A FAILING COUNTRY: HOW AND WHY PRESIDENT BUHARI LOST GRIP OF AUTHORITY
UMAR ARDO, Ph.D
Judging by the spate of insecurity currently pervading the country, Nigeria can be rightly said to have drifted inexorably into a complete failed state. All over the country, especially in the North, from my home state of Adamawa and Borno in the North-east, to Benue and Niger in the North-central and to the president’s own home state of Katsina and Zamfara in the North-west, kidnappings, killings and bloodlettings of horrifyingly unimaginable proportions have become standard daily occurrences of communities. While internecine genocide, communal killings and banditry are going on in villages and towns unabated, highways have been taken over by armed robbers and kidnappers. Only two days ago, for the fourth time in 2 weeks, three people were again abducted in my hometown of Kojoli even when the previously kidnapped ones are yet to be released. Since there are no federal or state authorities to turn to, our people are left with no option but to negotiate with the new rulers of the day – terrorists, kidnapers and bandits – to secure the release of the abducted.
To all intents and purposes, therefore, adding to the Boko Haram insurgents, bandits and kidnapers have also become de facto governments of the day in many communities of Northern Nigeria. In such communities, one either obeys their rules or loses his life. The point being made here is that nowhere and no one is safe under government protection, except probably the heavily guarded so-called public officials. Lawlessness is now complete. In consequence, traveling, trading, farming and such other necessary daily lifestyle activities of ordinary citizens are either halted altogether or carried out in dread by those who are compelled to undertake them. Right under our noses, we are helplessly watching Nigeria drift into a completely failed state. This is the stark reality that must first be admitted if the situation is ever to be addressed. The painful aspect of it for me personally is that I stuck my neck out against all odds to craft the very foundation of Mohammad Buhari’s fourth attempt and victory to become president from three unsuccessful bids in the belief that he will halt this avoidable drift that gained currency under PDP’s governments.
Given that President Buhari came to office with the confidence and goodwill of Nigerians behind him, all genuine lovers of the country and the president are not happy seeing him now losing peoples’ confidence and goodwill and failing in his leadership. So how and why did he get to this level of failing the country? To me, the simple and truthful answer to the ‘how’ part of this twin question is in President Mohammad Buhari’s own seeming acts, for whatever reason, of rendering himself utterly wanting in the effective acquisition, control and utilization of state power to deliver valuable leadership as president. After being sworn-in to office nothing happened. Appointments of critical presidential officials and advisers who would take control and charge in the utilization of state power were not immediately made, ensuing a period of lull in the polity and doubts in people’s minds. It is a standard universal norm that no leader leads without advisers, and time has ascertained that a leader who acts solely on his own judgment is sure to fail.
Underscoring this point, the 1999 Constitution of our country (as amended) creates at the federal level the Council of Ministers and offices of Special Advisers for the good purpose of executing the powers and functions due to the Office of the President. This invariably means that the stability and good governance of the country are dependent on the sound character, right practice and good judgment of the president; while the well-being and quality judgment of the president depend on the knowledge, skill and honesty of his official advisers. Important as this is President Buhari’s first act in office as president was to neglect it. This is the last thing the president needed to smother his administration with, especially given the good impression of his character and the huge hopes placed on his ability. Yet, it was the first thing that happened. Since then the president lost the momentum and never regained it till date.
It was after petulant whispers started becoming loud reproaches that a handful of Advisers, Secretary to Government and a couple of personal aids were appointment. Then followed a much longer period of sloth; dragging to nearly six months before government cabinet was at last constituted. This failure to timeously and decisively take charge of levers of state power and immediately create effective authority to drive his government policy thrusts turned out to be a misstep that not only created a poor first impression of the president’s leadership style, but also triggered a debilitating loss of people’s confidence in his government’s policy initiatives, and substantially plummeted public faith in his personal capacity to provide effective leadership to the country, notwithstanding the rhetoric. Also, the seeming double standards observed in the president’s policy execution further eroded people’s trust in him and, in spite of being re-elected to office and by the re-election itself, making him unpopular even in the North. This has today weakened his regime, rendering it highly vulnerable to internal sabotage and external manipulation.
Secondly, the answer to the ‘why’ part of the twin question is mainly a moral and ethical one. I just read the president’s aide reporting that the president is the most unhappy leader in the world on account of the insecurity pervading the country. How can the country be in peace and how can the regime succeed and President Buhari be happy when the president grassed up those wno have been pivotal to his coming to power; those who stood by him and sacrificed everything, their wealth, their intellect and putting their lives on the line for him at the time when crass opportunists were all running away from him? How can he succeed when he now made enemies, for absolutely no fault of theirs, of those who believed in him, persevered hardships, threats and persecution, and never wavered against all odds at a time when he was being stigmatized, abused and dreaded? Now that he’s there those who had maligned him, with whose invectives his opponents campaigned against him; those who ran away from him in his hour of need are swarming on him today like flies on rotten carcass, making him turn his back on those who really made it possible for him in the first place. How can he succeed and be happy? No one would commit such misdemeanour against those who made the real difference in his electoral victory after three unsuccessful attempts and still succeed in leadership and be happy. No one; no way! The reason is simple – the Almighty God we all worship is a God of justice! The most unfortunate thing in the whole saga is that the entire nation is suffering on account of the president’s misdeeds.
This then necessitates the essence of his leadership imbibing the Divine Doctrine of Reward and Punishment, because it is God’s ordained. President Buhari must hasten to reward meritorious deeds and punish acts of transgressions, albeit hesitantly. To me, this is a central policy thrust that will not only bring out the best in citizens in the service of the nation, but in the light of the serious current problems being faced also manifestly help restore the political standing of the President, the success and popularity of the administration and the wellbeing and stability of the country. Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, admonished leaders to spare no effort in protecting the polity and the ‘kingship’ institution. This means that once the polity crumbles it abolishes the kingship institution along with it. The President may well need to heed to Aristotle’s admonition; ‘good advisers are needed to help the King protect the polity and spare his reign’.