In the case of President Buhari’s administration, the man has proved that sustaining the appellation of Mr Integrity is possible by consistently preaching the same gospel which everybody agrees with.
One of the challenges of the presidential system of government as we practise here is that the bulk stops on the President’s table. The president takes the blame or the credit for the successes or foibles of his cabinet members. The cabinet members design the policies and programs while the president gives his blessing and defends them before the parliament. But chiefly, it is the president that provides the moral compass, the inspiration, the ethos and the value order that drive the ministers’ programmes and policies.
A president in our setting is not expected to, and cannot be reasonably expected to make input in every policy paper being prepared by the Ministers and the MDAs. But he can seek advice and explanations from his aides and advisers, and trusted agents in the ministries and MDAs on the implication of any piece of policy script presented to him to sign.
A battery of quality advisers can wield more influence over the President than the Ministers. But that depends on the level of their know-how. It is possible — especially in our own circumstance for the President to harbour Ministers whose agenda for being in the cabinet runs counter to that of the president. It is even possible that such Ministers can deliberately design faulty policies they know is not in public good, and capable of messing the president up — just for the sake of politics. This phenomenon cannot be easily dismissed in a rancorous polity like ours with its litany of vested interests — with variegated hidden agenda. This is one reason why a good statesman-president strives to live above petty smallishness. He sings patriotic tunes all the time. His speeches reek of unity, peace and progress. No head of government, be it a president or prime minister speaks divisively, just as no diplomat speaks derogatorily against his host. At least, until he ceases to be the head of government, he cannot be heard to speak in favour of restructuring Nigeria in any form — even if deep down his heart, he believes restructuring Nigeria is a reasonable argument. That is the oath he swore—to keep his constituency one. Which father scatters his own household? So it is unthinkable anyone who understands what leadership is all about should be criticizing Buhari for his anti-restructuring posture. But even then, PMB has not in few occasions said tongue in cheek that it is not his duty to embark on the journey of restructuring Nigeria—that it the task of the National Assembly. Thus on the face value, it can be said that Buhari has conducted himself very presidentially in comportment.
Another good point going for Buhari is his stoic spirit and unceasing steadfastness in the ability of Nigeria overcoming her socio-economic and political challenges of the moment. A good leader inspires optimism, not helplessness.
The father of the household needs not be observed all the time by the wife and children groveling and shading tears of helplessness. It can only pass the message to the household that their breadwinner is no longer capable of offering them protection. This quality in the president as a man of strength was observed during all the periods of his infirmity, throughout all the time of Boko Haram and herdsmen terrors.
In all of these moments, President Buhari did not cave in. When it was not possible for him to visit physically, he diligently sent emissary or worthy representative.
Again, consistent rhetoric has been proved in the school of communication to be a powerful sustaining strategy for any political or corporate leader. In it, the values and visions of the organization or government is constantly espoused and ingrained in the consciousness of stakeholders. In the case of President Buhari’s administration, the man has proved that garnering and sustaining the appellation of Mr Integrity is possible by consistently preaching the same gospel which everybody agrees with. Even Nigeria’s foreign friends and development partners agree with the fact that Buhari — notwithstanding all the challenges of insecurity and infrastructural development — has to a reasonable extent succeeded in exerting in the consciousness of the world that corruption — both in public and private domains is a challenge the world bodies, not just individual states alone has to tackle unpretentiously to fasttrack attainment of the lofty ideals embedded in the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda.
In communication, to make a message sink, the messenger has to keep harping on the same theme over and over in diverse forms, with diverse platforms and via second carriers. Buhari has fantastically done this in the war against graft — at least symbolically. Though Nigeria’s peculiar system — her corruption-ridden judicial/legal system, her troublesome and fractious political structure, the legendary proclivity of the Nigerian to live above means — all seem to hinder the President’s desire to stamp out graft in the country, however, the good thing is that the man PMB has hardly given up. His constant diatribe on corruption has provoked some conventions being crafted by the UN and other bilateral allies to tackle the scourge.
Most Nigerians don’t know or have forgotten that his last outing at the UN General Assembly in 2017 yielded a new convention that now mandates any country that abetted money laundry to relinquish such proceeds when discovered without having to wait for the victim to lodge complaints. This derived from Buhari’s pedigree as a man of integrity right from his days as a military head of state.
PMB has only spent three years in the saddle. This is a short period to assess any president. No head of state solves all the country’s problems in just four years. He could only have scratched the surface of the problems. Second term is usually a period of consolidation — of putting previous efforts into discernible and aggregatable shapes — for it is only then that their finer details become apparent and measurable.
However, Nigerians have suffered serial betrayal. They are now in a hurry to develop and live in good conditions like their counterparts elsewhere who are of the same age with Nigeria.. This is justified too. But it is also true that the programmes and policies one is seeing in the works — the Single Treasury Account, the billions of dollars investment drive-in — whether as loans or PPP, the unceasing hunt for looters and hidden funds are undeniable Buhari feats. And if Nigerians choose him again for these reasons, it may not be a costly error.