President Muhammadu Buhari’s laid back management style is not new. In his first advent as military Head of State, his No. 2 man, Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, the late Major General Tunde Idiagbon was like the Executive Prime Minister who ran the government. Gen. Buhari was at the helm, of course, but he spoke little, being taciturn by nature, and in all matters of state, Idiagbon was more visible. Under the democratic dispensation, President Buhari’s deputy, Vice President Yemi Osibajo used to be visible at a point in time; not anymore.
Nowadays, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Minister of Information and National Orientation, Lai Mohammed, and the President’s two official spokesmen, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, have taken turns on the centre stage of policy statements. These gentlemen have had to close the gap created by the President’s failure to engage the media since his first and only Presidential chat about 5 years ago.
Mr. Malami leads the pack of the spokesmen, and obviously, his interventions on weighty matters, show clearly that he has the President’s authourity. However, speaking for the President has its limits; if done right, it keeps the nation informed, but it’s not good for all occasions, like national emergencies, or in times of crisis. That’s why many Nigerians were relieved when President Buhari recently came out to give interviews to ARISE TV and the NTA, and it’s easy to tell that his return to the public space was a wise decision, because it was greeted with approval.
These two interviews gave us the golden opportunity to know the President’s mind on some national issues like the separatist agitations, herdsmen attacks, grazing issues, terrorism, and the economic problems plaguing the nation. Like most observers have noted, the interviews would have been longer, the range of questions deeper and broader, but what we got at the end of the day gave us some insight into the President’s mind concerning critical topical issues.
Certainly, these two interviews have done far more for the President than a hundred spokesmen could have achieved. He spoke to Nigerians directly, frankly and in typical fashion. Buhari was characteristically unpretentious. Expectedly, his responses were not the best, given the circumstaces, but we now understand the direction in which he is steering the ship of state, and the reasons behind some of his policies, like appointments, which are obviously skwed in favour of the north.
Afterwards, he travelled to Lagos and Maiduguri to commission some projects; he met with our troops first-hand, in Borno State, where he realised that they were battle-weary and needed to be allowed to rest. This led to his decision to rotate the troops henchforth.
But President Buhari needs to go out more, speak out more and do some civic engagements with the wider society across the nation. Town hall meetings across the six geopolitical zones of the nation is long overdue. He needs to hear the people directly, and feel the pulse of the nation he has led for six years. Mr. President is in the middle of his final four-year tenure. What he achieves now, would decide how he’d be remembered.
Some of his critics may not admit this, but in the area of infrastructure, the APC-led federal government has done better than its predesessors. The facts are there for all to see. The investments in transportation; the railways especially, road construction and education, are quite impressive. He inherited these projects, but completing them is the icing on the cake.
That said, Mr. Buhari must realise that frequent dialogue with stakeholders at a time of national challenges like this, is an obligation, not a favour, as some of his people think. In just two TV interviews, the President cleared widespread speculations about his state of health. We can now see clearly that Buhari is not too sick to govern; we are fully persuaded that he’s not in any way unable to control his faculties.
The President has never been known to be articulate, nor is he a professional public speaker; but at least, he’s able to express himself well enough to be clearly understood. If he keeps quiet for too long, when he’s supposed to speak on critical issues, he’d give rise to rumours. Mere appearances at a public event, and a few remarks when auspicious, gives the people confidence in the leader. Spokesmen have their roles, but the leader must be willing to engage the people at all times, to reassure them of the fact that he’s in charge, and able to deal with issues, without any shadow of doubt.
Mr Garba Shehu need to trim his enthusiasm when defending government policies and actions. The issues plaguing our nation spring from the internal contradictions and general dysfunction of our government. They are not externally generated, and Nigeria is not at war with any country. Therefore, we do not need propagandists who behave like Josef Goebbels and Lord Haw-Haw.
Government spokesmen should not attack their own people as if they’re foreign enemies. We are all Nigerians, and we demand that whoever speaks on behalf of our leaders should be civil, because they’re first and foremost, civil servants, who are paid from government coffers.
If President Buhari should continue his public appearances, and do well to respond on time to governance issues, we would have less tension in the country, and he’d be able to focus more on developmental issues.
Weekend spice: Your destiny is Gods’ blueprint for your life.
Ok folks, let’s do it again next Friday. COVID-19 is real. Stay motivated.
•Ayodeji, author, rights activist, pastor and life coach, can be reached on 09059243004 (SMS & WhatsApp only)