*Presidential Flip-Flops and Pack of Lies!!!
Since May 29, 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari came to power, I have maintained silence on his contentious policies except for a Facebook Post I made on my wall on July 2, 2015 to clarify some critical facts and figures that he and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) were clearly muddling; something that Senator Ben Murray also wrote about recently. I held my peace because I felt the President needed to be given some time to settle in and not necessarily because of a strange 100days honeymoon period canvassed by the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Well, I have decided to break the silence of the night because it is now over 4months that this President has been in power, and the much awaited Ministerial List from him was officially unveiled by the Senate 24hours ago, but sadly enough, it fell short of expectation, considering all the hype that he has made about getting an untainted Cabinet. Aside from the fact that it is a partial List that does not cover the 36 States of the Federation as stipulated in the Constitution, even though he had said the rest will come later without a specific timeframe, when you take a good look at the slate of Ministerial Nominees, you see that they are not in any way different from what the nation has had in the past; you cannot truly vouch for them. And it begs the question: is this the best the President could come up with after 4 precious months in office with wild speculations? A déjá vu List?
First, the President had argued in late July, not at home before his fellow citizens but in the United States that he was taking his time to constitute his Cabinet because he wanted as he said the best and incorruptible Nigerians as Ministers; a point he again made in France just days ago making one to wonder why his countrymen always have to hear from him about crucial policy issues in foreign lands. Indeed, it has become the President’s pastime to make critical pronouncements about Nigeria only when he is on official visits to the West. He so argued, and tried to justify his inability to form a Cabinet that he even had to re-write American history by lying to the world that President Barack Obama also took his time to fully form a Cabinet when he was first elected.
In an Op-ed in the Washington Post on July 20, 2015; prior to his official visit to the United States in late July; President Buhari had said, “When Cabinet Ministers are appointed in September, it will be some months after I took the oath of office. It is worth noting that Obama himself did not have his full Cabinet in place for several months after first taking office; the United States did not cease to function in the interim. In Nigeria’s case, it would neither be prudent nor serve the interests of sound government to have made these appointments immediately on my elevation to the presidency; instead, Nigeria must first put new rules of conduct and good governance in place”.
That statement was patently false, and the Americans knew it and must have had a good laugh, but they apparently kept silent because of their vital interests. President Obama never took several months to put his full Cabinet in place and the records are there for everyone to see. On November 5, 2008; a day after Obama won the United States Presidential Election, the Obama Transition Team launched change.gov, the official website of the Transition, which documented all of the announcements of the Obama nominees and other details of the Transition with ruthless efficiency.
In fact, apart from the failed nominations of Bill Richardson, Judd Greg and Tom Daschle due to fundamental disagreements with some issues with the new Administration in the case of Senator Greg, federal investigations into some of his political donors in the case of Richardson, and high speaking fees payments and Advisor’s fees from Healthcare Providers and Healthcare Lobbying Groups in the case of Senator Daschle; a substantial number of Obama nominees including Secretary Clinton, Napolitano and Gates (a holdover from the Bush Administration that needs no confirmation) were confirmed by the United States Senate on or before January 20, 2009; the day Obama first took the oath of Presidential Office, and the rest were confirmed within weeks of Obama’s assumption of office. Aside from the change.gov website, you can look up some of the sources at the footer of this article to confirm this. You see! Facts are sacred, and they speak for themselves; they are not opinions to be debated or comments that are free.
Why then did the President have to lie rather than admit he was unprepared, despite having more than enough time, having been a member of the Council of State since he left office as Military Head of State 30years ago, and having contested elections thrice before the last General Election that he won on March 28, 2015? Moreover, if Nigeria must first put new rules of conduct and good governance in place as Buhari stated before he could appoint Ministers; does he seriously believe he can do that in isolation of the Legislature in a democracy? And are the new rules of conduct and good governance in place now?
Nigerians were also told that the President needed to debrief the Permanent Secretaries and Staff of the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) first before Cabinet Ministers are appointed in order not to truncate or abort the debriefing process, and before significant work can commence. Does anyone really believe that appointed Cabinet Ministers are more corrupt than the permanent workers and officials in the nation’s viciously corrupt and inefficient Civil Service? All that the President had done since he took office are mere platitudes and stop gap measures that cannot stand the test of time, and which could be rolled back by a future President; there has been no delegated legislations or executive orders. And the Legislature had done no meaningful work either since its inauguration.
Even though there is no specified timeframe for the appointment of Ministers in the Constitution, it is evident that the framers of the Constitution who made the provision in Section 147, for the effective administration of the Republic did not intend that the President should become a Sole Director of the Federation.
