How do you see President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, vis-a-vis the change Nigerians voted for in 2015?
This depends on the impression of individual voters because change is a very wobbly and non-specific phenomenon. He won his election fair and square but having won the election, Buhari began failing in what political scientists call Performance Legitimacy. Buhari started losing control by the kind of people he recruited into office. They were vastly seen to be one: blood relations, two: his cronies some of who personal friends and neighbors maneuvered to power.
Nigerians were expecting change but they were not expecting nepotism and cronyism. Chronic capitalism has been the defining characteristic of Buhari’s administration. People are not amused, and they are not happy. Now when you move on, through no fault of his, Buhari found himself leading a country in recession.
A regime is assessed not only by the face, policies and pronouncements of the leader, but by the faces of the regime; what is called the presentation team. Clearly, the team Buhari brought, including the blood relations have not been seen to be up and doing in the portfolios given to them. It is bad enough to bring your relations, friends and some of their children, and mistresses into government, it is a very serious cardinal sin to be seen to be failing in terms of appointments made because those appointees whatever the reasons, are not performing in the portfolios given to them.
Buhari has not been able to convince Nigerians that the crop of people he put in strategic places is what the country can afford; and on top of it, he could not even convince his party. And if he cannot convince his party, I don’t know how he can convince public opinion in the modern society.
You could also move on and say, well, he inherited some of these people from the last PDP administration, and he inherited the mess from Jonathan Goodluck. I have not seen any evidence to tell me that the appointments by Jonathan were not anything but irresponsible, and some of them were essentially determined by corruption, in addition to tribalism.
When Jonathan assumed full powers, he decided that Nigeria had now ceded the leadership of this country to his ethnic cocoon, and that was very tragic. He removed the normal formal structure was and replaced it with nepotism and destroyed the basis of the civil service structure, that was a recipe for disaster, and that was what Buhari inherited.
So, what did you expect Buhari to have done on taking power? Unfortunately, in his desperation to get friends recruited into the civil service, he was too slow to remove people who were clearly opponents of his administration, opponents of his party, and opponents of policies he had espoused before he came to power. We had a situation where most of the key appointments were held by people who were appointed by PDP/Jonathan, and that was a bad recipe for a good takeoff.
Whether it was his fault, whether he inherited a mess, the fact remains that economic historians would record that it was during Buhari’s time that the Naira collapsed so badly. But Buhari came to power with a lot of goodwill.
What do you think has happened?
Yes, Buhari came with a lot of goodwill; he wanted to rediscover Nigeria, he wanted to make sure that bribes, kickbacks are discouraged, and the nation was given a new lease of life and new direction. The judiciary has been a disgraceful mess; I don’t believe anybody either from heaven or hell can fight corruption with the current judiciary. Whoever is the president of this country today, be it Obasanjo or Yar’Adua, would have failed because you cannot simply move forward with the rot in the judiciary.
If Buhari had wanted to do something, perhaps a more serious and sincere team would have done the magic, but by focusing on friends, relations and cronies, he set himself up for failure. Even if the judiciary were upright, he would have failed, and that is why he is failing.
It has to be admitted that you cannot pursue two contradictory policies at the same time. I am not talking of Buhari not doing a good job; I meant Buhari’s government is in the business of arresting people and prosecuting them through ICPC and EFCC.
But the same time there are people who are clearly corrupt in this government, and it’s business as usual. When cases of corruption against such people come up Buhari seems to look the other way. It’s not justifiable! Look at the letter he dispatched to the Senate trying to exonerate SGF, which clearly blew on his face. What was contained in that letter was a total contradiction of what he has been saying about his policies over the last few years.
What are you suggesting?
There is this perception, and I believe based on reality, that Buhari is a very weak person. There are several instances where people should have been dismissed or disciplined, but Buhari did not have the gut to act. Buhari is today the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; he is also the chief diplomat for the country, he is the de facto Foreign Minister. Buhari, in addition, is what the Americans call the Bully pulpit, meaning he is the moral conscience of the country. He is the man who gives leadership.
And I must admit in these areas he has failed. But he remains popular.
