One thing you observe about Nigeria’s leadership is that almost everyone involved in the country’s leadership is quick to point at corruption as the bane of the development of the republic. Yes, corruption. But when they scream corruption, they mean only the stealing of public wealth. By ‘stealing’, they present to you an argument that the transfer of money meant to execute projects into private accounts is the issue. And, as far as almost all of them are concerned, that is the only thing that constitutes corruption. Well, they are right because that is the only crime that the country’s laws have consistently punished.
So, for the leading elite, armed robbery is crime that can be committed only by the frustrated youth. Armed robbery is not the forte of leaders. And it is shameful. But stealing from the public purse is not. This is so because fraternal spirits welcome and appreciate the public servant, government appointee or civil servant who, armed with a pen, transfers public wealth into private pockets but frowns and condemns the one who does exactly the same thing with a gun.
Fela Anikulapo-Kuti called it “authority stealing”. He said it was worse than armed robbery. No doubt, it is. But those who became rich and climbed to the top echelon of society through the instrumentality of authority stealing do not think it a crime. For them, it is reward of office. Sometimes, an office that was sustained by a flagrant abuse of the Constitution to satisfy the greed of the elite and certain individuals.
That is why it is always difficult to understand Nigeria. Sometimes, you ask to know if the country was primed to survive or fail. Some believe that Nigeria will ultimately fail. Some believe that it will come through shining. Some others are indifferent. As far as reality is observed, the way it is, everyone is correct. Nigeria may fail or survive, depending on the willingness of its leadership to see its Constitution as sacrosanct, a document that must be respected and enforced, irrespective of whose interest is messed with and in spite of its imperfections.
But for greed, and the penchant to satisfy one man’s hunger, Nigeria’s Constitution has been observed in the breach. It is messed up without regard to the foundations being laid.
If you don’t get my drift, please do. The President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s habit of extending the service of officials of state, whose service time has elapsed, is an affront on constitutional integrity. It is also a negative use of presidential prerogative. It is as destructive as it is retrogressive. It is, therefore, confounding that the All Progressives Congress government, which has the word ‘progressive’ as its signature, allowed such impunity to remain a constant feature of its administration of Nigeria thus far.
We saw how, last week, the Extended Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, was ignominiously removed from office while he was on an ‘official’ assignment to Owerri, the Imo State capital. Those who did not know the import of what happened to the extended-IGP would do well to realize that his removal, while on official duty, speaks volumes about disagreements within the Presidency on the tenure elongation granted in favour of Adamu by President Buhari. It thus meant that Adamu returned to Abuja as a civilian. The wider implication is that the paraphernalia of office that took him to Owerri was withdrawn midway. The police escort that took him to Owerri could as well have abandoned him there and returned to Abuja. Before Adamu, other service chiefs of the Buhari era enjoyed such disregard for the Constitution as well.
As a matter of fact, while it was obvious that Buhari is always stuck with the same team out of the fear of change, those who became beneficiaries of such unconstitutional extensions, in real terms, were accomplices in the flagrant disregard for the Constitution, which they swore to defend and protect. Upon swearing in, every service chief takes an oath of allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. By implication, they swear to oaths to defend the federal republic. Such defence is not merely by eliminating threats to the unity of the federation and from external aggression but, to my mind, also, to stand firmly in defence of the Constitution to which they owe their offices and appointments.
By making themselves available for service extensions, the beneficiaries fall short of their oath to defend the Constitution and append their signatures to a brazen abuse of both the Constitution and the organisation that they lead. I believe that this is a function of greed. If after 35 years of meritorious service to your nation you still find it difficult to retire, then there must be something psychologically wrong with your make-up.
I should expect that a soldier who has risen to lead the army, for instance, should be able to stand firmly as a soldier and say, ‘No, thank you, sir,’ when the apple of tenure extension is dangled before him. By doing so, you speak to the fact that there are so many others capable of doing the same job.
You speak to the suspicion that you are not greedy. You also speak to that fact that the service you represent can survive without you. The service was, in the first place, not set up with you in mind. It belongs to Nigeria and Nigeria can always find another capable hand to lead it.
As it is said, no one is indispensable. That is a fact of leadership. Every leader ought to know that there are not only one set of experts. For security services like the army, navy, air force and the police, you need a divergence of views on how best to get things going. But Buhari preferred being stuck with the same set of minds that may have become outdated in their approach. His refusal to explore other options also speaks volumes about his disdain for innovation and penchant to stick to the old brooms. It is agreed norm that an old broom knows all the corners but the fact remain that a new broom sweeps finest. Buhari abhors this principle. And those accomplices made themselves available for impunity because they had to service their greed, too.
Truth is this: by extending the services of those whose psychological minds had zeroed in on retirement, the President created room not only to service greed and destroy the constitutional provision on the retirement from service, but also destroyed ethos in public service. This systematic destruction of the service is such that others easily become weary and unwilling to put in their best knowing that their best will never lead them to the top.
Every officer’s ambition is to rise to lead his service and retire from the office. Not to be literarily chased out of office like it has happened to the extended-IGP. Nigeria is not in short supply of quality and capable human resource to lead every aspect of its national life. The country is not experiencing any shortage in human resources. Rather, it is faced with the lack of interest to think beyond the known. It is an issue in the lack of leadership foresight, innovation and ability to radically challenge a system.
Buhari’s leadership style fails on these fronts. Sometimes, Buhari presents himself as a leader who is imprisoned by fear. But the bigger fear is that no one knows if the fear is actually genuinely founded or that he is made a recluse to fears manufactured and planted in his mind by his acolytes. It would be a disaster if the latter is the case. because it would mean that his presidency has been captured by fear-mongers who wake him and also nudge him to bed with tales of how enemies are closing in. If you get my drift, you will now know what Toke Poholo meant when he said, as narrated in James Hadley Chase novel, ‘Want to Stay Alive?’ that “fear is the key to unlock the rich man’s wallet.”