As I write this piece, I cannot help but remember the words of the “Hall of Fame” music idol, late B.B. King in his once-in-a-life time album titled “The thrill is gone”.
The first 100 days of the change Nigerians massively voted for on March 28 and April 11 could be a pointer to whether or not the thrill and the enthusiasm for the APC and Buhari and Osinbajo would still be there in 4 years. A struggle that took 55 years to achieve must not be allowed to fizzle away just like that
Today Monday June 1st would be the first full working day after the inauguration on May 29th at Abuja. Nigerians are still open and willing to cut the new government a slack for not using his inauguration speech to do a little bit more than he did at a time Nigerian is enjoying so much goodwill from all over the world as acknowledged by the President in the best speech of his political life. Nigeria is getting that reservoir of goodwill because, the rest of the world was expecting Nigeria to unravel in 2015 but what they got surprised them all because of the political maturity of our ex-President Jonathan and our current one and the prayers and cooperation of all Nigerians.
I am writing this piece because Buhari has had 12 years to contemplate what he plans to do and the opposition in Nigeria has waited 55 years for the opportunity that finally came his way on May 29 after so much bloodshed and pains like I underscored in my last but one article posted by Sahara, ChatAfrik and Facebook. When the same Buhari sent soldiers in 1983 to ransack Obafemi Awolowo’s residence at Apapa, among the items carried away was a list of Nigerian professionals in every field of endeavor that Awolowo had compiled in the hope he was going to use them if he became President someday. The tragedy of Nigeria is that he never did as acknowledged by Odumegwu Ojukwu when he called him “the best President Nigeria never had”.
I fully understand the horse-trading that goes with politics, which has become the most lucrative industry in Nigeria followed by the church and entertainment industry. APC must not allow that horse-trading to becloud their judgment to correctly read the mood and the expectation of Nigerians. If they cannot quickly agree with the President on must serve in his cabinet, they would be doing their party a disfavor in my opinion because Nigerians are now going to vote for our leaders based on their performance.
I thought the announcement that Buhari finally made on Sunday night confirming Mr. Femi Adesina as Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) and Garba Shehu as Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) and Colonel Hameed Ibrahim as the new Chairman of EFCC and the possible merger of the Conduct Bureau should have been announced soon after leaving the Parade grounds to show that the President was fired up and ready to go.
The security clearance for many of his appointees ought to have been made during the transition period from April 11 to May 29. Some of you might disagree that it is too quick to expect the new President to start naming the names of individuals to serve in his cabinet. You could be right but if I was in his team that would have been my recommendation because the expectation from Nigerians is huge and rightly so given all the conditionality I have articulated above. There is so much you can expect from a 73-year-old man.
I sure get that, and that was why the PDP made age an issue during the campaigns, and that was what gave Professor Osinbajo an edge in his selection as Vice President. Osinbajo was born in 1957. He attended Igbobi College from 1969 t0 1975. Osinbajo’s youthfulness was supposed to compensate for the old age of Buhari. The PDP was so serious about using the age factor to demonstrate the qualification of Jonathan as a 57-year-old Ph.D. holder.
They actually showed Jonathan walking out on the treadmill and lifting weight like a wrestling champion to prove his youthfulness. I laughed when I saw that because what determines wellness is not always your age alone, but how well or how rough you have used your body. If Jonathan was a womanizer and a flirt like the average bloody civilian he could well be less strong than the 73 year old who was an ex-soldier who had to exercise his body as a soldier. He was a commanding officer in the Congo and he was as fit as a fiddle when I knew him at the Army Headquarters in Lagos.
We all know that the age of Methuselah did not necessarily determine his wisdom and maturity. The mere fact that Buhari knows he is an old man should have suggested to him he does not give his political enemies more ammunition to criticize him by being too slow on some of the things that are expected of him.
There is a need for him to quickly set up a Rapid Response Team to pay close attention to such observations and to take steps to very quickly address his order of priorities. We have all been told about what is wrong in Nigeria. Our question now for Buhari and the APC is to start doing something to correct some of those wrongs.
There are things Buhari could do without waiting for anybody and there are things that might need the involvement of the Legislature and the Judiciary to correct. There are some provisions of the Constitution that may need to be quickly amended now that his party controls the majority in both Houses of Parliament.
In Britain and the State of Israel where a Government frequently comes to power with a slim majority, the voters still expect the Government to deliver on its promises with dispatch. David Cameron has started doing what he promised the electorates in the United Kingdom. Benjamin Natanyahu is doing the same thing in Israel. Time is of the essence is all I am saying. In America today President Obama’s party is a minority Government in both Houses of the US Congress. He has to find a way to still govern and deliver on some if not all of his promises to the American people. Buhari owes Nigerians an obligation to do just that is what I am saying.
