50 days without President Muhammadu Buhari in Nigeria have ostensibly given Nigerians a taste of what a smooth-running, fast-paced and confidence-boosting governance looks like under this new dispensation. For a minute (or more), it felt like we could finally see the “change”. Where it begins is still subject to a raging and often self-serving argument among Buhari’s supporters, ex-supporters, occupiers of the fence and his detractors. Can we credit the President for the inspiring was the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo handled things while he was away?
We’ll leave that one unanswered because this is not the place.
What we can tell however is that we have no doubts that President Buhari is back at the helm of affairs and we know for sure because the drama-filled, controversial, uncommunicative and inaction-powered style of governance has started to rear its head again. And it’s just Monday; the President has not even communicated his letter of resumption to the Senate yet.
The Presidential media aide, Garba Shehu, yesterday during Sunday morning interview with Arise News Network tried to manage our expectations with regards to President Buhari’s return. He begged that what the president needs is a careful and slow resumption of duty.
“Let me first of all caution that he (Buhari) is not going to start in a dramatic way. He has been away from the country for nearly two months, so he needs to get into the temperature of the place. For instance, yesterday (Saturday), he went through the newspapers page by page, and he read everything that interested him.”
We listened but he did not tell us what the next stage of this “getting-into-the-temperature” business will be after the healing process of leafing through the dailies.
Our guess is Mr Garba doesn’t know.
What Mr Garba also doesn’t know or didn’t pay any mind to is that the controversies that have become almost signatory for President Buhari’s leadership style were already being cooked in anticipation of Monday, whether the President is ready or not. It’s long ways till noon and we already have two of them.
The first is about a Dr. Jamila Shu’ara, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education who is 61 going on 62. Get it? A 62-year-old Permanent Secretary in Nigeria where the rule of thumb is that you spend 35 years in public service and then retire or you are retired once you turn 60, whichever one comes first.
Seeing as the 7th Assembly “takes its work very seriously”, the House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education has been investigating Shu’ara over how she remained in service, despite having attained the mandatory 60 years age of retirement in 2016. Of course they asked for her to appear before them but she hasn’t and instead, the Committee got a letter explaining that Dr. Shu’ara got a presidential extension to remain in service up to February 2017.
Not satisfied, the Committee asked for evidence of the presidential approval, and what they got instead was a letter from the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu saying that Dr. Shu’ara has now being granted a second extension of one year.
Before you start to ask if there are no other qualified candidates to occupy the position and why this woman will be asked to continue in an office she ought to have mandatorily retired from, consider our next controversy which was just exclusively reported on Premium Time today:
Close to two years after assuming office and immediately dissolving boards of federal parastatals in May 2015, President Buhari is yet to fill vacancies he created by that dissolution “showing a pattern of lethargy in decision making for which the president has received widespread criticism.”
According to the report, “out of the 52 tertiary health centres across the country, about 20 have no CMDs. These institutions have been run by interim heads for between six months to two years, against the provision of the Acts that established them.”
Some of the affected medical institutes are the Federal Medical Centres in Ado-Ekiti, Abeokuta, Asaba, Lagos, Owerri, Owo; Federal Teaching Hospitals in Abuja, Kano and Maiduguri; and Psychiatric hospitals in Sokoto, Maiduguri, Calabar, Lagos; Birni-kudu, Uselu, among others.
It’s confusing and we have no answers or inkling as to why the President will extend the service of a 60-year-old public servant -twice – and choose to leave medical institutions without the leadership of medical directors for over a year.
And we have no hesitations believing these reports because he did the same thing with his Ministerial appointments which he allowed to drag on for months on end. More recently, with the nomination and appointment of Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onoghen, a mess that was just cleared up by Vice President Osinbajo.