SUNDAY NARRATIVE :Just One Week, But So Long
AFTER what appeared an endless wait between March 28 and May 29, when Muhammadu Buhari was eventually inaugurated as president and commander-in-chief, citizens who had been on overdrive once the election had been lost and won, in the expectation that the moment the new government is signed on, sudden bliss would drop like dews from heaven have had to contend with a first week of near inertia.
There was no such thing as a remarkable and undeniable difference from what was.
Same of the same, majorly in the key sectors — fuel queues, morbid tales of bombings in the Northeast, frightening headlines of tanker explosions across the country, a fallout of the deplorable situation in the petroleum sector. On the economic front, the positive vibrations noticed immediately after results of the March 28 elections were announced had gone limp two months after.
In the bureaucracy, the tardiness that had become characteristic of the State seemed to be part of the handover notes. Change, change, where are you? The people are asking.
One vital area Nigerians expect to see immediate action is in the body language of the new government. Time is of essence and so much of it had been poorly utilised in the past. People want to see a great difference in the management of time, as in taking crucial hourly and daily decisions that would trumpet change.
All through last week, expectations were very high on key appointments of those who would help drive the change the All Progressives Congress (APC) has promised.
By last Sunday, 48 hours after the inauguration, some restless Nigerians were asking what Mr. President was waiting for.
And they expected answers from newsrooms, imagining that what other Nigerians don’t know, journalists must know. And when we try to make enquiries, we discover that even those we think should know do not know anything.
Everyone seemed to be in the dark. Some took to the social media, to vent their frustrations. In case you don’t know, the president may have earned a name for himself – Baba Go Slow.
They say the man reminds them of a one-time governor of Lagos State, who was used to doing his things calmly and at his own pace. But these social media people are in a dead hurry.
They want to hear things and say things and God help you if you do not supply them official information in good time.
They will go ahead and manufacture their own stories. In the course of just one week, they have on their own made several appointments on behalf of the Presidency.
Somebody called on Sunday (May 31) evening, categorically asking if The Guardian had on its front page of the next day’s paper the appointment of a certain man from Southeast as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
He swore by the heavens that that appointment had been made. Checks with those who ought to know, however, drew blank.
Such is the level of desperation and impatience out there and it could be compounded if this government will not share relevant information at the right time. As for delayed appointments, I wouldn’t be too sure what time is most appropriate to name key functionaries.
I can only suggest that the mood of any particular moment should dictate the pace of what persons in authority do.
The mood Nigeria is now does not allow for experiments. We have done enough experiments in the last 16 years. Besides, the APC cannot now claim not to have done any homework since March 28, when they knew that responsibility was on the way.
They cannot also claim that in the 16 years they had been in opposition at the Federal all the noise they had made about the cluelessness of the PDP government was done without a clear idea of what they would bring to office. Between March 28 and May 29, APC spent all that transition period chasing out the previous government with all manner of handover propaganda.
They claimed they were not getting sufficient cooperation from an outgoing government, as if they do not have their own blueprint. They behaved as if they were going to continue with the programmes of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Now that they have power, Nigerians cannot wait to see changes. What they failed to do, perhaps, was to put to practice what the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo did from outside government.
He had his own answers to all the troubles that afflicted the Nigeria of his days. He ran a shadow government and had shadow ministers to articulate an alternative to the government of the day, so that he was not caught napping. But today’s progressives are caught napping, as if they have not learnt anything.
Or did they also behave like spoilt children, just as Buhari said in his inauguration speech, that, “some of their successors behaved like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house?”
Certainly, the APC cannot say it does not have a good chunk of men with character and competence to appoint into offices, or, are they waiting for a sharing formula? T
hat fear had been expressed long ago, that this APC that was packaged for the sole aim of winning election could run into foul weather when the time comes for them to share offices. That time has come, and it is now the major distraction to getting down to real business.
We pray that Buhari’s characterisation of spoilt children does not become a stigma with the APC. Nonetheless, Buhari went on real business last week, to Niger and Chad, to continue with discussions on how to strengthen the coalition against Boko Haram.
Some social media commentators, in their usual all knowing manner, have seen that outing as inappropriate, because Buhari did not travel with a foreign minister and a defence chief.
I wonder how he could have traveled with a foreign minister that is yet to be appointed, or do they want crucial state matters to stultify because the APC has not put its act in order? After all, a new minister cannot come until a new National Assembly is inaugurated before ministerial nominees are screened.
My real concern is that Buhari has seen in his first week how troublesome and distractive the Boko Haram issue can be.
Instead of siting down to study the notes transferred from the previous government, Buhari is forced to embark on his first two foreign trips that are not exactly developmental.
He is yet to meet with oil marketers and others in the petroleum industry, whose actions and the lack of it make life miserable for Nigerians at filling stations. Funds that could have gone elsewhere are being channeled to tame Boko Haram in the first week of this government.
In just one week, bombs engineered by the sect have sent not fewer than 60 to untimely death. Bombs are exploding two, three per day in Yola, Maiduguri and at other theatres of the Northeast.
And the silly thing is that the sect has not stopped taunting and challenging the Federal government despite the change of parties. And that has been our lot for four, five years.
The Jonathan administration was distracted all those years from concentrating on good governance. But instead of a bipartisan understanding of the seriousness of the Boko Haram challenge, the opposition used it as a campaign subject from day one.
I remember when governors of the fledgling APC did a macho visit to Maiduguri in 2011/2012, as if the insurgency was the private ailment of Jonathan.
It should now be clear that this war is not about one person’s cluelessness, or one party’s extreme capacity to manage Nigeria. And I beg the remnants of PDP to support this government in dismantling the enemies.
It is not a propaganda issue; it is an evil wind that is too costly to manage, as well as a distraction to good governance. Buhari also deserves to be understood.
This democratic template is by far different from that of December 31, 1983. Then, things worked by decrees and there was no National Assembly to scrutinise government’s actions and inactions. If that fleet-footed Buhari of yore now appears sluggish today, it calls for the understanding of all who mean well for Nigeria.
Democracy is beautiful, but its consensus-building element, good as it is, stalls action. The democratic wheel grinds slowly and needs ample time to deliver.
That is why this government should at all times carry the people along, especially those whose capacity to endure is brief. More than carrying Nigerians along in a transparent manner, the APC must deal with itself in truth and justice.
From what we’ve seen in one week, many people outside government are well meaning. They do not ask for too much. It is up to those in power to deal fairly among themselves, so that they do not use their hands to pull down the house.