Thursday, December 15, 2016

Where Are We Headed, President Buhari?

By Rotimi Fadsan
The above question probably sounds very unfair and it’s probably in order to address what makes it so before going on any further. The first thing is that the question gives the impression we are under the control of a leader, a pilot or a driver of a vehicle who has lost his sense of direction.

 Such an impression, on the one hand, might imply that this leader as the driver, pilot or whatever else we may choose to call him, of our metaphoric vehicle is adrift and is aware of it. On the other hand, the impression created may be that the leader has no sense that he has lost direction. Neither impression nor its implication is flattering as it leads one to ask if the leader is asleep at the wheels or is simply lazy or shirking, which would be grossly irresponsible. 

I do not for a moment believe the conclusion that the impression painted above leads me to about how President Muhammadu Buhari is leading this country. Which is why I consider my opening question probably very unfair. While leadership is never an easy thing, it’s not at all difficult- in fact it’s very easy to be critical of those in leadership positions and to dismiss their effort with a wave of the hand. To do that without any appreciation of what they might be facing is both unfair and irresponsible. 

My belief is that President Buhari is not sleeping on the job but is working hard to bring about the change he promised before his election.  His intentions for Nigeria appear completely genuine and he is doing his best to realise them. What is, however, critical is how he goes about realising his goals. His strategy for moving Nigeria in the direction of political development and economic growth does not appear well thought through. He seems to and is surely attempting to do too many, not just too soon but all at the same time. 

What this results in is that he spreads himself too thinly across the different aspects of our national life demanding his attention with the further consequence that his government appears to lose direction. It is for this reason that Nigerians are increasingly questioning the competence of this government and demand to know its blueprint for development. It is why they are anxious to know where we are headed and if this government is indeed working at all. 

President Buhari as a person and his ministers might well be working far more for the good of the country and in more selfless manner than those they replaced. But the manner they’ve gone about their job might not be helping their cause or be doing justice to their effort. The question is not therefore whether the president or his ministers are working but how and at what they’ve been working. As for the President, one can see him as he goes on his numerous travels and imagine it can’t be for the fun of it.

 At his age and considering the toll such trips must be having on his body, he can’t be doing them for reasons of personal gain. Nor can it be for the purpose of amassing foreign exchange for the ‘extra duty’ of additional air or road mileage covered. This definitely can’t be his purpose. There must be something more fundamental, a greater motive for his air exertions than the merely pecuniary or sensuous. Even the trips appear to be wearing him down. He looks spent these days than he was when he took office. He simply can’t be going around for nothing. It is true that our leaders appear to be footloose once they get into office, creating the impression that they enjoy the trips abroad than staying back home to do the hard work of leadership.  

President Obasanjo was criticised for this. President Jonathan far less so. Only President Umar Yar’Adua escaped this type of criticism and, perhaps, for the obvious reason of ill health. There must therefore be something in the nature of their job that, for good or bad reasons, compel our leaders to embark on frequent trips abroad. But in order that these frequent trips to get support do not amount to nothing; in order for him not to appear to be out of his depth governing this country, President Buhari needs to concentrate his effort in one or two direction. So far he appears to be fighting corruption at the expense of everything else. His efforts in this regard have not come with the right kind of reward. They appear bogged down by court processes even when there is no doubt that most of those caught in the net of investigators have a lot to explain. But victory may not come too soon. 

For a government that appears to have invested too much in this anti-corruption effort, the prospect of deferred victory might make everything look worthless. This can’t be acceptable to the people who have had to overlook so much about the observed inadequacies of this government. In order not to appear a complete failure, then, this government will have to prove itself in other areas. The first thing is to bring relief to Nigerians, many of who now live from hand to mouth. This government must restore some sense of dignity to the way Nigerians go about taking care of their immediate needs. Industries must be working, employment should be up and workers should be paid as and when due. Solution must be found to the crisis of galloping inflation. 

Basically, Nigerians should be able to afford to eat, clothe and take care of the everyday needs of education and health demands. When these things go apace whatever else this government might wish to add by way of its anti-corruption crusade would not hurt too badly. Of course, the above propositions won’t take off by themselves. Something would have to kickstart the process which this government seems to have found in a foreign loan of some $29 Billion. This is a proposition about which Nigerians are divided- to get or not to get the loan. It would seem disingenuous for this government to say Nigeria would not get out of its recession rot except and only it gets this loan. 

Where were we before this government took over? Are we being told that all the Jonathan administration needed to move forward was a foreign loan? For very good reason Nigerians need to be sure generations unborn are  not about being burdened and shackled by another loan not long after the Obasanjo administration bent over backwards to pay off what we owed before now? This government may need to consider other options, whatever those might be, than seeking another foreign loan.

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