We Voted for Change: The Difference President Buhari Is Not Making (1), By Fred Adetiba
Nigerians need leaders that can inspire loyalty, sacrifice and commitment, not by merely asking that we change but by the efforts they are making to keep Nigeria together and get the country out of the doldrums through bold and audacious policy decisions and actions that are in the interest of the people.
In this article, I will be making reference to the last administration, not to blame them for the failure of this present administration, but for the purpose of comparison, to show that the current administration is not doing things any differently. There was no doubt in the mind of a number of us that former President Jonathan was going to leave Aso Rock in 2015. So many things, which time and space would not permit me to mention were wrong with Nigeria under his leadership. Corruption and impunity became rife; there was nepotism in appointments into key official positions, particularly in agencies and departments in the economic sector; our country was sharply divided along ethnic and religious lines; the gap between the rich and the poor had seriously widened; there was the raging insurgency in the North-East and the kidnap of the Chibok girls, which was poorly responded to, etc. These and many more problems had risen to alarming levels during that administration.
Despite the foregoing though, the Jonathan administration stil got a few things right. They took the bold step of resurrecting our rail system, even though what was brought in were pre-modern locomotive coaches. They were also able to reduce corruption in the administration of fertiliser, and in the last 6 weeks of the administration, President Jonathan took a bold step against Boko Haram and made more progress than in curbing them than in the previous two to three years in which the terrorists held sway in the North-Eastern part of the country. It was during those six weeks that I would say that President Jonathan was truly in charge of his administration. Prior to that, people around him were running the country as they wished, while he just looked on.
I remember that during the 2015 presidential campaigns, they had wanted to flout these achievements to convince Nigerians to retain the administration in power. It soon became evident that Nigerians were not impressed with these achievements, particularly in the light of the many issues the administration was grappling with and could not resolve. By the time President Jonathan woke up to take charge of his presidency, it was too late. We later realised that even his campaign funds were embezzled by some of his campaign managers.
The above is my summary of why I think Nigerians voted the last administration out of power and voted for ‘change’ instead. Two years down the line, while we have seen commendable efforts at curbing corruption and plugging financial loopholes in the system, there is yet to be a significant departure from the fundamental challenges we faced under the last administration, as well as system of governance. Today, we still see and experience some of the issues we complained about under the leadership of former President Jonathan.
A Divided Nigeria
One of the things I would continue to credit former President Obasanjo’s administration for was his ability to hold this country together. His posturing, body language and actions did not give the impression that he was for any particular region. He did not posture as the president of the Yoruba nation. He was the president of Nigeria, and he led as such. It is sad to say that President Buhari, just like his immediate predecessor, is posturing as a sectional leader. This is evident in his appointments to key official positions, particularly in the security sector. We hear of his cousins and relatives holding sensitive positions in government. I don’t believe the only people the president can trust are those from his state and close circle. For instance, I expected Ogbonanya Onu should have been made the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), as initially speculated. That would have given our brothers in the South-East a sense of belonging.
Just as President Jonathan showed that he was more concerned about a certain section of the country, this is the same thing we are seeing under this administration. Irrespective of how Nigerians voted, I think it was an error in judgment for President Buhari to have said how he was going to favour the part of the country that voted for him more than the others that did not vote for him as much. As a show of goodwill, he should have done the opposite by assuring every part of the country of the equitable distribution of the dividends of democracy, irrespective of how they voted. That would have been the first step in bringing a divided country together. It was a golden opportunity that was thrown away by the president and his team. Today, the country is sharply divided along religious and ethnic lines because of these utterances, postures and actions. This is not different from what happened during the last administration and it is certainly not the change we voted for.
It is apt to say that the man who was largely not in charge could not have been inspiring in anyway. That was the case with former President Jonathan. His posture, speeches and actions were not in anyway inspiring until about six weeks to the end of his administration. We are experiencing a similar situation under this present administration. For instance, when allegation of corruption was first brought against the suspended SGF, Babachir Lawal, we expected the president to have acted fast in instituting an investigation into the matter. It dragged for a while before the Presidency responded. For me, that was not a good sign for an administration whose acclaimed major achievement since assuming office is the fight against corruption. The delay in addressing the SGF issue also strengthened the notion that was making rounds that the president’s anti-corruption campaign was only directed against the opposition.
In addition, one would think that by now, we should have had a new crop of cabinet ministers that would inject new energy and ideas into the system and turn things around for our country. What we still have are largely people who were compensated with political appointments. One excuse we can make for the president, however, is his unfortunate ill health. It’s unfortunate that he was not available for a period. But now that he is back, nothing much is happening still. For instance, the contentious case of the confirmation of the chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) remains to be resolved. Nigerians need leaders that can inspire loyalty, sacrifice and commitment, not by merely asking that we change but by the efforts they are making to keep Nigeria together and get the country out of the doldrums through bold and audacious policy decisions and actions that are in the interest of the people. To be continued….
Fred Adetiba, a HR Practitioner, Researcher and good governance advocate, is Head of HR/Administration/Finance at Premium Times. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org and @fredor4c on twitter.