Last week, three major events evidenced the absence of pragmatic leadership in President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency. Shola Oyeyipo and Segun James write
Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, a senior British Army officer, who fought in both the first world and second world wars, said “The definition of leadership is this: the capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence”.
In Nigeria today, only one thing signify the way forward: government must do away with those actions that will potentially dissuade Nigerians from the huge trust and the hope they had reposed in the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, particularly its ability to rally men and women as a way to inspire the citizenry to continue to believe in the administration
Whereas its actions and inactions continue to show inconsistency, it is quite easy for the people to begin to assume that the leader may not actually have anything to offer the nation. That was the fatal fate that befell the immediate past government of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Expectation was high on this government to change the fortunes of the country and as soon as possible, but the people appear to have lost that trust because he appears unable to rally the people for the common good of all.
Even where the Buhari administration may justify the rather slow nature of his government to the failure of the previous administration, the president is oblivious of the fact that some of his actions are gradually shaping the public perception of his administration and persona. Thus, three developments, last week, confirmed fears that the government may have lost it as it were.
First, the federal government withdrew the charge of criminal conspiracy and forgery brought against Senate President Bukola Saraki and his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu through the Ministry of Justice.
Good or bad, it does not project the government as a serious one and the reason is simply because the accused persons have persistently insisted that their trial was a form of political persecution attributable to the way and manner they emerged as leaders of the National Assembly against the wish of some forces within the party. This is in addition to the fact that eminent jurists on the country had told the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami that he outstepped his bounds by meddling in matters of the legislature.
Aside that, the scuffle between the executive and the legislative arms of a government dominated by the All Progressives Congress (APC) has continued to have negative toll on the Nigerian people, who voted for the party because it promised it was on a rescue mission, only to become puns in the hands of political gladiators under the Buhari government.
Saraki and Ekweremadu already said they have been vindicated. They had maintained that the case was “politically-induced distraction”, stressing that rather than distract Nigerians all hands should be on deck to solve the economic recession that is biting hard on homes and creating severe social disorientation in communities.
Then the question to ask is: with the likes of the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay and several other leading legal luminaries at the disposal of the federal government, why embark on a fruitless journey of prosecuting the duo, when the charges would later be dropped apparently because it lacked merit. After all, “whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well”.
Besides, the government had been warned by the likes of Mr. Jackson Lekan Ojo, a security expert, who earlier in the year noted that any attempt to sanction Senator Saraki over how he became the Senate President would cause an implosion in the APC? However, if one or two more people are left off in similar manner without any major convictions, especially among those alleged to have stolen from the country, soon Nigerians will lose complete hope in government’s anti-corruption war.
Although by opting to drop the forgery charges against the duo of Saraki and Ekweremadu, the government has received some accolades from people, who consider the action as a positive development and a contrary action as waste of precious time.
The Kwara State Governor, Dr Abdulfatah Ahmed, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Alhaji Abdulwahab Oba, was of the view that the withdrawal of the charges was proper, necessary and timely.
“The withdrawal provides a vista of opportunity for national cohesion as distraction in the process of national development could be halted from the widely considered politics induced litigation.”
To him, all other litigation before either tribunals or courts should also be withdrawn appropriately so that all hands could be on deck in the task of moving Nigeria forward.
That was the same position taken by a former vice-president and chieftain of the APC, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who also commended the federal government, particularly President Buhari for the withdrawal of criminal charges against Saraki and Ekweremadu, which he says would pave the way for the resolution of the impasse between both arms of government. According to him, it is “a wise and timely move”.
One instructive message in Atiku’s commendation, however, was that the move by the federal government is an indication that the government values the much-needed cordial relationship between the executive and legislature, adding that the government should have known this long before now that such actions come with negative implications.
Not only Governor Ahmed and Atiku are of these positive views, many of the lawmakers have also hailed the decision. Saraki and Ekweremadu have both stated that the action of the federal government has vindicated them while some of their other colleagues have given kudos for the choice embraced by the government.
Another problem with the current administration is that while the leadership of the party rests solely on the president, no such synergy has been established between President Buhari and APC. Aside the purported endorsement of an aspirant of the party in Ondo State, which is currently causing ripples in the party, the APC has hardly earned its victory in last year’s general election before plunging into series of crises, many of which are still rocking it till now.
As at today, the situation is not stable in the ruling party. Some powerful forces have taken over the party machinery under the president’s watch and the major concern over how to marry the interests of all the contending power brokers that formed the party is becoming increasing impossible by the day.
