Less than a week after his victory, the newly elected American president Donald J Trump, as bad as he is, assembled his transition team. Still less than a week after the victory, Trump appointed Republican National Committee Chairman, Reince Priebus, as the chief of staff for the new administration. In the same day, Trump appointed the editor-in-chief of Breitbart News, Stephen Bannon, as chief strategist and senior counselor.
Forget the nepotic and racist theme the new Trump team paints, the point at stake is the timeliness of the appointment and understanding of a basic credo that power abhors vacuum.
If Trump, of all people, knows when to make key appointments, why shouldn't our 'all-credible' President Muhammadu Buhari know? Why have procrastination, trial and error and indecision become the hallmark of the Buhari administration?
On June 3, 2015, barely five days after inauguration, President Muhammadu Buhari's request to appoint 15 advisers was approved by the Senate. The Senate, thinking the president would hit the ground running, approved the request within 48 hours. But the president pocketed the approval, appointing not more than six advisers intermittently in nearly two years. It still beats me why it took our own Trump three months, plus two months transition period to boot, to appoint his chief of staff and SGF. While the President ran the nation without cabinet, civil servants had a field day, files clogged, agencies left at crossroads, naira fell, fuel crisis started, and before you say Jack Robinson, we are in recession.
It is baffling that President Buhari's office is still running without a private secretary. This close aide usually coordinates the president's correspondences, phone calls, drafts letters, paginates memos, assembles briefs, binds council extracts, crosschecks and documents approvals, works with State House Chief of Protocol to manage the president's schedule, etc. No wonder you see many errors in letters the president personally signs, delays in replying correspondence and some glitches and u-turns in some government decisions.
President Buhari's economic adviser is still as unclear as his economic policy. A few months ago, a statement from the presidency said Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu is the President's economic adviser but to be domiciled in the office of the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, who the presidency described as the "principal economy architect". The president's ears needed no "economic noise". No wonder the economy is "shaking and blinking" with a lawyer as "principal economy architect".
A former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Charles Chukwuma Soludo, once said of his former principal: "Obasanjo was his own coordinating minister of the economy and chairman of the economic management team— which he chaired for 90 minutes every week. I met with him daily. In other words, he did not outsource economic management."
No wonder Obasanjo left about $60 billion in foreign reserves after negotiating a debt cancellation with $12billion. It is dismaying that this government is enslaving our future with a whopping $30 billion debt.
The president is yet to select any competent Nigerian to be his speechwriter. I'm not surprised his speeches are infested with hanging sentences, solecism and — shamefully — plagiarism.
It appears our president is awaiting the appearance of eschatological Mahdi to appoint a minister from Kogi State to fill the void created by James Ocholi's death in March. The President so far spent eight months thinking about replacing ONE minister. Will somebody tell Buhari it is a constitutional requirement that each state must have a minister?
Political adviser is also key to democratic government. Political adviser, being a cabinet position, attends Federal Executive Council meetings, and gives perspectives on political issues deliberated during the meeting. Adverse effects of the absence of this key adviser are clear.
The party is at war with itself. The Executive is at war with the Legislature; national chairman of the party, John Odigie-Oyegun, is at war with the national leader of the party; Elrufai is sparring with Atiku; Ganduje is fighting with Kwankwaso; Bindow is brawling with Nyako and; the party leaders are disgruntled. Nobody seems to advise the president on how to keep his house (party) in order.
Critical bodies like CBN, BOI, NERC, among others still work without boards. Even the boards of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, approved in August, are not inaugurated till date. It should be noted that heads of agencies with statutory boards have certain limitations without a constituted board, and absence of boards breeds abuse of power.
It may be too late for the president to redeem his political image, but it is not too late to fill these important voids for the nation to move forward.
- By Jaafar Jaafar