As it is, President Muhammadu Buhari has a date with history, positively or negatively, depending on how he handles the myriad of problems and challenges that presently confront his administration and the nation.
Last week, this column dwelt on the president’s 100 days in office. It highlighted the initial hiccups, particularly the unending drama at the National Assembly which, by all account, is still simmering and could slow down the wheel of governance. It also touched on other problems and prospects of the Buhari administration.
Quite refreshingly, Nigerians have embarked on a countdown to the formation of the much-awaited new cabinet which the president has promised to put together before the end of this month. Sure, the composition of the new cabinet will provide a binocular for people to view the direction of the new administration, most importantly, the road it will take to usher in its change agenda.
Only last week, the president insisted that past officials of government, including elected governors, ministers and other appointees who still had in their possession diplomatic passports, should hand them over immediately. That, in itself, is a departure from the rotten past where former government officials who had ended their services to the country or who were even disgraced out of office, still enjoy the perks of office, including waving their diplomatic passports at international airports.
Anyway, like all new governments, the Buhari administration has launched itself into a flurry of action and activities to implement diverse novel policy and governance directions to stymie those put in place by the last Jonathan administration. Some of these novel ideas include the observance of new rules of engagement in the Civil Service that has invariably made a cabinet minister a ceremonial head of a ministry, the running of a Treasury Single Account for all manners of payment and expenditure by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs); the determination to arrest revenue leakages in both the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and lately, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), among others.
There was also the reappointment of Alhaji Habibu Abdullahi, as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), in place of Alhaji Sanusi Ado Bayero, who was appointed to the position in the twilight of the Jonathan administration. All these graphically illustrate the race to erase all vestiges of the past government and replace it with a redemptive colouration.
Many Nigerians are aware of the apparent selective amnesia on the part of the government agencies responsible for the investigation and prosecution of alleged cases of corruption and corruptive practices. In their view, the exercise, which is Buhari’s main thrust of coming into office, may not be holistic and all-encompassing, if the opposition PDP alone is made to face the scrutiny of these federal anti-corruption agencies, while others are walking free.
Now, the president is confronted with the albatross of fulfilling many of the campaign promises he made to Nigerians in the heat of the hustling that preceded the 2015 presidential election. With the benefit of hindsight, many Nigerians are beginning to see that with the realities on ground, it will virtually be very Herculean, if not impossible, to fulfill the President’s “messianic” promises such as feeding school pupils and students; payment of a Welfare Allowance of N5,000 to all unemployed Nigerian youths; considerably bringing down the exchange rate of the Naira to other currencies and all that.
It is conventional wisdom that apart from Admiral Murtala Nyako, the immediate past elected governor of Adamawa State, no president’s party man or woman is currently being investigated or facing trial for corruption or corruptive practices. This has elicted some loud whispers in the polity. The fact of the Nyako case is that he was already being sought for trial before he escaped overseas and only came back to Nigeria to face his EFCC inquisitors after Buhari was sworn in as Nigeria’s President on May 29, 2015. Many Nigerians are aware of the apparent selective amnesia on the part of the government agencies responsible for the investigation and prosecution of alleged cases of corruption and corruptive practices. In their view, the exercise, which is Buhari’s main thrust of coming into office, may not be holistic and all-encompassing, if the opposition PDP alone is made to face the scrutiny of these federal anti-corruption agencies, while others are walking free.
Concurrently, the impending probe of the sourcing, payments and delivery of military hardware and consumables, albeit, in the public domain, may unearth figures, in and out of the military establishment, who may have soiled their hands. The concern of this column is that this tribe of treasury looters, may, out of self-protection and interests, take or initiate proactive actions to protect those interests through unconstitutional means. This scenario is also indicative of the “powerful oil barons” and those “hidden” interests in the purchase and operations of the various unbundled units of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), who may balk at moves to either expose them or truncate their avenues of milking our common patrimony.
Surprisingly, rather than concentrate on providing good governance, a mantra that formed a major plank of the people’s acceptance of the APC/Buhari aggregation prior to the election, the party and, by extension, the President, has not dropped its toga of being in the opposition. The party’s predilection for joining issues on any topic and its predisposition to stirring the hornet’s nest of contentious issues, have tended to create a backlash of problems for the president. For example, sometime ago, a governor told everyone with authoritative glee that President Buhari was given a list of persons who stole and stashed away billions of Nigeria’s petro-dollars. He also said a former minister has been slated for trial and consequent jailing. Soon after, the American State Department came out, forcefully, to deny that anything of that sort ever happened during President Buhari’s recent visit to the United States of America.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the virtual “war” for the soul of the National Assembly cadre of principal officers was one fought solely to position certain persons for the prime positions at the presidency, post-2019.
However, an area that most people are not paying any attention to is the subterranean moves and posturing for the presidential election of 2019, even when the newly-sworn-in federal government is still tottering and trying to consolidate. There is no gainsaying the fact that the virtual “war” for the soul of the National Assembly cadre of principal officers was one fought solely to position certain persons for the prime positions at the presidency, post-2019. Among the top echelon and rank and file of the APC, there are talks of the likelihood of President Buhari resorting to the “Mandela Option”, that is, doing one presidential term and leaving the terrain open to the likes of Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Atiku Abubakar, and Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who is currently in the visible and powerful position of President of the Senate and others.
It is for this reason that activities at the various power points in the APC are now geared towards having a foothold, no matter how tenous, in the cabinet currently being put together by the President. In addition to labouring to be in the good books of Buhari, those with ambitions for 2019 are strengthening their stranglehold on the fiefdoms they presently control for a possible last-ditch bid for the formation of a new party, where their interests or objectives will be best served. Many consider the current posturing as a dress rehearsal for 2019 as the fireworks will commence as soon as the President engages the homebend at the dusk of his first term.
There is a school of thought, also, that conjectures a grand plan in which the President’s foot-soldiers will, either by self-help or prodding from the main man himself, plot a second term, which, in any case, he is constitutionally-entitled to, and in the process, rubbish the ambitions of those who are rearing to go after his job. What the above scenarios signpost is that whichever way it is viewed, the president’s path is laden with mines with the likelihood of, God forbid, some catastrophic consequences. This is the more reason the president should consistently be on the alert and continuously watch his back.
As it is, President Muhammadu Buhari has a date with history, positively or negatively, depending on how he handles the myriad of problems and challenges that presently confront his administration and the nation. But he will be best remembered for either assuaging the dire conditions of the larger mass of the Nigerian people or for compounding them.
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