BACKLASH: Let’s Move Beyond Jonathan
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari is beginning to sound like a broken record. Since his inauguration more than three weeks ago, he has maintained one line: The race isn’t a 100-metre dash and time is required to finish well. He is talking as if he only knew about the marathon race ahead after May 29, and now asking for permission to reorder his projections. Even the dullest of Nigerians must have heard enough of the President’s plea for patience to instinctively grant him the understanding he is seeking so desperately.
But the conversation has still not moved forward. In fact, it is degenerating into lamentation and a blame game, which are far more dangerous.
For instance, the President is saying that his inability to name a cabinet after three weeks is caused by former President Goodluck Jonathan’s refusal to cooperate with the committee headed by 85-year old Ahmed Joda that he, Buhari constituted to design a blueprint to change Nigeria.
This lack of cooperation, according to the President, caused the committee to submit its report late and that this lateness is delaying the prompt implementation of government’s programmes, including, perhaps, the appointment of a federal cabinet and other officers of government.
Since Nigerians have pledged to be patient with Buhari, they are not going to probe to know the truth of the matter. I can only add that the man had all the time and opportunity to prepare for this assignment. He ruled Nigeria between January 1, 1984 and August 27, 1985 as a military head of state and regarding his re-incarnation on May 29, 2015 in a democratic garb, he had worked at it since 2003, when he debuted as a presidential aspirant in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.
And so, inventing one reason after another for his lack of movement after 23 days belies his robust pedigree. Maybe in the burning passion to re-incarnate and save Nigeria from itself, the President did not do proper profiling to reconcile his patriotism with his readiness (in terms of what is required) to take on the big task. The job requires speed and accuracy in spite of all the real and imagined challenges. This constant reference to what Jonathan did or failed to do at every turn as reason for the current standstill is not going to help matters.
His old age has just been added to the list of limiting factors. Nigerians knew Buhari’s age before they voted for him.
The narrative as scripted by the then APC opposition does not require new facts. Nigerians voted out Jonathan for all the reasons Buhari is giving for not being able to move an inch forward. Just in case we have forgotten or Buhari and the APC are pretending to forget, Goodluck Jonathan was sacked from Aso Rock Villa for being clueless; not knowing what to do and at what time to do what he should do. He was voted out for being so low in macro-economic management, thereby allowing the national economy to trip into a free fall. He was rejected for allowing crooks in the name of ministers, special advisers, family members, oil marketers and so on to empty the national treasury. He was voted out for not securing Nigerians against terrorists.
Mercifully, the times ended on May 29 when Jonathan left Abuja for Otuoke, after which expectations started mounting for a new narrative. Something like ‘Boko Haram terror ends as military sacks last stronghold;’ ‘corrupt past government officials in EFCC net;’ stolen money tracked and recovered from foreign banks;’ ‘Naira makes dramatic recovery; exchanges 50 to USD;’ ‘blackout to end in two weeks as electricity generation peaks at record 10,000 megawatts’ and such other stuff that will signal a clear departure from the nightmares of the Jonathan years.
Unfortunately, Jonathan is still so much in the tale. This is not too good. It will help if President Buhari can stop lamenting the misdeeds of Jonathan and go ahead to create his own good deeds. The book of lamentation closed with Jonathan and we should be taking readings from the book of revelation a month or so after the ordination of the new priest. That is the meaning of change. Or does Buhari want us to recall Jonathan from retirement in Otuoke to correct all previous mistakes before he, Buhari, can move on with good governance?
The United States of America was at its lowest point since the Great Depression of the 1930s when President Barack Obama assumed tenancy of the White House in 2008. Everything, from the banks, stock market, mortgage, industry and the currency, was down. Unemployment rate had climbed up to double digit, the highest since 1983. The Dow Jones had lost about 34 percent of its value and the about $17 trillion GDP US economy had shrunk by more than 30 percent.
In the face of these challenges, Obama did not spend all the time lamenting the policies of the previous Republican government, which had shifted considerable attention from domestic issues in pursuit of external wars; nor did he dwell endlessly on the inappropriateness of an untainted free market operation, usually a cherished Republican ideal, that spinned the economy out of control.
There was work to do and the man simply rolled back his sleeves and began earnestly. And because he had placed his hand effectively on the handle from day one, when time came for mandate renewal after four years, Americans told him to continue. One voter from Iowa, one of the so-called swing states in American presidential election, said he was voting Democrat because Obama had intervened positively to save his (voter’s) job at General Motors. “That guy gave me back my job and I’m giving his back to him” the voter said.
The star shines only when it is dark enough. If leadership is all about riding the tide of goodness and not about creating gains where there are pains, then just anybody can aspire to become a great leader.
Today, the objective conditions are about the same when Buhari seized power in a military coup from President Shehu Shagari in 1983. Governments at the state level have failed in their primary obligations of paying salaries to keep the bureaucracy of government running. The Federal Government to which the states are turning for help is equally fiscally challenged even as prospects of increased earnings from the oil sector look gloomier with the unpredictability of the international market.
This calls for deeper creativity and not lamentation or buck passing. The governors are asking for bailouts from the centre as if their respective states have become failed businesses that must be nationalised to avoid further ugly consequences. It should be noted that when Obama handed down his bailout which amounted to almost one trillion dollars from the Federal Reserve, it was not to some prodigal state governors.
He did to save General Motors, insurance giant, AIG and other key players in the US economy from going under to precipitate a crisis that would have proved far more difficult to manage.
Buhari’s famed integrity without new possibilities in this new age will amount to a failed mission. And he has in the current situation an opportunity to do something drastic to permanently close the book of lamentation in Nigeria.
In answering these clarion calls for bailouts, therefore, he should look far beyond servicing the greed of reckless and visionless state governors to tackling the fault lines of a federation that breathes entirely from the centre. Since the therapy called ‘restructuring’ appears eternally offensive to certain quarters, hence it has not been applied to the perennial Nigerian ailment, Buhari should find another drug or combination of drugs to deliver the cure he has envisaged. After all, ACT (Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy) was adopted when malaria became resistant to chloroquine. This is another beautiful meaning of change!