ANALYSIS: The “Wailers” Rejoicing The Rulings; But Lamenting the SackFeatured, Featured Contributors/Columnists, Latest News Friday, February 19th, 2016
By Tajudeen Balogun, Head, African Examiner, Nigeria Bureau
Whether the trend is exclusive to Nigeria, the correct answer honestly, I do not have. However, I make bold to say, without fear of contradiction that this country (Nigeria) has a pack of politically-inclined hawks, who no matter what, will deny till Jesus Christ comes (if he will), of having any political party affiliation; attempt to act like a superman and most significantly, give impression of having monopoly of knowledge on every issue of common interest. Of course, their half counterpart – the card carrying political party members, who never pretend (about their party membership) are not in any way different. Just like the ‘pretenders’, they, in the name of playing politics are so parochial; irrational and subjective in their thinking and submissions. Often, they argue and ‘rationalize’ that white is black and that sugar is bitter while kola is sweet. But are these possible if you care to ask? Well, this is the extreme – the extent the folks can go, to drive home their points, when discussing issues of National interest.
It is very important I make a clarification here. I totally agree with the position that all of us can never have similar view on every issue, no matter what. Despite this, I believe what is generally defined and accepted to be fundamental or the minimum standard, will ever remain constant and can never; I repeat, never be relative. So, my contention with the “wailers” in our midst, is when rhetoric is deviously deployed – then you begin to see fundamental issues being twisted, muddled and confused, such that focus on the real issues is lost, and in the end, nothing substantial is achieved.
A quick example. If every Nigerian truly agrees that corruption has totally ruined the country; that it has gone viral and must be effectively checked to safe the present and future generations of the most populous African Nation, why again should we differ on the basic approach to manage the anti-corruption campaign? What I mean is that why must we argue over not giving undue privilege to corrupt practice suspects?
As we speak, we have a case of a prime suspect of financial related crime, once granted permission to travel abroad for a medical attention. I do not know which part of the world; in particular, where democracy, to a large extent thrives, allows this very costly and unpardonable contradiction. And the so called ‘patriotic’ will go to the roof top, shouting and accusing the government of encroaching on the fundamental rights of her citizens. They argue more than ever before, about the rule of law, as if it is peculiar to Nigeria and only applicable to a section of our society.
Again, I make bold to say that, aside the fact that the agitators attempting to politicize the issues, a collective resolve to wage a total war against corruption should not have attracted a kind of heated debate we have witnessed in Nigeria recently. But I will say it again; that this is the big burden with us in this part of the world.
Inconsistence is another feature of the unrepentant agitators. Agree, everyone is an “apologist”, one way or the other. But my argument is that, any pundit or critic who aspires to be taken seriously must be conscious of substance in his views, as well as position he takes. Virtually, nothing is debatable in this.
For instance, over two weeks ago, members of the opposition PDP who hitherto, were critics of the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari – known for throwing at him, different accusations and ascribing different appellations, including being despotic; manipulating different Election Petition Tribunals across the country and striving to make Nigeria a one-party Nation, reversed and sang another song.
Specifically, when the Supreme Court rulings on Akwa Ibom, Rivers and others went their way, Buhari became their man and by their just discovered definition, became a democrat. The fact remains that it was only the PDP members and may be with their apologists, danced, rejoiced and organized thanksgiving services over the infamous rulings as well as shallow reasons adduced for them. I am particular about Akwa Ibom and Rivers States, because the judgment in the two States came as a surprise not only to none PDP members, so also to some of its apologists across the country.
As for me, the apex court rulings on the two States were bizarre, while the reasons given by the judges as they always say, in the dismissed cases, “lack in merit”. But despite the fact that the judges have made the irreversible judgment; (have their way), while the critics have their say; the rulings and the reasons did not give any positive signal to the growth and future of our democracy. They are pointers and gateway to more electoral fraud in the country. To put it succinctly, the rulings to me undermined positive innovation and unfortunately, encouraged political bigotry and victory through the backdoor in our electoral system. Definitely, we still have a long way to go. Omase O! (It’s a pity).