That is exactly the question some of those conversant with the dynamics of politics in Nigeria have persistently asked. How does the APC intend to keep its house in order till the 2019 general election? In fact, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has never refrained from tagging members of the ruling party “strange bedfellows”, and that is not unconnected with events in the ruling party since it took over power.
Truth is, either the president likes it or not, as far as the rancor in the APC is concerned, the bulk stops at his table. For instance, it is easy to trace the beginning of the crisis of confidence in the party to when he announced his appointments. Not only were the recommendations of those, who played major roles in his emergence jettisoned, in about 30 of the appointments made, only five were not from the North.
It must be noted that the issue of the appointments sent a very wrong signal to many APC members, particularly those from the South-west region, especially when the fact that the South-west played a major role in Buhari’s victory is factored in.
Some leaders from the region are yet to recover from the shock of the betrayal. Even now that one of the APC national leaders and former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu is being generally perceived as a victim of witch-hunt, does it not send a signal of bad leadership on the part of the president?
President Buhari, observers reckon, needs to know that his public perception as a leader also includes how he manages the affairs of the APC because the forces within the party need to align with a leader that has no ulterior motives.
While it is good to continue to commend the government for fighting terrorism and corruption, another action of the Buhari-led federal government that could query his place as a leader is the issue of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, who has been kept in detention for many months against several court orders for his release.
Despite the deluge of public outcries that the rule of law should be allowed to prevail in the Dasuki matter and which fell on deaf ears, the Court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), last Tuesday intervened in the matter and declared that Dasuki’s arrest and detention was “unlawful and arbitrary”.
The court held that the further detention of Dasuki by government on November 4, after he was granted bail by a court of law, amounts to a mockery of democracy and the rule of law.
Dasuki is facing multiple trials for alleged diversion of $2.1 billion meant for the purchase of arms in the immediate past administration and he was also accused of illegal possession of fire arms, which ordinarily Nigerians are not happy about and they would want the case followed to a logical conclusion – prosecuted if found guilty – but that is not a justification to turn the law on its head.
Convinced that his suffering has political undertones, Dasuki approached the ECOWAS court after he was rearrested by men of the Department of State Security (SSS) shortly after meeting his bail conditions in November last year. He has remained in the custody of the DSS since his arrest.
But on Tuesday, a three-member panel led by Justice Friday Nwoke said Nigeria’s government was wrong in arresting Mr. Dasuki without a search warrant, adding that the pattern of arrest negates the provisions of Section 28 of the Nigerian Police Act. According to the said section, a superior police officer may authorise the search of a resident belonging to a suspect assumed to be in illegal possession of an item, if the officer so authorised has a search warrant.
The court therefore gave an order instructing the government to pay Dasuki N15 million, though the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami on Wednesday, October 5, reacted to the ECOWAS order through his media aide, Salihu Isah stating, “We cannot just react. We will first of all study the judgment to understand its content before taking a stand.” But government has been receiving as much counsel that it must heed the court order.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Alhaji Ahmed Raji was one of the first to advise government on the need to respect and obey the judgment by ECOWAS Court, warning that failure to do this could scare foreign investors away.
According to Raji, Nigeria as a respected member of ECOWAS and the international community is expected to honour its obligations to the protocols establishing the court by complying with its order, adding that the spirit that was at play in the acceptance of the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the disputed oil rich Bakassi land is required to obey the decision of the ECOWAS Court.
“I am appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari to facilitate immediate compliance with the ECOWAS Court decision. I am also appealing to the Presidential aides especially the Chief Law Officer of the Federation, Mallam Abubakar Malami, SAN, and the heads of the intelligence units to advise the president properly.
“The order of the court cannot be ridiculed and Nigeria as a democratic nation cannot afford to ridicule the court order in the interest of the corporate image of the country,” Raji stated.
The lawyer was particularly elated that allegations of coup plot and waging war against Nigerians brought against Dasuki at the court by government to justify his unlawful detention was not sustained since Dasuki is not facing treason charge anywhere in the country. And also, the allegation of non-purchase of arms and ammunition against Dasuki was not substantiated because there were records that several towns and local governments were liberated from the Boko Harram sect in the North-east during the Dasuki tenure.
“In fact, records are there that some of the ammunitions being used by the current government were part of those ordered during the regime of the former NSA according to information he made available to his legal team. It is under the leadership of Dasuki as NSA that the country security forces liberated several towns and cities under Boko Haram in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno”, the lawyer said.
Raji, therefore, emphasised that: “I am also appealing to the presidential aides especially the chief law officer of the federation, Malami, and the heads of the intelligence units to advise the president properly”.