Crit­ics of Buhari’s cabi­net nom­i­nees

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

Ithink the im­age of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari as a saintly man who wants a new way of do­ing things so that Nige­ria can make some progress is cre­at­ing some se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal prob­lem for him. I there­fore think that my friends his spokes­men, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, may have to wear think­ing cap and de­sign a new way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing Buhari to Nige­ri­ans so they can un­der­stand the con­straints he is fac­ing and will nec­es­sar­ily face in im­ple­ment­ing his change agenda. Buhari is con­strained by the Con­sti­tu­tion; con­strained by the po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity on ground and con­strained by the way he came to power. He was elected and did not emerge through a rev­o­lu­tion­ary over­throw of an ex­ist­ing or­der.

For in­stance, Buhari wants to cut down on the cost of gov­er­nance but the Con­sti­tu­tion sees the ap­point­ment of min­is­ters to serve the fed­er­a­tion as, es­sen­tially, an in­vi­ta­tion to ‘come and chop’ and so he must ap­point 36 min­is­ters against his wish; he wants good and com­pe­tent men and women to help him run the sys­tem but he is not run­ning a tech­noc­racy but a democ­racy; he is not averse to ap­point­ing many women and youth but it is the na­ture of elec­toral democ­racy that you must re­ward those who helped you to power. If you did not mo­bilise funds and other cap­i­tal to form a com­pany, you can­not ex­pect, le­git­i­mately, to be­come a mem­ber of the board!

Let truth be told: what brought Buhari to power is not the change mantra he kept declar­ing dur­ing the elec­tion­eer­ing cam­paign. Rather, what did the trick was the po­lit­i­cal as­tute­ness and financial power of some ‘bag’ guys who came to his help.

For twelve years, Buhari kept re­ly­ing on good, clean, ide­al­is­tic but fi­nan­cially and po­lit­i­cally poor sup­port­ers and fol­low­ers to help him be­come an elected pres­i­dent and for the three at­tempts in which he re­lied on that kind of peo­ple, he could not make it. See­ing his plight and also on the ba­sis of their own per­sonal con­sid­er­a­tion, ‘un­saintly’ guys who are po­lit­i­cally wise and fi­nan­cially strong, de­cided it was time to help this well- mean­ing but naïve man. They cast their lot for and with him, came to his cor­ner, pushed his tra­di­tional dis­ci­ples aside mo­men­tar­ily and as­sumed the com­mand­ing po­si­tion. They de­ployed their money and po­lit­i­cal know-how and lo and be­hold, this thing that ap­peared elu­sive for twelve good years be­came a re­al­ity.

And now pay­back time has come and what is this I am hear­ing some per­sons say that Buhari should have gone for saints in­stead of sad­dling the na­tion with cor­rupt, re­cy­cled men? Where were th­ese saints who could not plot Buhari’s vic­tory for 12 years? Th­ese are in­com­pe­tent saints if you ask me. A farmer can­not go and see trees and tree stumps all day long in the bush only to come home to see some an­i­mals with two hands walk­ing on two legs hov­er­ing around his din­ner ta­ble and he is ex­pected to gladly in­vite them to par­take of the good of the land. Are those com­plainants se­ri­ously ex­pect­ing that Buhari should have picked as his prospec­tive cabi­net mem­bers noise-mak­ing ac­tivists, gen­der agenda and youth war­riors and po­lit­i­cal ideal­ists who play their pol­i­tics by dis­cussing in the com­fort of their par­lours, some of whom never even ven­ture out to vote on elec­tion day, not to talk of even cam­paign­ing for a can­di­date of their choice? Do they want Buhari to com­mit po­lit­i­cal sui­cide?

The first law of po­lit­i­cal power is the preser­va­tion of that power. What­ever you have promised the peo­ple dur­ing elec­tion cam­paign can­not be ful­filled if you lack or are de­prived of the plat­form to ac­tu­al­ize those prom­ise. You do not need to be a Machi­avelli or Robert Greene, the author of Forty Two Laws of Power to know this ele­men­tary thing.

Even mil­i­tary coupists know this only too well. They usu­ally re­ward those who helped con­spired with them to over­throw the ex­ist­ing or­der. I per­son­ally be­lieve that if the devil helps you to power, please ac­knowl­edge him with grat­i­tude and com­pen­sate him for his ef­forts. Do not use his help to gain power and then turn around to say he is a devil!

Abacha was not as daft as many hold he was. When he came to power, he thought to him­self that the first thing he needed to do to con­sol­i­date his power and guar­an­tee sta­bil­ity was to bring on board with him the prom­i­nent po­lit­i­cal ac­tors and ac­tivists of the time, hence his de­ci­sion to form what he later de­scribed as a ‘cabi­net of big names’. Who was who of that time that was not in NADECO, he con­scripted into his gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity. About ex­actly a year later when he felt he had sta­bi­lized the polity and he was suf­fi­ciently con­fi­dent of his hold on power, he sacked all those big guys and com­menced his agenda of steal­ing the na­tion blind and to en­sure that he be­gan a vi­cious cam­paign of muf­fling all dis­sent­ing voices through as­sas­si­na­tion, im­pris­on­ment, scare-mon­ger­ing, etc.

Buhari’s change can­not be rev­o­lu­tion­ary be­cause it is tak­ing place against the back­ground of a deeply rot­ten demo­cratic sys­tem. He has to move gin­gerly with his change or face cer­tain grave po­lit­i­cal risks. I keep cam­paign­ing that for his own good and for the good of Nige­ria, he should try as much as is hu­manly pos­si­ble to carry along those who helped him to power. If it means his ap­pear­ing like con­sort­ing with evil men and con­tra­dict­ing him­self, he should do so. That is what po­lit­i­cal prag­ma­tism means. It is also a lead­er­ship skill. You con­cede some grounds in or­der to suc­ceed in the long run.

Power is such a del­i­cate and in­trigu­ing thing. Those who are not wield­ing it and who see things from the rel­a­tive safety of a spec­ta­tor’s gallery, who never knew the full de­tails of how you got there will not quite ap­pre­ci­ate the way you look at things and at peo­ple. Let ‘saintly’ ag­i­ta­tors and arm­chair ac­tivists not goad you into com­mit­ting po­lit­i­cal sui­cide. If you fall, th­ese same pun­dits will be the ones who will say that they said so.

From the lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence I have gar­nered watch­ing other po­lit­i­cal lead­ers even in more or­gan­ised poli­ties, first cab­i­nets by elected or ap­pointed po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, are usu­ally cab­i­nets of po­lit­i­cal com­pen­sa­tion to en­sure po­lit­i­cal con­sol­i­da­tion. It is the sec­ond term cabi­net when you con­tend with less pres­sure that you form a cabi­net of legacy. The seem­ing ne­glect of women and youth should of­fer them a chance for sober re­flec­tion. What did women con­trib­ute, be­yond vot­ing, to the mak­ing of Buhari? What did the dis­abled do and what did the youth? All of those con­stituen­cies had to vote any­way. Is there noth­ing called a pa­tri­otic, demo­cratic duty any more in this land? Why do vot­ers want to be com­pen­sated with ‘juicy ap­point­ments? Is Nige­ria a steal­ing field? I would like to think that for ex­er­cis­ing your fran­chise, the only com­pen­sa­tion cit­i­zens should ex­pect from an elected leader is good gov­er­nance and not ap­point­ments.

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