Some politicians have a yearning to be president because of the awesome power and the glamour of the office, but few of them understand the challenge of the job. Such politicians forget that the presidency is not, to paraphrase a former United States President, Gerald R. Ford, a “prize to be won but a duty to be done”. Perhaps, most important, such politicians fail to heed this counsel:” Be careful what you wish for,” because you might get it. Though the origin of this old saying is unclear, it sums up an important lesson in life. What all of this means is that, if you get things you desire, there maybe, and indeed, will be unforeseen and unpleasant consequences. In other words, the desired outcome may not be as desirable once it has been attained.
Therefore, pause to ask: why is that all the presidents we have elected, beginning with Shehu Shagari, Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, and now, Muhammadu Buhari, have had abysmal record of performance, far short of the promises they made while campaigning for the office? They sought for the power and glamour of the presidency. Simple. They didn’t think through the consequences of having their wishes come through. It’s so because, power for power sake, is a dead end. That’s why almost all of them ran aground in the presidency. They are, permit this phrase, “waka just pass”. Waka just pass are people who left no real accomplishments, no good legacy after their names. So sad.
That’s why it seems Nigeria is proving harder for every elected president to govern. The saddest thing is that every previous President left a voluminous book of failure for the current sitting president to draw lessons from, but he doesn’t seem to learn. Let’s get it clear: People like change, especially when the ‘old order’ could not deliver on fixing the present problems, and the present order is blaming its inability on its predecessor.
The truth is that, to bring about the desired ‘change’, a President must require broad public support for the direction of the agenda he wants to accomplish for his country. Public support is a key resource modern presidents need. They should seek such to leverage public opinion and garner the support of the people and that of the legislature. But, to get that, a president must leverage on his performance and influence.
And, I ask: Do you think the Buhari presidency has got that gravitas? Today, nobody needs to tell anybody what to like or dislike about this government. It troubles the mind. Personally, our collective worry should be seen, not from the adversarial angle, but in the fact that there’s always something in any government that either pulls people into it, or push them away from it. Every president begins to misstep immediately he begins to ignore the ‘yellow flag’, his own limitations and responsibilities that the office has entrusted to him. That was why Ibrahim Babagida failed, that’s the larger factor why Obasanjo and Jonathan failed, in spite of the enormous public goodwill that heralded their elections.
Now, let’s look closely into the warning signs in the current administration. First, take a fact check of few of the promises Buhari made on his inauguration, May 29,2015. He promised to tackle corruption and security head on. He said, “Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism”. He further assured,” the Federal Executive under my watch will not seek to encroach on the duties and functions of the Legislative and Judiciary arms of government. The law enforcement authorities will be charged to operate within the Constitution”.
In that regard, he said: “As far as the Constitution allows me, I will try to ensure that there’s responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country. For, I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch”. Has the President walked the talk? You answer.
How is security situation in the country today? Today, our country is under siege from killer herdsmen. Has the administration respected the functions of the Legislature and the Judiciary? What about corruption? Well, I think he has done well in the corruption fight, comparatively speaking. Good, he’s in the USA right now. Only recently, the US Department of State in its 2017, 48-page Country Report, issued a danming assessment of Nigeria, alleging that impunity and corruption are still prevalent in the country. The report also claimed that transparency is still lacking in government affairs, while government officials and security agencies are neck- deep in corruption.
One cannot bet on this report. However, the president should look into it properly. His integrity is at stake, because the allegations are weighty, especially that of massive graft. But, there’s no disputing the fact that the President has “encroached on the duties and functions” of the Legislative arm, contrary to his promise.
The darkening clouds hanging over his withdrawal of $496m from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for the procurement of 12 Super Tucano aircraft from the US government for the Nigerian military without the approval of the National Assembly, is clear impunity and breach of the Section 80(1),(2),(3) and (4) of our Constitution, not withstanding the “security emergencies” he cited for his action. That action has expectedly set off alarms for impeachment threats. But, I don’t think we need that. He needs to be reminded about the risk of a president overreaching his power.
No arm of government likes to be treated with disdain. When a President ignores the Parliament, he unwittingly imperils his own agenda and makes himself a poor candidate for the ‘Change’ he talks about. Even worse, it makes unity and national cohesion harder to achieve. In all, we have heard the President’s fan base say, that that he has tremendous moral/ integrity strength. I don’t doubt that, but in politics, integrity is not enough. Raw power won’t do it either.
The President should learn how to take advice of people who mean well, because in the end, while an aide can survive with the support of acolytes or cronies, a President is judged, and either succeeds or fails by his errors or accomplishments. As the Jewish philosopher Maimonides said, “free will is offered to all men. If they wish to follow the path of goodness and become righteous, the will to do so is in their hands, and if they wish to follow the path of evil and become wicked, the will to do so is also in their hands”.