Nigeria as country that is unravelling does have at any time lots of issues of interest to a writer, especially writers of history in a hurry like columnists, to discuss. At about the time I sat down to write last week, the two chambers of the National Assembly, the Senate and House of Representatives, were still at daggers drawn with Mr Festus Kayemo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Minister of State for Labour and Employment over how to execute a Federal Government project. That matter is very important for the reason that it touches on constitutionalism, especially who has right to do what and the boundaries of legislative oversight functions. Since we like to say we are learning, it is vital such clashes receive widest reviews especially from very knowledgeable quarters.
I read few reactions and was scandalized to see many of the commentators leaving the crux of the matter and holding on to non-issues like temperament, respect and other things not worth the while. When Keyemo went to the National Assembly (NASS), legislators wanted a closed door deliberation and the big question became, what was at issue that couldn’t be discussed in full glare of journalists if indeed motives were pure and nationalistic? The matter in that case was temporary menial job placement for jobless citizens and of course payments running in billions of naira. So it is easy to fathom why so many hands are interested in this matter and why things assumed the shape we saw. It has become typical of us that when issues boil down to opportunities and cash, nearly everyone loses sense and balance, wild struggles and in some instances nasty confrontations become inevitable. In the ensuing melodrama little space is left for sound reasoning. So, core objectives are often distorted or lost totally. Was the NASS right to jump in at the time they did? Given the paucity of funds and parlous state of the country’s economy, throwing billions of naira on jobs that are non-productive and lack sustainability, is that the way to go? Whose responsibility is it to find out and to proffer an amendment or better alternative?
These were not the kernel of the differences or bone of contention, yet an already traumatised citizenry, wearied by hunger and diseases, has been made to grapple with the heat the avoidable conflict is emitting. By the time I wrote this, the combatants were at the point of whose voice and role should be loudest and who should be in control of the project. The entire picture was as if those public leaders were kindergarten kids unable to understand the concept of separation of powers and job assignment encapsulated in all of that. Let me said this and go on to another thing: the revelation that 15 percent of job placements have been given to legislators to give out says so much about the level of discipline among the political class and of course our unique practice of this near universal concept called democracy. We have so acculturated democracy that what is left of it makes it anything but democracy. In places where morality is part of statecraft, this revelation can bring down the whole National Assembly as presently constituted. But this is Nigeria for you, where anything goes.
While I prepared to write this discourse, Ibrahim Magu, Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) got into a trouble, which I am sure he never thought would come. The hunter became the hunted as he is being interrogated over allegations of corruption. He has since been placed on suspension pending the outcome from Presidency panel probing his activities but knowing how these things work, it is very safe to say he is a goner. I would pity him if things turn out worse. Tiger riders must be weary of the very act. Tigers are carnivores and they feed on fresh flesh, dripping with warm blood. They may not be hungry when riders mount their backs but when they get hungry they will and that is when the trouble starts. The rider could then become cheap source of food. For me the Magu case has all the trappings of a tiger rider. He always spoke like an insider who was thrust forward to play definite role. Did he underperform? Or has is his role in the drama plot done with?
Am very curious about how some developments have been popping up in the country in recent times and this perhaps could be because of what I know about power management. My apprehension has increased these past days. This is linked to some events which for me are more than administrative brinkmanship. The plan behind the clampdown on the national executive of All Progressives Congress (APC) I have stated in this space was not hatched in few hours; it wasn’t a sudden decision dictated by “crisis” and possible fear of breakdown of order or collapse of the house. If the concerns were about that and the motive limited to achieving order then intervention would have been much earlier and it would have been in a manner acceptable to a wider range of members of the household.
That intervention came in a very unusual, I don’t want to say bizarre, manner, and left many groups and interests some of them well entrenched, bruised and politically battered. The promoters of this whirlwind knew what the consequences could be, so they set up a reconciliation committee which has since been going round to pacify groups. Isn’t this move enough indication to those still in doubt that something far more than restoration of order is taking hold of the ruling party and those engineering it are aware of what is spinning out has capacity to stir up divisions and anger which can destabilize and disfigure the party. Note that the chief players in the unfolding drama remain President Buhari and Malami, his Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
The dust over the rumble in the party was yet to settle then we this hit on Magu came. The immediate cause of Magu’s headache can be attributed to the memo from the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to the President complaining about infractions on the part of Magu and urging action. The remote cause is located in the power dynamics within the Buhari camp and the script they intend to unveil from now going forward. Buhari has an agenda; this much should be clear to all by now. In fact more than any leader this country has had he has done so much to extend the frontiers of ethnic and religious hegemony. It is generally agreed that our country is more divided today than it has ever been. Those pushing this button have not attained they level they set and that was because 8th National Assembly posed a challenge. With time lost, efforts are being made to see if lost grounds can be regained under the cloak of democracy. It is the push we are seeing.
Remember Magu was still acting more than four years after the 8th Senate rejected his nomination as chairman. Recall that the Senate did not on their accord reject him. Rather reports from government quarters and from State Security Service provided the tools to nail him. Till tomorrow it is still a marvel to some of us that a national Chief Executive could nominate a candidate and agencies under him would be the ones to play the spoiler’s role. The 9th Assembly which is favourably disposed to the Executive Branch has for more than a year been in place yet as important as EFCC is to the government and in particular its anti-corruption war, nobody was in a hurry to resend Magu’s name for reconfirmation by Senate, and if it could not be done, nobody said so. Magu was just encouraged to float until the bubble bust and salty water entered his boat. The question is: if Magu wasn’t wanted, why keep him all this while?
A time came in the life of the American nation, and leaders began to wonder if the people were actually worth anything in the making of a country. This came about because the leaders discovered citizens can hardly on their own canvass or hold on strongly to a position – today they are hailing and tomorrow they are on to new position on same issue. “Dangerous” leaders who like to circumvent laid down processes know this trend very well and like to seize on it to their advantage. They dangle one good intention and ride on it to carry through hidden agenda. Magu’s assignment is not the kind that wins friends, add to that the fact that he knows too much, you don’t just shove away such a person, you tie him up. This is his baptism, he may carry a cross later, someone must die for the “good” of others.
Like I observed earlier, I received the development with deep circumspection. My position is reinforced by questions I ask and researches I undertake on critical administrative themes such as team spirit, cohesion and administrative unity and dissonance. Is Magu not a part of the team? Who recruited him in into such a critical area? What are those sins that couldn’t be rectified in-house to keep group health? How come it is sister agencies reporting to the same master that have been eager to spy on him? If Magu indeed rerouted stolen funds and property he should go in for it. My concern is that time has come when we should give far greater attention to the leadership recruitment process and ensure we do things in ways that enhance public administration so as to attract positive attention to us. Dissolving party executives by fiat and now picking up the Head of our anti-graft agency may on the surface look good but to those who know, they understand it tells the world this people lack organisation. People who lack organisation don’t attract respect. Organisations are skeptical to do serious business with them. The Magu drama is much more for me a clear case of administrative dissonance. It is no good attribute at all.
Apologists of Buhari would also have to tell us what kind of set up is this where departments under the presidency work at cross purposes. It could pass for a new administrative style if well comprehended. For citizens vigilance is the game.