Substantial number of Obama nominees were confirmed by the United States Senate on or before January 20, 2009; the day Obama first took the oath of Presidential Office, and the rest were confirmed within weeks of Obama’s assumption of office
Second, every other appointment that the President has made thus far has been in plain breach of the Federal Character provision of the Constitution (in Sections 14(3) and (4) and Part 1, Section 8 of the Third Schedule) which seeks to promote national unity, recognize the diversity of the Nigerian people, and to prevent a predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or sectional groups in the Government and its Agencies. The President has grossly violated these Federal Character provisions in his Kitchen Cabinet and other major appointments which have mostly favoured the north; and he and his rabid supporters (whose specialty is in calling others who do not agree with the President names), including activists and renowned lawyers who should know better had justified those appointments by saying they were made based on merit and intelligence, as if merit and intelligence is exclusive only to the north or as if the north has monopoly of merit and intelligence.
These people who see nothing wrong with the unconstitutional Quota System that unfairly place students with abysmal academic performance from that same section of the country into Federal Schools across the country to the detriment of students from other sections of the country, argued that the Federal Character provision stifles innovation, creativity and kills meritocracy and that those who were constructively criticizing and calling on the President to respect the Federal Character provision were people without jobs who depended on political appointments for survival; they failed to see that unlike the unconstitutional Quota System, the Federal Character provision is an essential safeguard, and as the framers of the Constitution intended, it actually strengthens innovation, creativity, intelligence and merit, as it furthers the participation of everyone in the political space and prevents minorities from being shut out by ethnic majorities.
What is more, anthropological evidence from the American Anthropological Association Statements on Race, Race and Intelligence, Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting, as well as other numerous anthropological sources clearly reveals that no race is superior or inferior to any other race, and that there are abundance of intelligent, innovative, creative and meritorious people in every race. Similarly, it is unethical for the President to have appointed a retired Colonel as Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) even if there have been such unlawful traditions in Military Regimes in the past; it would have be more appropriate if he had made that appointment from within the NCS.
Can the President for instance appoint a retired Comptroller General of Customs or even a retired Police Commissioner as Army Chief or Defence Chief? In the light of these facts, I do not, and I cannot support the President who ought to be the chief defender of the law breaking the law. And I certainly do not look with favour upon those who work to subvert any provision of the constitution, not least the Federal Character provision; for if they disagree with those safeguards, they should be openly working to repeal them rather than working to undermine them.
Third, Nigeria is not broke, and this Government did not meet an empty treasury as the President and his Party has been trying to make the world believe, a fact also buttressed by a former Minister in the immediate past Administration; the government may have met a deficit due to profligacy and mismanagement of resources by the previous Administration, but certainly not an empty treasury otherwise how has been it paying its numerous bills, right from its first day in office, the foreign trips and so-called shuttle diplomacy? What about the $100million it voted for the Boko Haram counter-terrorism immediately it took office, and the fact that it paid the first tranche of $21million out of it just days later?
The fact that most States of the Federation could not meet its financial obligations and were owing salaries for up to 10months or more was not because the nation was broke or because of dwindling revenue; States were owing and unable to pay workers’ salaries because they diverted the peoples funds for election campaigns in the last General Election, period. And political parties and candidates on either side of the divide were guilty of this, APC as well as the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). If the private sector is still thriving, and can still pay salaries, then why can’t the State Governments with more money – easy money in short?
The false notion that the nation was broke coupled with the Administration indecisiveness, lack of a clear policy direction and a visible polarized National Assembly sent dangerous signals of a weak economy, and an unstable polity to investors who then withdrew their investments or held back from making commitments. All of this has greatly cost the nation and severely harmed the fragile economy as evident in the skyrocketing cost of living and loss of trillions of Naira in the Stock Market. So, in reality, the nation’s economy has been on autopilot in the last 4months because of these rudderless policies and posture.
On the last look, I call on the President and his Party to sit up and govern responsibly; they need to focus on the sacred task of governance and chart viable policies that can take Nigeria out of the woods. Buhari and his Party have to understand that they are no longer in the Opposition, and must start acting like that; not this one that they run out every time with Press Briefings and Releases on every mundane issue as before. As it is, this Government only has about 37months left in office before the next General Election, and it must judiciously utilize it, and stop living in the ideas and politics of the past if it must make a tangible difference. Continually moving the goalposts and shifting the blame on a sacked pilot when you are the one currently piloting the affairs of the nation does you no good in the long run. Enough said.
By Eneruvie Enakoko