Why the contradiction?
If a man won an election two years ago, and today his government is seen to be in a mess, you cannot say the man is not popular. Yes, he is popular, but popularity in politics is subject to renewal of mandate. I don’t believe Buhari can win election with the same magnitude he won in 2015. I am not saying he cannot win, but I am saying this country deserves better and this country has not been better served by Buhari’s presidency in the past two years.
Whether Buhari won legitimately or otherwise, the fact remains that today, there is a perception out there that Buhari is not performing, and there are quite a number of Nigerians who believe that given his state of health, Nigerians are entitled to wonder whether the man they voted for overwhelmingly can continue to run this country in his capacity as commander-in-chief of this country.
Why do you say so?
From my vantage position as a medical doctor, I have no doubt in my mind that Buhari is sick. Nobody takes chemotherapy unless he is seriously ill, and the illness may not be terminal but certainly it has a lot of implications, which means he is having some form of cancer, though I have no access to his medical records and would not want to make general statements.
But my take is that the President is not well and anybody who is sick in his physical body cannot perform, and that brings us to performance legitimacy, and that is why he is failing in his mandate.
The fact of the matter is that Buhari is sick and despite all attempts by handlers to take Nigerians for a ride, and because of the stubbornness and character of the mafia, the man has been holed up in Abuja. I believe he is doing himself no service. I believe at some point, Buhari has to do himself some justice by saying enough is enough, I have tried my best, and I believe Nigerian will respect me.
It is not how long you serve; it is how well you served.
How did we get here and how do we get out of it?
In politics and every other endeavor, sometimes you have people who are motivated by their personal ambitions; they went into politics because they want to make money or they want to get certain positions that do not mean those people are any less decent or patriotic, compared to opportunists who were handpicked and who are not members of the party.
One of the cabal has never been a card-carrying member of a political party; he has never been involved in party politics. When you get into Government, you remember the platform that got you there and you should be responsible to them.
Don’t forget Buhari attempted, contested and lost three elections and this time around he had to concede that personal extravagance or the empty slogan of “sai mai gaskiya” would not win you an election and that was how he swallowed his pride and negotiated with the Tinubus of this world and other people here in the north and negotiated with the governors before he was allowed to contest and that was how he won in 2015.
I am ashamed of those still claiming to be members of APC today because it is a disgrace because Buhari is showing them he owns the party.
How do we neutralize the influence of those in the kitchen cabinet?
We can do it by making sure that the President is held to account, but unfortunately, the Senate is busy disgracing itself. No Nigerian now looks up to the Senate for redemption because they believe the National Assembly cannot redeem Nigeria.
What we need to do is to keep mounting pressure because in a democracy, no matter who you are, at some point you have to cave in to public opinion and if Buhari does not listen we make him listen where it hurts because he is a politician. I do not accept that the confrontational attitude of the Senate is healthy for the country because when you look at them, they have nothing to offer and we cannot continue to run a government where one of the institutions is confronting the executive.
When you have senators who are subjects of criminal investigation and are on bail, can we trust such group of people to deliver Nigeria or expect them to be honest partners in the fight against corruption? What do you find interesting in Buhari’s government?
I must admit that Buhari came to power with the intention of fighting corruption, but also we have to admit as well that in the fight against corruption, Buhari has only partially won. Most of the time the Government has been humiliated, therefore in giving kudos to Buhari, it must be shared. I believe that whoever persuaded him to appoint Magu as anti-corruption Czar must have meant well for the country as well as Buhari.
The boy has been consistent; he has fought a very terrible battle in which the Senate is determined to destroy him. Fighting those characters requires enormous guts and courage and sense of patriotism. What has been achieved in the area of fighting corruption is largely due to Magu, not President Buhari.
Do you think Buhari has been fair to Goodluck Jonathan?
As far as I am concerned, nobody has been witch-hunting Goodluck Jonathan. I believe Buhari has been more than restrained in his relationship with him. Jonathan should thank his stars that Buhari is the President today, and not Obasanjo, he would have either gone into exile or put behind bar.