TITLE: The Buhari Presidency 2015-2019
EDITORS: John A.A Ayoade and Adeoye A Akinsanya
PAGE: 376 pages
PUBLISHER: John Archers Publishers, Ibadan
REVIEWER: Ademola Adebisi, Ph.D
History, it is widely acknowledged and believed, is the lag of past actions and inactions. This is anchored on the premise that, whatever we do or fail to do today, will go down as history. Everyone is afraid of being on the wrong side of history. Thus, everyone strives to be on the good and credit side of historical ledger. Yet, a great number of philosophers, observers and analysts have raised doubt on the sanctity of history. The questions are these: what is the right side of history? Who decides the right and wrong sides of history? Can friends and foes come up with common historical account, on the same issue? Is history then not often one-sided? The answers to these posers cast dim over the light history attempts to throw on events of life. Consider these notions of history: Mark Twain had pontificated: the very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice. Satayana also affirmed this, as he is not scared to emphatically declare that, history, is a pack of lies about events that never happened, told by people who were never there. One other fact about history according to Chuck Palahncik, is that, man tends to be remembered more for what he destroys than what he creates. Otherwise, Benito Mussolini would not have been more remembered as an aggressive, expansionist and fascist villain than as a revivalist of Italian glory and social regeneration. Is history then not a bunch of lies, falsehood and deliberate omissions and glorification of inanities? Voltaire agreed no less. He wrote of history as a pack of lies we play on the dead, even a times on the living, one can add. It is because of this value-laden nature of history that political science has attempted to evolve its own soft scientific tools of analysis without completely jettisoning the historical instrument of data gathering and data analysis.
No matter where the pendulum will swing, President Muhammadu Buhari has committed himself to history and unequivocally his steps and missteps are bound to be written about. In earnest, a group of political scientists have brazed the trail, deploying the fairly less-value laden tools of political analysis to assess the Buhari democratic presidency. In 2014, the trio of Professors John A.A Ayoade, Adeoye Akinsanya and Olatunde J.B Ojo had elected to embark on the intellectual trip of studying the content, form and context of exercising presidential power in Nigeria. This intellectual goal culminated in their debut of a four-part celebrated book project on the Jonathan Presidency. In furtherance of this goal, the troika, but short of one this time- following the demise of Professor Olatunde JB Ojo in 2019- have come up with another edited seminal treatise titled: The Buhari Presidency 2015-2019.
Dedicated to the memory of their late colleague, Professors Akinsanya and Ayoade, have brought to the fore, a clinical and cerebral analysis of how President Buhari has exercised his executive powers during his four years, within the framework of his campaign agenda, personality traits and the context of his social, political and economic constraints. The book which is organized into 13 chapters deployed the pool of the intellectual resources of well-established and nascent scholars to do a scientific and non-visceral analysis of how President Muhammadu Buhari deployed his executive powers in different spheres during his first term.
In order to put the analysis on a proper footing, the book starts with the Chapter titled, Politics and Cabinet Selection. This prime chapter assesses the processes and subterranean factors that dictated the nature and the capability of Buhari’s cabinet which was late in coming, with the consequential costs and benefits. The cabinet, the chapter raises, is a product of the mix of the features of Nigerian politics: extreme partisanship, absence of consensus, violence and self -aggrandizement. Thus, the cabinet according to the chapter, was barely efficient and effective in meeting the yearnings and expectations of the people and thus called for rejig in the years ahead. This chapter dovetails into the next chapter of the book titled, Political Appointments and the Principle of Federal Character. In this chapter, rigorous attempt is made to investigate the strong allegation that the Buhari Administration honored the principle of federal character more in the breach than the compliance. Without fear of being challenged, the chapter comes up with the findings that, the Administration did not breach the principle of federal character where it is constitutionally mandatory. Beyond this, the chapter also found that, in other political appointments particularly in the appointment of the Heads of the Security Agencies, the President swung the pendulum towards the North. The chapter thus fittingly, submits that, while the President has the prerogative to choose those he prefers to work with, he ought to be mindful of the interest of the country and as a statesman, he must strive to strike a balance.
In what is an attempt to lay bare one of the factors that undermined and tainted the Buhari presidency in the first term, the book in chapter three dissected incisively the phenomenon of party jumping or defection with the ingenious title: The Buhari Presidency: Paradise infested by ‘rats’. The concept of ratting which was borrowed from the political “rat race” of Winston Churchill, from one political platform to another, was examined in all dimensions exposing Nigerian politicians as being largely driven by self-aggrandizement and self-promotion. They are indeed as Yoruba people of Nigeria would say: O je ni ile oro je ni ile eegun (indiscriminate partakers in all traditional festivals for personal gains without being adherents of any). In the process of their oscillating and transiting as political pilgrims and nomads from one party to another, with their attendant exploitation of situations, they have become an albatross to good governance in the first four years of the Buhari Presidency the chapter correctly portrays.
Handled by a foremost political scientist, John A.A Ayoade, this chapter is indeed a seminal exposition on the phenomenon of party defection which needs only a little empirical brace to be elevated to the level of a theory for universal applicability.
This chapter sounded a note of warning to President Buhari in dealing with defectors and chattered a direction for him thus, “a good person cannot work with anybody because only like poles attract in social physics too”.
