Aside from lack of performance, members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet continue to cause him scandalous embarrassment. Rekindling public trust in the president demands that he disbands the Federal Executive Council, writes Tobi Soniyi
Almost one year into another period of election circle, there are people in Nigeria who are still asking the question: has President Muhammadu Buhari actually taken over power?
They are asking the question because they believe that once Buhari assumes office, miracles and wonders will start to happen. You can’t blame them either. There was nothing the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not promise to do if elected into power. It promised to stop medical tourism; power would become stable; and that millions of jobs would be created, just to mention a few.
Two years after, the electorate have not seen the miracles and are now wondering whether the miracles will ever happen.
In a cloudy atmosphere like ours, one thing that is very clear to see is the under performance of the Buhari’s cabinet. It is obvious that the president’s team cannot deliver and the proper decision to make is to disband the team now. If the purpose of their appointment is to reward them for their support during the campaign, then the president has done more than enough. Sir, before they completely destroy you and what you stand for, let them go.
Flashback to September 6: The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Aisha Alhassan passed a vote of no confidence on the president when she announced her preference for former vice-president Atiku Abubakar as president in the next general election. Her position is a clear demonstration that the minister does not share the ideals the president stands for. Despite this obvious disloyalty, she remains a minister today. Yet she is supposed to help drive the president’s policies and governmental ideals.
Fast-forward to 27 October, 2017: Hameed Ali, the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), who is not given to playing politics said that the APC government “cannot move forward” because 50 percent of those in the current administration are from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Speaking at the official commissioning of the national headquarters of Buhari Support Organisations (BSO) in Abuja, the customs CG said the Buhari administration ought not to have allowed PDP members to call the shots in the government.
He said some of those who played major roles for the party to come to power in 2015 had not been fully appreciated.
“Today, with all sense of responsibility, I want to say that we have 50 percent of PDP in our government. How can we move forward with this load? How can we achieve our target with this load? It is a spoilt system.
“When you come in, you shake off everybody and bring in your own. That is what democracy is all about. Today, we have members of PDP calling the shots. That is what we will begin to fight for; we will fight for our rightful position, our vision and our mission for this government.
“I will, therefore, ask my colleagues of the BSO to go back to the study room. This is a commission, but it is also the beginning of the fight for good governance. We must get back to the trenches, draw our own battle plan and battle line.
“I enjoin you that the same commitment we had in 2015, I employ you to bear with us and commit yourself to a better future for Nigeria. We will be calling on you from now on and we will be working day and night. We must do so because we want to save our name and the name of the president for what he is doing.”
That is coming from one Buhari’s most trusted allies. Ali is not someone you can associate with frivolity.
Mr. President sir, another of your trusted ally, in fact, your most intimated friend – your wife and our First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari had earlier raised the alarm. About a year ago, precisely on 14 October 2016, Aisha, in an interview with the BBC said she might not support your bid for a second term because your government had been hijacked by outsiders.
This is how she put it: “The president does not know 45 out of 50 of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years.”
She said people who did not share the vision of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) were now appointed to top posts because of the influence a “few people” wield.
“Some people are sitting down in their homes folding their arms only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position,” she said.
You were so infuriated by your wife’s outburst that, while in Germany, you made the famous (some think it was infamous) statement that she belonged to the kitchen.
“I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room”, you said while standing alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a symbol of what women can do when men listen to them.
Sir, if there is anyone who loves and cares about you, that person is Aisha (not Alhassan but maybe she cares too) Buhari is that person. Please reflect on what she said. She is also not known for frivolity.
But before then, the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki was the first to raise the alarm. On 27 June, 2016, the Senate President who was then facing double prosecution: one for alleged violation of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers and the other over alleged forgery of the Senate Rules, said some individuals within the Buhari government were running “a government within the government.”
The president’s aides attacked Saraki and called him all sorts of names. A couple of months later, the wife of the president vindicated him.
Mr. President, a word is enough for the wise especially when the word comes from those who on daily basis pray for your success. Therefore, waste no further time by disbanding the cabinet.
