Wednesday, May 29, 2019 8:35 am
By Saidu Gambari
The President’s wife, Aisha Buhari is a woman of remarkable steel and courage when it comes to making tough calls. On several occasions, since her husband became a civilian president in 2015, she had spoken out critically on issues about her husband’s administration, that only a few people around President Mohammadu Buhari, would dare to whisper about, even in their closets.
In one such instances that went viral in the media, her outburst was about an alleged cabal that was seemingly running the presidency, on behalf of the president.
She was quoted to have said: “Our votes were 15.4 million in the last elections and after that only for us to be dominated by two people. This is totally unacceptable. If 15.4 million people can bring in a government and only for the government to be dominated by two people or three people, where are the men of Nigeria?”
So, when on Friday May 24, 2019, Mrs Buhari, shared a curious but instructive video on her twitter handle, @aishambuhari, of a controversial South African politician, Julius Malema, advising the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, about the kind of people to avoid in his government in order to be successful in his leadership of the rainbow nation, many who have followed Madam Buhari’s style of public communication, know she was sending a coded but incisive message.
Malema, in the video said: “We hope that you are going to be a president of a corrupt free government. There are people who thrive through patronising presidents. They tell you all you want to hear. And as a result, you’re unable to make informed decisions, because you surround yourself with praise-singers and ‘yes men’ and ‘yes women’.
“You need someone who is going to be honest with you. The position you occupy needs someone who is going to be honest with you because those who failed in the past were told many a times that they were right, even when they were wrong.
“Even when the constitutional courts told them ‘you are wrong’, those around them kept on telling them ‘you’re right’. And that’s where they got it wrong.” Malema posited.
Although the admonition was meant for the South African President, Malema may have spoken the mind of Mrs. Buhari, as those words may have echoed her inner thoughts concerning her husband, especially as he begins another term of office. Many observers of political leadership in Nigeria have also raised similar concerns either openly or in the comfort of their private spaces as they believe that the usual pitfalls of leadership arise when a leader is bereft of advisers of character, courage and integrity.
To be successful in public office a Leader most have the courage to recruit subordinates who are bold enough to tell him the truth, engage and debate with him objectively in order to help him avoid destructive missteps.
The president’s wife understands the maxim that “leadership is a serious business that is sustained by trust and evaluated by its level of responsibility and responsiveness.” And thus, she has begun the agenda setting for the new government of her husband on the way to go so as to ensure an enhanced positive impact on the populace.
Many commentators have said that all eyes will be on this new government to see how it would purge itself of noticeable baggage of the previous one, especially as president Buhari has promised to improve on the overall image and performance of government in this new dispensation.
And because of the urgency to turn around the fortunes of the nation, the passion, apprehension and interest of many Nigerians to see that the pitfalls of the past were avoided, have become very palpable.
This has led to citizens’ agitation, just like Madam Aisha is doing, to assist the president get it right. For instance a group, Ibom Integrity and Servant Leadership Culture Initiative, has caution Buhari to avoid appointing into his government,
“characters with known corruption allegations or propensity”, especially those are currently under the radar of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC).
In a widely publicized petition it made to the president against Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Senator representing Ikot Ekpene Senatorial district of Akwa Ibom state, the group cited alleged “pending corruption charges by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and propensity for mischief, treachery, flippancy, pettiness and mindless profligacy”, As the group warned that appointing him, or any other person with corruption charges, minister would be “counter-productive, a moral burden and a mockery of anti corruption war, by a government that prides itself as anti-graft champion.”
According to the group’s letter to the president: “Akpabio’s uncommon profligacy in public office as governor in Akwa Ibom state is well known in political circles. He is irredeemably corrupt. Billions of Akwa Ibom funds were recklessly and dubiously converted into personal wealth, so much so that his corruption case with the EFCC has the potential of exploding into national embarrassment and credibility question for your government, should he be made a minister. We wish to remind you of your famous words, that ‘if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us.”
The group had asserted that it believes in Mr. President’s “leadership philosophy that is rooted in integrity, transparency and servant leadership. And we believe it is incumbent on us to help our leader achieve an enhanced performance in his second and final term of office as president of our great nation.”
Critical as these views are, it is difficult to fault the argument on account of the EFCC corruption case they alluded to in the petition. It is apparent that no court of law has acquitted the senator of the multi billion naira corruption charges brought against him by the anti-graft agency, so including him or any other person who is still under EFCC investigation, as in Buhari’s new government, as the group suggested, would amount to an own goal against the government, integrity wise. And I believe the president wouldn’t want that.
Beyond appointment of a new cabinet, President Buhari should as a matter of deliberate policy, ensure that justice, equity and fairness are the driving forces of his new government. Many had accused him of nepotism and insensitivity to Nigeria’s ethnic and religious diversities in his first term, especially as regards public service appointments.
There is a lot of divisiveness, intolerance and animosity across the land as a result of desperation of some political interests and tendencies. And the only way to ensure that peace and unity sweep through the nation is to transparently adhere to the principles of the federal character, which promote inclusiveness, fairness and balance.
Just as a chieftain of the ruling party and former member House of Representatives, Victor Ogene, stated in his recent work, “It is already a consensus among the people that Nigeria needs healing. There is an urgent need to rebuild trust among the people, for them to have faith in your leadership. This trust building must begin with your choice of cabinet, true consultations, listening to the people in order to appreciate their unique challenges, wishes and aspirations which will in turn guide the policy thrust of your government.
“By carrying the people along, giving them a sense of belonging and working for their common good, you will be strengthening their belief in democracy and its uplifting principles that make the people the bedrock of democratic practice.” Ogene argued.
President Buhari and the new government stand a chance of making history, by leaving Nigeria better than they met it, in this new term, should they take deliberate steps to avoid traps of inanities of political patronage.
Gambari wrote from Zaria.