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Muhammadu Buhari is starting out on a scary note

By Rotimi Fasan

PERHAPS by the time you are reading this, President Muhammadu Buhari would have made key appointments, especially of ministers, into his administration.

Buhari
Buhari

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As I write this late night of Sunday, June 2, 2019, four clear days since the president was sworn in for his second four-year term, he is yet to make any announcement in that regard. This does not look right. In fact, it is scary, for what it tells us is that the president has probably forgotten everything or has not learned a thing from his first four years in office.

Considering the many shortcomings of this administration, which many Nigerians, although very critical of the president, accepted was a demonstration of inexperience by a former soldier who was once a military ruler, it is shocking that Buhari is taking off on this note. Is this man reprising his first four years in office?

Is he taking Nigerians through the slippery path that paved our way into recession in 2016 even if the journey to that disaster began under the Goodluck Jonathan administration?

Need I remind Nigerians that since the mutual back-slapping that characterised the valedictory session of the former Federal Executive Council, FEC, time during which the president heaped praises on his ministers and they in return congratulated him for his sagacity in appointing them into office – since that session during which Buhari instructed his men and women to remain in office until the eve of his inauguration, the president has not returned to the issue of appointment again.

The other time he said anything pertaining to it was when he responded to a question from reporters by declining to mention those he would appoint into his new administration.

The impression one had then was that he already knew the make-up of his government and was only waiting for the right time, perhaps the dissolution of his former cabinet, to announce it. The media also fuelled discussion along this line with their speculations on the likely cabinet list.

Five days since the swearing in ceremonies, we appear to be in a de javu situation, tracing our way back to May 2015 when after his “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody” speech the president went to sleep without any mention of what he would be doing next or those he would need to achieve it. He named no names and made no appointments except for the couple of people that would directly serve him inside Aso Villa. The president did not look like somebody who came into office knowing he had pledged to serve Nigerians and not the other way round.

But we did not realise it then – at least not those of us who had chosen to give him a benefit of the doubt. Unlike the “five per cent” who did not vote for him and would not at the very point of death see anything good in either Buhari, his administration or anything he is connected to.

These opponents of the president were very quick to point out the lack of preparedness that his failure to constitute a cabinet signposted. Others who were sympathetic asked for more time for him. But that time did not look like it would end.

It took all of five months before the president would wake up from his slumber. That was unprecedented in the annals of the country.

Many of the appointees, after all said and done, were well-known faces and names. By 2016, just a year into his administration, the signs were too glaring to ignore that Buhari needed to send many of his ministers and other appointees back home for non-performance.

The president, however, would show how loyal he could be even as a boss by sticking to his appointees to the bitter end. Except for the odd one, Kemi Adeosun, who had the decency to resign after she was caught in the firestorm of a forgery scandal.

As others who found themselves in the same situation like Adeosun remained in office without Buhari pretending not to notice, it is safe to conclude that Adeosun would have weathered the storm had she chosen to remain.

Buhari would have accommodated her. Which is a plus for her own sense of integrity that she left rather than a thumbs-up for Buhari who like Donald Trump can only hire but (in Buhari’s case at least) is notoriously slow, if not unable, to fire.

Buhari has been a slow coach of a leader, earning for himself the moniker: “Baba-go-slow”. His slow approach to the constitution of his cabinet in 2015 would be the hallmark of his activities in government. It provided the template for whatever mediocre goal he achieved thereafter. Yet things could have been far better if he had only been more in earnest.

Buhari lives in a bubble where time is perpetually warped. He is hardly ever in hurry. For him, time is not of any essence and it could wait for as long as it would take him to wake up and do whatever his office demands.

Yet that slow decision-making process has been damagingly costly for Nigeria and Nigerians. It is not and cannot be a virtue in the desperate times in which we live presently.

President Buhari needs to bestir himself and must set about his responsibilities without let or hindrance. Nigerians cannot afford, in his second term, the same phlegmatic attitude he brought to his job in the last four years that have seen him losing control and initiative to the power mongers that surround him.

How can he explain his failure to appoint his ministers soon after he was sworn into office? Are we to understand that after four years Buhari still does not know enough Nigerians outside his kith and kin to appoint as ministers? Could Jonathan’s uncooperative ways be stalling his capacity to appoint his own ministers in 2019?

This, I repeat, does not look right at all. It bodes nothing good for our country and is a warning that this government’s ways are of a kind with those of an “illiterate goat”.

It is looking so early in the day like an incorrigible conclave of deaf Nigerians. That Buhari would commence his second term on the same tenor of 2015 bleakly foreshadows what we could expect from him in the next four years. This would be despite his promise to perform “wonders” this time around.

There is nothing reassuring about this slowness and the president needs to step up to the occasion that his high office demands. He cannot continue in his second term in the smug, self-righteous manner he has so far managed the affairs of this country.

That Nigeria has not keeled over is by the grace of God. Buhari should not take this for granted.

 

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