By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, you must be wondering from the title of my Column this week if I am missing Madam Patience Faka Jonathan, our erstwhile indefatigable First Lady, less than two weeks after she left office alongside her husband. Your guess would definitely be wrong, if you think so. This article is not about any human being called Patience. It is on that inner attribute which makes it possible for people to calm down and look deep before hurrying to nowhere.
I’ve been visibly disturbed by the spate of unnecessary and unwarranted attacks on the leadership style of our dear President Muhammadu Buhari who was sworn in barely a week ago. What is his offence? He’s said to have been slow in announcing his cabinet, Special Advisers and personal aides as well as formulating policies that his government intends to follow. I read this firstly on social media, as early as last Sunday, just 48 hours after the President received the baton of power from former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
I was totally flabbergasted because some Nigerians did not realise that President Buhari’s first official working day should be June 1, 2015 even though the business of governance started immediately the President was sworn in on 29 May. Those castigating President Buhari also failed to appreciate the fact that he would need some time to settle in and examine the realistic state of things as opposed to the guess work that electioneering campaigns engender, since the opposition did not have access to raw government data before assuming office.
Back to my discourse, while I agree that certain offices could have been immediately allocated and announced such as media team (which was the first to be announced) alongside State Chief of Protocol, Principal Private Secretary, National Security Adviser, Secretary to the Federal Government and Chief of Staff, there are always processes and procedures to be followed and complied with. If the President had woken up the day after May 29 to roll out names of all his appointees, I’m sure many would still have challenged the reasons for unilateral decisions without constitutional adherence, due process or enough consultation. His political party in particular and the cynics in general would have frowned at his “dictatorial” tendencies and find an excuse to snooker him. The Nigerian Constitution requires the President to obtain the approval of the National Assembly before appointing Special Advisers. More fundamentally, his Cabinet must be approved by the Senate and there is therefore no point announcing names until the National Assembly has been inaugurated.
As a matter of fact, we need to appeal most passionately to members of the APC, to take it easy with President Buhari and have mercy on Nigerians by reducing the palpable tension in the land as a result of the battle for political posts and party supremacy. If Buhari is put under too much pressure, it may turn out to be an invitation to unmitigated disaster because he is bound to make appointments based on pure sentiments rather than unadulterated merit. Sadly, it is no longer hidden that the new governing party is being torn apart by this self-immolating fiasco over who controls what. That itself is affecting the polity and stoking up disaffection. An average Nigerian would hold only one man responsible for the action or inaction of this government and that is Mr President.
The impatience being displayed from Day One by Nigerians should be instructive. It is not going to be an easy ride for the President and his Vice President, Professor Osinbajo. All eyes are on them and the expectations are very high. As I mentioned last week, we are dealing with a generation of impatient and temperamental youths who won’t listen to, or take, lame excuses. All they want is positive action that can change Nigeria for the better. And they want this change sooner than later. It is certain, therefore, that the honeymoon is going to be brief if this affair is not carefully managed.
My prayer is that the President is able to build a team that would be largely acceptable to the generality of the people for its credibility and competence. Once that is settled, the rest should be easy to deal with. I will suggest a mass attack approach in handling our myriad of problems. The team must work together, strike together and defend together. In short they must speak with one voice. Let me break it down. They must not operate at a tangent. The challenges are intertwined and can only be jointly disentangled.
The first sign of seriousness would be when this government comes up with its plans to cut down on the atrocious costs of running government whilst pledging to ensure that ordinary public servants are regularly paid their salaries. I believe that Government has a duty to pay its workers regularly each month. Even if they cannot do so, for reasons beyond their control, one would expect that they pay those workers at least half of their salary every month, until situations normalise and the accumulated arrears can be settled. I salute the resilience of all our longsuffering public servants. I never cease to marvel about their selflessness in turning up at work, day in day out, despite not being paid for many months. If our political office holders could demonstrate the same diligence and discipline, our country would be well on the way to recovery.
The days of leaders living large and going on a binge should be over. Salaries are never the issue but the allowances and perks of office. The tradition of going around in a long convoy of official cars together with employing a large retinue of aides must be stopped in order to reduce and discourage profligacy. Every effort must be made to convince the people that this is not going to be the typical way of running government in Nigeria where leaders have lived outlandishly while the people wallow in abject poverty and squalid conditions.
The second priority should be to have the right people in the right positions by bringing on board people with veracity and expertise business and leadership. Those privileged to serve their nation should begin to see beyond the glamour and appurtenances of power. Power has become too psychedelic in our clime and this does not augur well for growth and development. It distracts from the serious business of governance. The flamboyance of politicians should be curtailed as much as possible. There is no reason why any soul should travel around with a battalion of government security personnel while an entire region of Nigeria is absolutely abandoned to the rarefied savagery of terror gangs from far and near. Every Nigerian needs protection, not just the leaders and their families. When leaders downgrade their ribaldry, the citizens would gladly take a cue from them and begin to emulate the right and edifying attitudes they evince. For now, everyone is his own government until the change we craved and fought for materialises.
