In recent times, nothing has captured the current pathetic state of the nation better than the heart-felt expression of the disgruntled former FCT Minister, Nasir El-Rufai when he said in a VOA interview that “Umaru Yar’Adua, happens to be the President, but for the time being there is no electricity, schools are closed, hospitals are closed, in fact there is nothing like leadership under Yar’Adua, Nigeria is in God’s hands only, those entrusted with leadership are there doing nothing.”
The truth is that if President Yar’adua disappoints his very few supporters, they would have only themselves to blame because the man just “happens to be the president.” He was never interested, not prepared, and unwillingly dragged and conscripted into office.
Initially it was thought that the President’s outsourcing of his executive functions was to provide for responsive governance, but from the handling of the militant uprising in the Niger Delta; the Lagos council saga; the uprooting of the Petroleum University from Effurun to Kaduna and the protest by Niger Delta governors; and the Boko Haram scandal, President Yar’adua and his people may not agree but, it is very clear that the confusing drumbeats Nigerians get from government everyday only diminishes the hallowness of the nation’s Presidency.
When he came in 2007, Yar’adua promised to roll back Obasanjo’s imperial presidency. Though it sounded very good then, but from all clarity of intent, it has terribly backfired.
The handling so far of the amnesty for the repentant Niger Delta militants, a critical case at hand, has neither shown creativity nor clout on the side of the Presidency.
For example, the federal government has remained blank on the subject of details on what it intends to do not just for a few individuals who said they have denounced violent campaigns without handing over their arms but for the deprived region and its people which of course was the root cause of the problem in the first instance.
Nigerians and especially people of the Niger Delta are yet to get precise talks from the President about how he intends to grapple with the core issues that gave rise to the arms confrontation- near-zero presence of infrastructures and federal governments’ development and socio-economic programmes in the region. Now that militants have renounced violence and are ready to give peace a chance, what do we expect from the federal government- today, tomorrow and next tomorrow? These things should be publicly declared so that Nigerians can know where to place the blame peradventure we experience a relapse.
As part of its conflict resolution tact in the Niger Delta issue, a proactive government should be talking of clearly defined targets and milestones which can be assessed and judged especially in this case where allegations of insincerity and deceit had severally been thrown at the federal government. But we are not seeing nor hearing that. A real president would be trying to bully through this compromise by the Niger Delta people, not talking and acting dreamily about almost everything that pertains to life and creativity in conflict resolution.
And I hope the President got the message in Boyloaf’s statement at the State House that “we are watching and waiting for government to live up to their own side of the bargain.”
The question is: what is the bargain- to pay huge sums of money as rehabilitation to the group that has renounced violence and leave it at that or to immediately move into the region and surprise everybody with both massive quick intervention and long term infrastructural and socio-economic development programmes?
And as if the muddling of the Niger Delta militants issue was not enough smears, the handling of the Boko Haram crisis by the federal government further confirms that the nation’s Presidency has been greatly diminished.
Contrary to the government’s allegation that the nation’s intelligence agencies were mere good-for-nothing public money wasting outfits, the SSS unequivocally stated that they were not taken unawares by the capability of the Boko Haram sect to cause widespread violent destructions.
The agency insisted that it did its part by collating intelligence reports on the sect and handed over to government “but the government either ignored it or never bothered to complete any action taken.” It said it notified government of the insidious looming dangers in parts of the country especially in the north by this sect “but the nation’s political leadership lacked the will to deal with the situation.”
And in what looked like a vote of no confidence on the SSS and other security agencies, The Federal Government, just few days from the SSS’s DG’s disclosure, was quick to engage the services of some international security consultants/contractors “who will join in beefing up the surveillance efforts of the State Security Services (SSS) on the identified crisis areas in the country.”
As reported by the Nigerian Tribune of Wednesday August 5, 2009, “The Federal Government is greatly concerned about the state of security in the land. That is why no stone is being left unturned in securing life and property. The task ahead of the consultants is not a one-off thing. They are to analyse the security situation and embark on comprehensive review.”
The President’s best approach to addressing the problem of lack of adequate synergy among the nation’s different security and intelligence agencies as highlighted by the SSS was to engage complete strangers or rather contractors to synergise intelligence gathering, analysis and proactive response in the country. Up Nigeria!
Whosoever advised the President to accept that option has other intentions apart from synergizing the nation’s different intelligence and security agencies- period! What prevented government from working with “known” Nigerians in the SSS, Police, DMI and others to form a strong taskforce that can provide the canvassed platform to synergise the scattered efforts of the various security agencies?
Security today is about governance and it is a key for public good. Its efficient management by the services that constitutes the national security infrastructure is a central component of good governance. Nobody can deny that the complications and sophistication of the security challenges in Nigeria today dictates the need for the security sector actors to appreciate and understand the need for collaboration at both strategic and tactical levels. This should be the message to the operators of the sector and government should be seen to be sincerely doing things to remove all impediments to efficient cooperation amongst the actors in the nation’s security sector. Bringing in total strangers to tell the operators of the system what to do and how to do what to do will not work at all. Mark my word!
What makes the federal government think that operators of these “ineffective” security agencies would cooperate “in spirit and in truth” with the contracted consultants? And even if they cooperate now, who is going to supervise compliance with the anticipated new code of operation. You see that there is a problem here.
Several scenario painters have canvassed their opinions on what they think the president should be doing as a leader. But it boils down to one thing: yar’adua must come down from his cloud and start leading. He is the only president this nation has today. He needs to get back to the driving seat with some creativity and resoluteness if he is to rescue a presidency that has been terribly diminished by his “style of ruling.”
IFEANYI IZEZE IS AN ABUJA-BASED CONSULTANT ON POLITICAL STRATEGY AND COMMUNICATIONS ([email protected])