Editor's note: "I am not buying into Buhari's political sell-out in a bid to convince everybody he is not Muhammadu Buhari they once knew," writes Ini Akpan Morgan in a contribution to Legit.ng. "Action speaks louder than words", however, three weeks since the inaugaration Nigerians are still waiting for a "newly-crowned" president to get down to work and at least make some necessary appointments. Ini Morgan describes what he personally expected Buhari to do first of all, and why Mr President failed to meet the expectations.
It is just too early for President Muhammadu Buhari to start showing clear signs that he may not get the art of democratic leadership. I am pretty sure he is losing sight of the fact that the majority of Nigerians voting for him did so not because they knew him as a good democrat.
I am convinced Buhari assumed his victory in the March election from an erroneous understanding of how it happened. Let me quickly remind Mr President that a lot of Nigerians supported him based principally on his antecedents.
The same consideration Nigerians gave Olusegun Obasanjo preferring him to Chief Olu Falae during the 1999 presidential election. Nigerians have always believed that to set the country on the right path and to enhance democratic experience a leader must be able to apply the “carrot and stick” approach to governance.
Dr Goodluck Jonathan was roundly rejected by Nigerians due to his weakness. Trying to concede the reasons for Buhari’s “careful” approach I’ve come to a conclusion that he misses a vital point assuming Nigerians disliked his previous regime.
Most Nigerians who whip up anti-Buhari sentiments, especially during the electoral campaign, are a few who were caught up by his genuine intentions to deal with lawless citizens. I have said it before that Buhari owes no apology for that period. He did what was necessary to the benefit of Nigeria.
It is true that Nigerians expected Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to lay a strategic roadmap for the country’s political and socioeconomic revival. I must admit that he took commendable steps in this direction and accomplished much on the economic front (for example, removed Nigeria from the list of debtor nations and generated a solid financial base for the country). However, Obasanjo tarnished his reputation by messing up the political environment in his unrestrained urge to be called the Nigerian “messiah”. Nevertheless, he was ignorant of the fact that messiahs are not self-made, but divinely ordained.
So I believe it was in the spirit of crowning a messiah that led the majority of Nigerians to elect Buhari president against all odds. That was principally my reason for writing two open letters to him. The first one was on my desire to see him “hit the ground running”, while the second focused on how he needed to “show political leadership”. Unfortunately, it is clear that Buhari is wasting his goodwill on both points.
I agree that it is still very early to expect miracles, but I bet there are a lot of Nigerians who do. All I am expecting from the president is what I saw him doing in 1984/85: picking up criminals and getting them prosecuted.
I don’t think it takes calling fire down from heaven to do this. I cautioned Buhari on allowing “finger-pointing” at the members of his administration. I talked about being tactful when responding to the political traps set up by those trying to knock him down. I sincerely feel disgusted with people who are presently around Buhari.
I hold Mr President liable for two commitments he made. On the day President Buhari received his Certificate of Return from Prof Attahiru Jega, the INEC chairman, he said:
“…I thank the people of Nigeria for reposing their confidence in me…I will seek your voice and input…this will be a government democratic…in how it interacts with its own people”.
“I ask you to join me in resolving challenges...we shall not take you for granted…be rest assured that our errors will be…not of willful neglect and indifference”.
In response to this novel, historic and unsolicited call, I first saw myself as timely privileged to engage the best brains among the citizens. Mr President’s call for collectivity pulled me up from Nigeria’s waste heap of creative potentials, which past inept and corrupted leaders feared to engage because of their visible incompetence to handle such category of citizens.
I immediately wrote an open letter to President Buhari calling his attention to the police and civil defense reforms, Niger Delta question, economic blueprint aimed at reestablishing of the middle-class economy, the NNPC reform, review of the petroleum product subsidy regime, etc. In another open letter, I advised Buhari to “mind who is Senate president over the 8th National Assembly”. I wrote this to protest the decision of the APC leadership to zone the seat to the North-Central.
I am convinced that if Buhari had had a vibrant PR team, my letters would have reached him, just as they reached the majority of Nigerians. Nevertheless, it is either Buhari’s team is weak in the face of his commitments, or he is a promise breaker neglecting us"his people".
As for Senate president, I advised President Buhari to not to stay aloof, even if it showed good statesmanship. I reminded him of how in advanced democracies presidents find ways to lobby and cajole members of the legislature to put some bills through.
