By Rotimi Fasan
NIGERIA’s leadership problem, diagnosed decades ago, continues to manifest in different ways under the current All Progressives Congress-led government of President Muhammadu Buhari. O yes, I recognise we are all leaders in our different roles and do not downplay the place of good followers in the success and failure of their leaders.
But the authority that comes from the mandate given a political leader to work in the collective interest of a people or a country is not the same as that of an individual, say, a father over his family or a managing director over the company he or she heads. The authority of a father or a managing director is not only far less effective than that of a local government chairman, it is necessarily limited to a particular circle.
When a political leader fails to live up to the mandate or oath of his office, the effects are immediate and far more consequential. We see this so frequently now as in the past that one is left wondering what the government of the day claims to be doing in its capacity as the ruling party. It’s an aviation metaphor that, for me, best captures the state of the nation today under the present administration. As many commentators have pointed out in the past, Nigeria is on autopilot.
The captain of our national carrier (read the president) is clearly missing in action. Almost a full year to the day he will leave office as president, the demands of his position have grown totally overwhelming.
The presidency has lately had to react to the accusation that the president has been insensitive to the plight of Nigerians. This is an old charge that Abuja has learned to yawn over and move on. It is for them neither here nor there and could at best only have been spawned off the tongue of opposition figures. Somehow government reacted even where that reaction could not have moved a mere pin.
Truly the president has been feeling the pain of Nigerians under insecurity, hunger and a near-total breakdown of basic infrastructures across the country. In the course of his wanderlust across the world, participating in and chairing inconsequential international meetings, President Buhari knows what it means to lose a loved one to bandits, be on interminable struggles of living from hand to mouth while working as an elephant; he knows the pain and frustration of living without electricity for many days on end.
This year alone the universities have been closed for months after nearly a year of closure last year. Our polytechnics are straining on the leach and getting set to join the boycott train. Where does that leave many of Nigeria’s army of jobless youth whose sole ambition today is to japa, flee the apparent bleakness of the home front for rewarding menial jobs in Western capitals? Nobody is safe anywhere in the country. In the air, on land and over the seas, life remains a precarious adventure. Families of the Abuja-Kaduna train kidnap victims are opposed to the government’s plan to open the train service to the business. They know as we all do that the only way to keep the plight of their loved ones, victims of a state that has lost the very reason for its existence, is to ensure that the train service is not open for business until every captive is set free.
So far, only those able to pay for their freedom are back home. Others may as well spend the rest of their lives in their kidnappers’ den and the heavens will not fall as one of the president’s spokespersons has had cause to say in a different but related situation in the past. Life has to go on, they must have reasoned. Abductions are now a part of everyday life in Nigeria and people are kidnapped or killed in scores on a daily basis. Nothing happens! Nobody gets charged. Why should the case of one set of people worry the government that must be more concerned about how it must pay back the creditors that bankrolled the establishment of the train service?
The loans that went into the manufacture of the trains have to be repaid within a given period and that will not be done when the train stations are not open to customers. All of this will be sound argument where the government has been seen to be doing more than conveying the president’s orders to overstretched security agencies to ensure that perpetrators of the ‘dastardly acts’ of kidnapping are brought to justice. That is the most that could be expected of the president’s sensitivity: he issues repeated orders that nobody cares to execute. The situation of this presidency is in fact worse than that of a lame duck government. It has always been inept in many areas of governance. Being lame duck, by the way, does not quite apply in the Nigerian political space where politicians remain effectively in charge and do not vacate their position until the very last minutes of their terms in office. Many of them have been known to order the withdrawal of huge funds in the dying hours of their mandate which is when they are most active.
The collapse of governance is obvious everywhere. In most parts of where I stay, it has been total blackout for more than a week now. It’s the same report from many parts of the country even as power distribution companies, more adept at holding rather than providing power, continue to steal from Nigerians under an estimated billing system that simply shares out what power consumers are to pay in a bid to meet monthly intake of revenue. In previous weeks there were attempts at explaining the constant blackout which was attributed to a collapse of the national grid. Such niceties which pretended to respond to the plight of Nigerians have been dispensed with. Nobody tells anyone anything anymore. You can make of the power supply situation what you will.
On the political sphere, the man who was called to help himself to one or two spoonful of the national pork has decided to bury his head in the pot of soup as he scouts for an interpretation of his status in the light of his ambition to be Nigeria’s next president. Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank, is now crying more than the bereaved.
Where age-long politicians have given up the foolish game of holding one appointive office while scouting for an elective one, Mr. Emefiele continues on his doomed mission of transforming from being the government’s foremost banker to becoming president. To add to the national confusion, the sacked Accountant General of the Federation is struggling to keep his alleged loot of N80 billion.