preaching as the spirit prompts him. There is hunger everywhere. My job is to tell our leaders the truth.”

Painting the real picture of the hardship on the ground, Mbaka said: “The landlords are crying, tenants are lamenting. Sellers are crying. Buyers are lamenting. There is hunger on the street. Many students are being rusticated from school, why? Because they can’t pay for school feels. Proprietors are distressed. Many companies are winding up. The economy is hard.”

He suggested that Nigeria needed economic experts, gurus and sages that are sincere, and can come in and think about our economic and revamp it and a judicial reformation. But one would want to ask again and again, are there no such people in the APC? Are there no such people in the government and why is it that their efforts are not yielding noticeable successes while the people are being pacified to be patient with government?

The Absence of Party Caucus
One of the problems of the Buhari government is the absence of the place of the party in the running of the government. The world over, regardless of the system of government embraced, the place of the party in the government is sacrosanct. Even as tough as former President Olusegun Obasanjo was, party caucuses was a common feature and practice, which helped to moderate and intervene in the administration of the country, not to talk of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, who were party’s ‘good boys’.

Indeed, it is a factor responsible for how and why the national chairmanship of the PDP is highly coveted and sought after each time there is an opening. The chairman of the party, through the different organs of the party asserts his place in the government and helps to take the heat off the government on many occasions.

But in Buhari’s government, there is no such thing. He is the Alpha and Omega and even where a pseudo caucus meeting was convened, it was just to fulfill all righteousness and none of their deliberations have been enforced. In fact, attempts have been clandestinely made to undermine certain individuals in the party, presumed to boast some weight. Such a government can hardly succeed for as long as it abandons the platform atop which it came into office as well as jettisons standard practice in party politics.

Thus, should Buhari continue with his solo approach without any significant success, other stakeholders might begin to find means of dissociating themselves from his failure. If he runs his government alone or with his preferred set of people, then it is expected that he and his preferred clique should confront the consequences of their style.

The Failed Promises
The APC (that’s if there is a party) and President Buhari are being haunted by the promises they made to Nigerians during the 2015 presidential electioneering because in relation to time, those promises are beginning to appear impossible. Some of those promises are now being considered as mere political campaigns designed to hoodwink Nigerians by the opposition, and those behind those promises had their planned methodology of achieving them but they no longer have the influence to drive the implementation.

For example, Buhari promised to make the Naira equivalent to the US Dollar equal and this made many happy because the Nigerian economy is import-dependent. But when he assumed office, the value of the Naira to the Dollar, in the parallel market was N195 but the current rate is hovering around N390.00. While this runs contrary to his promise outright, the impact on the cost of living is simply impossible.

Another highly elating promise of the APC-led government was that 500,000 unemployed graduates were to be employed as teachers but to the charging of not a few, the government announced that the teachers are to be trained under its social welfare scheme to serve as voluntary teachers in their communities while still prospecting for jobs in their chosen professions.

Even where the president did not have to lose goodwill, because all that he needed done was to sustain his frugal and incorruptible posture, by publicly declaring his assets upon assumption of office as he promised and he should also have insisted that all his appointees to do the same to ascertain his true stand about anti-corruption in his cabinet.

But after his swearing-in, it took Nigerians to demand copies of Buhari’s assets declaration documents as submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau CCB. Though he initially released a statement claiming to have fulfilled his public assets declaration vow on June 6, 2015, he actually only submitted his assets declaration form to the CCB as every government official is mandated to do.

When public pressure mounted, the president released a statement listing his assets and those of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. It was with no clear details of listed assets. It failed to provide addresses of landed properties, vehicle models, assets of spouse and children as required by law.

Though the presidency promised that those details would be made available to Nigerians once they were verified by the CCB, the president has still not come entirely clear on how much he is worth in assets by sending the photocopies of what he submitted to CCB to the media, as the late President Yar’Adua did. Yar’Adua made public, photocopies of his duly and honestly completed assets declaration form. He was recorded as the first time any Nigerian president would do so since independence in 1960.

Critics of the current government have continued to lament the lopsidedness in the president’s appointments, which some have blamed on his non-nationalistic outlook and same criticism has been his lot in the herdsmen crisis across the country. The killings in Agatu and other southern communities were not condemned by the president for weeks as there were no statements from his office on time, whereas he condemned terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, Grand-Bassam and in other places around the world.

