Ali’s wrong diagnosis, wrong prescription

Comptroller-General of Nigerian Custom Services Col. Hameed Ali. PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ELUKPO

Tongues have not stopped wagging over the Maina mania. The hoopla it generated across the nation has so far refused to die down. The Mania has consequently, almost inevitably, sent the government into panic mode. As part of the fire-fighting measures, the Buharists, the die-hard apostles of President Muhammadu Buhari, have returned to the drawing board in search of what has gone wrong.

Leading the pack is retired Army Colonel Hameed Ali, Comptroller General of Customs. Last week he seemed to have hit the nail on its head, if you permit the use of this cliché. He confirmed the fears of most Nigerians by admitting publicly that the Buhari regime had derailed because it had lost its vision and its core values.

But mercifully, Ali did not go as far as saying it was a hopeless case, which accounts for the absence of the more terrifying adverb – irretrievably! And he did not confirm my worst fears which I expressed in this column last week, which also accounts for the absence of a more cataclysmic portrayal of the current state of despair – it is, after all, not hope betrayed. I had hoped, and it appears a forlorn hope, that President Buhari would not succumb to the chicanery of some of his faithful aides who appeared, through acts of omission or commission, to be aiding and abetting corruption. If he surrendered, it would, in my view, amount to a betrayal of hope and a terrible damage to his hard-earned reputation.

Ali said: “It is my belief that those of us who have been in the trenches all these years to get good governance will surely be sleeping with belly ache every day especially in the recent past. Every day, when you wake up, there is a story that makes you cringe. We cannot sit back and allow things to happen the way they are happening.”

If Ali and other committed Buharists believe that the derailment he lamented about amounted to a lost cause, they would not be re-launching the Buhari Support Group to support not only a return to good governance, transparent leadership, integrity and probity but also to give a solid support to the war against corruption by speedily dealing with pending corruption cases and stopping those in government from dipping their hands into the till and cause more scandals and more embarrassment.

Those with sticky fingers should have no business enlisting in the Army of Buhari faithful to prosecute the war against corruption because, as a matter of habit, they cannot resist the temptation of soiling their hands and possibly rubbing those miserable hands on Buhari’s stainless, white babaringa. And if President Buhari knows them and realises that they in fact mean no well to the success of his administration, he must demonstrate the Buharism in him to speedily excommunicate them from service and get them to cool their feet in jail. That does not run counter to his new faith – the rule of law and the upholding of human rights.

Colonel Ali has given a lie to the notion, widely held, that you cannot look President Buhari in the face and tell him the truth. He has identified what he believes is wrong with the government. He may be wrong in his diagnosis and in his prescriptions, but he has the courage of his convictions to say what he believes to be the truth.

But Ali is not exactly right in some of his diagnoses. He is not right, for instance, to claim that it is the members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who, he claims, constitute 50 per cent of the Buhari government that are pulling down the administration. To start with, it is not on record that this is a coalition government of PDP and All Progressives Congress. What Nigerians know and what majority of them did in the 2015 presidential election was that they voted for President Buhari who stood on the platform of APC. He trumped the PDP candidate, the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

So what we have is an APC government headed by President Buhari. There appears, in my view, to be no other way to define this government. There must be a limit to the blame game. Ali must accept the cold fact that this one does not fly. If this government fails the people, the President has nobody to blame but himself, not PDP, not his aides and not members of the kitchen cabinet or the so-called cabal.

When in 1979 this country switched over from the Westminster parliamentary system of government, with a prime minster that was first among equals, to the U.S. model of the presidential system, with a president that wields executive powers, the idea was to have a leader that would carry the whole country along whether or not the citizens uniformly voted for him.

Those who voted for him and those who voted against him have equal entitlements and they make equal demands on him. On inauguration day, he morphed into the symbol of national unity, equal opportunities for the people and even development for the country. As President Buhari stated it eloquently at his inauguration, he belongs to nobody and he belongs to everybody. If he succeeds, he carries the glory of his success. But if he fails, he alone goes down in history as the man who betrays the hopes and the confidence of his people. In this business, he makes no excuses, because there is no room for excuses.

Granted that Ali is right and granted that PDP members are in this administration as fifth columnists, the question is: whose fault? The president has the power to hire and to fire and he cannot blame another party for the burden of his own office. It is the duty of the president to pick the right people who share in his vision and who have the nobility of character suitable for his goals and his objectives in power. If he chooses to load his government with people of doubtful character, he creates a monumental problem of credibility for himself and for his administration. He would have also short-changed the people because he preferred the mediocre to the best and the brightest available.

As Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has had occasion to lament, the greatest problem this government has had to confront was getting good and honest people to work with it. Good and honest people, as it always happens, don’t get the chance to serve because they cannot compete with corrupt people who buy their ways into public office. It may be stranger than fiction, but those given the opportunity to head-hunt for government have turned their offices into a toll gate of sorts. And they hawk positions and opportunities to the highest bidders, many of them veterans of corrupt practices.

It is the height of hypocrisy for leaders to pretend not to be aware of the antics of the small men in the corridors of power. We cannot forget that at the inception of the Buhari administration, the wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari, made a public appeal to those privileged to work with her husband not to collect money from those seeking to have appointment to come see her or the President.

Her public appeal was instructive. If this was the practice in the previous administrations, nobody can say today on oath that this practice has been consigned to the dustbin of history; that the fear of Buhari has brought sanity.
The current Maina mania is proof positive that nothing has changed.



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