I recently had cause to speak to what I see as disconnect between the policy and politics of President Buhari and how that seems to be hampering the optimal performance of his administration.
I made reference to the emerging Trump template, the two men to the right and left side of the president and how important it is to find that intersection between policy and politics. No area is that gap more manifest under the Buhari presidency than how appointments – statutory and otherwise – are being made.
In a democracy, it is needless to say that the philosophical disposition, values and political orientation of people brought in to serve in government is key. The outlook and mind-set of a prospective appointee would be checked and should, unless waived for other reasons, reflect the outlook of the elected Executive.
In America, where the ideological divide even runs deeper than party lines, how liberal or conservative a prospective appointee is does matter in the scheme of things, especially with nomination to the Supreme Court by the president, being one that can effectively colour or shape jurisprudence for many years to come. The coming of a new president heralds a shake-up of personnel in different offices. Donald Trump will be responsible for filling about 4,000 political appointments, 1,000 of them requiring confirmation by the Senate. The jostling going on within the Trump camp at the moment and Mitt Romney eating the humble pie is not over nothing.
It was with a similar air of expectation, and rightly so too, that many who supported the election of PMB looked forward to him taking office and making appointments. There must have been trepidation of sorts for those in the other camp, as well. But it seems they needed not to have been bothered. For some reason, rather than move swiftly to weed out those who had been in office in agencies and parastatals, some of whom were not content to be professional but got deeply involved in politics, the president chose to take his time. Even when many got carried away as if there would be no tomorrow and compromised their offices, the president elected not to act.
It has turned out as a major unforced error on the part of the president. Some of those left behind must have done whatever they can to cover dirty tracks. It is evident that some of the masquerades have since changed gowns, some have melted into the background, singing today’s songs as if there was no yesterday. Yet, some are there operating anonymously, possibly sabotaging from within, to ensure that yesterday re-enacts itself as tomorrow. It is an own goal on the part of President Buhari, a telling one.
We are told there are 541 government parastatals, commissions and agencies. The question is: Who are those manning them? Where are the Buhari boys and girls in his government? Where are the Buhari Ambassadors who ran and won converts for him? Where are those who embraced his philosophy and are eager to replicate that in the institutions of government?
How do you explain that Dr. Sam Amadi, who represented the PDP in a public debate and sat on an opposite side of Alhaji Lai Mohammed, even though his office was supposed to be non-political, was left at NERC until his term lapsed, allowing him to push through an increase in electricity tariffs he had held back under President Jonathan, even disingenuously announcing a ‘reduction’ in tariff as the elections approached? Even, our own Aunty Onyeka, with all the dancing alongside Mama Peace on campaign grounds, was not going to end her riotous tenure at the Women Development Centre until push became shove. Some saw her exuberant courtesy to President Buhari while on a visit as nothing more than hypocrisy. The tone of the letter she sent out on departure from that office left little doubt about her state of mind.
Madam Sally Mbanefo was said to have been seconded from Keystone Bank to the National Tourism Development Commission in 2013 for two years (she says four years). Even with protests here and there about her performance, which she probably saw as that of making the national flag a permanent dress code, Mbanefo was only relieved of duties this week, via a letter in which though the SGF claimed that her appointment was meant to be for 2 years, his own estimate put the terminal date as May, 2016 rather than May, 2015.
Unfortunately, some of those who occupy these offices at the moment are crooked pegs in irregular holes. In the face of inaction, some reports have it that some might have managed to arrange suspect regularisation of appointments and conversion in the dying moments of the Jonathan administration. The same men of yesterday are driving policies today from within, even when their politics is steeped in yesterday. The president might have been cautious in not wanting to make the impression of arbitrariness by summary dismissal when he assumed office, but it took only one circular from Governor Ambode to have a clean slate in Lagos, even though his was an intra-party transition.
Some will say does this really matter? It does. As I argued elsewhere, success as an elected leader, especially one with a mind-set and mandate to be disruptive, will be determined largely by the ability to find the balance and right intersection between politics and policy. We are told there are 541 government parastatals, commissions and agencies. The question is: Who are those manning them? Where are the Buhari boys and girls in his government? Where are the Buhari Ambassadors who ran and won converts for him? Where are those who embraced his philosophy and are eager to replicate that in the institutions of government? Where are his foot-soldiers working to actualise his objectives, speaking on his behalf, echoing his voice, decoding his silence to others and selling him to the people? Where are the Buhari boys and girls?
Simbo Olorunfemi works for Hoofbeatdotcom, a Nigerian Communications Consultancy. Twitter: @simboolorunfemi