Opinion: What Buhari should do when he takes over as President

by Okey Ikechukwu

Africa-Obasanjo-and-Jonathan-2007-campaignThe fact that Buhari won the election has not made him the candidate of all voters, but since the elections were conducted in order to elect a president for Nigeria out of a long list of contestants, the thing to do now is keep Buhari and his team on their toes for the survival of the nation, good governance and insist on effective service delivery.

While on the matter of the demise of the late Oronto Douglas, an amiable and loyal presidential aide who worked amidst the highest number of clueless charlatans ever assembled under one presidency since independence, Akin Osuntokun rightly described the man as “… a priceless asset amidst the forest of liabilities that pervaded the Presidency of his boss.” His piece bears out the widespread perception of both late Oronto Douglas and the Goodluck Jonathan presidency. The latter did not have to lose the March 28 elections, but it managed to. The saving grace remains Jonathan`s handling of the aftermath and the implications of his conduct for the future of democracy and the evolution of Nigeria`s political culture.

Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) can build on this. That is perhaps why one is a little uncomfortable with those who are tapping their feet impatiently and demanding that the man should hit the ground running. It is not a matter of running, but running or walking in the right direction. Rather than ‘hit’ the ground running, the president-elect should step out and plant his feet on terra firma, after a careful terrain analysis. Anyone who ‘hits’ the ground, any ground at all, just like that may break a leg, stagger a bit, lose his bearings for a long time or even not easily catch his breath. Swamps, thorns, fast-flowing rivers, quicksand, wild forests full of boar constrictors, stony and rocky grounds and deserts abound everywhere. So Buhari must know that a nation that is bred on the wrong paradigms for over two decades will not easily key into new ways of doing things, just because he took over from another who tried in his own way to make a difference.

It is true that Osuntokun`s article under reference took off on the subject matter of Oronto, but it was also a wholesale re-evaluation of some very salient negative markers of the Jonathan presidency. He brought out his repeated comments, all made as a friend of the regime, about the damage being done the president`s image and government at the time by activists and commentators from his part of the country. Some of those essential points were made by other writers and leaders; and Segun Adeniyi`s “Their Son, Our President”, which appeared on this page on January 20, 2012, also captured the same point. It is against the background of these useful observations and insights that I propose to take the conversation further, by addressing one or two points that should be of more than passing interest to the incoming president.

The first is that he has enough reference material on how not to allow himself to be defined by his personal, professional or religious geography. Over 70% of Jonathan`s political problems came from those who meant well, but who actually ended up undermining his national stature cosmopolitan credentials. The fact that he was not seen to be actively restraining them became the icing on the cake of his diminution.

The other point is for Buhari to remember that one of the first things Barrack Obama did when he was sworn in was to announce that his country needed alternative sources of energy, to reduce its dependence on petroleum products. The emphasis was on biofuels, but the miserable yields from most agricultural products became a disincentive and efforts were intensified in other directions, until shale oil came along. Today the US, hitherto Nigeria’s biggest oil customer, has stopped buying our oil. Our ‘almajiri’ national income management policy is now up against the wall and all the empty plates from the 36 states and the FCT, nurtured on a philosophy of consumption and not production, are getting less and less. Most of them are in debt and none, except Anambra State, made any savings. The driving disposition of all ‘stakeholders’ is sharing and consumption. No one ever hears about production, or even knows whether the output being declared by the oil companies is true or not.

The shale revolution has increased America`s domestic oil production and reduced its dependence on imports. Nigeria`s high quality crude is similar to the one pumped in the new oil fields of North Dakota. International oil firms, like the Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, Total and Chevron are now into portfolio rotation of their assets and diversion of more resources into shale oil production. Shale is more ‘democratised’ than crude petroleum and almost every country in the world today can produce fuel from shale. Nigeria’s global relevance and economic viability in the medium and long term will become history, if the “giant of Africa” continues to measure its greatness by its large, population and undeveloped land mass. When we also consider that, beyond shale oil and dwindling global oil prices, countries like Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, South Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia and Kenya, have all discovered oil in commercial quantities, it becomes clear that the president-elect has more than enough reasons to avoid every form of melodrama.

