May 17, 2019

Buhari’s phenomenal wisdom on economy, security

By Philip Agbese

Like his predecessors, Nigerians have decorated President Muhammadu Buhari with multiple insignias. Certainly, some of these sobriquets are positive and others negative. It’s the favourite pastime of Nigerians.

When we give our leaders some funny or indicting nicknames, most of which are humourous ones, it submits to our inner yearnings of satisfaction for reproach of a leader.


President Buhari

But President Buhari is luckier. Almost all his epaulets are positive, even if some mischievous persons derive derogative undertones from it. So, we have differently branded him as “Sai Baba,” “Baba Go-Slow,”Mai Geskiya,” “Mr. Integrity” “Nepotist,” “Fanatic” and a lot more. None of these is demeaning in its real application.

However, what is obvious is that Buhari is not a leader anyone can take for granted. He is always calm and calculated. He is not a glib, but a leader who takes measured steps and actions. Buhari weighs his leadership decisions intensely and once he stamps his seal, on what his convictions prick him as right, no revolting noise from critics distracts him.

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Many Nigerians lest expected he would retain any appointee inherited from his predecessor. Those who initially failed to see his wisdom in instantly sacking appointees of the Jonathan Presidency are beginning to know the reason now.

Buhari as leader in the last three decades is firmly committed to credible performance and merit. He abhors corrupt persons and believes that the foremost agenda of leadership should be service to the people and the nation. So, he refused to subscribe to the narrative that every appointee of the Jonathan Presidency never performed or is a bad Nigerian.

So, those he sacked immediately were the Security Chiefs because it was apparent Nigeria was bleeding under insurgencies and insurrections. It was enough proof that these sets of Security Chiefs could not handle the security challenges confronting the nation.

Midway into his first tenure, some Nigerians bandied negative opinions about the leadership persona of President Buhari. He was dishonestly accused of exhibiting leadership character quite alien to some of us who have keenly followed his proclivities and idiosyncrasies. And the President Buhari some of us pretend not to know now has again, pulled a surprise and a shocker on Nigerians.

Buhari re-appointed the outgoing Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Mr. Godwin Emefiele for another term of five years. Buhari inherited Emefiele from his predecessor, who appointed him in 2014. He was barely a year in office when Buhari assumed leadership of Nigeria. But the nation already had teething and debilitating economic problems. Nigeria had sadly kissed economic recession.

But Buhari sighted in Emefiele a competent and astute banker, with rich experience and expertise in financial management. Buhari was excited with Emefiele’s commitment in rescuing Nigeria from the economic mess.

It never mattered to our President that he inherited Emefiele from his predecessor; Buhari never even bothered that Emefiele is a Southerner and should not have held such a sensitive position under a President of Northern extraction. Emefiele’s performance satisfied him or else, though a statutory appointment, Buhari could have deployed federal might to unseat him and damned the public condemnations and outcries.

But the performance factsheet of Emefiele has justified President Buhari’s recognition of this celebrated banker cum financial and managerial expert, as a rare asset to the nation. I praised his wisdom because I know there is no country on earth; not even the greatest of nations that exist without problems.

But what makes them outstanding is the capacity to withstand these challenges and surmounting them, with the right leaders in the right positions. Emefiele has proved it beyond doubts to all Nigerians. He has justified the confidence the President reposed in him. Its why the no-nonsense President Buhari has re-appointed him for another term.

Under a Buhari Presidency, there is no amount of influence or intensity of pressures from lobbyists that would compel him to dump a worthy public servant such as Emefiele with these sparkling track records. He is Governor of Nigeria’s apex bank who rescued the economy from recession, carefully coordinated meagre federal revenue inflows, stabilized the same economy and secured these revenues for government to fund public expenditure and capital projects running into trillions of Nigeria?

It’s the first of its kind in Nigeria’s recent history and Buhari would have ignored Emefiele for whatever sentiment? It’s impossible for a Mr. President who is unpretentiously concerned about the progress and development of a nation he leads.