Nigerians see President Buhari as the symbol of the APC’s credibility. His refusal to interfere with the issue of Senate leadership, therefore, is the major cause of a deep internal hemorrhage the APC is now suffering. In my opinion, President Buhari should be the only power block in the APC carrying everybody along to preserve its unity.
In my letter, I also called Mr President’s attention to his political tactlessness. I pointed out how rudely he responded to the APC governors who came to him with the lists of suggested ministerial nominees and requested cash bailout to pay salaries in their states. I told Mr President how I saw him, not as a politician, but as a studious democrat, and reminded that he should address ordinary citizens and politicians differently as some politicians close to him are more politically aware than himself.
Studying the political terrain in Nigeria I realized that there are statements, especially those concerning policies and strategies, that a leader makes to reap political capital. Statements like “I am for everybody and I am for nobody” or promises “not to interfere with the decisions” and “work with anybody” are the most politically naive claims any president has ever openly made.
In my opinion, Mr President should save his talks and do his deeds, because talk is cheap, and it cannot generate much of the political investment if sold out at an inappropriate time.
Action speaks louder than words. I am particularly worried about the present crisis rocking the APC. It’s not a secret that both the Senate president, Senator Bukola Saraki, and the clerk of the National Assembly, Mr Salisu Maikasuwa, rode on Buhari’s humble request to honour him with a reversal in tofhe time slated for the proclamation of the 8th Assembly. I saw how Mr President found it difficult to eat back his words, which he gave out as bonuses. He is clearly the biggest loser. I am not comfortable with a president whose directives, even if they are verbal and made through reliable proxies, are not respected by bloody bureaucrats.
I therefore remind President Buhari of how his predecessor came out openly to tell us that he was not aware the general election was postponed based on security reasons meaning he was no longer the chief security officer in the country. I am sure Mr President was taken unawares by the National Assembly elections outcome as his response clearly indicated that Nigeria needs a president "on point".
President Buhari obviously failed on the two commitments stated above. He clearly took my voice for granted and began playing good old boy. This is not Muhammadu Buhari I struggled to vote for against all odds even when the director general of his campaign called for the election boycott in Rivers state.
I was left to struggle amongst the PDP antagonists. This is clearly not the man I gunned for, no please! I love Mr President so much that I can tolerate him longer than any other Nigerian, but I need to see some improvements in his political delivery.
I am not buying into his political sell out in a bid to convince everybody that he is not Muhammadu Buhari they once knew. Though he has changed his title from general to president, I want to see a man with a steel heart, not this show of chicken heartedness.
President Buhari cannot impress Nigerians by being a good old boy, no, he cannot! He cannot please the people with sweet words, but I bet my life that all Nigerians will rise for him when they finally see the change he promised to them.
In my opinion, the change is about to immediately send the list of the Federal Executive Council members to the Senate for approval, and subsequently assign the attorney general of the federation to commence prosecution of economic and financial crimes.
I do not see the reason why President Buhari should further delay the appointment of Col Hamid Ibrahim Ali (rtd) as the chairman of the EFCC. This is the action Nigerians want to see from him. It is about the rule of law, justice, equity and political sagacity.
Sweet words are like “Mary Kay” cosmetics on the faces of female celebrities that washes out under rain drops. As far as the current APC crisis is concerned, President Buhari’s “Mary Kay” wordiness is now under the rain, and he will surely be embarrassed by his colour parchments if he does not hide quickly from public view.
Sooner or later, Buhari will feel the rain drops coming down on his cosmetics if he does not warn those contributed to the mess against indiscipline, craftiness and manipulation. As I have noted, it turns out that Buhari does not have anyone who can look into his face and tell him the truth. I am a Nigerian, and I can look into Mr President's face and tell him some home truth. I am old enough to answer the call of nature either in the toilet or in the grave, why should I fear any man?
Mr President has hit the ground walking; Nigerians want him to start running. His is not a long-distance race, it is in fact a 100m dash. Thank God Buhari is tall and has very long legs, but he needs to throw them as far as he can. My words are few, but they are enough for Mr President if he is wise. “My brother, do something…pamu reggae!”
Ini A. Morgan is a Port Harcourt-based architect, writer and public affairs analyst. He is married with children.
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