If Buhari and Osinbajo are not able to get the Legislature to quickly legislate on the amendments needed to get their job done, they should have themselves to blame. By now the nation should have known who is going to be the Senate President and the Speaker of the House if the APC is alive to its responsibility. If it is true that “Buhari belongs to everybody and he belongs to nobody”, the speed with which he gets most of his appointments made should have been faster than it is.
We now know that Dr. Ogbonaya Onu is going to be the Secretary to Federal Government despite the rumors that the position has been penciled down for Rotimi Amaechi. I am not criticizing the appointment. It is arguably the right thing to do because Ogbonaya represents the third tripod that produces the merger of the three parties that became the APC. If CPC got the President and ACN got the Vice President, it made sense to give the SFG to an ANPP member and supporter. Above all Dr. Onu is an excellent choice. He was once the Governor of Abia State and a very good and competent one at that.
The APC and Buhari must now find a position equally big and powerful for Rotimi Amaechi who was a one-man battalion in the victory of the APC. He was among the 5 PDP Governors to openly pitch their tent with the APC after the merger. Their crossing over gave all the legitimacy and credibility the APC needed to take on the Octopus called the PDP.
Jonathan lost the presidency the day he fell out with Rotimi Amaechi the great Governor of Rivers State who I call the “Osagyefo” in the war between him and Jonathan. Some of you could think Jonathan has defeated Rotimi Amaechi in Rivers State because Amaechi was not made the Vice President or SFG. Jonathan lost the presidency because of his feud with Rotimi Amaechi.
Whatever victory Jonathan and his wife have scored in Rivers State is going to be a Pyrrhic victory when the Election Tribunal or the Appeal Court annuls the very fraudulent election of Mr. Wike the new Governor when the rule of law returns in full force to Nigeria under the leadership of Buhari. There is no way in the world that the 1.4 million votes received by Jonathan on March 28 in Rivers State can be legally sustained. There is no way the election of Wike in Rivers State can be sustained in the Court of Law. You can take that as a prediction.
The thrill and the enthusiasm for Buhari and the APC will fizzle out very quickly unless Buhari Government does all of the things to be highlighted in the remaining segments of this article.
I do not like or appreciate the kind of asset declaration Buhari and Osinbajo have submitted to the code of Conduct Bureau because it does not carry the force of Law behind it. If either of them were to lie in their declaration, they are going to get away scot free like all past declarants in Nigeria, myself included.
My good friend late Governor Okhai Mike Akhigbe made me sign a declaration of assets as the pioneer director of DIFFRI (Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructures) in Nigeria which carried the status of a State Commissioner in Ondo State. I got the job because the Governor told me he needed somebody with integrity and courage to do the job because that was the only Federal Bureau in Ondo State at the time that was well funded by the federal Government.
Ondo State had not yet become one of the richest states in Nigeria it has become today. That was long before its recognition as one of the oil producing states of Nigeria. It was in fact one of the poorest state in Nigeria when I served in that position. My Directorate was the only Department of Government that had any enough money that anybody might want to steal. There were many Permanent Secretaries in Ondo State who could kill to get the job at the time. Okhai Mike Akhigbe told me he refused to give the job to any of them because he knew what they would have done.
I submitted my asset declaration direct to the Governor. I did not know what he did with it, but the declaration was not worth the cost of the paper on which it was written. I had nothing to declare other than my 3 houses in Akure at the time, and my brand new Mercedez Benz car and a Volvo 244 saloon.
If I told any lie in that declaration, I would have gotten away with it. If Buhari and Osinbajo want Nigerians to take them seriously, their asset declarations must be made public and must contain a clause that says that any false statement would be punishable under the Law as perjury or cover-up or both.
By making it public, it would also help whistle blowers who know the two of them very well and some of the properties they claim, and can later expose them and not be victimized for so doing. If the mean business, they would immediately sponsor a Whistle Blower Protection Bill to be legislated by the APC majority in both Houses of Parliament, and signed into Law by the President himself.
All Nigerian Legislators and Cabinet members and senior public officials would all be required to make such Declarations and there would be a Bureau or Department whose sole duty would be to oversee all the declarations and to prosecute any declarant who told a lie or who refused to do it like Jonathan himself did when he refused to declare his own assets. If Buhari is serious, he would sponsor a bill to abolish the Immunity provisions in the Constitution that says that certain Nigerian officials cannot be prosecuted while in office. It is an obnoxious Law that promotes Corruption in Nigeria. The Law has to go. I would believe him and Osinbajo when I see them take immediate action on amending the Constitution and using their APC majority in both Houses to pass the amendment. They are liars if they fail to do that.
I want to hear what Buhari wants to do about oil subsidy, which he has condemned as a fraud on the campaign trail. The subsidy has to go and a more efficient and credible system has to replace it. The whole of the NNPC has to be reorganized and put under constant surveillance because that is where the greatest leakage to the Nigerian Treasury has occurred.