This was one of the major crimes of former president Jonathan, who still face criticism over his initial lackluster attitude to the issue of the abducted Chibok secondary school girls, when the news of their kidnap first broke.

During the presidential campaigns, the APC saw no reason the nation should continue to hold on to about 11 aircrafts in the presidential air fleet and as such, his campaign assured Nigerians that some of those aircraft would be sold off if the president won the elections. But up till now, not one has been sold yet. Why this is so is still not known.

The promises are numerous and the failures are many too but one strong point of the government – the fight against corruption has also come under considerable criticism. The reason is because it is considered as selective and primarily targeted against members of the opposition. It is not out of place to look at some cases that have been shoddily buried like the Harlibuthon scandal and many others to show that there are no sacred cows.

Not only that, the crisis that has trailed the 2016 budget – from the allegation of its missing, to having duplicate in circulation, executive and legislative padding – has not presented the APC as a serious party that it poses to be, and until these issues are genuinely addressed without referring to them as family matter, the vanishing image of the government may not actually cease.

As Nigerians Speak Up…
The criticism of Buhari’s government has been strident and scathing, especially in its handling of the economy which has given the impression that the president and his handlers were not prepared for governance. But surprisingly, among the ordinary Nigerians who feel the pains the most, they still hope for the best.

Some still show support for the government and they are ready to endure the pains of the structural adjustments for some time. Even when they have dissenting views, these people still give kudos to the president for his ability to take the bull by the horn in tackling some of the problems of the nation.

Alhaji Kunle Akangbe, “The problem we are facing now is the process that comes with change. It is easy to destroy a building, but to rebuild it is the problem. Nigeria is like that house that was destroyed by a windstorm and the owner has to start rebuilding it while living inside. It is only natural that you will suffer some climatic effect associated with being exposed to the elements.

“Unfortunately, Nigerians love magic and miracle. We need to learn to be patient to rebuild what has been destroyed. There are no magic anywhere.”
For his effective leadership in the handling of the affairs of the nation, Akangbe gives the President 7.5 on a scale of 1 to10.

Mr. Omoniyi Awolalu, an engineer with one of the power holding companies in Lagos, said the president couldn’t be better at handling the affairs of the country, especially the economy.
Awolalu posited that what the nation is going through is a structural adjustment in an atmosphere of reduced income earnings. He stressed that no one could have handled the situation at time of economic meltdown. He gave the president 8.5 rating.

On his own, Chief Olayiwola Adisa is afraid for the safety of the president. He expressed the fear that vested interests may not allow him to complete the works he has embarked upon.
“The president is doing a good work, but I hope the people, who have driven the nation to this level will allow him to complete the work. Our past leaders are terrible. They completely mess up the country. But let’s face it; this problem that Buhari is facing, the foundation was laid by the Chief (Olusegun) Obasanjo government. It is ironic that nobody is calling his name.

Mr. Akanbi Anigbajumo said the president may be a saint, “but his advisers and cabinet is suspect.” He posited that “there is not much the president can do when he has to work with a legislature that is crooked and a judiciary which ought to be the last hope of the people that evidently very corrupt. I can only praise his tenacity.” He rated him 7 over 10.
But Miss Kudos Ajeluwa is suspect that nothing much has been achieved because since such mind-boggling sums of money are allegedly being recovered from politicians, no one has been convicted in the law courts, a situation which makes the efforts suspect.

Ajeluwa was also angry at the ignorance expressed by top government and legislative officials about the workings of government. She cried that until a conviction of a top politician is achieved and such person is sent to jail before the expiration of the term of this government, she would not believe in the anti-corruption crusade of the government. She gave the president a 5-point rating.

Alhaji Wahab Alimi is confident that the president and the government are on course in the handling of national issues. He is of the opinion that the government should be encouraged. He stressed that from every indication, the future looks bright. But urged the President to look into the issue of food, which he said is what is paramount to the ordinary Nigerians. He gave a 7-point rating.

The same sentiment was shared by Alhaji Kabir Subair. He lauded the president’s ability to take charge at a time the situation in the country was almost beyond hope.
“We just have to endure the measures and be patient. We can only plead with him (Buhari) to find some palliatives for the question of food. We are not finding things funny at all.” He gave the president a 10-point rating.