Buhari Alone Isn’t the Problem

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NATION BUILDING SERIES

‎Monday Discourse

Though there is enough proof to justify the claim that President Muhammadu Buhari has fallen short of expectations, ‎the challenge of transforming Nigeria goes beyond the president, write Tobi Soniyi, Segun James and Shola Oyeyipo

Many are disappointed today because the president, Muhammadu Buhari has not been able to transform Nigeria into a new country where everything suddenly becomes functional.
Nigerians expected so much from the president. His party, the All Progressives Congress promised so much and is delivering so little to the disappointment of many.
As 2019 general election approaches, we are beginning to make the same mistakes.
We are hoping that whoever becomes president should be able to correct all the structural imbalances afflicting the country. But the bitter truth is that this is not going to happen.
The best we can get is some opaque tinkering with the existing structures which will not fundamentally change the country.
So, we should begin to lower our expectations.
Just like the president, we all have our fair share of the problem.

Buhari Is a Problem
But the president is a problem for many reasons. No doubt, a president is in a vantage position to steer the ship of the country to eldorado. And from the look of things, this president isn’t doing that. Just like his predecessors, and Nigerian past leaders, Buhari is turning out to be a disappointment.
This much was stated by Nigerian foremost novelist, Professor Chinua Achebe when he wrote: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”
Many had hoped that because of his spartan lifestyle, Buhari would make all the difference. With his abysmal performance so far, Buhari obviously isn’t the messiah Nigerians have been waiting for. Some of his shortcomings include: He is insensitive to the needs and feelings of the people he governs, his poor handling of the economy (allowing the naira to depreciate to as low as N350 to a US Dollar for instane), making appointments that ignored the ethno-religious setting in the country, his aversion for due process and rule of law.
Under his watch, in the last four months of this year, over 1000 persons have been killed in various parts of the country by herdsmen and, all the president did was to lament.

Since the killings began, the presidency was not only in denial but was also defending the atrocities. Those who should help him stop the killings are themselves bereft of ideas.
Apart from the herdsmen, militias have been on a killing spree in the northern part of the country. The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye who usually refrains from commenting on political issues is unable to hold himself back after news broke out that some gunmen went into a church and killed people.
He said: “It doesn’t matter the denomination…by the special grace of God, all Christians in Nigeria call me daddy. So when any of them dies, it’s my son or daughter that is dead.
“It’s a terrible thing. A nation may survive a civil war, but no nation can survive a religious war and remains the same.”
He therefore called on the president to do more to stop the killings.
The Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN) also called for a national day of protest to draw attention of government to the killings. Jolted by the killing of two priests and 17 worshippers of St. Ignatius Catholic church, Mbalom, Gwer East LGA of Benue State, CAN President, Rev Olasupo Ayokunle, urged Christians to hold the peaceful protests within their church premises on Sunday April 29, 2018.

He said: “CAN urges Christians in Nigeria to hold peaceful protest on the set aside date, in the premises of their churches asking the Federal Government and the security agencies to stop the unending killings and bloodshed in the country.

“Christians are to carry placards with inscriptions meant to address issues about sustained killings, attacks and destruction of their property in Nigeria.

“The inscriptions on placards could read, “Enough of bloodshed in Nigeria”, “Enough of unlawful killings in the country”, “FG, Release Leah Sharibu from the bondage”, “FG, Stop Herdsmen Killings”, “CAN rejects FG’s poor handling of insecurity”, etc.

“Government should be called upon to perform their constitutional responsibility of protecting citizens now. No excuse should be given for this wicked act again and perpetrators must be brought to book now.”

But the President Isn’t the Problem
Many wrongly assume that Nigeria will become a better place once Buhari is no more at the helms of affairs, the truth, however is that this is not going to be the case.

If we remove Buhari and elect someone else as the president, will that person be able to stop the National Assembly from continuing milking the country? Even when the country is not earning enough to take care of the citizens, the lawmakers don’t love the country enough to make concession and reduce what they take from the country.
It will take our willingness as a people to do that which is right and good for the people before the country can be on a path to development.
Leadership is important, but we are wrong to keep on focusing on the Presidency as a place where this will happen. Not necessarily. History is replete with stories of those who changed their country even when they are not occupying any leadership position.
If we remove Buhari, will that solve the problem of electing into the National Assembly people who don’t understand what they do there? This reaction of Senator Abu Ibrahim (Katsina- APC) during the debate on whether to impeach Buhari for paying $469m to the United States of America to buy fighter jets without appropriation raises the question whether the Senator should he there in the first instance.
The Senator accused senators of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of conspiring to impeach Buhari.

He justified the president’s decision to make the withdrawal on precedence.

“He took action based on national interest, that’s why he authorised this payment. As far as I’m concerned, this is the first time that money drawn from excess crude oil account is being brought to the National Assembly. Since they begin to operate this account, I have never seen any expenditure that was brought here for approval.

“$17.7 billion was drawn by (ex-President) Obasanjo to pay the Paris Club without National Assembly approval. Obasanjo left N9.3 billion in excess crude account but former President Goodluck Jonathan …the money with no recourse to the National Assembly. The account was increased to over $20 billion in 2008 and decreased to less than $4 billion by Jonathan in 2010. It never came to National Assembly for approval.

“$2 billion was used by the previous PDP administration to fight Boko Haram in 2014. Governor Godswill Akpabio was the one who moved the motion at the National Economic Council to get the money. $5 billion was taken for power generation, funding was also sourced for Niger Delta, the same process was not taken by (ex-President Yar’ adua). It was later taken to the National Assembly and it was approved.