It is rumored in the social media that Buhari is going to earn 14 million Naira a year as salary and nobody is talking about his allowances yet. Nigerians need a thorough study done to determine how much salary and allowance cut all political appointees must receive right now. In the meantime he can do what El Rufai and his Deputy have just done in Kaduna State. Cut those salaries and allowances by half until further notice. He must be willing to use himself as an example of what is it he wants to do. He and Osinbajo must become part of the change they want to see in Nigeria and that should be thrown as a challenge to all APC Governors and Legislators and all Nigerians in this new dispensation.
In the era of austerity Nigeria now faces, Nigeria can no longer afford the number of ministers and personal assistants Jonathan used to have. All the new appointments made by Jonathan in the last two months of his term in office were an attempt to sandbag or compromise the new President. Those appointments serve no useful purpose and they should be sent parking right away and new people who embrace the new philosophy, policies, discipline and accountability of the new President put in their place.
I appreciate the fact that the new President has refused to let the Governors submit to him the names of their nominees for Federal job s and the determination of Buhari to not let the Local Governments and the State Government spend Federal subvention any way they want. Whoever pays the Piper should have a right to dictate the tune. It was the right thing to do and Buhari must not let up on that decision. There is too much corruption at the three levels of Government. If the amount stolen by anybody is too much, the culprit must be probed and brought to book regardless of his position in Government. The suggestion by Jonathan that Buhari cannot probe him until he has probed the other Heads of State is arrant nonsense. If it is established that Jonathan or his first lady has stolen money they must be made to face the full force of the Law just like each of the Ministers.
The number of Ambassadors and overseas missions would need to be drastically reduced just like Awolowo as Finance Minister had advised General Gowon and Okoi Arikpo, the Foreign Minister to do in 1968 while the Biafran war was still on.
I knew about the move first hand because I was among the last batch of Foreign Affairs officers appointed in November and December of 1967. My group was supposed to be posted to some of those missions. That was how I ended up being posted to the Army Headquarters as Assistant Secretary Grade 2. That was how I briefly served under Alhaji Damcida from Katsina, and Yusuf Gobir from Ilorin as Permanent Secretaries and B. G. Popo from Warri as Deputy Permanent Secretary and Mr. S.A. Ogunleye from Ijebu Ode as Senior Assistant Secretary.
It made no economic sense for Nigeria to keep some of those useless missions at a time Nigeria needs all the money it can get to fight and defeat Boko Haram and the Niger Delta militants within our country.
President Buhari who flew British Airways during his last trip to London must reduce the number of aircrafts in the presidential fleet as a matter of principle. Some of those aircrafts can be sent back to form the nucleus of the new National Carrier he intends to bring back to Nigeria.
I am happy he has tried to check the excesses of praise singers who massage the ego of our men in power by calling the “Your Excellency” and shouting “Power, Power” when they go around town or attend public functions in their convoy of cars with dispatch riders and sirens all over the place. I noticed with huge satisfaction that President Buhari did not allow that eye service at his inauguration.
We hear from the grapevines that civil servants in many states like Osun, Ekiti and so many other states have not been paid their salaries. Buhari has to liaise with the Governors Forum to know why that is the case. Unless those civil servants are paid, the euphoria we all feel today about Buhari could be short-lived. The 19 APC legislators who were driven out of Ekiti by Governor Fayose and denied their salaries and allowances all fall within the same show of shame.
There are a few things that cannot wait. The first 100 days are very critical. The Government must be seen to be up and running very efficiently. Part of it is finding money to replace the empty Treasury left behind by President Jonathan. Those who are known to have looted the treasury and ministers like Allison Madueke must immediately release back to Government the aircrafts they have bought for their Ministries. Nigeria has not yet reached the same level with the United States where the Secretary of State has his or her own plane. That is a misplacement of our priorities.
There are little things the President could do as mere gestures without endangering himself like Murtala Mohammed made when he started coming out of his car to start directing Lagos traffic because he was fired up and ready to go. But he went too far and was taken out in a ray of bullets by Dimkar and his gang of coup plotters at Alagbon Close very close to my office at Ikoyi when I was assigned to the Udoji Salary Review Commission next door to the Federal Secretariat. My staff and I were the first witnesses to the assassination because it happened less than half a block from our office.
Many Nigerians job analysts and Salary Review experts trained at the Journal Building at Ottawa, Canada who used to work for the Udoji Salary Review Commission and the Federal Ministry of Establishments and the Administrative Staff College in Badagry are still around and some of them can be tapped to review the salary structure of our Legislators and public servants in Nigeria.
Our leader at the Commission at the time was one Mr. M.A. Soneye from Shagamu who later became the Director-General of ASCON in Badagry. The man is still alive and he is now a Barrister in Lagos. He can help the new President fish- out some of his staff who are still able to help the new President and his Administration.
Nigeria faces enormous challenges. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism as rightly observed by the new President with his inaugural address. Yes, the President can delegate a lot of things but he must be able to back up such delegation with authority before the thrill is gone as reminded us by B.B King.
Nigerians want to see action from the President and his team and the time is now!
I rest my case.