The frosty relations between the legislature and the executive and how it affects governance forms the focus of chapter four of the book, titled, Legislative- Executive Relations.The research into this was led by an eminent professor, Adeoye Akinsanya. This frosty relations, the chapter anchored on the inherent fissiparous tendency in the President’s party, the APC, which even had the majority in the legislature , who rather than behaving as party true adherents chose to be disloyal to the party leadership and the Buhari Presidency. This, the chapter correctly captured, not only slowed down the performance of the Buhari’s Administration, but also undermined its effectiveness and efficiency. The obvious conflict that dominated the relationship between the executive and the legislature in those years, has certainly created the impression the contributors of the chapter hold that, the Parliamentary Executive is more efficient and stable than the Presidential executive. One demurs here. For the dysfunctionality that might have arisen out of this seeming water-tight separation of powers between the executive and the legislature was more of the divergent temperament of the political actors in the two arms of government. Perhaps this is a matter for further research.
Chapters five and six of the book dwell on the economic activities of the Buhari Presidency. While chapter five focuses on the Administration’s penchant for borrowing to finance public infrastructure, chapter six examines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of the administration economic revival and growth template tagged: Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). Indeed, chapter five’s advocacy for a return by government to the tax-based mode of public financing and chapter six’s call on government to avoid the pitfalls that contributed to the failure of previous plans are voices that should not get the treatment of the one in the wilderness.
The lukewarm attitude of President Buhari’s Administration to the recurring issue of the restructuring of the Nigerian federation and the politics of godfatherism using Lagos and Ogun State APC primaries as case studies, came under focus in chapters seven and eight respectively. captioned , “ That the House Called Nigeria Would not Collapse”, the chapter on restructuring discusses the imperative of restructuring the Nigerian Federation, the lukewarm attitude of President Buhari and hammers that, the only preventive measures that can forestall the collapse of the House called Nigeria is to enthrone fiscal autonomy for the federating units and reallocate more powers to them by decongesting the heavily loaded but not heavenly decreed, exclusive powers of the central authority. One cannot agree less on this.
Another important national issue which cropped up under the Buhari’s Presidency is the issue of National Minimum Wage. The discussion of this in chapter nine was located in the “complex web of Nigeria’s inter-governmental relations and contends, that a realistic National Minimum wage is tied to the will of governments at all levels to redress the imbalance in the distribution of the country’s commonwealth.”
Chapter ten of the book assesses the off-season Osun State governorship election of 2018 conducted under the administration’s re-constituted Independent Electoral Commission. The chapter lucidly chronicled the organization, conduct and supervision of the election by INEC and also established the extent to which the election was free, fair and credible against the backdrop of the cacophonic and conflicting reports and conclusions of the domestic and international observers. The chapter adjudged the election to be largely free, fair and credible, but not without emphasizing the need for political actors to abide by the rule of law in future elections with a view to genuinely consolidating democracy.
The matter of corruption comes into focus in chapter eleven entitled: The Judiciary and the Anti-corruption Crusade. The chapter examines the sounds and bite of the administration in the war against corruption and the role played by the judiciary in the anti-corruption war and also the corruption within the judiciary itself. The chapter submits that, much still needs to be done by the Administration to stem and prevent the pandemic disease of corruption from becoming permanently incurable.
The last but one chapter revisits festering question of General Muhammadu Buhari’s Educational Qualifications. The work needless to say, is a re-examination of the issue of whether or not Buhari possesses the constitutionally required educational qualifications to contest the 2015 election. Handled by a professor of Law, Adewale Elijah, the chapter clearly examines the “nooks and crannies” of the constitution and the ordinary laws of the country and concluded unequivocally that, the President was not short of the required educational qualification.
Last but not the least, the Nigerian foreign policy is subjected to a thorough and incisive scrutiny in chapter thirteen of the book by an erudite and foremost scholar of international relations, Professor Olayiwola Abegunrin. Foreign policy matters did not occupy the centre- stage during Buhari’s campaign for the 2015 general elections that brought President Buhari to power. He solicited for votes on the plank of three- pronged agenda namely, security, economy and the fight against corruption. Though on the surface, the three issues apparently appear domestic, however, the fact that the global stage can be used to pursue them make them very much foreign policy issues and drives. In appreciation of this, the author of this chapter masterly deployed the three issues as a framework for analyzing Buhari’s diplomatic and foreign policy forays. In the cutting-edge analysis, the achievements and the challenges of the Buhari’s foreign policy are brought to the front burner.
As Buhari has set out for his final term, the final words of the chapter would certainly boost the final score of Buhari on foreign policy should he heed those words: “without doubt, Nigeria needs most urgently a new foreign policy architecture, both for intra-African as well as for global relations, which will enable it to face the challenges posed by paradoxes of globalization. Such an architecture must be based on the protection of Nigerians and the country’s national interest”.
With the exceptional strengths of this work, one would have expected that, in evaluating the Buhari’s presidency, attention would be focused on areas such as: The Buhari presidency and the rule of law; fundamental human rights, national security; infrastructural development and social investments. However, those critical issues did not catch the attention of the editors in this first edition. Good enough, I am opportune to be privy to the template for The Buhari’s Presidency 2019-2023 which copiously addresses those unfinished businesses of the Buhari’s democratic Presidency. I therefore, commend this book to the reading of political scientists, historians, political actors, public affairs, analysts and all patriotic Nigerians expecting it to enrich their knowledge and provoke further research on Buhari’s Presidency.
–––Dr Ademola Adebisi writes from Federal College of Agriculture, Akure, Ondo State.