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Opinions of Sunday, 31 May 2015

Columnist: Muhammad Ajah

President Buhari, accountability and creativity for prosperity

On May 29, 2015 at the Eagle Square in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as the fifth executive President of the sixth Federal Republic of Nigeria. I watched with tears as this gentle and incorruptible man spoke the minds of Nigerians who have always wished prosperity for their fatherland but had been held hostage by the political cabal that had existed in the past. The speech was well-worded, inspirational and direct. Every part of it had serious issue to discuss and a message to impact on the listeners. I was personally overwhelmed by every bit of it. But I will dwell on few points that the President has mapped out to push Nigeria forward. The abstractions are accountability, justice, creativity and the rule of law. The greatest outstanding abstraction is the fear of God i.e. the belief/fear that that, as a judge/leader today, the Day of Judgment awaits every man. These are the five things that can take Nigeria to the Promised Land.

If I am not mistaken, Dr. Nnandi Azikiwe was the first President of Nigeria on ceremonial base after Nigeria secured her independence. Alhaji Shehu Shagari was the first Executive President of the first Republic after the 1979 elections. The second Republic was however undone by a military coup in 1984. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was the second Executive President of the second and third Republic of 1999 and 2003 respectively. Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was partly before his demise the third Executive President of the fourth Republic and Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was the fourth Executive President of the fifth Republic.

From President Muhammadu Buhari’s (PMB) speech, it is clear that every Nigerian and his/her need is an agenda for him. Limiting all the needs of Nigerians to countable number of points has been elusive. The needs of Nigerians are food, house, clothing, jobs, education, security, power and healthcare. Other social and recreational amenities are numerous. The provision of these needs to over 170 million Nigerians is a herculean task. The problem with Nigeria, many analysts of the state of the nation including the great novelist Professor Chinua Achebe, is the leadership. In the case of Nigeria, according to the arms and tiers of government, the leaders are the President, the Senate President, the Speaker of House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), the state governors, speakers of state assemblies, state chief judges, local government chairmen and councilors. This leadership constitutes a very tiny percentage of the total population of Nigeria. Added together, the number of Nigerians who make up the leaderships at all the levels of government is not up to 1000.

Using the right people and frugality in expenditures are pivotal in development. If the President makes best selection of his ministers and aids; the senate and house of Reps sincerely initiate and pass useful laws without inducement and properly utilize their constituency projects funds; the judges adjudicate without inducement from any of both parties; the governor select the best of their state citizens as commissioners and aids, and so on, development in all the sectors will be actualized and stabilized.

President Buhari knows that all the sectors of the economy will develop and stabilize once there is change of attitude of the Nigerian leaderships at all levels of government. There should be real demarcation of duties amongst the three arms and tiers of government. That is Mr. President’s observation: “To achieve our objectives we must consciously work the democratic system. The Federal Executive under my watch will not seek to encroach on the duties and functions of the Legislative and Judicial arms of government. The law enforcing authorities will be charged to operate within the Constitution. We shall rebuild and reform the public service to become more effective and more serviceable. We shall charge them to apply themselves with integrity to stabilize the system.”

The constitution of Nigeria clearly states the functions of every segment of the government. Strategies on how to develop each of the sectors of the economy are contained in volumes. Experts have studied and written practical steps to turn around each sector. What has been basically missing is the political will to kick start chosen meaningful programme. In some cases, proposals that would effectively add value to a sector is frustrated or rejected due to the source it came from. Maybe the proposal is not from Nigerian(s) of same tribe, religion or social interest. Or maybe the cost of the project would be viewed by the Nigerian in charge who may feel that he/she would not make much money. Sometimes the project is approved but the project handlers are underpaid. The duo of inflation and unaccountability would come to play and waste the project that may have benefitted the Nigerian people.

Another factor that has contributed in the nation’s underdevelopment is the use of unqualified Nigerians in critical positions. It is undoubted that some people who lay claims to certificates cannot defend them. That is why I support Ordinary President Ahmad Isa of the Berekete Family radio programme that in practical life, “sabificate is better than certificate”. The knowledge, the skill and the dynamism required to execute a project to conclusion should be paramount. It has been observed that some companies buy beautiful proposals from experts, get approvals from their relations in government but end up failing to deliver the projects due to lack of the required knowledge. This attitude is propelled by the thinking that once the project handler is protected by a minister or even the President, nothing will happen. Mr. President, I am sure, is aware of this. His choice of ministers and other government functionaries should not only reflect the federal character, but take utmost consideration of the philosophy of “putting a round peg in a round hole”.

In addition, the consideration of ‘sabificate’ above certificate can be more useful to the nation. The success of our past leaders, former President Shehu Shagari for instance, was based on sincerity of purpose, accountability, patriotism, justice and the fear of Almighty God. We can recall that he was incorruptible but could not control the leaders under him –ministers, governors amongst others – who wallowed in corruption. It may be unarguable that a person with an O’Level can perform wonderfully and deliver effective and efficient services to Nigeria more than some professors and doctorate degree holders. In short, some of our politicians who are scheming for these positions proved to have been overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges in the national assignments.

What Nigerians need are projects that will be of direct impact on them. Such projects do not need print and audio visual reportage because they speak for themselves. The media has often been used by politicians to mortgage dividends of democracy. Many media organizations that are owned by politicians or that have subdued inclination to them are culpable in this regard. They collect huge sums of money from politicians to create a non-existent world in the name of development and then ascribe it to any politicians than can pay.

Another import part of Mr. President’s speech is his resilience to allow, unlike before, the legislative and the judiciary arms to function independently. Hear him, “For their part the legislative arm must keep to their brief of making laws, carrying out over-sight functions and doing so expeditiously. The judicial system needs reform to cleanse itself from its immediate past. The country now expects the judiciary to act with dispatch on all cases especially on corruption, serious financial crimes or abuse of office. It is only when the three arms act constitutionally that government will be enabled to serve the country optimally and avoid the confusion all too often bedeviling governance today”. If each of the three arms of government can exercise a level of independence, the economy and its roots will be fixed in no long time.

Moreover, the grassroots development has been left to the hands of state and local governments without proper monitoring. Mr. President submitted thus, “Elsewhere relations between Abuja and the States have to be clarified if we are to serve the country better. Constitutionally there are limits to powers of each of the three tiers of government but that should not mean the Federal Government should fold its arms and close its eyes to what is going on in the states and local governments. Not least the operations of the Local Government Joint Account. While the Federal Government cannot interfere in the details of its operations it will ensure that the gross corruption at the local level is checked. As far as the constitution allows me I will try to ensure that there is responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country. For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch.”

Creativity is a key factor to development. Creative minds should be indentified and supported. “I appeal to employers and workers alike to unite in raising productivity so that everybody will have the opportunity to share in increased prosperity”, the President averred.

On assumption of office, Mr. President’s first decision to relocate the military command centre from Abuja to Maiduguri immediately to end the Boko Haram menace is laudable. ”The military command centre will not be situated in Abuja, but Maiduguri until Boko Haram is defeated”, he said. The political will of Mr. President will eradicate civil disturbances, corruption and rebuild Nigeria to an enviable status that every citizen, home and abroad, will be proud to belong.

Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja E-mail: