Recent happenings in the polity have reminded us that there seems to be a mix-up when it comes to playing politics and rendering public service. They are not the same thing. Naturally, one should not be too surprised about the confusion because it is on the platform of political parties that candidates get elected into public offices in Nigeria. It is for this reason that most positions of authority in government are occupied by politicians at the exclusion of technocrats and non-politicians.
The Co-founder of BudgIT announced his resignation after appointment as Technical Adviser to the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Clem Agba. BudgIT is a social enterprise that is dedicated to the call for accountability and transparency in governance and a leading fiscal transparency group for building civic awareness on the right of Nigerians to be knowledgeable on public resource management.
Spearheading the rejection of Onigbinde is the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO), which lambasted Onigbinde for taking up the offer in the same administration he had seriously criticised, saying that his appointment was a travesty that desecrates the honour and integrity of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government. The Chairman of BMO, Niyi Akinsiju stated further that Onigbinde lacked the decency to reject the appointment if indeed he believed the insults he hurled at the government. Akinsiju said those who criticise government constructively can take up appointments unlike Onigbinde, who was accused of engaging in name-calling and insulting the President and his supporters.
Earlier in the year, Dr. Festus Adedayo was also appointed as Special Adviser to the Senate President (Media and Publicity), but he was forced to resign, even though his appointment was said to have been based on merit, experience, track record, and competence. Adedayo, a PhD holder in political communication, is currently a member, editorial board of Nigerian Tribune newspapers. The Senate President, even though wanted him, but eventually bowed to pressure and reversed the appointment. Just like Onigbinde’s, the appointment of Adedayo had generated heated debate mostly on social media since his appointment two days ago. Supporters of APC had described Adedayo as unfit for the job simply for being a fierce critic of Buhari.
The President of the Senate, Ahmadu Lawan, had to withdraw the appointment of Dr. Festus Adedayo as Special Adviser on Media and Publicity. The action follows a public outcry that greeted the appointment while Adedayo’s response that he had no apologies over his actions as a professional journalist, was apt. Onigbinde said that he neither deleted nor deactivated his Twitter account. Even as the criticisms mounted for his appointment to be reversed, some applauded the move for being a right step in the right direction.
From the scenarios that played out, it can be seen that there is confusion between what is constructive criticism and having disdain for a particular leadership. That is where we are getting it wrong in this country. The fact that someone is your regular critic does not mean that he cannot be helpful or be meaningfully engaged by offering a useful piece of advice that could turn around things positively. We should also get it right that those to serve in government must only be politicians. This is wrong. Yes, eligible party supporters and politicians should be rewarded for their commitment and dedication.
Governance is a serious business that should be all-encompassing, robust, broad and open to diverse shades of opinions and input for better results and outcomes. Hence, the services of Onigbinde and Adedayo should have been retained for their brilliance and experience. However, a public affairs analyst should never have it in mind that he wants to be in government before making a difference. There are still many people out there that can transform this country if given the opportunity without belonging to any party. At times, the views of critics are the needed tonic to urgently make the desired change.
A society should appreciate its writers and social commentators better for what they are contributing to national development in their little way. From personal experience, the so-called ‘enemies’ of the government are friends in the sense that they are always thinking of how to improve the lives of the people. They are constantly ruminating over several key issues at the same time, researching and putting down their thoughts for possible consideration by those in authorities. They do this, not because they want any political appointment or cheap popularity, but are simply showing their genuine passion for the nation’s wellness.
Onigbinde and Adedayo should continue to do what they are committed to; they should not be portrayed in bad light or seen as disgruntled elements. I remembered that had a close encounter with Adedayo after the appointment experience and I could feel the psychological pressure he went through; after all, he never lobbied for the appointment. Political leaders should be conscious, wary of sycophants that flock around them and could becloud their objective sense of reasoning and judgment. They should be more tolerant, broad-minded and mature. That is what true leadership entails.