President Buhari’s Meltdown, By Sam Amadi

Posted by Sam Amadi | 15 July 2020 | 283 times

President Muhammadu Buhari



“Politics and primordial loyalty seemed to have swallowed President Buhari. It is now time for him to wriggle out of the belly of the shark. That is, if he still has the energy and will to fight for his life. This is a melting down for the Buhari administration. But it could also be a redefinition.”

This might be the defining moment for the Buhari administration. It is not on account of the Coronavirus pandemic even as disruptive as it is. It is not necessarily because of the distressed economy. The man has been unlucky to wrestle with two recessions in a four-year tenure.

The defining moment is on account of the corruption tales trending on social and conventional media.

Buhari officials are spilling the beans, accusing themselves of earth-shaking corruption. The head of the main anticorruption agency, the EFCC, is detained and interrogated by a high-powered administrative tribunal on allegation of massive financial misappropriation and abuse of process. His traducer, the Attorney General, is hit with missives of alleged corrupt practices. The Minister of Niger Delta and the former acting MD of the Niger Delta Development Corporation (NDDC) are tangling on allegations of fraud, oath taking and sexual harassment. Elsewhere, different sagas of corruption are airing on prime time.

To understand how much this is a meltdown we need to understand the Buhari persona and the justification of the Buhari presidency. Build up to the 2015 general election I know many respected Nigerians who believed that General Buhari, would be the right man to fight corruption after President Jonathan’s failure. These patriots knew Buhari’s pedigree as a former military dictator who had not shown any civility apart from running elections and using the court, rather than coups and violence, in three occasions to try to depose the declared winner. These patriots also knew that General Buhari had shown no real competence in managing social and economic challenges or in proffering ideas and insights on any of such pressing challenges. This shows a degree of incapability that should deny him the job. But the Nigerian patriots kept faith with Buhari because he would succeed in fighting corruption. Now this may sound silly to you. Is corruption the only crisis of governance and development Nigeria should address? But if you are a Nigerian and note how much lives have been lost because corruption ate up the hospitals and healthcare, then you will pardon these patriots’ mindless enthusiasm.

So, from this context, what do you call what is going on now? How do you describe the last one-week when all about the government is mind-boggling revelations of sleazy and abuse of process. It is nothing short of a meltdown. Yes, many have doubted President Buhari’s disposition and capacity to fight corruption. They gave up after his first term. But now it is official and almost final. The anticorruption war failed to take off. It has shuttered down at the runway. With the Magu saga, any remaining hope of a war against corruption is in tatters.

The painful thing is this massive failure was avoidable. President had enough temperament and good circumstances to have preserved the image and reputation that won him his historical mandate. His failure was self-inflicted. It started with a simple intelligence failure: President Buhari preferred loyalty to competence as the organizing principle of governance. In many instances, the choices he made reflected the idea that what it takes to be on his side in government is the sense that you have been on his side on many previous occasions. In leadership, it is not character alone that is fate. Biography is also fate. You govern according to your character, worldviews and limited or extensive contacts and experience. President Buhari’s worldview failed him.

The president’s choice of personnel in leadership has been remarkably constricted and conservative. In the first term, it took him over half a year to announce the cabinet. When he did, it could have been a roll call of his campaign organization. There was no point waiting that long to select such a team. Besides, the composition of the team did not align with the objective of achieving his strategic focus of fighting corruption. There was little inspiring about the team. Most of the team member could not pass the integrity and competence tests. But the President kept faith with them either because he had known them for long or his loyalists nominated them. The president appointed service chiefs and has kept them in office since contrary to known tradition and in spite of their evident failure in leading a successful fight against insecurity. He is sacrificing competence at the altar of loyalty. His army chief has struggled with allegations of corruption from the get go, but President Buhari has refused to sack him.

The anti-corruption chief, Magu, finally is suspended in a dramatic political shoot-out with the Attorney General. The story is that an administrative tribunal is probing Magu and he could be on his way to criminal trial. People are worried how things got this bad because the President had kept faith with credibility-challenged Magu for too long. Magu has always carried with him allegations and evidence of lack of professionalism, and some would say, integrity required of an anti-corruption czar. Even the president’s secret police twice issued damning report against Magu and the Senate twice refused him confirmation. (Of course, we know that hollow (sorry, hallowed) chamber often acts from both bile and self-interest). But in spite, the President did not pay enough attention to evidence. As usual, what mattered mostly was your standing with the president, not what the evidence says about you. (Some argue that the president does not make these decisions on personnel himself. He outsources them to those he trusts). In spite of whether these damning allegations against Magu hold true, he clearly lacks the competences to be a chair of a well-managed EFCC. This fact was evident to anyone who paid unbiased attention.

What is happening now to Magu and the war against corruption was avoidable if the filter of leadership in the Buhari administration was designed to be evidence-based rather than responsive to loyalty and administratively irrational considerations. The president massive social capital could have enabled him to lead the country on a different trajectory and build a legacy that would have justified the trust of those patriots who overlooked the fact of authoritarian past and limited managerial ability and swooned on his integrity. At the end the preference of primordial loyalty over provable competence is leaving President Buhari integrity in tatters.

Consider the case of Governor Godswill Akpabio. He is politically powerful. But he is a fully paid-up member of the Nigerian political elite famous for its corruption and failure to distinguish the private from the public. This man just switched camp from PDP to APC. He threw his enormous financial weight on the campaign for the President’s reelection. Then bang, he bagged a ministerial slot. He was rewarded with the ‘juicy’ Niger Delta ministry. President Buhari had promised a new deal for Niger Delta, starting with the Ogoni clean-up.  The ministry is key to curing the development deficit in the Niger Delta. And who should be the minister? A politician with no stellar credential for technical competence or integrity. Just for politics.

Politics matters. But politics could undermine governance. You need to make a choice or find a good equilibrium. Choose political expedience or legacy. Yes, in public leadership you don’t eat your cake and have it. When Justin Trudeau defeated Michael Ignatief for the Canadian Prime Minister position, the latter gave him a good piece of advice: clean up politics and you solve public corruption. Ignatieff told him that while cleansing politics and breaking the roots of ‘business as usual’ may cost him politically, but it will guarantee him a legacy. President Buhari should have received this counsel. He failed in the first term to tame politics as usual. He is fast failing on the second term on the same score.

Based on the pedigree that got the patriots on his side in 2015, the likes of Akpabio ought not to be in his team. But they got in because loyalty triumphed over proven competence and demonstrated integrity. Politics and primordial loyalty seemed to have swallowed President Buhari. It is now time for him to wriggle out of the belly of the shark. That is, if he still has the energy and will to fight for his life.

This is a melting down for the Buhari administration. But it could also be a redefinition. If the President brushes aside loyalty a bit, sacks his cabinet (and the service chiefs and most of the aides) and reconstitute a new one based on demonstrated competence and proven integrity, perhaps he may redeem the time and manage to leave office in 2023 with his white Babariga fairly clean. (Culled From TheCable)


Readers Comments


No comments yet. Be the first to post comment.

You may also like...