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Nigeria’s weak presidency or president, by Abdullahi D. Mohammed




The “Presidency”  as an institution, provided the glitz, fervour and direction which, could shape, mar or make any adminstration. A President could be aged, frail and weak, but, when surrounded by the right individuals within the institution called Presidency, his obvious shortfallings would be illuminated. Individuals, who often times belong to the kitchen cabinet, dictate and set the pace for any administration. When a Presidency is vibrant, and peopled by elements with impeccably sound moral judgement, chances are the Presidency would likely perform exceedingly well.

Buhari’s Presidency, with the mandate of leading over 200 million citizens, had come under scrutiny over the composition of its members. Presidential directives or orders had carried always, the signature “presidency”, leaving many to wonder the outlook and concept of the entire Buhari Presidency.

In 2017, when former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr Babacir David Lawal was sacked, on his way out of the Villa, newsmen sought to know his take on the purported sack by the Presidency, he retorted, wryly, who is the Presidency?

Such remarks, coming from a high profile individual, in the mould of an SGF, brings to mind the  entire concept of Presidency, at least, in Nigeria’s context. Salient questions like, who controls what, who calls the shot, and, what are the structures of power and to what extent does the “presidency” power define policies and directions of  government?

In this case, the Buhari Presidency, seemingly need to be x-rayed to determine who wields enormous power, and influences government’s decision, which would profoundly affect 200 million citizens.Given the policy summersaults and, obnoxious policies of the government, it has become imperative to raise these salient questions

With the demise of Abba Kyari, the Late Chief of staff to the President, the  new henchman and de facto head of the Buhari Presidency is undoubtedly, Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. Malami has been quite unpopular lately, his nomination of the new EFCC Chair, who many regarded as his puppet, is worrisome, given the many corruption scandals involving the Minister.

The House of Representatives committee investigating the management of recovered looted funds accused the Minister of soliciting, and receiving monies from the looted funds. Recently, he was reported to have sent a memo to the President seeking to suspend the Constitution and declare martial law, an allegation he blatantly denied.

Again, the threat of convicting those who defied FG ban, and continue to use Twitter, the microblogging site, has become one excess too many. 

Governments across the world, usually choose from individuals or group of persons with shared values to form their cabinet. These are remarkably trusted allies, given access to political roles, and unofficial courtiers. But, there is a caveat! Policy decisions taken by such groups are solely on national interest, rather than parochial or clannish sentiments as seen in Nigeria’s context. Policy decisions in the country under the Presidency is unfathomable.

Myriad of challenges and approaches to mitigate them are largely unrealistic, given that, they keep rising without end in sight. Either the President is sleeping on duty, or the presidency has become too complacent and clueless, or, has a divergent policy. Either way, the missing link in the smooth running of the country must be identified.

No nation or presidency peopled by patriotic individuals watches their country go up in flames, in Nigeria’s case, however, it seems feasible. The spate of killings continue across the country unabated. In Kebbi State alone, about 90 people were reportedly massacred by bandits in a single day. Same pattern of attacks-kidnapping for ransom by armed terrorists. In Kaduna, Zamfara and some parts of Benue State, it is the same gory story-sorrow, tears and blood.

An ugly trend in a hitherto peaceful Southeast region has emerged-killings by the (In)famous unknown gunmen, UGM. These attacks are premeditated, and purportedly carried out by IPOB’s militant wing, ESN. The entire region has become a theater of war, reminiscent of the Boko Haram formative stage where attacks on security personnel and government buildings were cheered by groups, with diverse interests. Personal businesses are not spared,  civilians too. The gruesome murder of Ahmed Gulak, an APC stalwart, in Imo readily comes to mind.

In the wake of such attacks, response from the Presidency, has been nothing, other than the usual terse statement from spokespersons. Which is why, the knotty question of who is the Presidency would, eternally remain in the subconscious mind of the citizens, because, it deprives them the right, to profile and proportion blame.

Abstractly, the presidency has inflicted on the psyche of  Nigerians an unforgivable injury, because, they do not get the kind of representation they clamour for.

The Presidency, irrespective of its composition, failed to provide basic template of good governance. Economically, the country is in shambles despite the drop in inflation by 0.05% to 18.12%, from 18.17% in March this year. The new dollar regime announced by  CBN, was partly responsible for the spike in price of commodities. No worthy Presidency could afford to go to sleep, or rest on its oars in the face of these multiple challenges.

Human security, and food security are what no serious nation trivializes; it provides the nexus for political stability. Once a nation attains food sufficiency, it can grow and shore up its exports, earning a formidable GDP which could potentially stabilize and strengthen the economy. It’s a constitutional mandate for government to protect and safeguard its citizens, securing their lives, properties and peace.

Unfortunately, the presidency in Nigeria has its sight focused on a different priority. The rise of secessionist groups and movement across the country is a clear indication of growing resentment of government policies and programs.The ongoing public hearing on constitutional amendments by the National Assembly, could go the way of previous hearings, since, the Senate hinted on the infeasibility of providing a brand new Constitution for the country. Obviously, maladministration by successive governments in the country was what gave rise to the demand for a fresh Constitution. State creation, as clamoured by some sections of the country would not end bad governance. Rather, it would birth a new set of corrupt politicians, as state executives.

The looming danger staring the presidency in the face is combating banditry, which disrupted farming activities across the North. A region which produces 70% of the country’s  agriculture is on the brink of famine, no thanks to bandits who had driven farmers off their farmlands. Sadly, a new planting season has arrived, yet farmers could not have free access to their farmlands. The focus of the presidency should shift to securing these areas, and other crisis prone sections of the country, to avert the looming danger.

The speed, at which the presidency, and Federal Government banned Twitter operations in the country, clearly indicates-whatever government prioritizes, and beams its spotlight on, nothing could deter it from implementing such. The country has been battling insecurity for years, the least the presidency could do is, give same vigour, and muster the political will to bring to an end, banditry and criminality, much as they did Twitter. If Twitter could be banned, bandits could be banned also, and permanently. It goes to show, which received much priority.

Whoever controls the presidency, inadvertantly controls over 200 million  Nigerians. His/their actions and inactions  have a remarkable influence on citizens. Buhari’s handlers must be acutely aware that, posterity will judge him, being elected President, and them, the faceless members of the Presidency/cabals whose actions had a profound effects, even on generations unborn.

Abdullahi D Mohammed is with the Department of Political Science and International Studies at the Ahmadu Bello University-Zaria. [email protected]


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