As Nigeria’s ‘soft state’ presidency diminishes our common patrimony

When the Swedish social scientist and politician Gunnar Myrdal used the term ‘Soft State’ to describe the condition of South Asian countries in the 1960s and ‘70s, (that was before their transformation into ‘Asian economic tigers’), he was alluding to the prevalence of societal indiscipline, in them. However, the commonality of the conditions of soft state across the developing world in other parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America as well during his time, made the term suitable for application across the latter. The indiscipline under consideration referred to a lack of control and associated arbitrariness in governance as well as other facets of social life in these countries. Social scientists like Myrdal have likened the soft state of societies and establishments to a wax candle with all its heat sensitivity, placed near an active oven and buckles under its own weight. It is neither standing strong or melted into a stable liquid form. Its capacity to perform also become questionable.

Coming back home, recent developments associated with Nigeria’s Presidency easily point to a spate of invocation of the soft state syndrome on the establishment. Barely three months after the inauguration of the second term of the administration of President Muhamadu Buhari on May 29th 2019, the public space is abuzz with scurrilous tales about a brewing rift between Buhari and the Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbanjo. The first sign of vitiation of Osinbanjo’s  clout was when the President actually ceded his powers of direct oversight of Cabinet Ministers to the Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, as he directed them to thenceforth clear all direct contacts with him through the latter. In a normal setting the delegation of such a function should have been through the Vice President to whom the Constitution assigned the responsibility to act for the President, in the unavoidable absence of the latter.


Following closely was the President’s dismantling of the constitutionally established National Economic Council (NEC), which has the Vice President    Osinbanjo as its Chairman and replacing same with a new Presidential Economic Advisory Committee (PEAC), which before the law remains a mere personal think tank for the President.  Next was the Presidents directive to the Vice President to henceforth clear with the former, in all decisions with respect to the operations of the parastatals under the VP’s direct supervision. This aspect technically renders the VP a mere errand boy to the President, and by extension even the Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, who now acts for the President in some capacity.

As if these measures were not enough to send a signal that the Vice President’s throne was crashing, a character smear was launched in the media, based on scurrilous stories based on presently unsubstantiated premises, of his involvement in diversion of public funds for personal use. So damaging has been the media run of the story that Osinbanjo had to engage the services of a lawyer –  Femi Falana to intervene and tackle the sources of the story – one Mr Timi Frank in court. In the process, the media outlet from which the story was launched has since come out to debunk it, and publicly apologized to the Vice President.

While Nigerians are trying to come to terms with the cascade of assaults which have the potential to deconstruct Osinbanjo, comes a now tending new twist in the public space, through a pronouncement by Lagos based Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly, that he had been divinely ordained to succeed Buhari as President of Nigeria as the President of Nigeria. Bakare’s pronouncement would not have enjoyed much merit but for at least two factors. Firstly, is the fact that Bakare was Buhari’s running mate during the former’s attempt at the Presidency in ///, and still retains close ties with the President. Hence with Osinbanjo replacing him as Buhari’s running mate in 2015 and the duo succeeding as President and Vice President, Bakare’s disposition towards Osinbanjo can hardly be healthy.

Secondly, Bakare’s pronouncement coincides with the barrage of assaults on Osinbajo, leading to hints that the former may be on the cards to take over Osinbanjo’s job, if the latter is removed either by resignation from office or impeachment. Is the permutation based on Bakare ascending to the Presidency from his taking over Osinbanjo’s position of Vice President one may ask? Given the circumstances of the ongoing cloak and dagger politics in the commanding heights of the Presidency, many Nigerians are keeping their fingers crossed, as it would seem to them that the more you look, the less you see.

However, in whatever form the game of thrones plays out in the soft state Presidency with it’s descent to dog eat dog infighting, the consequences project for beyond to cloud every aspect of the nation’s public life and e common patrimony of al Nigerians. And that is what now counts. Lamentably, the soft state of the Presidency may embolden not a few operatives of the various MDAs who may exploit the situation to abuse their offices for personal gains.

It needs to be recalled that even before the ongoing anti-Osinbanjo salvoes, the country had been contending with the challenge of restoring sanity in many areas of public life which had been desecrated by unscrupulous public officers in the past, with some still engaging in such acts. Hence, if the Presidency which should serve as the correctional factor suffers its ow dose of self-inflicted, in-house turbulence, the implications for the country are better imagined, than allowed to manifest.

Hence the Presidency must have its act intact as the apex leadership institution in the country. President Muhamadu Buhari therefore needs to appreciate the onus placed on him to be vindicated by posterity, as a leader that came to office to transform and not to deform the country. And his success shall rest on keeping the Presidency intact and running with efficiency. Every vehicle runs on the strength of its power system. And for him, the Presidency is it.

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