WITH a few days to May 29, the handover date, two major talking points have gained prominence and remained in the front burner of public discourse as Nigeria marches to a new start at the presidency. Surreptitiously though, there is a third.
One, the possible composition of General Muhammadu Buhari’s new cabinet. and, who is qualified in character, experience, exposure and acceptability, to lead the Senate, as well as the Lower House, and other leaders of the National Assembly.
Understandably, these deserve the scrutiny and attention they are getting seeing that any mistake by whatever means and proportion, would spell doom and largely put a clog on the wheel of the incoming administration. Equally, such mistakes will equally hamper the delivery of the much elusive dividends of democracy and put the nation at grave risk having walked this far in search of people-centred leadership.
This is why it has become expedient that one gives the President-elect, General Buhari, a helping hand, and make him aware of some dangerous political bumps likely to pose a threat to his government; if for nothing, to assist him steady himself in this crucial time when decisions that will make or mar his administration are taken.
The covert talking point among most discerning Nigerians is the possibility of our man of the moment, GMB to rebound. Those who expressed this concern are probably phobic of the military background of the in-coming president, forgetting that for the general to submit himself to the democratic process of selection of candidates of his party depicted readiness to abide by democratic norms. Though only time and happenstance will vindicate him, it is critical that GMB be cautitious and govern by the law of the land.
While everyone who contributed to the success of the All Progressives Congress party (APC) at the election deserves a pat on the back, a moment comes and that moment is here, when national interest is allowed to stand taller than parochial or party interest anyone might have as the nation considers who will lead it at all the strategic positions in the new administration.
There is no doubt that this season calls for a deeper reflection before deciding who becomes which minister or not. While GMB seems transparently concern about the future and progress of Nigeria, it is not impossible that certain personalities who see the emergence of the APC as an opportunity to either accumulate more wealth or remote control Nigeria, might work at cross lines. These are speedbrakers Buhari must be weary of.
In all democracies, beyond the passion to serve fatherland, the equitable distribution of political offices plays critical role in determining the speed, shape and manner of progress by any administration. However, this must not be above competence, dignity and resourcefulness. It is on this backdrop that care must be taken by the new APC government and President-elect to ensure no individual or group it on the party and nation as intense lobbying continues over political offices and appointments at the presidency and the National Assembly leadership.
Since the buck stops on the president’s table – vilified or applauded – for the success or otherwise of his government, the President-elect must take a studied look and critically examine the issues that led to the failure of President Goodluck Jonathan’s government and avoid them as best as possible.
As a highly principled and incorruptible man, character traits that endeared him to Nigerians, it is important that Buhari watches out for booby traps that some greedy and selfish politicians might put on his path to undermine him. Not just that, it is also important to avoid walking the same path that burnt President Jonathan’s fingers and gave PDP the bloody nose. Today, everyone can see that those who misled President Jonathan are,without qualms, already jumping ship and directly and indirectly fraternising with the incoming government, abandoning the man they once praised to high heavens. This is a big lesson for the President-elect.
And, one quick lesson to take away here, is that if he bends too low to feather the interest of any politician at the expense of national interest, such a politician like those who advised President Jonathan, will not be there when Nigerians begin to throw stones at his government when it falters. Invariably, such a politician will not stop the PVCs when they make a return to the polling booths after four years.
There is no doubt that critical to establishing himself as a leader who means well, the President-elect must fight some urgent battles, especially the battle against graft. Good, as this is, given that corruption has been the bane of Nigeria’s development, care must also be taken to ensure that it is not turned into a political witch-hunt tool. Records are well too clear on how the President Jonathan’s anti-graft battles and those of previous governments ended and the costs to Nigerians. It is also well, too clear, the costs, politically, to those who oiled the battle wheels rather deceptively.
President Jonathan, for instance, where he ever showed the will to fight graft, was deceived into fixing his guess on the wrong people, while those who walked his corridors and dined with him, daily, had their ten fingers on the national till. It cost him re-election. Therefore, when the President-elect is sworn in on May 29, he must avoid these pitfalls like a plague. There should not be any form of persecution of perceived political opponents or supposedly corrupt, except those already indicted.
One recalls how strangely, President Jonathan ran unjustifiably after perceived political adversaries with the EFCC, while in a typical case of double standards, his government openly fraternized with those who were arraigned, tried and convicted of financial crimes!
In Jonathan’s government, we had the allegation of missing $20 billion from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Account by former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi ignored, while the banking czar was forced on compulsory leave for blowing the alarm. Sen. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the political strategist and democracy wizard was also invited, four years after leaving office, by the EFCC on fathom charges, but only because he remained an unapologetic democrat with an aversion to the impunities perpetrated by the out going administration.
In his case, Jonathan unleashed the EFCC on Sen. Bukola Saraki of Kwara State, two years after he left office. Curiously, even when the same Saraki had got a clean bill from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2006, Jonathan’s government made him their prime target after the former governor activated the alarm over the fuel subsidy scam. Today, the same alarm has yet to stop sounding over the fuel subsidy scam!
While these cases and many more present a picture of a government that was irredeemably on auto self-destruct, perhaps, the case of Chief James Onanefe Ibori, a former governor of Delta State, typifies another wrong move in the name of anti-graft battle by President Jonathan. When Ibori still enjoyed a rosy relationship with President Jonathan, he was treated as a saint to a point that his case files were missing in government records! But when their paths crossed, President Jonathan pretended that he did not know what to do to save him, but backed people like Chief DSP Alamieseghia and Chief Bode George, convicted of financial crimes, to run for Senate and become a pillar in the party. Ibori, today, is still serving a jail term in the United Kingdom after a ridiculous and curious trial process in Nigeria.
Not only would the President-elect steer clear of such parochial and self-serving leadership style, for truth remains that Nigerians wanted a change and the President-elect presented a better alternative to what President Jonathan provided. It therefore means that no politician will save the President-elect from defeat if Nigerians feel he has failed to deliver on his promises. This underscores the need to allow whatever pending cases against any politician to run full circle without undue interference.
Having overcome a government defined by years of needless manipulation and witch-hunting, there is no better way to start afresh than building structures that engender respect for due diligence and due process, devoid of any form of the impunity that eventually destroyed the PDP.
Indeed, in all steadily advancing and working societies around the world, systems were never built around individuals, but made to be independent such that it gives everyone, irrespective of religious or party affiliations, room to achieve their God-given potentials.
This is why the President-elect and by extension, those who mean well for Nigeria, must do well by ensuring that the selection of Ministers, Advisers, National Assembly leaders enjoy popular participation rather than manipulation and parochial primordial sentiments.
Mr. Victor Peter, a publiccommentator, wrote from Ilorin, Kwara State.