“Fool me one time, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me and I can’t put the blame on you”
What I feared and hoped would not happen to President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has. The hope when I along with many others actively supported his candidacy was that he would put in place a foundation that Nigeria could take off from. One that would lead to his successors having to work within a system which put them in a harness within which they had to function a certain way or be immediately exposed as not fit for the job we voted them in to do. Ethos of a different kind as it were. That is what structures and processes do. I am not seeing that being done at all; Goings on are pretty much the same even if in lower doses than what obtained before. My expectations were much higher than that; Maybe, a tad too high. What I thought Buhari would be is a manager. He did not have to be an expert beyond his area of specialization — the military, however he should have been able to manage his staff which should include experts in each field. I have now concluded that President Buhari is not a good manager.
The inevitable rearing up of corruption has begun to leak from his administration and unfortunately PMB has not that many results to offset the heavy disappointment it will bring. I am very serious when I write NOT THAT MANY RESULTS to OFFSET the disillusionment Nigerians will have seeing that the change promised is right now essentially a mirage. Are there any results? Yes. However, they are not good enough when one places them side by side with other situations not being handled or developments from attempts to solve one problem breeding awful conditions that ought not to be.
That might sound harsh when it gets pointed out that this administration is building roads, bridges, trying without much success to reign back a recession it helped midwife or securing the lives and property of Nigerians from Boko Haram, the last of which is the single example one can point to as a change to some extent from before. However, if we understand that the change was expected to be in HOW THINGS WERE DONE – PROCESSES and not that government simply did what it was supposed to do as a matter of course, which all governments have done to varying extents — build roads, bridges and fight insurrection or terrorism, then we realize, not much has changed really. That is a problem. A huge one!
Disillusionment is now inevitable and with that comes increasingly restive people. Soon, the government will have to manage public discontent. So far, Nigerians have been relatively docile; It will not last. Not because of questions we have about the proposed 2017 budget for instance. That is a social media concern. The man and woman on the street are concerned about basic necessities and those are not as badly positioned as many would want us to believe. Go to the villages and see for yourself. I have heard from people who have and they do not share the alarmist views many of us on social media have. Elitist concerns, if we can call them that are what we discuss on social media platforms but eventually, they will spill over as organized protests begin to show up in different areas of the nation. It appears Nigerians are still shell shocked from revelations of extreme corruption during the last administration to realize how bad things are under this one as well.
We cannot keep hoping that instances of corruption or allegations of corruption are mere blips when the government does not treat them like the serious issues they are. Especially when it goes overboard with cases concerning the opposition. That is the biggest mistake President Buhari has made in my opinion and one that has made him lose goodwill as quickly as he has — creating the impression that he has double standards on so many fronts. He can only be defended for so long. After a while, there will be more holes than defenders plugging them and we are getting there I believe.
To those who are intent on publishing positive things being done by the government and refuting allegations against it, that is a noble role you have chosen for yourselves which stems from a sense of patriotic duty. I have done so and still do on occasion. It is a shame that the government which should be blowing its own horn by informing the public of these things failed at that from its inception and has not yet figured out it is a primary function the state has to do. So, you are filling the gap and in the process unfortunately become mere loudspeakers that are just extensions of the government and not critical appraisers of it which all Nigerians should be. A loss in my opinion. You will be seen as enablers though your intent is very different. A thankless job indeed. It was the same role many had during the last administration which you hit out against; A full circle it appears has been drawn.
Between now and 2019, we should hope that the ship will hold steady until the crew can be changed at the port that election year. I do not believe what we are experiencing is just due to inherited problems. That is only a part. The area which rankles with me is an apparent lack of hands-on management. If Nigeria were a company, none of us would proffer the excuses we give on behalf of the president. A failure of management accounts for a second proposed budget being full of ridiculous line items! We see corruption in it! Mismanagement accounts for Internally Displayed People being victims of those supposed to help them especially when it is a repetitive occurrence of abuse. Poor management is responsible for close aides of the president, be they agencies or individuals being embroiled in scandal after scandal. Why have we not seen the big stick used yet? Hiring and firing is definitely the job of the manager. Knowing when to let people go is an important skill set as is knowing whom to hire. The question must then be asked. Is our president insular?
It appears Buhari is comfortable being president but is not wielding the responsibility which comes with it. The perfect President under a Prime Minister arrangement it would seem. If the opposition had coalesced around the criticism of competence from this perspective instead of harping on emotive accusations of sectional agendas based on ethnicity and religion, I believe it would have been more effective as a watchdog and who knows how widespread that message could have resonated towards 2019? A missed opportunity. You know what I believe President Buhari lacks the most? A competent Chief of Staff. Is that what the Secretary to the Government of the Federation — SGF is supposed to be? Someone powerful enough to help manage his Ministers and advise Mr President on pressing issues.
Many have stated their regret for the choice they made in 2015 which helped put Muhammadu Buhari in power. What they never put on record though is if they would have voted for or supported the incumbent administration instead knowing what they now know. That is a hard place to be I understand.
In my case, the regret has always been that we were forced to chose between the two of them. My article ‘Nigeria in a Hot Mess: Between a Rock And a Hard Place’ published by Skytrend News before the election expressed that thought. If I could get a redo, a dream would be that my energy is spent trying to promote a different candidate which was the dream I had then with a candidate picked but who did not have a prayer of winning. Reality forced me to consider a rock or a hard place. In my reverie, I dream but facing reality, we made the pragmatic choice. No regrets about that. Moving forward is what I focus on now. If we are in the same position come 2019, then my fellow Nigerians, we have been fooled twice and the shame will be on us!
Olulana Alofe, is a public affairs commentator based in Boston (USA) and a Board Member of Skytrend News