Even within the short span of its first 100 days in office, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has provided useful insights into what Nigerians should expect from it in the days and years to come. Riding to power on the crest of a swirling campaign for change with respect to the style and direction of governance in the country, the government’s various initiatives so far tell Nigerians to be prepared for new dimensions of and perspectives on the business of managing public affairs in Nigeria. As had been clear right from the expression of interest by the President in the governance of this country, his commitment to tackle the most pressing challenges of the country, including ridding the country of corruption had not been mistaken. In fact the public perception of him, and which drew so significantly from his previous time as the Head of State of the country between 1983 and 1985, largely aided his return to office and power. It is no more news that during that tour of duty, Buhari as an army general gave corrupt practices in the country a fight with significant intensity.
With his return to office through the March 2015 general elections, especially against the backdrop of his promise to continue the fight against corruption, the President’s job seems clearly cut out for him.“Wipe out corruption and any other social ill that is plaguing this country”, Nigerians would say. Meanwhile in the context of this mandate, Nigerians have conceded to the president a significant threshold of liberties, if only that such would aid him in his quest to deliver on his promises to the nation. Among the liberties are his insistence not only to pick single handedly, his complement of ministers, but also do so three months after inauguration as President. Yet other liberties include the appointment of some other key officers of his administration against convention and without apparent recourse to traditional stakeholders in the government,including the National Assembly and the All Progressives Congress (APC), the political party on whose platform he rode into power. As if acting only on the hunch of a man’s antecedents, Nigerians have conceded to have the country’s collective destiny waltz on the lullaby of a one-man band contraption.Yet lullabies are not known to ever drive active enterprise. Rather they even lure to sleep!
However, while the relegation of the participation of any stakeholder in government with respect to the appointment of some officers of his administration may not be critical for some observers, the same cannot be said about his management of the nation’s public till. As far as money matters are concerned the president’s powers are expected to be exercised only within the strict provisions of the Constitution, which in turn assigns the ultimate authority in this respect to the National Assembly. Sections 80 – 83 of the Constitution are clear in respect of the collection and disbursement of public funds by government officials, the President inclusive.
In the context of the fore going the specific processes of governance as executed by the President during these three months remain interesting for Nigerians, as some questions are rearing up their heads. For instance, given that the President has in the absence of ministers, been engaged in serial briefing from permanent secretaries and chief executives of the various ministries, departments and agencies of government (MDAs) how has public funds been managed?
Incidentally even the silence of the administration over the status of the 2015 budget has not helped matters. The expectation had ever been that at inception of this administration, the President would have addressed himself to the fortunes of the 2015 budget through establishing an interface with the National Assembly, for the purpose of its review or otherwise; pursuant to marshaling fiscal operations within the ambit of the budget’s framework.For all practical purposes and intents,the President remains duty bound to clarify to Nigerians all matters surrounding the 2015 budget; in particular the imperative to obtain a specific prompting by the National Assembly as a resolution or in any other form.
That did not take place, and is yet to happen even now. Rather, all that Nigerians heard from the President were tales about the emptiness of the nation’s treasury, promises of caging looters of the common patrimony and elimination of the Boko Haram insurgency. While the foregoing rank among the germane and urgent tasks that need to be resolved, they hardly blight the imperative to move the country along the well beaten path of constitutional and fiscal rectitude.
The truth of the matter remains that even if the President has any cause – as valid as it may sound – to dispense with the services of a cabinet of ministers, such a liberty does not extend to the precincts of the National Assembly whose elected membership are not only outside his discretion to determine their scope of intervention in his enterprise as the head of the executive arm of the government. They also enjoy the constitutional leverage of calling any of his actions to order, in addition to the exclusive prerogative of ejecting him from office through impeachment.
Hence it amounts to an act of provocation for the President to indulge in any initiative that offers even the slightest semblance of relegating the statutory involvement of the distinguished Senators and Honourable Members of the National Assembly in the enterprise of the executive arm. By so doing the President istacitly vitiatingthe jealously guarded sanctity of the Legislature and therefore, has himself to blame in the event of any untoward adverse consequence.
Unless the President has not been disbursing public funds to the MDAs who have been briefing him, on the affairs of governance, otherwise he stands to account for whatever funds so disbursed. The questionable implication of the present state of affairs is that in coming ministers may have to account for funds disbursed ahead of their tenures;that is whenever they come.
If the vocal sections of the Nigerian public have failed to raise dust over the anomalies associated with thestyle of the President in operating a one-man band dispensation, it is not surprising even as it is lamentable. Many Nigerians who should know better, have been sucked in by the widespread sense of distress and despair in the land, and may even disappoint with their compromised sense of judgment. In fact, there is even a questionable advocacy which holds that what Nigeria needs now is a ‘benevolent dictator’. This advocacy, coming up after 16 years of the country’s return to democratic governance speaks volumes about the state of the nation.What a pity!
However if the aphorism by the English cleric Charles Caleb Colton, that “no man is wise or good enough to be trusted with absolute power”, is anything to go by, then the adoption by the President of oracular airs, with total powers to do as he likes, needs to be justified beyond reasonable doubt. He needs to prove to be endowed with extra doses of humaneness and infallible judgment.
On his part the President needs to safeguard his tenure and legacy by not taking the National Assembly in particular and Nigerians in general for granted. Because in the tribunal of the public, there is no appeal.