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Raised voices

I plead guilty to an exaggerated exasperation  in my comments last week with the manner President Buhari choses to govern the nation, to wit, seemingly leisurely, relaxed and indecisive.

The idea was to prod a lethargic presidency into some movement and save it from rising derision from its detractors and shield its legion of embarrassed  supporters  from  teasing  that the next level is actually the same level everyone is. The week since then has yielded an amazing number of developments and raised voices that have some bearing on governance issues, three of which deserve mention. The first is the incredible public denunciation of the Nigerian military by no less a person than the personification of professionalism and discipline that is the Army Chief of Staff, General Tukur Buratai. The second was the drama around one or two appointments made by the President of  the Senate, Dr Ahmed Lawan, which he was stampeded into reversing by  a deluge of denunciations on grounds that they offended the intrinsic purity of the party. The third was an intriguing protest by a motley crowd against the President’s ‘cabal’, that mysterious circle has provided the excuse for all his failures.

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It would have been difficult to believe that Army Chief Buratai would publicly upbraid the men and women who bear arms and the responsibility to fight and defeat an insurgency that is threatening to become a permanent feature of our lives, unless you remember that the normally restrained General has not recanted a word of his famous indictment which was widely reported. (Yesterday, he accused the media of distorting, but did not directly disown the damning condemnation). In brief, he used an occasion to attribute major setbacks being suffered by the military against the many faces of the insurgency to lack of sufficient commitment, low morale, poor professional standards and even cowardice. It was a sweeping condemnation of fighting men and women from their Army Chief  that had no precedent, the type that makes you think Buratai did not write the speech, read it before presenting it, or he has  decided to call out his troops himself, finally.

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It is indeed the height of irresponsibility to celebrate setbacks by the military, exaggerate their losses or otherwise publicize their shortcomings in a manner that dampens morale  and feeds the enemy’s store of intelligence. But the  general and top brass of the military know that this war is not just the business of the military. The media and the public have a legitimate right and duty  to keep abreast of the war. Desertions, low morale, inadequate weaponry, unpaid allowances, poor discipline and even poor leadership have all been identified as representing major threats to the success of the military in the fight against the insurgency.

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Highly informed and responsible circles have chronicled major limitations of our military, while the enemy has given them practical validation by the manner it succeeds in rolling back the propaganda that it is virtually defeated. General Buratai has no business staying at the head of an army that he so comprehensively criticises publicly.

If this is the army he has led for four years, he must be prepared to accept responsibility for its current state. Honour and responsibility demand that he resigns or is removed to make room for someone else who will address the problems he identified more successfully.

Speaking  of responsibility brings us to the tragicomedy of the hiring and firing of a media adviser by the brand new Senate President, Dr Ahmed Lawan, all within the space of two days.

Apparently a Festus Adedayo had been appointed by SP Lawan without the knowledge that the man was an upstanding and unrepentant  critic of President Buhari. While his record as a good media and publicity manager may have impressed the SP, his writings on the person and record of President Buhari did not  escape the attention  of a hoard of ‘Buharists’, a largely social media- based

vigilante designing a pure APC administration for the next four years. The type of pressure the new SP was placed can only be imagined, but it was enough to push him to reverse the appointment the very next day.

Another visible Saraki aide active on social media also appointed by the new SP is reported to have been sacked as a result of pressure from the partisan cleansing vigilante. It is academic now, but it would have been amusing to see the SP standing by his appointment of Mr Adedayo and watch this vociferous critic of a President who holds the lease on the Senate President stew in his own juices as he now labours to serve new  masters and a party that he routinely lampooned with much relish.

The sacking of aides that offend a puritan perspective raise issues beyond the  need for the new Senate President to exercise greater rigour and due diligence in his selection processes.

Concerns should be raised over the degree to which the new leader of the legislature plans to lead it without the overriding and pervasive presence of President Buhari and other interests that govern for him. True, the SP owes a huge debt to the endorsement of President Buhari, the APC, powerful governors and other fixers for his position. The question is the degree to which he locates this loyalty as his prime concern in decision-making and leadership of a complex and sensitive institution. One imagines that every Senate President needs aides that have skills and competences that give him, his office and the leadership of the National Assembly additional services that improve their impact. Is SP Lawan now going to outsource the recruitment of hundreds of aides, many with special skills, to social  media vigilante? Going further, how much influence does he plan to cede to ‘Buharists’ in the manner he runs the Senate and leads the National Assembly? These are early days, but they are also significant in setting standards and patterns. The new SP has listened to raised voices, but he should listen well to voices closer to him as well.

If ‘Buharists’ had not howled down one or two appointees of the new Senate President, the strange assemblage of people a few days ago in Abuja demanding for the dismantling of ‘the cabal’ and firmer, direct exercise of his mandate by the President, it would have been tempting to blame Hajia Aisha Buhari for their action. It would not have been an unfair attribution, because the President’s wife had broken the glass ceiling a number of times speaking against the ‘cabal’ and other appointees and policies of her husband.

As it is, it can only be assumed that a fairly new phenomenon is emerging, one that accepts that President Buhari can do much better, and the reasons why he is not doing better will not be discussed in hushed tones.

Abubakar wrote this piece from Abuja

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