Helping Buhari to help Nigeria

Buhari’s Inaugural SpeechPRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari made a powerful philosophical statement which seems to have defined the vision of his presidency – “I am for everybody and I am for nobody”.

One assumes he might have warned all of us he would not be that President to be held hostage by vested interests.  Such interests could be ethnic, religious, political or economic.  

He has more or less promised to be the “presidential president” – a serious president who recognises that the resolution of political conflicts is more about deploying the powers of knowledge and less of crawling around religious places of worship.

By presidential president, one insinuates we might have had presidents in the past who were unpresidential in some situations or circumstances.  To be presidential is to act or behave in a manner befitting a president.  The presidential president espouses the full authority and prestige of the institution he or she symbolises.  With the entire nation as his or her constituency, the presidential president is above partisan and parochial interests.

The first echo of positive determination coming from the Buhari presidency might have been in the area of key political appointments.  There were reports in the newspapers that President Buhari was not excited about the prospect of state governors providing him with a list of those to be appointed as federal ministers.  There is hardly any doubt that well-meaning Nigerians will support his rejection of a culture whereby the federal executive was clustered with incompetent friends and cronies of state governors.   President Buhari seeks a free hand in determining those he honestly believes can ensure the success of his administration. He is aware that when history shall be written, it will be all about the “Muhammadu Buhari administration.” 

Another positive echo, reported in the newspapers, is Buhari’s seeming determination to prune down the number of ministerial appointments.  While the need for regional balancing is desirable and imperative in political appointments, it is the considered view of this writer that the assumption that every state must have a minister merely encourages waste and undue parochialism.  Our emphasis must be about efficiency in political governance, as is the case in many functioning democratic nations of the world.  One is aware that the United States of America, a much richer nation than ours, does not have 50 ministers!  America comprises 50 autonomous states! 

The suggestion or indication of reduced pay and emoluments President Buhari has outlined for himself and those who work directly with him, is most welcome.  The economic realities of our society demand austere living on the part of all.  There are daily reports of unpaid salaries and wages in many states of the Federation; those unfortunate Nigerians shop in the same markets and have families who deserve to be as happy as those of their privileged  compatriots.

The leadership of the All Progressive Congress (APC) have voiced their intention to learn from the mistakes of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), erstwhile ruling party.  They have no excuse in this regard, not least because their party has a majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.  The members of these august bodies must succumb to the economic realities of our nation; without any goading or much persuasion, they should collectively resolve to prune down their financial excesses and be patriots rather than be economic terrorists or termites of our nation.

Happily, Nigerians are today a lot more sophisticated and knowledgeable than they were in past years, thanks to the power of communication and the social network.  They are aware of electoral promises made by politicians and they are prepared to take them on, on these promises.  

The economic climate, not the least because of past corruption and the continuous fall in oil prices, does not favour the Buhari administration.  However, the public’s patience can be encouraged and sustained if the government is seen to be doing the right thing.

Nigerians could be persuaded to make necessary sacrifices if they are convinced that the necks and waste lines of those calling the shots are not expanding by virtue of gluttonous feeding.  Nigerians elected Muhammadu Buhari as their President, not least because they were persuaded by his profiles of self-discipline and patriotism; he will, however, need the co-operation and understanding of others in order to help our nation move forward. 

The responsible people that Nigerians are should reciprocate a purposeful government by living up to their own obligations. Such obligations, as a matter of fact, include paying taxes.

There can be no responsible nation without a responsible people. Moulders of public opinion owe it a duty to continue to educate our people on the inevitability of reciprocal obligations. 

• Dr. Akinola wrote from Oxford, the United Kingdom.

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