Assuming the above reasons are not enough for you to make up your mind, here are supplementary justifications to do so.
They Keep Piling up Scandals
Let us begin with recent happenings. The surreptitious manner in which a fugitive of the law, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina was allowed into the country was most embarrassing and scandalous. He did not report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that declared him wanted, rather he was given security protection, re-absorbed into the civil service and given double promotion! This is the most scandalous act in Nigeria’s recent history.
Sir, the proper decision to take is to relieve the ministers involved in this act of their appointment. The Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of State Security should have gone by now for their roles. Collectively, by their actions they have rubbished that which you stand for. Mr. President sir, there are no good reasons to retain them. The Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and his interior counterpart, Abdulrahman Dambazau have not satisfactorily explained their roles either. As long as you retain them, no one is ever going to take your war against corruption serious.
Before the Maina scandal broke out, the nation was just about recovering from the incompetent manner in which the allegations raised in the letter written to the president by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu were handled. Nigerians might have, for now, decided to allow the sleeping dog to lie, but they have not forgotten. In the nearest future, they will remind you.
As former president Olusegun Obasanjo would say, ‘there is nothing like a frivolous petition.’ The allegations leveled against the Inspector General of Police by the Senator representing Bauchi Central Senatorial District, Isah Misau are so weighty that they should not be ignored. Trying to silence him by filing spurious charges against him does not help the fight against corruption.
They Are Also not Performing
Despite the president’s best efforts, the economy remains in doldrums. Most households have difficulty getting by. It also does not look like the present economic team possesses the magic wand to turn the situation around. The proper step to take is to send the economic team home and constitute another team to inject fresh ideas into the process. This is very important because the masses that came out in their thousands to vote for Buhari to become president are the worst hit by the economic downturn.
On October 18, 2017, members of the House of Representatives called on the Federal Government to tackle the problems of poverty in the country.
Following a letter written by the president to the lawmakers to inform them of his plan to present the 2018-2020 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) to the lower chamber, a motion was sponsored by the chairman, Committee on Poverty Alleviation, Muhammad Wudil wherein he “calls on the Federal Government to be more effective in implementing various programmes aimed at tackling poverty in the country.”
Another member of the House, Ayo Omidiran, described how poverty “was biting most Nigerians, including lawmakers.”
She said that every member is feeling the pangs of poverty. “Many of our constituents depend on us for their basic needs. They are feeling the pangs of poverty. People now go to their neighbours’ houses to seek help, which is embarrassing already. In turn, many of them run to us, asking for one favour or another.”
The cabinet has not been able to address the alarming level of unemployment. Those in charge of labour appeared not to have a clue on how to create jobs.
However, efforts by the government to block wastages must be commended. But the stimulus that will revive the economy appeared slow in coming thus making it difficult for people to really feel the impact of the fiscal responsibility measures put in place by the government.
It is not only the team handling the economy that has failed Nigerians; those leading the anti-corruption war are also turning out to be incompetent. As a result of the way some of the people appointed into offices by the president are carrying on, the fight against corruption has lost credibility and it looks more like a war against those opposed to the president.
Several weeks after the report of investigation into the allegations against the suspended Secretary to the Federal Government, Babachir Lawal, and the Director General of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke was submitted to the president, nothing has been heard about the report.
Those leading the fight against corruption are themselves becoming complicit in corrupt acts. Many are beginning to doubt the president’s sincerity and commitment to the fight against corruption. “If Buhari needs his war against corruption to be taken seriously, he needs to first clean up his own house, the All Progressives Congress,” writes Bekeh Utetiang, an author.
Even the governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike, blamed the ineffectiveness of the president’s fight against corruption on the inability of institutions to act independently.
Wike, during a courtesy visit by officials of Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, UK, to Government House, Port Harcourt, said that “political influence has weakened the fight against corruption. It is difficult to fight corruption when the institutions are weak. Claiming to fight corruption with weak institutions may just be a political ploy to attract sympathy from western countries.”
For Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, the absence of a coherent strategy has been a major drag in the fight against corruption.
