Please, sack all special advisers!

President Muhammadu Buhari

The cheapest commodity in the world today is advice. It is always readily available for free. Thanks to Google.

So why do political leaders appoint numerous special advisers? Like many vocations, the job of the special adviser has become archaic and has long been rendered useless by technology. The only people who don’t realise it are the special advisers themselves and the politicians who appoint them.

Must government always carry an exaggerated profile, padded with the superfluous appointment of redundant people bearing bogus titles? While Nigeria is not the only country guilty of this ancient practice, our case is particularly pathetic.

As is often the case with us, the special adviser culture is manifest in hyperbolic proportions. And sadly, valuable material resources are wasted on this army of parasitic appointees.

Last November, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike was reported to have appointed 39 special advisers. His Cross River State colleague, Ben Ayade appointed more than 65 special advisers.

According to him, the appointments constitute a poverty alleviation program. What other proof do we need that these special advisers are useless? In the case of Cross River State, they are no more than jobless people collecting unemployment benefits. Former President Jonathan appointed at least 24 special advisers, while President Buhari was reported to have appointed 19 special advisers.

In a country whose political office holders are some of the highest paid in the world, it is incomprehensible to have such numbers of redundant appointees. And really, these guys are very well paid. In every state, each governor has a multitude of special advisers, feeding like leeches on the limited resources of the state. It is shameful.

According to a report published in Vanguard Newspaper, a special adviser collects more than N3.8million as housing allowance and N5.8million as furniture allowance. I don’t think these advisers need loans but each of them is entitled to a vehicle loan of N7.7million. It doesn’t end there. They get motor vehicle maintenance and fuelling allowance and tour duty allowance. They are also entitled to an estacode of $800 per night when they travel, which they often do! Meanwhile, their security personnel, medicals and even special assistants are provided for. Can you imagine? Special advisers have special assistants! How did we end up turning the serious business of governance into such an expensive joke? It is beyond ridiculous.

We know most of these special advisers are glorified messengers who run around at the behest of their bosses. They pretend to be very busy while offering no value whatsoever to the quality of governance. Anytime Oga is traveling, they hustle and jostle to be on the trip. I am not aware of any ground breaking idea or solution to any of our chronic problems, which has emanated from any special adviser.

In the history of our nation, which special adviser has created a reputation for being an idea person or a solution provider? Which president, past or present has ever eulogized any special adviser for creating any tangible value in the hallowed corridors of power? Let’s concede that in the unlikely event that a special adviser actually made a tangible contribution, he let his boss take the credit.

However, given the dismal performance of our past leaders it is very difficult to accept that any of their special advisers actually made any useful contribution. I have never heard any president who, when confronted with a tough question said ‘let me ask my special advisers’.

Since we are supposedly in an era of change, President Buhari should immediately sack all his special advisers. They are of no use. Google, founded 20 years ago has long rendered them useless. There is no topic under the sun, no question in the universe, that you cannot ask Google. And of course, you will get answers. Millions of answers in fact. I wonder how these special advisers don’t feel ashamed. Aliko Dangote runs the largest conglomerate in West Africa and one of the largest in Africa.

His enterprise is larger than the economy of several African countries. How many special advisers does he have? How many special advisers does Mike Adenuga have? Until we begin to run our nation like an enterprise, and building it like a brand, we are not likely to make the kind of progress we so desperately crave. Rather, we will remain a laughing stock and a huge costly African joke.

The fact that we spend so much of our limited resources on a resource that’s freely available, is absolutely irresponsible and downright stupid. Apart from Google, our newspapers are daily filled with columns, opinion articles and editorials written by experts and consultants in numerous professions, many of them with decades of management experience, proffering solutions to the challenges we face as a nation.

Absolutely free. In addition to Google, this is customized solutions being freely offered to government on a daily basis. Any leader, seriously committed to curbing waste, will gladly do away with these parasites called special advisers.

The only special adviser a president needs is his wife. Women have that intuitive understanding of things and can often offer a useful perspective. Other than that, the President should simply give the task of distilling useful ideas from all the resources available, to the secretaries and media team in the Presidency. When he needs advice, he has friends and even past presidents to call upon. He has his executive council.

The Upper and Lower chambers are there to debate issues and exchange ideas. At least this is one of the things they are supposed to do.

We must rebrand our democracy and do away with this image of extravagant, ignorant and irresponsible conduct. Our over-bloated government and overpaid officials are a burden to the people and a clog in the wheel of development. They are in fact a disservice to democracy and the value it is supposed to deliver to the people. Our Government must embrace technology and promptly move these costly special advisers to the recycle bin!

• Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding. Brand Nation is a platform for promoting national development based on the universal principles of branding.

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