The same PDP and its apologists are again at the game they know best. Since Monday (this week) when the Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed as well as Secretary to the Federal Government (SFG), Babachir David Lawal announced the sack of 24 Heads of Federal Government MDAs, the controversies on whether the decision was in order or otherwise, have taken the front burner of our National discourse. But why the debate, you might hazard the question. I tell you, throwing up cheap and needless debates is in us, and has been part of us in Nigeria.
If there must be any debate at all on the sack, it should have been only on those heads, whose appointment are strictly career. And for now, I can only muster three – the Directors of NTA; FRCN and VON. But as for the remaining 20 or 21, any argument raised by anybody is sentimental, illogical and baseless. I can’t understand why the wailers pretend not to know the difference between a career and political appointments. For once, beside the three and probably another one (NBC), the remaining 20 former heads were political appointees.
So, the PDP supporters and former President Goodluck Jonathan apologists wanted and expected Buhari to leave the ex-President appointees – whose loyalty is to their benefactor, and one way or the other, have worked against the President, his party and members, either before or after the last general elections? In fact, it has been alleged that some of the sacked heads have been working against the present administration since its inception, almost nine months ago. Given these challenges, why should someone in his right and common sense, still expect Buhari to leave the former MDAs heads to continue to benefit from where they did not work for and in fact, had worked against? Then, the Jonathan’s Ministers; his image makers, including Dr. Doyin Okupe and Reuben Abati should have been asked to hold on to their positions abi? Awon oponu, olodo! (Bunch of fools and failures). Indeed, the wailers must be dreaming!
If I must confess, I’m one of those who believe that President Buhari has excessively tolerated his predecessor’s political appointees. Those who are sincere in the opposition will agree with this. I saw the headline of a story of the just sacked head of National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), Onyeka Onwenu, lamenting she was asked to go because she hails from the South Eastern zone of the country. Can you imagine an extreme outburst? I have mentioned this earlier. This confirms that we only play lip service to “dignity” and “integrity” mantra in this part of the world.
In a society where dignity is the watchword, some of the just sacked appointees, if not all, would have since honourably resigned their appointments. After all, the positions are political, so common sense ought to have demanded and prompted them to leave, most especially, as their benefactor is no more in power. Well, this is Nigeria; such trait is not in us – not in our character, so to say.
There is no big deal in any President or a Governor sacking a political appointee at will. It is a standard across the globe. What makes Monday Buhari’s quit order different from some Western countries’ is that virtually all the appointees ordinarily, would not have waited this long – would have resigned and moved on with their lives. But this is Nigeria – a country full of many contradictions; a country where one can be argued to be 10 and more, and nothing will happen. Very unfortunate!
The wailers need to go back to history. In March 2000, less than a year in office, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, due to major collapse of the electricity network system and despite the release of the sum of N105.37 billion to improve power generation, but ironically, dropped by 50 percent to 2,000 Mega Watts (MW) from previous 4,000 (MW) sacked the entire management of NEPA (as it was called then) and constituted a nine-man technical board, headed by the immediate past Cross Rivers State Governor and (then) Minister of Power and Steel, Liyel Imoke.
Despite the fact that the management board was made up of both the career officers and political appointees, heaven did not fall; life continued and Nigeria remained. So, what is the difference between this and the Monday’s sack, to the extent of starting a needless and useless debate? Well, if the agitators were sad over the development, let me quickly hint that, they must prepare for a long depression.
First, most of the present ambassadorial appointments are those made by Jonathan. So at will, they can be recalled at any time, by the present administration and replaced with members, supporters or apologists (if you wish) of the ruling APC and Mr. President. Second, is that any other career Officer President Buhari (objectively) considers unfit or not suitable in actualizing his change agenda, could be redeployed; demoted, suspended or out rightly sacked. This is the standard all over the world, so the protesters should not pretend and attempt to fly the kite that Nigeria is different from the rest of the world in this.
Interestingly, I heard that the ex-Spokesperson of the Department of State Services (DSS), Marylin Ogar has headed to court over her demotion. Good for her. I have no wish for the mischievous one, except what she wishes herself. If there are others in Ogar’s shoes, they are very free to toe her path. Who knows, she and her counterparts might get another backdoor judgment as witnessed recently. But I can tell those who are dragging Nigeria backward for their selfish motive and pretend to be serving common interest will eventually fail. This time, Nigerians are more politically alive and active; so they cannot be cajoled anymore!
