Memo to Mr. Buhari

 

 

By OVIE EDOMI

 

 

The business of governing a complex country like Nigeria is not a tea party. It is even more difficult when the new administration got elected under the goodwill of a president who enjoys so much public support and confidence. To sustain public goodwill in a democratic society with divergent views is always a herculean task in any developing society owing to their diverse needs and problems.

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

One good thing about the President Muhammadu Buhuri administration is that majority of Nigerians knows his antecedent and his commitment to a sane and better society. But there is a collective risk in defining who we want to be and where we want to be under President Buhari.

Though there is a general belief that our political culture and attitudes towards development as citizens at the local government, state, and of course federal levels, are certainly a source of worry to many sane minds, and the verdict, in general is for President Buhari as our standard-bearer to look up and make the significant historical impact expected of him.

For a start, there are over 800 federal parastatals or agencies that their heads need to be thoroughly investigated by possibly a new anti-corruption agency. The president asked for a brief overview of some of these agencies when he formed the 19-man transition panel. In fact, one had expected that by now all the heads of the MDAs except those who were seconded from the federal ministries or those appointed from within the agencies or institutions they where employed and later appointed to management positions and subsequently appointed chief executives would have been relieved of their political appointments.

In fact without much ado, Mr. President needs to ask the managing directors, MDs; director-generals, DGs, and executive secretaries, ESs, of government agencies to proceed on leave while the office of the head of service or their supervisory ministries should send technocrats to hold forth until he appoints new heads. For now, many of them are busy cooking up books to cover up their tracks. This however may not include some of the training institutions – universities, polytechnic, research institutions, academies (police, football, maritime and defence)

But more importantly, Mr. President needs to rescue Nigeria from the deepest point of rot that Nigeria has fallen into. We have been told, interestingly, that Mr. President will fight corruption and bring it to its knees before Nigerians die of it. To do so Mr. President, the people that must be appointed into public offices must be individuals who can go to equity with clean hands. Besides, they must be appointed based on professional competence after due diligence has been carried out on them.

Equally significant is the fact that your ministers, DGs, ESs and MDs of government agencies/institutions must be people who are prepared to lead by example. They must be told that the era of long convoys and impunity are gone. The days when innocent female university undergraduates are hired to rub the bellies of government officials are over.

Also under the monetisation policy of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the DGs, MDs, permanent secretaries, PS, and directors were paid allowances to take care of their drivers, gardeners, cooks, gatemen, among others and these categories of persons were withdrawn while the DGs, PS and directors collected the cash. Till date they collect the monetised benefits and still keep the domestic workers who in turn collect salaries from government.

In the 1960s and 1970s editors of Daily Times were believed to be more powerful than a federal minister. Hitherto, the ES of any agency believed he is more powerful than some federal ministers how much more an editor or chief executive of a television station. That is how attractive we have made public office under the last dispensations, so Mr. President should make public office less attractive.

Ministers should have nothing to do with contracts. This is so because most of them milk the institutions under their care dry believing that nothing will happen and of course nothing happened even when their evil deeds were exposed in the media. An example was when the ES of a commission’s dirty deal was exposed by this writer and rather than go to court he used the Directorate of Security Service, DSS, to harass the reporter and got the DSS to detain him for days. What that suggests is that before now most security agents were just errand boys to some big shots occupying public offices. Under this administration, the DGs, ESs or MDs of government agencies as chief accounting officers must be well guided by the laws of the land. Indeed, the laws are already there for them to follow. All that is needed is the political will to enforce the law and a strong judiciary system to dispense justice by making people to pay for their crimes.

The litmus test before President Buhari is for him and his party – the APC – to fulfill its campaign promises. Only then can Nigerians find their hope and trust in President Buhari and the APC justified. Because Nigerians are not prepared for excuses, at the moment what they are eagerly waiting for result. In doing so, it is important for President Buhari to quickly tackle the Boko Haram insurgency considering the fact that Boko Haram continues to test the resolve of the president as the casualty figure of the dead continues to mount.

Apart from insecurity, there is the need to fix the economy. The recent information that 18 states of the federation have not paid staff salaries for upward of three to 10 months is scandalous and a big shame for the giant of Africa.

On the issue of appointing a minister from each state of the federation, the constitution did not say it must be so. Rather what the constitution says is that “at least” so as rightly pointed out by Festus Keyamo, and Prince Tony Momoh at different fora, this regime needs a lean cabinet and should cut down the cost of governance completely, because poverty is at its peak in the land. Rather than spend so much money on the leadership, some of those funds should be channeled towards funding good health care programmes, in addition to providing quality education and employment.

In fact, if Mr. President can address security, education, agriculture, corruption, power supply (energy), and unemployment, he will go down in history as one of the greatest leaders of Africa perhaps next to Nelson Mandela.

Ultimately therefore the focus must be on the 774 local government councils, the 36 states and the over 800 federal agencies/institutions/ministries, to kick-start the change revolution. This is certainly where the first test must begin as well as the National Assembly and Aso Rock.

Edomi is the editor-in-chief/publisher, South South International magazine.

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