Of the president’s team
It is, indeed, fitting that a perception of the performance of the almost one and a half-year old Muhammadu Buhari administration is now being shaped by the parlous state of the economy thus stimulating a debate about the quality of the president’s team at a time like this. This economy, is bad. Life is hard, and to most Nigerians, the administration is not delivering on its promise of change and the ruling officials are far below par.
Expectedly, the Senate joined the debate the other day when it noted that it was high time the quality of the president’s team managing the very volatile polity and indeed the economy was re-examined.
The upper chamber noted the public concern about the lack-lustre performance of the president’s team and hinted at the expediency of a rejig of the structure of governance including outright removal of some officials generally believed to be laggards in the performance of their duties.
In the first instance, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Senate to have oversight function over the presidency and advise the president on the need of reshuffling his government machinery to serve the country better, it is pertinent to observe too that this concerned physician, the Senate, should first heal itself. There is a public perception that the two chambers of the National Assembly have not provoked much excitement in the discharge of their constitutional duties. The law-making body is a policy-making body as most strategic policies flow from legislative provisions. The legislature should make laws for the well-being of Nigerians.
But what has been witnessed from Nigeria’s legislature so far is little more than scandalous padding of appropriation bills and other sleazy stories around the leadership and sundry committee officials. So, there is a sense in which people can ask questions of the moral authority of the members of the legislature while they query the president about the quality of his team.
For instance, the Nigerian people expected their representatives to have called off their recess to face the emergency in the economy. Instead they mindlessly postponed their resumption date and behaved like the legendary Emperor Nero who was said to have feasted while Rome was on fire.
This, however, does not remove the steam from some hard truths about the president and the quality of his men. The sorry state of the economy, the near absence of enthusiasm in the bureaucracy and lack of marked improvement in the quality of infrastructure and public utilities are loud signals that the change the governing party promised has not been felt, after all.
Specifically, at ministerial level, not much remarkable initiative has been witnessed from even key ministries that have direct responsibility for the improvement of lives and on key infrastructure.
The education sector, which is key to innovation and development, has been deteriorating. Even some long settled issues such as university autonomy at the tertiary level are being disrupted with impunity. The other day, even when the president apologised for arbitrarily dissolving some universities’ governing councils and appointing vice chancellors without recourse to those governing councils as required by law, he did not correct the anomalies by reversing this illegal decision. And the minister who superintended such embarrassment remains in place without shame.
The aviation industry is facing a very serious difficulty and local airlines are daily closing shops just as foreign airlines are running away. Yet, there has been no sense of urgency from the ministry even as the ministers in charge of these operations get involved in the local politics of their states of origin.
The road infrastructure is in its worst state ever and there is no improvement beyond promises from those in charge. What of the long convoluted energy sector? Is there any redemption in the horizon? There has not been any major policy shift in the health sector. Most leaders and rich people still rush abroad for even minor ailments such as ear infections while the Nigerian hospitals remain consulting clinics.
Besides, budget performance is not eliciting any cheery news anywhere, not even in agriculture where people were expected to have been proactive in the outgoing rainy season in terms of planting. The ministry of agriculture seems ensconced
in regular talk-shops in the nation’s capital while opportunities are frittered. Even residents of the Federal Capital Territory are complaining about absence of inter-agency action and indeed the FCT administration’s lack of seriousness.
Incredible as it may sound, there is also concern about the competence of presidential bureaucracy comprising and including the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF), Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF), Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) and the Chief of Staff to the President.
Again, a disconnect or total absence of communication with the people is apparent. This is terrible in a democracy that has been uninterrupted for more than 17 years.
Nigerians are tired of the story of how bad the last administration was. That, after all, was why this government was enthroned through the 2015 general election. The change promised should be fulfilled now.
It may, however, not be accurate to claim that there are no good thinkers and executors in the administration. What is noticeable, however, is a serious disconnect between those thinkers and the leading lights of this administration. Are there serious debates on strategic public policies at the Federal Executive Council meetings which in itself seems to hold too irregularly? Governance issues in the new world of social technologies should be open to the people. People have the right to know what is being done to improve their well-being!
But one thing is vital in all of these: Restructuring should be the starting point of the change for good in Nigeria. Why then can’t the National Assembly stimulate a debate on the Exclusive legislative list, for instance, by introducing a Bill to amend the constitution to transfer more powers to the states via the Residual list?
Besides, where is the President’s war cabinet for this time? It is a sad pointer of the anonymity of many ministers that people continue to search in vain for their names and those of other key state actors for references: the social media. That is the most telling evidence of unprecedented passiveness that the people and the Senate would want the president to do something about. The time to reinvent this government and drive it with knowledge workers is now.