“This is a PDP conspiracy. I will like PDP to tell us which of their governors has taken the money released from excess crude oil account to the state assembly for approval. If this is a PDP conspiracy to tarnish the image of Muhammadu Buhari, they will not be able to do it because we are coming out with figures.”
People voted Buhari because they thought he would not be a Jonathan or an Obasanjo.
Besides, this idea of defending our tribesmen even when they have done what is wrong has become a part of our politics. The Southwest did that when Olusegun Obasanjo was president. The South-south and the South-east rationalised and justified all the wrong things Goodluck Jonathan did as president. No one should be surprised, the north is defending illegality perpetuated by Buhari. Those who should defend democracy and the people are busy defending their tribesmen.
The question is, if we get a new president, will this culture of tribalism suddenly disappear? Will loyalty to ethnicity disappear if Buhari leaves will our attachment to our ethnic group which often prejudices our approach to issues disappear?

Will the new president be able to stop states’ governors from stealing funds meant for their states and local government areas? One of the recurrent frauds the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has had to deal with is the issue of governors diverting and stealing funds meant for local government areas. Not one of those governors has been convicted. This isn’t a Buhari’s creation. If we have a new president, will this stop to be the case?
The states are already terrorising local governments, they withhold their funds, meddle in their affairs and determine who become chairmen and councillors. Yet the same states want true federalism. If we change the president, will the new president be able to stop this invasion of councils by states?

Will the new president be able to make the judiciary to become fast and efficient in justice delivery?
We like to blame the president for all the woes in the country. But is it the president that is making it difficult for the judiciary to stop the practice of taking notes in long hands which results in wasting valuable time doing what technology has taken care of in other climes? Nigerian judges waste enormous time writing down everything the lawyers say. And Nigerian lawyers are very verbose. So our judges are writing themselves to death. But they don’t travel to Saudi Arabia or London on horseback. They fly. They like the fact that technology has revolutionized how we travel but they refused to embrace electronic recording of court proceedings. They keep the nation backward and allow litigants to die before the courts determine their cases. But we all blame the president!
If the president moves in to help with this, it will become interference in the affairs of the judiciary. Nothing is going to change in the judiciary regardless of who becomes the president unless those in charge become bold and introduce the necessary reforms.

We need innovators and reformers in all segments of our society but what we get are people who tinker with the structures and make incremental improvements.
If Buhari leaves, and a new president comes in, will our attitude to obedience to law change? Has anyone asked why drivers did not obey traffic laws during Jonathan and are still not obeying the law now that Buhari is there?

Has anyone asked why the Nigerian Immigration Service’s offices nationwide collected more than the required fees to issue passports during Jonathan regime and they are still doing it now that Buhari is there?

When Jonathan was there, we paid for drivers’ licenses but we did not get the licenses Today, we still suffer the same problem.
The reality is that it will take more than a president to change this country. When will the people be able to have the courage to insist on what is right from those who hold power in trust for them?

If Buhari leaves will our politicians suddenly become democrats? Or will it suddenly inculcate in all of us democratic values?

While it should be conceded that there is no basis for comparing Nigeria with advanced democracies, there is nothing wrong with adopting that which is good from these countries. When you are given a job to do and it turns out that you can not do the job, you should honourably resign. Everyday, people are killed in outrageous circumstances, yet, the minister for defence is holding on to his appointment. The Inspector General of Police is safe in his job. If Buhari leaves or a new government takes over, will this stop to be the practice?
There are democratic values that are not written in any law which are observed in the interest of the people and the country.

Nigeria is racing towards another general elections, the likelihood is that the result will not produce any significant difference unless the electorate begin to act differently.
In this regard, the advice of a former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku is very timely and relevant. Speaking on the theme ‘Leadership and the Future of Nigeria’ at a symposium to mark the ten years anniversary of the death of Senator Abraham Adesanya, Anyaoku said: “Now that national elections are approaching in 2019, I would like to end by urging all intending voters to regard a firm unambiguous and time-specific commitment to the restructuring of Nigeria’s present governance architecture, as the pre-requisite for voting for any political party and its candidates.”

The electorate should stop basing their decision on primordial sentiments. They should stop mortgaging their future for peanuts. They should dig into the past of those aspiring to rule them and ensure that only people that demonstrate exceptionally leadership qualities are elected into public offices.
Again, we refer to the attributes of a good leader as identified by elder statesman, Anyaoku. He said: “A leader must, in my view, possess to a good degree inter alia the following attributes: the capacity to inspire and form affinity with the people that the leader is leading; the capacity to have and articulate a vision of where he/she plans to take the country concerned; the capacity to deliver electoral promises; and the capacity to identify with and be seen to be tackling the challenges facing the people he/she is leading. Hence, leadership is primarily about service, and servant leadership enables the building of trust with bonding and continuing inspiration of the people. A good leadership must be defined by discipline, resilience, perseverance, determination, unyielding devotion, and, above all, a strong political will to act without deference to sectionalism.

“It is not always easy to find a convergence of all these attributes in a single individual.”
He mentioned three examples of leaders whose performance in their countries had demonstrable achievements, especially in putting their countries on the global map and in some cases, lifting them from the nadir of developmental challenges
“A common feature of their successful leadership is their capacity, during electoral campaigns and on assumption of office, to spell out in clear and unambiguous terms the goals and guiding principles that would define their tenure in office”, he added.
Nigerians will have to begin to do things differently to expect a different result. Everyone has got a role to play. Nation building is not for those elected into offices alone, the citizens should not accept the status quo as it. They have to continue to strive for a better country.