It is often said a man does not become left-handed at middle age. The problem with President Buhari, who not too long ago spoke glowingly of his ‘loyal gate keepers’, is that he hardly finds fault with friends whose judgment he values. As it was in 1985 when Babangida complained of “state of uncertainty, suppression and stagnation (resulting) from the perpetration of a small group” to justify his palace coup, so it is today. Many have argued his government was hijacked even before its inauguration by a small clique of loyalists who did not necessarily share his pan-Nigeria vision. Since 2015, President Buhari has been running a government of ‘delegation by abdication’ a euphemism for absence of governance. And nothing demonstrates this than the ongoing waves of strike of workers across the nation.
Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), made up of Nigerian 69 polytechnics, Colleges of Agriculture and Colleges of Education are on an indefinite strike over non-implementation of an agreed new salary scheme and the settlement of members’ salary arrears and promotion allowances owed by some state governments. Judiciary workers, under the aegis of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), declared an indefinite nationwide strike to press home their demands for the financial autonomy of the judiciary, a policy initiative of the president himself. Similarly, the non-teaching staff of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Educational Institutions (NASU) are at war with the government. As part of a groundswell of disenchantment with the government, National Association of Resident doctors of Teaching Hospitals (NARD) across the nation are also on strike over “universal implementation of the Medical Residency Training Act,” and “group life insurance for doctors and other health care workers and payment of death-in-service benefit to next of kin/beneficiaries”. And of course, all these are coming after 10 months of ASUU strike, suspended only on December 22, 2020 after Nigerian university students had lost a whole session.
Segun Adeniyi of ThisDay at one of his outings during the Christian annual platform lecture series called the attention of Nigerians to the fact that no one becomes a minister in Malaysia without first returning to school to obtain a Master’s degree in Public Administration in addition to a degree in their core areas of interest. Although many of President Buhari’s ministers are successful and illustrious Nigerians, many of them are ill-equipped for the ministries they run. What we therefore have in many of the ministries are square pegs in round holes.
And the problem is with Buhari who, to quote Babangida’s August 27, 1985 coup speech again, “is too rigid and uncompromising in his attitudes to issues of national significance”, in spite of “efforts to make him understand that a diverse polity like Nigeria required recognition and appreciation of differences in both cultural and individual perceptions”.
That most of the above settled issues have become subjects of industrial action now paralysing the judiciary, the health and educational sectors while his loyal gatekeepers and appointed ministers appear clueless once again raises the question about the capacity of President Buhari to make a decision objectively, authoritatively and wisely.
Let us start with information. For those who understand the prominent role of communication in the integrative or non- integrative process in the political system of any society, effective communication is key to political control. This was why Karl Deutch in his ‘Nerves of Government ‘wants special attention to be paid to “perception, communication of messages, speed of messages, distortion of messages and response and interpretation of messages”. In 2015, President Buhari needed a trained communication expert. But caving in to pressure of self-serving ‘loyal gatekeepers’, he opted for a celebrated political party spokesman.
Haunted by his past success, a very resourceful Lai Mohammed was soon rechristened “lying Mohammed”. Buhari re-appointed him to the same position after his re-election in 2019.
Since the medium is the message, many Nigerians stopped believing any government feedback conveyed by Mohammed. ENDSARS protesters increased the tempo of their agitation just because government feedback to their demand was conveyed through Lai Mohammed. His no massacre submission was out-rightly rejected. The report of US State Department that supported his claim only incensed some Nigerians who due to perception cannot accept government can be right.
As for the troubled Labour Ministry, the question is what prepared Chris Ngige, a medical doctor by profession, for the ministry? His unrelated experience was as assistant national secretary and zonal secretary of PDP in the Southeast region. His 2003 pyrrhic victory as Anambra state governor was packaged by the Uba Brothers after an oath before an Okija shrine. And for defying the Okija gods, he was forced to write a letter of resignation after being kidnapped and locked up like a common criminal by his godfathers on July 10, 2003. His election was later annulled by the courts and confirmed by an Appeal Court on March 15, 2003. During his 33 months in state house, the Uba brothers wielded power. For the president and his small group or loyal gate keepers, that was all Ngige needed to be appointed Minister of Labour.
Adamu Adamu, the minister of troubled education ministry received a Bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and a Master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s School of Journalism. He worked in the New Nigerian newspapers as special correspondent rising to become deputy editor of the newspaper and chairman of the group Editorial Board. That unrelated experience was what in President Buhari’s judgment prepared Adamu for the all-important Ministry of Education. It is not a surprise that vice chancellor and pro-chancellor positions are today’s fiercely fought for by politicians.
Rauf Aregbesola, the Internal Affairs Minister attended The Polytechnic, Ibadan, where he studied Mechanical Engineering Technology. He was commissioner of works in Lagos before returning to Osun to serve to serve as governor. There was no other preparation for his position as Minister of Internal Affairs. With report of mindless killing by criminal immigrant Fulani herdsmen, banditry and kidnapping in Zamfara and the invasion of southwest forests by criminal herdsmen , not much has been heard from Aregbesola in two years beyond his last week’s declaration that prisoners set free by criminals would be pardoned if they voluntarily return to their prisons.
Okechukwu Enelamah, Nigeria’s former Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment earned a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from Harvard University. That prepared him for the ministry of industries. Yet during Buhari’s first coming, our clothes came from the UNTL, Aswani and Chellarams textiles mills in Lagos and Kaduna, our shoes from Bata and Lennards in Lagos; our TV sets assembled by Adebowale Electrical in Lagos and Sanyo in Ibadan, our refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners produced by Thermocool in Lagos, our WC and tiles from Kano and Abeokuta.
It is the same story with more than 75% of Buhari’s 44 ministers. Fashola, a Leviathan as Lagos State governor was tamed. For four years as minister of power, he could not secure pre-paid meters for consumers. And in a few cases like the Ministry of Justice where President Buhari was forced to consider specialization, the decision was informed more by politics than competence. It is after all the non-implementation of the President’s executive order of 2020 that has placed Malami’s Ministry of Justice in the league of current troubled ministries.