Is Buhari’s fresh thinking asking for trouble?

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By Matthew Ozah

Since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the February 23, 2019 presidential elections, many Nigerians have grown increasingly anxious about what the ‘next level’ may have in stock. Just as if Buhari was reading their minds, the other day, while receiving members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) he disclosed that his next four years would definitely be very different . He said: “…my last lap of four years is going to be tough because people are being forgetful. That was why wherever I went I reminded them of the campaign promises…” Also, at a victory dinner organised for APC women and youth campaign council the president said: “we have heard your call, more women and youth will be included in our new cabinet, persons’ of integrity will not be denied appointment”.

From the above statements, first, what does Buhari mean by ‘my next four years will be tough’? Is it because there will be much work at hand knowing that lots of the 2015 campaign promises could not be met in his first term or that he will take tough decisions by stepping on toes and rattle the untouchables in the society? Or does he mean the economic hardship Nigerians are currently experiencing will be by no means tough in the next four years? Second, is he sending a message to Nigerians that, integrity will be the watch word to earn a portfolio in his second term cabinet? If so, is president Buhari admitting to Nigerians and indeed the world in general that the combination of his cabinet and decisions taken during his first tenure were just not good enough? Also, that major players in his first term government were either incompetent or malevolent egomaniacs.

Somehow, this confirms Aisha’s position that hyenas and jackals did hijack the president’s cabinet. Knowing that the bulk stops on his table, Buhari would be at fault not to have good ideas and technocrats with integrity to fulfill them. Therefore, he must not continue on bad footing anymore. This will really make Nigerians feel proud about themselves and the country as things will sooner or later begin to take positive shape over the tough decisions Buhari’s second mandate will take. However, Nigerians should not behave like the proverbial African tale of a baby antelope that suddenly started dancing and breaking its legs for mere hearing that a music band is on the way. Once beaten, twice shy they say. So, Nigerians should watch carefully before blowing the trumpet of ‘integrity’ praise like they did in 2015 by giving Buhari pass mark before the swearing in ceremony. Of course, the rest is now history.

No doubt, looking for integrity is like mining for gold. It may be absolutely hard to spot integrity in the wilderness of selfish party faithfuls. Therefore, it would be very difficult to avoid the suspicion that Buhari may hit a brick wall in his pursuit of integrity outside the party. Having in mind that, Nigerian politics thrives on sharing of appointments to party members who played or paid for vital roles especially during elections irrespective of their competence and ability to deliver efficiently. Although, Buhari is yet to cross the integrity bridge but the disturbing anti-party activities in the APC is like a ghost that appears in ones worst nightmare. Anti party symptom is a disease that has no remedy because politics usually plant seeds of discord. Those who are neck deep in anti-party brouhaha exaggerate their influence and power thereby turning power dynamics in party politics into a huge battle ground.

The fact that politicians act as bridge between the government and the people is undisputable, they not only represent but bring government closer to the masses. But, lately I find myself confused about some nasty and disturbing behavior and actions they portend. It is no longer news that politicians have a love-hate relationship with their party. Many in the ruling party enjoy walking on the red carpet even when they are not in line with the party principles. They chose to always spill the bean with absolute impunity. The blame, however, for this miserable state of affairs lies squarely with the way APC was formed, a coalition of strange bed fellows who claim to be progressives just to take over power. At the moment, the ruling party seems more like a collection of warring factions across the country as party chieftains create sub-political party within APC or acting very irresponsible towards the norms of the party. Such actions recently earned the Imo state governor, Rochas Okorocha and his Ogun state counterpart, Ibikunle Amosun and others suspension or query from the party, depending on how heinous or harmful the anti party assault affected the party. Over the years, Buhari pride himself to have lived a clean and incorruptible life. Hence, he always presented himself very boldly at every fora as not corrupt. Indeed, that is a plus for the country knowing that most African leaders are dubiously corrupt. However, Buhari should endeavour to put his immaculate robe and hat in the ring so that his last lap can reflect his image, thereby translate into improving the nation’s weak economy and vigorously fight corruption among other challenges facing the country? Importantly, Buhari must put personal aggrandisement aside and avoid been pretentious or try to hood himself when issues concerning the nation’s unity are burning on the table. He should turn whatever stumbling blocks he finds on his way to stepping stones so that his administration will attain greater heights. Buhari’s remark to attract the best brains in his government should not end only with semantics. More so, he should not allow a frosty relationship exist between him and those that will eventually be appointed, but give everyone a free hand to operate under the ambit of the law.

Aside integrity, Buhari’s second lap will definitely flourish only if the relationship between the executive and the leadership of the ninth National Assembly will be cordial. This is because most of the hue and cry of Buhari’s first tenure inability to perform were been attributed to the cold war between the presidency, Senate and House of Representatives members. This must not repeat itself this time. Buhari’s government has another four years opportunity to reverse the negative trends associated with the nation in the last four years. Therefore, concerted efforts must be made towards the following among others, to complete major infrastructural projects scattered across the country, create jobs by reviving moribund industries, struggling enterprises should be supported with soft loans, improve electricity supply and a responsible regulatory regime be created to checkmate dubious practice across every sector. Above all, the country must be secured because as Buhari puts it, “if you don’t secure the country, you can’t achieve anything no matter how many programmes you put in place”. In addition, Buhari’s last lap must eschew regional favouritism and focus on inclusive growth as well as diversify the economy in the real sense of diversification to ensure equitable level of benefits and rapid development across the country.