Emefiele’s groundbreaking imposition of fiscal discipline in Nigeria’s banking sector, amazingly instilled sanity in this sector. Fraudulent managers of commercial banks knew it was no longer business as usual in granting unsecured loans to “big” customers, most of which ended as bad debts, thus eroding investors’ confidence in investing in the country.

Emefiele’s stable economic monetary policies and its implementation in the face of years of sharp shortfall in crude oil revenues ensured Nigeria traced and saved every kobo earned from federal revenue sources. He ensured transparency and accountability. The economy bounced back to life from the austere times because of these stiff, fiscal discipline in the banking sector.

The re-appointed CBN boss managed scarce FOREX so ingeniously and since 2017, stabilized the Naira which stubbornly hanged at N520/$1 to now N360/$1 at official exchange rate and freely available to Nigerians for legitimate businesses in all banks. He secured Investors and Exporters Window to an unshakable $25 billion stabilization and a lot more. No investor or depositor is scared of scarce or unsecured FOREX funds today in Nigeria.

I still vividly remember, party chieftains, power brokers and lobbyists who strongly advocated for the sacking of Emefiele when President Buhari came on board. But Buhari stood his grounds and today, we have fared better as a people. And the country is on a fast, economic progression lane, as evidence of Emefiele’s wealth of experience.
Again, Buhari reappointed Emefiele because the national economic team, on which he is a focal person has not finished its job. Only the team knows the extent of progress of work to sustain the economy and upgrade in performance.

Buhari met same messiness in the economy and did justice to it by sustaining Emefiele who showed great promise on the job, even though others hotly canvassed a change of leadership at the apex bank. But he declined. But we are reaping the reward of Buhari’s King Solomon’s wisdom, as much has been achieved in this sector and he knows Nigeria’s economy can still do better under Emefiele, its guardian angel.

And I am prompted to also comment on the senseless nagging over the retention of Service Chiefs by President Buhari. The Nigerians who are averse to this idea have conveniently forgotten that President Buhari met a terrible insecurity situation in the country, which degenerated for six years under Security Chiefs appointed based on political, ethnic or religious patronage.
We cannot deny that insecurity in Nigeria accentuated under these Abuja-resident Service Chiefs. And it explains why they were the first to be sacked by President Buhari. He confronted same problem by appointing seasoned Military officers as Security Chief and charged them to end insurgencies and insurrections in Nigeria.
It’s not easy altogether. But our current Security Chiefs have also performed incredibly in securing Nigeria, despite the politically induced violence and killings. But they have not relented either. And even in the last few weeks, the face of security in the country has really changed in conquerors’ delight by the Army. None of us can genuinely doubt that much has been accomplished on security, except those who perceive it sentimentally or from partisan lenses.

Nonetheless, we still need to do more to bury the resurrecting ghosts of insecurity, their masked sponsors and covert agents. For President Buhari, it is all about competence and credibility. Those who are uncomfortable with it are free to kick and groan. But we know Buhari has got the Security Chiefs to blend and they are working together seamlessly on security. The President is on track and deserves the support of all Nigerians.

The security chiefs still have more to offer in securing Nigeria and recruiting greenhorns to start the journey afresh is the most unwise decision any leader could consent. Those arguing for injection of fresh blood into the system should also ask themselves whether the fresh blood would migrate from heaven to land in Nigeria. Or else, they are personnel of the Nigerian military and if really patriotic, they can still contribute their brilliant ideas at the lower rungs of leadership within the Nigerian military to assist the Military’s apex leadership to make lasting impacts.

So, like the President, I believe the economic team hasn’t finished its good work. And same goes for the security team. Buhari’s decision on Emefiele tells us plainly that we must learn to give a leader the latitude to operate freely, especially in key sectors. If he fails or succeeds, he bears the brunt of public anger or applauses solely.

Agbese is a publisher and researcher in international human rights laws based in the UK.