Righteousness as substitute to governance

Most Nigerians believe President Buhari is an honourable man.  As the late Nigerian elder-statesman, Maitama Sule put it. “Buhari cannot be unfair”. The only ware Buhari had to sell in 2003, 2007 and 2011 was his righteousness which he carried around like Saint Christopher’s medal, refusing to deal with politicians who he then considered evil. This was what informed his choice of Pastor Tunde Bakare, a televangelist without a political base as running mate in 2011 without a conscious effort to first understand the role of religion in Yoruba society as many believed Buhari by his choice, shot himself on the leg and prolonged Nigerian nightmare by losing the election. But attitudes, as it is often said, are difficult to change. Buhari has continued to hold politicians in suspect even after riding on their back to power, preferring to celebrate his righteousness as substitute to governance.

While most thought it ought to have dawned on him that he did not win the 2015 election by being righteous, he  was to declare with little reflection  during his inauguration that  ‘he belongs to everyone and belongs to no one’. As one of his critics cynically asked during a television programme, days after the inauguration, “has he suddenly forgotten he flew other people’s private jets while on campaign trail and depended on some people’s funds to prosecute the election?  But righteous President Buhari was to later display disdain for APC that provided him a platform precisely because it was owned by politicians.

After distancing himself from evil politicians whose help he needed most, he held the nation to ransom for the next six months as he continued to celebrate his righteousness. In the absence of political party that packaged a manifesto that won the election, his government was hijacked even before it took off, first by those his critics describe as his ‘cousins and nephews from his Daura village’ who according to the president’s wife were neither members of APC nor had any idea about the party’s manifesto, and later by freewheeling power hawkers in the Senate and Lower House. Ostensibly, for fear of politicians, President Buhari for the next two and half years failed to constitute the boards of over 500 small government he needed to run a successful administration allowing PDP appointees  to continue business as usual. In an age when modern government has become a science, President Buhari continues to operate with a mind-set of an emir, listening only to his self-serving trusted men.

Almost three years in office, not much has changed. An exasperated colleague riding with me last week as a radio station in its newspaper morning reviews mentioned the Usman Yusuf’s scandalous recall  could not help asking aloud: could this be the same Buhari we all knew and believed could do no wrong back in 1984?  Yes, but for the newspaper report of a joint meeting of the minister of health and the embattled NHIS boss reportedly presided over by the president, most Nigerians would have found it hard to believe the president had a hand in the recall of a man under an ongoing probe by EFCC.

But what is the story? “Buhari decided to appoint Yusuf at a time the Health Management Organisations were short-changing the system, leading to a situation where subscribers to the scheme were not getting the best out of it due to sharp practices on the part of the HMOs and health providers”. He was however suspended following an indictment by a panel set up by Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, accused of perpetrating fraud to the tune of N919million. Yusuf was being probed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission until a letter signed by the president’s chief of staff ordered his recall from suspension.

My  good friend , the highly resourceful chief Mike Ozekhome,(SAN), whose judgment  on account of huge successes  he had chalked up defending ex-President Jonathan and his wife  and other politically exposed persons  on charges bordering  on  impunity and corruption, can hardly be faulted has said the president intervention is “ evidence of impunity, corruption and executive lawlessness under his administration”.

A whole a week after Yusuf’s recall, President Buhari, probably hiding under his righteousness, is yet to talk to Nigerians. The explanation by Lai Mohammed, his, minister of information to the effect that Yusuf’s reabsorption would not colour the outcome of his EFCC’s probe only strengthened the claim by some APC lawmakers and in recent days Dr. Obasanjo, who have continued to insist President Buhari’s anti-corruption war is selective.

Meanwhile the only thing noticeable in the health sector is evidence of failure of governance. University College Hospital, Ibadan, where the minster was once a provost remains a relic of its past glory with relatives of orthopaedic patients compelled to ferry their loved ones on their back from the ground floor to the 5th floor where the orthopaedic ward is located. Patients are running away from Igbobi where routine surgeries are said to cost as much as N400,000, to neighbouring  Togo  which boasts of the state-of-the-art equipment comparable to what obtains in France  and without fears of complications associated with administration of fake drugs . The NHIS itself remains a rip off.

Unfortunately, NHIS and Prof Usman Yusuf’s recall scandal is not an isolated case. There have been other instances where President Buhari traded his righteousness for accountability, an important component of democracy. In the Abdul-rasheed Maina’s reabsorption scandal, besides the president’s directive that the reabsorption be reversed, Malami remains a minister despite Itse Sagay’s suggestion that he needed to be probed and the National Assembly probe that seems to question the motive behind his secret meeting with fugitive Maina in Dubai.

In the case of Maikanti Baru, the NNPC Group Managing Director, who was accused by Ibe Kachikwu, the minister of petroleum (state) of awarding some contracts without carrying him along as the de facto minister while the president was receiving medical attention in Britain, although he admitted awarding huge contracts but said no cash was involved. And then like the current NHIS case, Baru, even in the absence of President Buhari, who doubles as minister for petroleum, insisted he was not reporting to the minister of state. Baru retained his job after President Buhari’s meeting with the duo, the same scenario that has just played out in the Usman Yusuf and Isaac Adewole face-off.

The above contradictions seem to have forced Nigerians to now question the president’s continued celebration of his righteousness  as substitute for real governance especially in the wake of the ongoing herdsmen aggression against communities across the nation  Many now believe good governance which finds expression  in application of  few acts of statecraft such as visiting Benue instead of having to be briefed like an emir after which the governor  receives lessons on how  victims of herdsmen aggression can be their brothers’  keepers;  sending a query to the Emir of Kano for encouraging resistance to Benue laws to prove emirs are not above the law and prosecuting leadership of Miyetti Cattle breeders association who did not only support the mindless killing of 73 people in Benue but also threatened to invite their Fulani compatriots  from neighbouring countries to  unleash further terror on communities that resisted open grazing; and of course the sacking of  ministers of justice and defence whose actions and pronouncements have greatly undermined the president’s credibility, will be more reassuring.

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Author: Jide Oluwajuyitan