At Stake in President Buhari’s Return
President Muhammadu Buhari is now confirmed back in Nigeria today from his medical vacation in the United Kingdom since January 19th, 2017. As a platform which confidently wrote that “all the evidence point at a president preparing to resume” (See Cracking Nigeria’s ‘War Economy’, March 5th, 2017), Intervention’s integrity would have been put to question if this did not happen this way.
Harold Lasswell, the American Political Scientist and author of Who Gets What, When, How has this interesting point about what he calls the unifying frame of reference for the special student of politics being “the rich and variable meaning of influence and the influential, power and the powerful”. As special students of politics, most media platforms have made the president’s ill-health and absence the high point of political reporting, the president being the most powerful person or position in Nigeria’s type of setting. Now that the president is back, they have to carry such reporting to a logical conclusion by raising few of the issues that have been brought to the fore by that reality.
For Intervention, the first point to note must be a rather beautiful anti-thesis produced by the president’s absence. That is the situation in which the Vice-President redefined loyalty through value added deputising by way of consensus building and integrative leadership as well as a culture of looking at attempted sycophants in the eye and giving it back to them but creatively. This goes against the culture of loyalty in this country characterised by overflow of sycophantic utterances. While the credit for spotting a brilliant deputy goes to the president, the Vice-President’s successful ability to tap into that brilliance at a very difficult time as to earn a near national acclaim is nothing less than an achievement in itself. Vice-President Osinbajo and the new Chief Justice of the Federation who has promised a more sensitive judiciary add to few other such players currently in the system to form that crop of right wing but informed high state officials critical to a modern state. This is probably one of a few instances where an anti-thesis does not contradict the thesis which produced it and it is a good sign for Nigeria’s march to her global stature in a few decades, notwithstanding the voices of frustration with the country’s debit side as to be calling for break-up, restructuring and similar escapist euphemisms.
A second issue at stake is the near consensus that the country is more deeply divided today than ever before. That is, automatically, a criticism of the president because the logic of the presidential system is for the president to provide leadership for the whole country once elections are over. The adoption of the Presidential system in Nigeria, no matter the recent regrets of those who contributed to deciding it, is an informed critique of the Parliamentary system which could thrust on the nation a local champion unsuitable in temperament or sociability for a multi-cultural society as Nigeria. Right or wrong, the inference about a more deeply divided Nigeria is something Mister President needs to look into because, apart from the implication for domestic politics, the theory of local cracks as the in-roads of the lizards from outside is a point to ponder upon.
This paper has made the point several times long before now and will make it again. It is about the case for the Buhari Presidency to close the divides by calming and reconciling the country by way of expanding the social base of the regime. At the moment, that base is too narrow. It has not been erected on the most independent minded persons required at this point in time, the sort of people whose acceptance in their zones of origin automatically calms and/or neutralises trouble makers. At a time of restiveness in two of the three regions in the southern part and when the north east and north central are virtual battlegrounds of different types, Nigeria’s can be described as a war economy in need of a war cabinet. In an earlier situation that shares similarities with the current one in terms of tension and insecurity, General Gowon brought out Chief Awolowo from the prison and made him Vice-Chairperson of the Federal Executive Council and that action must have helped. There is no equivalent of Awo in today’s circumstances but broadening the base of the government is what quite many believe can help in terms of calming and reconciling the nation so as to move away from the current anxiety, intolerance and violence.
The last issue at stake for this paper is the recent discourse of Nigeria the government has produced titled Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, (ERGP). It is a welcome document in the sense that the government eventually has such a discourse at all. But the discourse is too weak to underpin a re-engineering of Nigeria from an agrarian status to a modern economy. It has appropriated populist rhetoric such as job creation and inclusivity while adopting a market based strategy defined by an inherently exclusionary dynamics. It leaves the task of nurturing the society unattended. But, as everyone knows or ought to know, there will be trouble if this country remains unable to provide something for the millions looking for jobs. There is thus something tragic in the document’s preference for the market even when it recognises that the drivers of a market system do not exist yet in the form in which they could have been it. The president used to be against submitting to market forces. This has been the basis of his acceptance even by those who have nothing to do with him ideologically or tendency wise. One of the conundrums of President Buhari’s coming is, therefore, how he appears to have been convinced very late in the day that what he opposed all along is suddenly good enough. That document makes an even stronger case for re-jigging the cabinet such that people from other spectrum of economic models can make inputs into it as a matter of priority.
Intervention wishes the president the quickest regaining of his full health and a better grip on Nigeria, with particular reference to her emergence as a black state in the great powers’ club soon.