Faced with same challenges of governance and leadership, all eyes are on President Muhammadu Buhari as he renews his oath of office for another four years this week. Olawale Olaleye writes
Make no mistakes – President Muhamamdu Buhari is not in a place of envy right now. First off, his 2015 mandate ends on Tuesday, May 28, and he’s billed to continue in office the next day, May 29, following his victory at the February 23 presidential election.
Although candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has since challenged the outcome of the election and is presently at the tribunal with his many prayers, the reality as it were, is that an election has been won and lost and the winner, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), President Buhari, would be sworn in this Wednesday, May 29.
But if you took away the euphoria of Buhari’s electoral victory and the opportunity to continue where he would have stopped had the opposition been declared winner, what is left is not quite enviable and that is a fact evidenced by some of the events presently dotting the turf.
For one, Buhari, either by accident or design, is returning to office at a time the political environment is very charged, in the sense that the politics of 2023 would kick-off immediately he is sworn into office on Wednesday, thus causing huge distractions. What this means is that serious governance might likely suffer a great deal, thus reducing whatever could be recorded as some of the gains of the last four years.
Instructively, however, the monster of the 2023 politics is tamable, but that would be contingent to a very largely extent on the style of the man at the helm of affairs. In other words, aloofness on critical issues and developments would no longer be an option for Buhari but the courage to make hard choices in collective interest. In essence, the president would have to take conscious and personal notes of developments and stamp his feet where necessary.
Definitely, this cannot totally decimate the influence of the 2023 politics, but could send sufficient signals out that would help shape the conducts of politicians, whose inordinate ambition could undermine the current mandate.
Whilst the nuances of 2023 intrigues are not totally evitable, the president cannot but hit the ground running this second term. Therefore, attempt to constitute his new cabinet six or seven months after his inauguration as was the experience the last time, would not be condoned. Indeed, there could be legitimate protest even from the most unlikely quarters.
But to show that it would not be business as usual, one of the first indicators would be for Mr. Buhari to announce critical and strategic appointments at his inauguration, designed to enable the government take off immediately. This would be a major step in the right direction to show that things have changed and that the famous ‘Baba Go-slow’ tag of the last four years had turned up a new leaf.
Another sign that the next four years would be different is in the fact that, apart from putting his team together in good time, Buahri could dare to be different by attaching portfolios to each candidate in his prospective cabinet before they are forwarded to the Senate for screening. This would not only make their approval by the upper chamber of the legislature tidier, it encourages seriousness in the embrace of their briefs from the go. It would also be a trailblazer.
Again, if this is achieved, the other leg to establishing a brand new Buhari would be to balance the various interests in the choice of his appointments, particularly, the need to reflect the nation’s diversity, merit, competence and professionalism without necessarily downplaying loyalty, which is believed to be more important to him than any other factor.
Importantly, the president must start to take effective charge of things directly within his purview as the commander-in-chief. Reliance on body language has not only proven to be divisive and ineffective, it is also counterproductive in the final analysis. The president must therefore start to step out imposingly on issues of concern and make his stand known without equivocation.
This second term, his government must try as much as possible to embrace the principle of ‘reward and sanction’ in dealing with individuals. Where the president gives a direct order to someone and the individual fails to carry out his orders, sanctions must be applied to show someone is effectively in charge. And where reward is clearly deserved, it must be given promptly to encourage others and set new standards.
Above all, the president has an even greater responsibility to keep the presidency one and united. The experience of the last four years is nothing to be proud of. It was atypically ugly. Not only were some personal staffers of the president at loggerheads with one another, agencies directly under the supervision of the presidency unashamedly did their filthy laundry in the public, yet, without a word from the president. That cannot be rated as an outstanding quality of any leader.
On the contrary, it was simply failing where necessary. In fact, the coming on board of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, was believed to have created a bit of stability and unity within the presidency, by deploying experience, relationship and maturity to play. Not just that, he was also said to have leveraged his contacts to smoothen the otherwise poor executive/legislative relationship. Kudos to the SGF! More people like him are needed in the government to watch the president’s back.
Lastly, Buhari must strive to be different this time around. From his approach to issues, style and relationship with development partners, he must endeavour to be a better version of himself such that in dealing with some of the issues that threaten the nation’s co-existence, a new life is breathed into the horizon and so, expectations of new but deserving results would not be sheer fantasy.