Beyond the appointment and sack, Nigeria Leaders must begin to embrace and launch culture of building and moulding loyalty around the institutions and not ‘significantly’ to personalities. My point here is that whether one is a career or political appointee, the basic and first loyalty should be to the State and not necessarily to the personality who leverages the appointment.
Why this culture appears not visible in our clime for now is because Leaders in Nigeria, do not work towards building and strengthening institutions, rather themselves and their political empire. This is exactly the point the state interest is compromised and sacrificed for personal (superior’s) interests. And this is the reason why the Ogars of this world and others like her, would jettison the ethics of their profession, just to satisfy only the desire of their pay masters. Ironically, the professionals are paid from the public treasury.
Who in Nigeria did not know the nonsense and antics perpetrated by Ogar and some of the sacked heads of MDAs, in the past at the expense of the State they were paid to serve? Why are they, or their supporters making mountain of the sack? Do they think they can eat their cakes and at the same time have it? They can go to places and keep grousing until they get relief (if they will ever).
Finally, the point – loyalty of the public officers (career or political) to their boss and the State is yet another big task before President Buhari. Gladly, the President suffered from the same fate in many fronts, including his immediate constituency (Military), before and during the last Presidential election. A Leader who has the love of the country in his heart will be faithful to the oath of his office. Part of this is that he must not abuse the privilege of his office – including manipulating his subordinates to achieve inordinate and sinister ambitions. The buck is on the side of the Leader – once he clearly defines his goal and leads by example, the subordinates will naturally and faithfully follow. President Barrack Obama in July 2009, during his visit to Ghana, urged African Leaders to build institutions rather than individuals. Almost seven years after, we are still far from getting there. President Buhari, it is your time; I have no grouse on the latest move (sack) by your government – you take responsibility for the success or otherwise of your administration. You must do your bit in this regard – to ensure public servants are dutiful to the State first, before their superiors. This will definitely take us far. If you achieved this, it becomes a plus to your undisputable reputation as a discipline retired Military General and politician. I wish Nigeria well!
Minister Fashola, You Lose This Argument
Former Lagos State Governor and now Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) is an actualizer, a performer, very diligent, a focused technocrat and politician. Not a few Nigerian accede to this allusion. Although, while at the helms of affairs in Lagos, he introduced many policies, considered to be capitalist in nature, but his outstanding performance in all sectors of the State, rubbed off the inherent hardship in those policies and eventually, put him on the edge. He was applauded, loved and described as a “social Engineer” and a relentless public servant. No wonder, three key Ministries were collapsed and put in his care. No wonder too, on account of this, he is referred to as the “Super and Minister of the Ministers”. Given his past, the Lagos man really deserves the feat.
Still, mistakes and errors are part of human nature. This is evident in Fashola’s recent policy on the new electricity tariffs. The kite has been flown since last year and the full implementation was billed for February 2016. Given the unstable state of power supply, Nigerians expectedly kicked against the policy. His admonition of the tariffs is like “bitter pills” that must be swallowed was not convincing and impressive to many Nigerians, including a whole lot, who admire him so much. Just like the organized labour is demanding, many Nigerians are kicking, insisting there must not be hike in electricity tariffs. They argued that the policy at this time, is exploitative, premature and punitive. They contend that the move is like putting the cat before the horse. They are very firmed in their conclusion that if the service is not improved, there is no justification for the new rates.
Fashola on his own, rationalized the policy from the business angle, saying no investor would be willing to put his money in a comatose sector. He went ahead to say that it was a hard decision which ought to have been taken by the previous governments. Hon. Minister Fahola, this matter only appears complex, but I think it is not. I am on the side of the people; their argument is genuine; reasonable and tenable. So, you, as the ‘reporting Minister’ and by extension, the Federal Government (FG) must listen to, and be responsive to the concern of the masses. Therefore, no matter how wise or intelligent someone could be, no single soul is an Island of potential; sometimes, you win and some other time, you lose the debate. Hon. Minister sir, this time, you lose this argument, therefore, take a bow and tilt towards the popular opinion now!
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