By Olu Fasan
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari recently told leaders of the Arewa Consultative Forum who paid him a congratulatory visit that he would work harder in his second term. “This is my last lap”, Buhari said, “I will try to work harder.” The subtext is an admission that he didn’t work hard enough in his first term. Most people would say he didn’t work hard at all! But a president who ballsed up his first term cannot blithely promise to work harder in his second because it’s “my last lap”. Why is Buhari’s “last lap” more important than his first? Four years is too significant in a nation’s life to be wasted!
You might admonish that the election has come and gone; we should look forward, not back. I agree. But Buhari’s comment raises two questions about the future. The first is that, going forward, can he really work harder? The second is: Even if President Buhari can work harder in his second term, is that what he should do? Well, on the first question, my view is that Buhari, who relishes being called “Baba Go-slow”, cannot, in fact, work hard, let alone harder. And on the second, well, I believe Buhari mustn’t “try to work harder,” which, in any case, he can’t do, but work smarter!
By his own admission, President Buhari is not a hard worker. In 2016, during a visit to General Olusegun Obasanjo on the 40th anniversary of the creation of Ogun State, Buhari thanked Obasanjo for tolerating him as Minister of Petroleum during his military regime (1976-79), “because God knows that I am not used to working as hard as he used to.” In 2015, Buhari said in South Africa that he wished he had been president at a younger age, adding: “Now, at 72, there is a limit to what I can do.” If Buhari couldn’t work hard as a 34-year- old minister and considered himself limited by age at 72, why should anyone believe he can work “harder” as a second-term president at 76 going on to 80?
Those who know Buhari attest to his inability to work hard, his laid-back and hands-off work ethics, and his slackened approach to issues. One senior politician, said to be close to the president, told the Financial Times: “General Buhari doesn’t delegate, he abdicates,” which chimes with the view that he surrendered the running of the country to a shadowy cabal. Leaders must be readers, but a Buhari ally, Junaid Mohammed, once said that: “Buhari couldn’t read two pages of a book in a year.” Whether in jest or in earnest, Buhari himself said: “I am a very slow reader,” blaming being an ex-soldier! So, Buhari’s promise to work harder this time must be taken with a pinch of salt!
But that brings me to the second point. Buhari doesn’t need to work harder; rather, he must work smarter. Of course, hard work has long, rightly, been venerated. Thomas Edison famously said that: “There is no substitute for hard work.” But in recent times, attention has shifted to working smarter. There are several books on “How to work smarter, not harder.” This shift is not intended to denigrate hard work, but to stress that working smarter, that is, intelligently, produces better results than just working harder!
As president, Buhari doesn’t really need to work very hard, but he needs to work smarter by providing the right vision and leadership and by assembling a team of talented technocrats to deliver the vision. Unfortunately, President Buhari did none of these in his first term. He didn’t provide the right vision for this country; he didn’t show real leadership; and he formed a largely mediocre and incompetent cabinet.
In a recent editorial, the Financial Times wrote that: “Buhari ran a lacklustre administration, with no obvious sense of direction, and no coherent strategy.” That’s not a commentary on his inability to work hard, but, rather, on his lack of vision and competence. It takes vision and competence to create a sense of direction and a coherent agenda, implemented by able technocrats. Buhari runs a statist government, but any government can ban any product or control anything. However, it requires more intellectual rigour and competence to develop policies that generate economic prosperity and increase general welfare. Buhari also rejects political restructuring; but it takes more than brute state force to engender stability and unity in a multi-ethnic nation.
In his congratulatory message, General Ibrahim Babangida, former military ruler, advised President Buhari “to be creative in formulating policies that would improve the nation’s economy” and “to heed to the yearnings of reasonable Nigerians for restructuring.” Essentially, Babangida was urging Buhari to work smarter by embracing sensible policies, such as business-friendly reforms and restructuring.
Surely, working smarter requires an attitude adjustment. Unfortunately, President Buhari has promised a more-of-the-same agenda. “We have laid the foundations and we are committed to seeing matters to the end,” he said.
Thus, for Buhari, working harder means pursuing the same failed policies. That’s not smart. It would hurt Nigeria and make his vaunted “last lap” a wasted opportunity as his first. He must work smarter, not harder!