Recent developments have also shown that the efforts of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to contain the challenge of shale oil is not much of a success, as the price crash and control of output strategy have impacted so negatively on the development of shale, as projected and expected by OPEC members. Nigeria, Algeria and Iran, among others, have called for OPEC’s intervention through output cut, while other members are not in tow with the call. As I write, OPEC is already divided ahead of its next meeting of June 5, 2015, and Buhari must take all this into account as he honours the invitation to the G7 event.

The fact that Buhari won the election has not made him the candidate of all voters, but since the elections were conducted in order to elect a president for Nigeria out of a long list of contestants, the thing to do now is keep Buhari and his team on their toes for the survival of the nation, good governance and insist on effective service delivery. It is for the new, hopefully better organised opposition to monitor the new government and design alternative policies that would enable it get the vote of Nigerians in future. This, I believe, will also be for the greater good of our political evolution as a nation.

The president-elect should note that many serving senior military officers may have seen the service as the quickest way of becoming governors, or getting rich at the time they joined the armed forces. The integrity of the military recruitment process may have been seriously compromised over the years. The recent Army intake in Army Government Day Secondary School, Abuja, for instance, can be investigated to ascertain if it is true that those with letters of recommendation were the only ones attended to, while the others had to disperse. Assuming this is true, and I have my doubts, there may be more to the initial trouncing of Nigeria by Boko Haram. There are still enough professionals and retired officers to turn the armed forces around.

Buhari should note that the coat of arms being used by most governors, heads of parastatals, and some divisions of the armed services have two yellow horses. Meanwhile, the national chargers are white in colour. As Minister of Information, Chief Chukwuemeka Chikelu, took great time and troubles to identify the content of the coat of arms and specify the meaning of everything on it. He also even designed a model national letter-headed paper that was to be used for all government communication. This was presented to the National Executive Council under former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Frank Nweke also brought up the issue of national symbols and the coat of arms after Chikelu. Buhari should understand the need for “Brand Integrity” of service symbols and, especially, national symbols.

Buhari’s has threatened, at different times, to cut down the entitlements of former state governors, reduce the number of ministers and do away with the office of Ministers of State. He needs to design a navigation strategy for this engagement, as the potential victims within and outside the APC are big boys and girls. It is up to him to get our leaders to follow the commendable examples of other nations, rather than continue to raid the treasury like incensed pirates.

The number of special assistants and, especially, senior special assistants, running all over the place was partly responsible for the fate of Oronto`s boss in the media. The APC must begin in good time to preach the culture of sacrifice and efficiency to its members. Otherwise it may re-enact what we saw when the PDP, with absolute majority in the National Assembly, could not pass most of its bills because a large swathe of its members became an opposition within their own government. They should, in particular, remember that Nigeria had a monetisation policy that was once faithfully implemented across the MDAs. Today, heads of MDAs, permanent secretaries and directors are housed by the government, driven by government drivers in government driver; after they have all presumably received the monetary equivalent of the things now still being provided for them by government.

One more thing before we get to Buhari’s ministerial list. It concerns the SURE-P programme. On March 13, 2015, I wrote in THISDAY newspaper: that the SURE-P had made tremendous impact on the life of Nigerians, but that it should be “ …reviewed, disaggregated into its various components and retired to the MDAs that should ordinarily have statutory responsibility for those components of SURE-P”. This is consistent with my position on the PTF, decades ago; and I believe that SURE-P should be scrapped, so that the MDAs can face their jobs and be held accountable.

As for ministers, Buhari should remember to keep Lai Mohammed in the Ministry of Information. He is believable, rigorous and upfront in responding to issues as they come up. He will also help dismantle the communication medley and enable the federal information centres, supposedly in every local government, come alive and serve the people realistically. Lest I forget, the Ministry of Finance needs a Charles Soludo, while Kayode Fayemi or Babatunde Fashola should be allowed to redefine the FCT and bring new paradigms to bear on the politics of that office.

Finally, Buhari should look for Emmanuel Jekada (rtd.), Major General JGS Hamakim, Air Commodore Onitiju and others like them, for an honest audit of our armed forces. I hear that two of these gentlemen are currently hiding in the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru.

Okey Ikechukwu writes from Abuja

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

One comment

  1. I love your opinion. It just makes me smile. We still have thinking Nigerians like you. There is a glimmer of hope afterall.

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