Now to security.
The administration appears to have limited its definition of security to the fight against Boko Haram. But security is more than that. To begin with, the success recorded in the fight against Boko Haram had been wiped out by the resurgence in attacks by the sect. Yes, the government deserves commendation for confronting the insurgents’ heads on, but it appears that we rolled out the drums too early. We celebrated the defeat of Boko Haram when we have yet to defeat the insurgents. Therefore, even the war against Boko Haram can benefit from fresh ideas.
Other security challenges remain. Kidnapping appears to be on the increase even though there is no statistics to justify this assertion except for news reports. Police officers who are saddled with the responsibility of protecting the people from being kidnapped are being picked up like fowls.
At a meeting with Commissioners of Police and other senior officers recently, the Inspector General of Police (GP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris castigated officers for allowing themselves to be kidnapped.
He described as most embarrassing and annoying the recent kidnap of the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of Sarkin Pawa in Niger State. Superintendent of Police (SP) Amos Aliyu was abducted near his home at Turin Fulani by unidentified persons.
He urged policemen to be careful and protect themselves first. He also told commissioners of police that they would be vicariously liable should anything happen to any policeman under them.
He said: “There should be more visibility policing. Policemen should be deployed in flashpoint areas to take care of security because the presence of police in those areas would help in the reduction of crime.
“We must take the protection of our officers seriously. We have a problem; two days ago, one of our DPOs was kidnapped. How can you be a DPO, you have all the policemen under your command and then you start driving as if you don’t have anybody.
“You allow the useless kidnappers to pick you and your orderly, it is very embarrassing. We had the same issue in Zamfara state where an ACP going on leave travelled alone. It is embarrassing.
“Utilize the men you have and you must protect yourself first. You can only protect others when you are protected because you are a target.
“The information we are receiving is that our ACP’s vehicle was abandoned in a bush and he has not been seen which obviously means that he has been kidnapped. How can we be living with such situation? It is becoming an embarrassment. DPOs and other personnel should be careful of their movement.” If it is this easy to kidnap police officers, can we say this government has delivered on security? Absolutely not.
This government has been unable to deliver because of internal wrangling. That is another reason to disband the cabinet. The fight against corruption and the struggle to strengthen the economy are two major areas worse hit by lack of unanimity of purpose. Several times, the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria appear to be working at cross purposes just like the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu is being undermined by the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Maikanti Baru. The economy is not working partly because there is no synergy between the finance minister, Kemi Adeosun and the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele.
Perhaps, in no other sector where division has threatened to derail the government war against corruption than in the battle of supremacy between the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami and the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu. The AGF has to publicly demand for the files of people investigated for high profile corruption to be handed over to him. Malami blamed the suspension of the country from the Egmont Group for the inability of the EFCC to separate the Financial Intelligent Unit from the commission. But the EFCC under Magu would accept no such responsibility.
Observers believe that the office of the AGF is not only antagonistic to the EFCC but undermining it. They cite the letter allegedly written by the AGF to pave way for Maina to surreptitiously return to the country, get reinstated and promoted. Whichever way one looks at it, this is not good for the anti-corruption war.
Also, the fact that the Department of State Security would write a report against Magu and send it to the Senate so that Magu, an appointee of the president, would not get cleared is another indication of the lack of synergy in the system. Why not just whisper your fears to the president instead of causing a public show?
The Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption has also been at loggerheads with the AGF. This does not bode well for the war against corruption. To get the anti corruption war back on track, this cabinet should go.
President is Half Way Through
Another compelling reason for a change of cabinet is that time is no longer on the president’s side to deliver on his campaign promises. Since it is clear that the present cabinet is not inspiring, there is an urgent need to get new hands that can turn the situation around for good. Very soon, campaign for the next general election will start. Mr. President sir, time is not on your side.
The People no Longer Trust Them
For obvious reasons, the people have lost confidence in the ability of members of the president’s cabinet to deliver. They have turned out, individually and collectively, not to be the agents of change the president charged them to be.