The third is to fortify our institutions. Institutions make a society. The different arms of government must respect one another. The executive must recognise the sanctity of the legislature. The legislature must respect their constitutional role and engage only in laws that can make our nation more virile and respectable. The Federal Government, State and Local Governments should co-exist as Federating units and eschew the present master/servant relationships Each must get its allocations independently and as at when due instead of the beggarly arrangement at the moment. The interference from Federal to State and from State to Local is reprehensible.
The Judiciary is supposed to be the last hope of the common man but it has not been accorded the importance it deserves. Without justice, we live in the jungle where might is right all the time. We shall be ruled by kangaroos and mad dogs instead of men and women of conscience and decorum. A nation where justice and equity are for sale, and readily available to the highest bidder is living a calamitous existence. The much touted independence of the judiciary must be made a reality. A situation where civil servants who work under Judges are paid more than the Judges themselves must stop. The Judiciary must control its own budget. No more should there be the need for Presiding Judges to go cap in hand to the Executive for solace and succour. In most civilised countries, Judges earn more than any other public office holder or politician. The rationale is simply to provide them with enough to ensure their independence and impartiality. Any errant, greedy Judge can then feel the full weight of the law.
The Police as the law enforcer must be properly empowered to do its job well. All the noise about power and energy, infrastructure, education, health, agriculture, and others are desirable but nothing could be more important than the rule of Law and there can be no Law without an enforcer. The almost incurable inferiority complex being suffered by our Police must be exorcised urgently. They have been subjected to so much indignity that has rendered them rudderless and ineffective. A lot of the big or petty crimes in our society would have been better tackled if the Police was allowed to do its job without undue interference from the top. The personnel, resources and training necessary to improve our police must be speedily implemented.
Once we strengthen our institutions, we shall then be able to concentrate on physical development. The fortification of these institutions doesn’t require much money but only the will to protect their sanctity as it is done elsewhere. If the Commander-in-Chief can set this in motion swiftly and explicitly, we would have started the journey towards our restoration and beatification as a people. The President is fortunate to have a Vice President who is well grounded in most of those sectors and he should seize that uncommon opportunity to hand him the task of spearheading that restoration.
It is a job that must be done.
DANGOTE’S GLORIOUS DAY IN ETHIOPIA
When I got a call from Alhaji Aliko Dangote last week, I thought it was for our occasional chit-chat on politics and the state of the nation. I was dead wrong. In his usually calm voice, Alhaji simply said “my brother, can you please join us on a trip to Ethiopia for the launch of our cement plant?”. I felt honoured by the personal invitation extended to me and accepted it immediately.
Working out the logistics was handled professionally and pleasantly by Mr Anthony Chiejina, the energetic Group Head, Corporate Communications at Dangote Group. Alhaji had instructed that I should be flown to Addis Ababa, with his family members and friends, on his Bombardier Global XRS Business Jet, on June 3. That was it.
As arranged, we took off from Lagos on a five hour journey. The assemblage at Sam Iwuajoku’s Quits Aviation’s private hangar was a who’s who in the Nigerian business world. Different planes took off heading towards Ethiopia for one man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, whose rapid expansion is now felt in about 16 African countries.
After landing in the early hours of June 4, 2015, we headed straight to the Sheraton Addis hotel where we spent less than three hours before rushing down for breakfast and driving on a two-hour journey to the Dangote 2.5 Million Metric Tonnes Cement Plant, situated at Mugher, Ethiopia. It was such a wonder to behold.
The $600 million Plant lived up to its billing in physical structure and environmental splendour. Security was good but not over the top. The presence of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, His Excellency Ato Hailemariam Desalegn and the President of The Oromia National Regional State, His Excellency Ato Muktar Kedir, made it mandatory. Otherwise, we travelled that long distance without a single security escort. Considering the number of distinguished personalities from Nigeria, I couldn’t believe there was no Police or military on the buses that took us to and fro.
Another startling discovery was that there was no generator on standby to power the plant because I was told this was an unnecessary item. That is virtually impossible in most African countries. After the ceremonies were over we took a breath-taking tour of the massive Plant that has stretched the limit of science and technology.
The event attracted amongst others, my Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who breezed in with his beautiful wife, Lara. The Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, who has such a gentle mien, surprised me by chatting with me in impeccable Yoruba. Former Governors, Niyi Adebayo, Donald Duke and Yisa Yuguda were present. Alhaji’s friends, Col Sani Bello, Femi Otedola, Muyiwa Bakare, Oscar Onyeama, Stephen Oronsaye, Haruna Jalo-Waziri, Hon. Farouk Adamu Aliyu, the Daggash Brothers, Kunle Elebute, Mrs Mairo Bashir, Segun Adeniyi, and many others were present. The top bankers came in droves and included Jim Ovia, Emmanuel Ikazoboh, Bisi Onasanya, Ladi Balogun, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Herbert Wigwe, Oladele Sotubo, and astute lawyer, Asue Ighodalo, also came.
It was an awesome experience to say the least.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Dele Momodu /Thisday