Events in the last two years or thereabouts show clearly that there is a gaping hole in the operations of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, especially in the management of information. There appears to be an established pattern of inconsistency in the way policy objectives are being discharged, which makes this government unpredictable. The President and his government’s key functionaries tend to flip-flop at every turn, when urgent and firm responses are required to deal with national emergencies. Sometimes, one begins to wonder, like Prof. Wole Soyinka, whether there is anyone in charge of the business of government.
Let us start with the latest series of policy reversals. There are strict protocols in place to check the spread of the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, government suddenly came up with NIN-SIM registration that compelled people to visit registration centres in large numbers, and they do so without observing social distancing, because they have to beat the deadline set by government. The government kept shifting the deadlines for the NIN-SIM registration after it was discovered that the original deadline was not feasible. Why must government carry out this exercise at the peak period of the COVID-19 resurgence? We have not been told.
The last time the President accepted an invitation to address the National Assembly on the state of security, Nigerians looked forward with great expectation to this meeting, but a few days to the visit, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubarkar Malami, cancelled it. He claimed that the lawmakers had no power to summon the President to the chamber. Pronto! The President agreed, and called off the visit.
Rather than allow the Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Adamu, go at the end of his tenure on February 1, 2021, President Buhari dilly-dallied for a few days before he decided to extent his tenure by 90 days, to enable him look for a successor. The question is: why tenure extension for this retired IG when government knew all along that he was due to retire at the due date? Why is it so difficult to name a successor? More questions than answers.
Now, to the more difficult and topical issue of Fulani herdsmen/farmers’ conflict as a result of the encroachment of cows on farmlands in the South-West, and the widespread kidnapping, rape and killings by criminal Fulani bandits masquerading as herdsmen. The Federal Government’s policies on this highly contentious issue have created the impression that it is protective of the rampaging herders who are involved in killings and criminality in different parts of the country. The abrasive response of the Presidency to the recent events in the South-West over the dispute between the Fulani herdsmen and the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, who asked them to vacate forest reserves in the region, was clearly unfortunate. The impression created by the Presidency was that it was out to defend the Fulani kinsmen of the President.
There is no aspect of governance where the APC government’s policy incoherence is not being felt. Take the latest COVID-19 pandemic response for instance. The Federal Government couldn’t decide whether to order a partial lockdown, or a complete lockdown. It is unable to agree with the state governments on several key issues bordering on security, distribution of COVID-19 palliatives, school closure or reopening, how to enforce the pandemic protocols based on regional impact of the disease, and other matters arising. This is because of the Federal Government’s weak governance response to critical issues that require firmness and sincerity of purpose.
What is obvious from the actions and inaction of this government is that the gaps in decision making and implementation, all come down to the palpable failure of leadership in the Presidential Villa. We are not feeling the pulse of executive power anywhere in Nigeria. Senior government officials appear to be running their individual departments as they deem fit. As I write, it has been announced that the NIN may replace the BVN as the means of identification in banking transactions.
A few things are well thought-out by this government and nothing seems to run smoothly from beginning to end. One minute, we heard an announcement from the blue that electricity tariff would be hiked. Then, after some public disapproval, the decision was quickly abandoned, only for the controversy to resurface later. We still have several pending issues like the minimum wage negotiations, VAT increase, petroleum products subsidy, ASUU-government dispute and petroleum pump price hike, inconclusive corruption trails involving high-profile politicians, the CAMA legislation, et cetera. President Buhari needs to exercise leadership, like the veteran soldier and retired general that he is.
It seems that the system restrains him from exercising authority. Some people have even suggested that Buhari is weak because he is beholden to a cabal around him. Whatever the case, the buck stops on his desk. He is the President and he must perform as the President. He has no excuse. He has been in power for close to six years.
For once, let the President face a panel of journalists and talk to the nation on what is going on in his government, and tell us how he hopes to deliver on his promises. That is the honourable thing to do now, in the face of the myriad problems we are facing in this country. The time to act is now.
Weeked Spice: Our errors travel faster than our good deeds.
Ok folks, let’s do it again next week Friday. Keep safe. COVID-19 is real. Stay motivated.