Finding the Formula for a United Presidency

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The nation is in dire need of a government whose sense of unity and purpose is profound, Omololu Ogunmade writes

With barely three days to the take-off of the second term of President Muhammadu Buhari, the need to entrench the power of unity in the forthcoming administration particularly, within the presidency, as a veritable tool for good governance is incontrovertible.
The age-long maxim, “united we stand, divided we fall,” comes to play here as it underscores the necessity for the president to set up a new administration with a unity of purpose as its bedrock.

So conscious were the founding fathers of Nigeria when they evolved “unity and faith, peace and progress,” as the motto of the then newly independent country. In the same vein, the last line of the national anthem describes Nigeria as “one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.”

Against this background, the president is expected to constitute a compacted administration that leaves no room for division and doubt about its sense of oneness in its operations, bearing in mind the volume of progress that a united government can make within a short while.
Although the outgoing administration was swift to debunk persistent allegations of division within it, the rumour yet continued to gain grounds against the background of certain steps viewed by critics to be contradictory.

In June 2016, for instance, Senate President Bukola Saraki who had been in the eye of the storm following his trial by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over alleged false declaration of assets and later by the High Court over alleged forgery of Senate Standing Orders had alleged that there was a government within the government.
Saraki was later cleared of the allegations from the CCT to the Supreme Court. But irritated by the allegation of government within the government, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, swiftly dismissed it as nothing but fiction and conjecture which remained only in the realm of imagination.

According to him, it was an allegation that didn’t worth the paper on which it was written and more so that anybody could rise and make any insinuation.
Nevertheless, critics would later point to the uncomplimentary security report sent to the Senate by the Department of State Services (DSS) against the confirmation of the president’s nominee, Ibrahim Magu, as the Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as a justification for Saraki’s claim.

The report accused the nominee of compromise and various acts of corruption, which it said made Magu unfit to occupy such an important office, whose effectiveness could only be predicated on the forthrightness of the occupant.

It was on account of this that the senate rejected Magu’s nomination. Yet, the presidency stood its ground, seemingly convinced in its own perspective that Magu was the best choice for the job. Hence, it believed that the move to stop him only smacked of a smear campaign by those who were gripped by fear of his perceived uncompromising stance and commitment to the government’s anti-graft campaign.

The president, hence, presented him again for confirmation but the Senate refused to shift ground as the DSS also insisted on its report, thus making Magu the first head of the anti-graft agency to perpetually serve in an acting capacity.

However, what the public perceives as a division in the outgoing administration of Buhari has been described by the president’s close aides as nothing but a disposition to give everyone the freedom to carry out his responsibility without any interference.
For them, the damaging security report against the president’s nominee by an agency of the government was only the expression of that sense of freedom given to every government agency to operate to the best of its ability without any fear or favour.

But critics were not satisfied by that claim. It is against this background of prevalent scepticism over the unity of the outgoing administration, that the president has been advised to deliberately constitute a government in his second term whose arms will not work at cross-purposes.

For well-meaning Nigerians, this will leave no room for perceived division in the government and the presidency but will rather portray it as a government whose unity of purpose cannot be called to question even by an unrepentant sceptic.