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365 days of Buhari: Will this giant learn to dance?

By Jide Ajani

The last one year of President Muhammadu Buhari has been made for television, true or false?  Discuss. The answer to the above question  is both true and false.

PRESIDENT BUHARI ATTENDS APC NEC MEETING
PRESIDENT BUHARI

But in engaging a meaningful   discourse, we would need to situate what has happened in the last 365 days within the praxis of whether the scripting could have been done in any other manner.

Yet consider: Buhari, as indeed many right-thinking Nigerians, has been embarrassingly stunned beyond imagination by the high level of graft discovered upon assumption of office;  the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, under the new leadership of Ibrahim Magu, appears to have been reinvigorated, as it daily titillates Nigerians with one fantastic corruption discovery after another; the  global economic downturn as and the  dwindling crude oil price have conspired to initially pour cold water on the President’s enthusiasm.

Therefore,  explaining to Nigerians how bad things had gotten, telling and re-telling of the wanton wastefulness of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan became a daily staple served  for the people.

For Buhari, therefore, Nigeriands needed to be educated about the reality of the state of economy that he inherited.   But the President himself needed some education.

Buhari 1yearNow, it has been established in some quarters that the usefulness of education derives from the understanding of its limitations. Mark McCormack, in his book,  WHAT THEY DON’T TEACH YOU AT HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL, explains that ignoring such understanding leads to dangerous arrogance and a lack of knowledge about the way the world works.

The lesson here, he went on, is that whatever you know pales into insignificance in the face of your reaction to what you do not know.

Which explains why it took too late before the Buhari administration realised that its policy,  that  banks should not accept deposits of foreign currency in Nigeria, was going to have its long term consequences, one of which is the lack of forex today, compounded by dwindling crude price.  In London, Buhari,  in reference to the empty treasury and the dwindling oil price,  asked, why me? The All Progressives Congress, APC, promised change. To be fair, things are changing. In Nigeria today, the change paradigm being enthroned flows from the wisdom embedded in the fear of the Number One citizen. Abroad, Buhari is seen as committed to fighting corruption.

But change has never been known to succeed, in this age of social media and the Internet, when its banner is hoisted on an individual – the days of Lee Kuan Yew are gone and the era of micro-managing a nation will no longer work. Yes, Mr. President means well. He is trying to do well. But there are cobwebs. One of the cobwebs is the continued impression that he is fighting perceived enemies in the war against corruption – but the defence is that those facing trial are to clear their names. The second is that he is sidelining some critical members of the coalition that brought him to power.

And so, John P. Kotter, one of the leading lights of change management, tells us  that successful change is based on eight processes viz:  Establishing a sense of urgency; creating the guiding coalition; developing a vision and strategy; communicating the change vision; empowering employees; generating short-term wins; consolidating gains and producing more change; and anchoring new approaches in the (governance culture).

The pertinent question invitably arises: How has President Buhari fared on these eight fronts?

In the area of urgency, he has failed.  His sluggish, near indifference to the need for timely policy formulation and  pronouncement made the economy worse than it ordinarily should have been.

Even the crisis of leadership that rocked the National Assembly in the first week of his administration can be located in his late realisation that the NASS leadership ought to be one that would be on the same page with the Presidency if the change agenda was to be engaged. Worse still, it took him almost six months from inauguration to appoint ministers who, in any case, were no strangers to Nigerians – he claimed to be searching for very upright Nigerians to work with but ended up with most politicians Nigerians already knew would be part of his cabinet.

The coalition that brought him to power is today suffering some discount because not all the key players then, have a say now.

Well, the gains of anti-corruption war are propelling  further gains in terms of the country’s emerging image as a nation that is being stripped   of its corruption regalia.

The Treasury Single Account, TSA, which enables government to have a bird’s-eye view of its state of finance, has largely reduced leakages in the system.

Whereas he promised to reduce the price of PMS while campaigning for votes, he recently increased it by about 80%.   His administration insists that the removal of the fraud-laden subsidy programme was one of the ways through which government can conserve (and raise) revenue.

The insurgency in Nigeria’s North-East has been largely tamed, even leading to the discovery of one of the abducted Chibok girls.   But the Niger Delta Avengers have been blowing up crude pipelines thereby magnifying the specter of gloom.

Into this dangerous mix is the murderous menace of herdsmen.

Faced with dwindling oil revenue, the following afflicted Nigeria in the last couple of months: Negative GDP for the first time in 16years; inflation rate of about 13.7 – highest level in about five years, one of the top eight in terms of inflation in Africa; we are also faced with wage pressure; external reserve is just about $26.5billion – which can cater for just about four months of imports, in the negative compared to the six months that is idle;  and two back-to-back negative growths, which economists call recession – there is bound to be another negative growth in quarter two we had in quarter one.   What this translates to is that in 2016, under PMB’s watch, Nigeria went into recession. This is not a consequence of President Buhari not putting in his best.

It is that Nigeria had led a very artificial life in times past.

From the various sectoral analysis in the following pages, you will read about Buhari’s highs and lows in the last one year. You may not agree with some of the conclusions but you would be hard put to controvert the facts as they are presented.

On the whole, you would come away with a feeling for a President beleaguered by a plethora of hindrances, chief of which is lack of revenue to actualised his change agenda.

However, you will also discover, rather unpleasantly, that President Buhari, set in his ways, may not have done much to help disembark from a posturing of rigidity which could blur reason and logic – his reaction to what he does not know.

In her book, WHEN GIANTS LEARN TO DANCE, Rosabeth Moss Kanter explains the “need for new skills that are required to manage effectively in innovation-stimulating environments: power skills, the ability to manage (appointee) participation, and an understanding of how change is managed”, concluding that “empowerment is critical to (government) success.

This prologue has fully discussed the introductory question. Now, the question for President Buhari is: Is he ready to learn new dance steps so that he can fully actualise his change agenda? Only Muhammadu Buhari can answer this one.

 


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