There are those who had predicted that once he won re-election for a second term, President Muhammadu Buhari would show little interest in the affairs of his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its fortunes in future polls. Those who held this view saw the president as a reluctant politician, an essential soloist who was more interested in etching his own personal ethical imprint on the political landscape than bequeathing to the party and the country an enduring legacy.
That has turned out to be a profound misreading of Buhari’s politics. At the first meeting of the APC National Executive Committee after his re-election, for instance, President Buhari passionately pleaded that the party must not be allowed to disintegrate after his tenure as some cynics have prognosticated. And in his quite thoughtful and detailed new year message to the nation, the President looked beyond 2020 to explicate how the coming into fruition of his administration’s policies will herald the ‘Nigerian decade’ of socio-economic and political renaissance.
Here is a president, then, who indeed cares about the future of the country beyond his tenancy in power. And as he correctly articulated in the New Year message, his administration’s near revolutionary initiatives in diverse sectors have very bright prospects of helping to lay the foundation for liberating and unleashing the hitherto trapped potentials and latent developmental energies of Nigeria for the peace, progress and prosperity of her people. In agriculture, food import dependency is being systematically reduced and local production boosted. The textile industry is being revitalized through the creative strategies of an activist Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, as part of comprehensive plans to diversify the economy away from debilitating oil dependency.
There is the tactical management of the value of the Naira to achieve a delicate balance between its complete abandonment to market forces and dictates of the national interest. Difficult to ignore too is the ongoing aggressive radical modernization and expansion of roads, bridges and rail transportation across the country. The benefits of the courageous temporary closure of our borders with our neighbors clearly outweigh its negative effects. And if the administration continues to aggressively pursue the implementation of its policies and numerous projects in the power sector, there will be a remarkable improvement in electricity supply in the near future.
And whatever may be the ethical deficiencies of some of its own officials (there can be no perfect government run by angels anywhere), the impact of its anti corruption war cannot be denied. Trillions of stolen assets in cash and properties at home and abroad have been recovered; many indicted corrupt public officers are undergoing trial and a number of high profile convictions have been recorded despite our cumbersome judicial process. This is definitely why the Buhari administration is being able to do much more particularly as regards rehabilitation and construction of critical infrastructure in five years than the Peoples Democratic Party was able to do in 16 years despite the latter earning considerably higher revenue from oil sales.
Yet, if the ascetic general from Daura is not careful, these remarkable achievements will not be the defining legacy of his eight year tenure as President of Nigeria. Rather, what he will be most remembered for are the serial unforced errors committed by some of the most trusted members of his inner caucus who, in the performance of their duties, evince the most despicable and detestable arrogance, insensitivity to public opinion and a degree of sheer buffoonery and extravagant incompetence that beggars belief.
One of the most prominent in this respect is the attorney general of the Federation and Minister of justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami (SAN). Either as a result of his hubris or sheer negligence on his beat, he has contributed significantly in casting the Buhari administration as essentially dictatorial and authoritarian and having the greatest disdain for democracy and the rule of law. The unfortunate cases of the exuberantly misguided activist, Omoyele Sowore, as well as former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki (retd), who were detained for long periods despite court orders that they be released was a public relations catastrophe for the administration. It was entirely avoidable.
One trait of President Buhari’s governance style is his profound respect for the professional competence and advice of his appointees. Furthermore, he is a systems man who scarcely likes to interfere with his aides in the performance of their duties once they act in perceived good conscience. Again, President Buhari has implicit trust in and demonstrates complete loyalty to those aides who were constant in their fidelity to his cause during his long years in the political wilderness before his electoral triumph of 2015. This is only human. That is an asset but it can also be a weakness particularly when you have aides who seek to exploit such dispositions to manifest a kind of arrogance that the President himself abhors by his evident self effacing style.
As renowned human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) has instructively pointed out, even as a military Head of State between 1983 and 1985, the then Major-General Muhammadu Buhari’s regime never flouted court orders. This was probably because he had a competent Attorney General and Minister of Justice in the late Chief Chike Ofodile (SAN) OFR who gave him sound advice. But what do you make of an AGF like Malami who advises his boss to rate national security above the rule of law as if the two are mutually exclusive? What kind of legal or jurisprudential philosophy does he espouse and articulate to his principal?
Was it not because of this kind of Malami’s philosophy that the legendary Nelson Mandela, for instance, was incarcerated for close to three decades as a threat to the national security of an iniquitous social order in apartheid South Africa? Was it not for being perceived as a threat to national security that President Buhari himself was detained for a prolonged period by a Babangida regime that was afraid of its own shadows?
When eventually Malami ordered the release of Sowore and Dasuki, the government received no plaudits. It was seen as bowing to local and international pressure. And again demonstrating his ineptness, Malami caused a statement to be issued to the effect that their release was out of government’s compassion and not in deference to court orders. He gave some juvenile justifications for this bizarre position that is not worth the attention of even a legal layman like this columnist. Even as he continues to refuse to do the needful and authorize the release of detained leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, Mallam Ibrahim el-Zakzaky and his wife, as ordered by the courts, let Malami know that he and not President Buhari bears the responsibility and in today’s world there may be consequences after he leaves power. As ace columnist and lawyer, Mobolaji Sanusi, once famously declared in a highly polemical piece in this newspaper, ‘Today is not forever’.
Let Malami know that one of his predecessors, Michael Aondoakaa, was once stripped of his prestigious SAN rank after he left office in 2010 because of actions he took while on the hot seat. Although the rank was later restored to him on magnanimous grounds, the point is that there can be legal sanctions after his inevitable exit one day from transient power. Let today’s all powerful AGF reflect on the fact that another of his predecessors, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) is today in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and will shortly undergo trial for alleged crimes he committed in office. Adoke’s claim that he was carrying out presidential directives is unlikely to avail him in court.
In the same way, on the day of reckoning when today’s power illusion evaporates, it is Malami that will give account for his actions and not Buhari. The AGF will be found doubly derelict in not having advised his boss, a retired soldier, appropriately as a senior officer in the temple of justice. In today’s globalized world, there can even be international sanctions for errant officers after they leave office. Let Malami and his Department of State Services, DSS, enforcers take note of events unfolding in Algeria, Pakistan and Sudan, for instance, where yesterday’s powerful public office holders are today petrified and penitent convicts regretting their empty arrogance in power.
Perhaps Malami is aware of this possibly apocryphal but powerful story. The famous king David of Israel once had an exquisite gold ring wrought for him by some of the kingdom’s most accomplished craftsmen. The King charged his advisers and wise men to help find a phrase of not more than five words that would comfort him in times of sorrow and distress as well as caution and restrain him in times of joy and triumph and glory to be inscribed on the ring. At last the young Prince Solomon came up with an acceptable phrase that was inscribed on the ring. It was: ‘AND THIS TOO SHALL PASS’. The great Dr Nnamdi Azikwe was to put it differently years later in Nigeria when he declared to an upstart power holder, ‘NO CONDITION IS PERMANENT’. Do the needful Mr. AGF, sir, in accordance with the constitution you swore to uphold. For, in the final analysis, TODAY IS NOT FOREVER.
Segun Ayobolu, is a former chief press secretary to ex-governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.