Talking Point

February 3, 2021

The Buhari government is its own worst enemy

By Rotimi Fasan

IT would look like there is nothing the Buhari government or the President himself does that will satisfy his critics. But while I would not deny there are opponents like that who would never be satisfied with what the President does no matter the merit of his actions, I am also inclined to think that the President is most times the cause of his own troubles given his preference to sit as if on his palms watching as things rot before him.

His failure to do the right thing at the right time is a malady he must overcome if he wants to be treated differently by Nigerians, especially opponents whom he provides fodder for their cannon of criticism.

Take as example the recent change of service chiefs who have long outlived both their usefulness and welcome – exhausted men long overdue for retirement and who would rather be home but for the rigid insistence of the President who chose to keep them in office against all wise counsel.

The change Nigerians wanted in the so-called security architecture of the country finally came and many must wonder if it was in response to the renewed clamour from Nigerians in the wake of the tension created by herdsmen/farmers clashes in the Ibarapa region of Oke Ogun in Oyo State. One cannot link this to the insurgency and banditry in the North.

Those look like hopeless cases to which Abuja and governors of the states concerned have resigned to fate, opting for the easy route of appeasement or simply looking away from the events, terrible as they are.

No, nobody can explain the logic behind Buhari’s removal of the former service chiefs at this time or if it was to accept that the majority of Nigerians who had sometimes with tears in their eyes sought the sacking of the chiefs had been right all along. But presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, in his usual feline complacency, said the change was done “in due time”.

What Adesina meant by his resort to Biblical register is known only to him, but “in due time” would suggest the President’s action was carefully planned, that there was a threshold beyond which he would not have allowed things to degenerate further before changing his security chiefs. Was that threshold crossed last week?

Did President Buhari have to wait until the unspeakable carnage that came in the wake of the security failures and breakdown around the country before deciding it was time to allow the brass hats go home? After how many thousand deaths? As the Yoruba would say, when a man spends three years learning the rudiments of madness, at what point would he run into the market naked? At what point would he start chewing raw wood?

And when Buhari finally decided to move “in due time”, booting out his weary chiefs by appointing news ones, he did it without seeking legislative assent for the new appointments. This is not the first time Buhari would be making appointments requiring legislative approval. It is, unfortunately, not also the first time he would do so without first seeking legislative support.

The President and his minders seem to be so fixed in their alpha and omega ways that the idea that there are other co-equal arms of government apart from the executive often comes to them as an afterthought. When people criticise this, it is given a political slant where it is not categorised as hate speech.

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The fact that government continues to make the same mistakes over and again, leaving room for alike partisan and non-partisan critics to take pot shot at it does not invalidate the criticisms made. Nor does calling such criticism political make them so. It is government that must step up its game and move beyond what one might call unforced errors.

The Buhari government has a host of well-known lawyers of established legal acumen, including the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. Attempting to seal appointments which the Constitution says require legislative approval six years into an elective administration is sheer executive foolishness. This is trite knowledge that the APC-led Buhari administration manages to bungle ever so often. It is an unnecessary embarrassment to the likes of the VP and Festus Keyamo, the Minister of State for Labour, who had himself spearheaded activities against previous governments that sought to behave unilaterally.

It might be argued that the President has written to the National Assembly on the appointments of the new service chiefs. But this was after the likes of Femi Falana and many other Nigerians had raised their voice to condemn the patent violation of the Constitution. Yet there is an Abubukar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, right there in the Presidency.

Even as things stand now, the confirmation of the new service chiefs by the Senate is already reduced to a fait accompli as the former chiefs have with fanfare and in their eagerness to take their exit handed over the instruments of their offices to the new men who have effectively taken over. The appointments have been signed, sealed and delivered.

When the new chiefs appear before the Senate it would be simply to “take a bow” and go home. Who dares overturn an appointment already made by “Mr. President”? Talk of a rubber stamp Senate or National Assembly and you find the one presently headed by Ahmed Lawan, who amid a raging pandemic led party “faithful” and no less than 14 governors of the APC to accompany the President on a wasteful journey to his home state to revalidate his membership of their party, a totally avoidable “super spreader” event.

This action is coming from the same government and president that only a couple of days before signed off on an order seeking to enforce the use of face mask and observance of other non-pharmaceutical protocols for the containment of COVID-19. The President himself has not been a regular user of face masks, the use of which he now wants to enforce on Nigerians.

Has leading by example suddenly gone out of fashion? I mean the contradictions are simply too many, irrational and mind-boggling. When government regularly threatens Nigerians with another lockdown, it came up with a non-starter of a demand that Nigerians obtain a national identity number within a limited period, setting off unnecessary panic among a people now compelled to crowd the few available registration centres.

Government has created a wonderful avenue to ensure the spreading of a deadly disease and yet affects innocence as it goes about breathing fire and brimstone about an impending lockdown. Yet Femi Adesina warns of plans of a smear campaign against Buhari by opposition elements. Muhammadu Buhari needs no opposition.

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