President Muhammadu Buhari romped to victory at the February 23, presidential election, with over 15 million Nigerians giving him the ‘Carry Go’’ thumbs up. The president exhibited great energy on the campaign trail, confounding those who had hoped for fainting spells on the stump. He had faced a gang-up by his former comrades in arms – The Generals’ league – and neutralized them, or is it degraded them? The serial letter writer among them, who arrogates to himself the role of supervisory headmaster of successor presidents, suffers a knock-down, but the old warrior lumbered up to avoid a knock-out. On his 82nd birthday bash at his native rock house, the irrepressible one put up a comic relief performance by teasing his hometown traditional ruler on the hierarchy of bosses. If President Buhari is your boss, I am his boss, Chief, Dr. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo had remonstrated the Alake of Egbaland, another retired soldier. In his avuncular manner, he expansively reiterated his stance to unremittingly pillory President Buhari on the philosophy of good governance, as postulated by Olusegun Obasanjo, PhD!!
Well, maybe the ‘Ebora’ of Egba has a point here on the need to relentlessly interrogate President Buhari on his attitude to governance and why he MUST leave a positive legacy. We need to constantly remind him, now that the elections are over, that taking Nigeria to the ‘Next Level’ should not be an empty electoral rhetoric. He should be on energised active duty for the public good, not in the other room! President Buhari need not wait for his second inauguration on May 29, to signpost the expected vibrancy of his second tenure since, for him, his second term is a continuum of the first – no transition period.
But worries remain whether the president has learnt needed lessons from some of the misspeaks and missteps of his first term which purportedly hamstrung the performance of his administration. A litmus test case is the putting in place the leadership of the new National Assembly to be inaugurated in June. In what is turning out a surreal repeat of the self-imposed impotence of power, which allowed Dr. Bukola Saraki to capture the senate presidency and get an opposition member as deputy senate president against the dictate of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), we are being told that the president, in adherence to the so-called doctrine of separation of powers, will abstain from influencing those to emerge as leaders of the Ninth National Assembly – the senate and the House of Representatives, reminiscent of his I am for everybody and not for anybody, one liner at his 2015 inauguration. So, dear fellow citizens, there President Buhari goes, again (Apology to former U.S. President Ronald Reagan). The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Affairs, Sen. Ita Enang, had at a media briefing on Friday, March 15, stated that the president will be neutral in the process of electing the leadership of the in-coming Ninth National Assembly. “He (Buhari) will not go beyond what the constitution allows him and every arm of government should stick to its constitutional responsibilities”, he was quoted as saying.
Separation of powers is a fraud, a democratic utopia that is at variance with democratic reality. Enang, however, had at the same media briefing, lamented the lethargy with which the National Assembly has been treating the 2019 Appropriation Bill, the New Minimum Wage Bill and the budgets of various government agencies, the non-passage of which he pointed out leads to lost employment opportunities and frustrated implementation of capital projects. So, pray, how can a president desirous of taking the country to the next level of development not be interested in those whose actions and inactions can frustrate his growth agenda for the nation? This is naivety.
A majority party in any legislative assembly normally produces the leaders of such assembly, often on the directive of the party or according to established hierarchy in the chamber. This is why there is ranking of members.
In established democracies, there is usually a tripartite harmony when a party controls the presidency and the legislature, with the three on the same developmental page. Not here; rebellion is the order of the day and when a president projects as laid back as to who leads a strategic arm of government where his party is in the majority, it is invitation to discord that can degenerate to governance gridlock. A National Assembly leadership elected in a free-for-all parliamentary battle cannot be expected to enthusiastically support the president’s agenda or show respect to party position on issues. Such a scenario cannot optimally deliver the dividends of democracy to the people. For an APC that is a patchwork of diverse interests, now is the opportunity to forge a cohesive entity, with party leaders and the president as lead players, else the party risks disintegration, down the road.
If President Buhari misses this second opportunity to foster rapport with the National Assembly by influencing a legislative leadership that will be supportive of his growth agenda, let him not lament later of being frustrated by the lawmakers. With his lamentation about the judiciary frustrating his anti-corruption crusade, he cannot afford a situation of double jeopardy for another four years.
Dr Olawunmi, a public affairs analyst, is former Washington correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria.