With President Muhammadu Buhari, you never know where power resides and it’s deliberate; you never know who is in charge. The president’s wife, Aisha Buhari apologized recently to the nation for her husband’s mismanagement of the nation’s economy. She had earlier cried to the nation a few years after her husband got to power that her husband’s administration had been hijacked by a cabal to whom her husband had become a prisoner. Aisha Buhari thus became the only insider in Buhari’s administration who has acknowledged that things are not well, thanks to Buhari’s uncoordinated style of governance. Others, including the president himself, have been living in a fool’s paradise claiming that Buhari has served Nigeria very well and that nothing has gone wrong, and Buhari is on course. That’s self-deception.
It was exactly like that when Buhari shot himself to power in 1984. He was hardly heard or seen; Nigerians knew nothing about the inner workings of his government. The man who was visible was Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, the number two man. Always frowning, Idiagbon did virtually everything. It was thought that Buhari was a master of delegation but after his ouster by then Major General Ibrahim Babangida, his Chief of Army Staff, it became known that it was not that Buhari was shy or that he was a master at delegation, but that it was his style to let somebody else be associated with all his actions which were especially bad so that nobody will blame him for anything. His lack of coordination and cohesion was so much that Buhari did not know when and how Babangida isolated him from every other senior military officer that could keep him safe. Buhari did not know anything was happening until his chief security officer, Major Mustapha Jokolo went to find out what was happening at the Ikeja Cantonment, in Lagos when telephone calls to that barrack were not returned. Major Jokolo did not return as he was arrested by the coup plotters and detained. Buhari was also arrested a few hours later and detained. The rest, as they say, is history.
Buhari seems to have a style that deals with each of his lieutenants on a one-on-one basis, with no coordination. Only he knew what everybody was doing, nobody knew what the other people were doing. We have witnessed a repeat of that even now in his administration as a democratically elected president. His former Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari was thought to be all around the president, running the show and dictating to the president until the man died carrying out a duty that was meant for a minister. Abba Kyari had travelled to Germany to negotiate a contract for a power plant with Siemens when he contracted the deadly Coronavirus from which he never recovered. It was after Abba Kyari’s death that those who were so close to him with whom he had shared his vision for Nigeria wrote that nothing of which he was doing in Buhari’s government was his own. He was a messenger that was made to look like the actor so that the real actor may be hidden from the public view for his erratic and not well-thought-out actions.
The nation has witnessed again this deliberate lack of coordination in a recent experience which ought to be an embarrassment to any right-thinking Nigerian. Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, who has made so many missteps to the extent that experts are wondering if he’s the appropriate man for that office, told the nation he was going to redesign the naira which had not been done in 20 years and that he had obtained approval from the President Muhammadu Buhari. A few days after that announcement, Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Zainab Ahmed at an appearance before the Senate said she knew nothing of Emefiele’s plan to redesign the naira. The nation was held spellbound as to what could be happening. The redesign of the nation’s currency was to be done and the woman in charge of the nation’s finance, budget and planning knew nothing of it.
The CBN through its spokesman, Osita Nwanisobi, said the bank took the right step as laid out in the law. It obtained the approval of Buhari. Buhari himself validated the CBN saying it got his approval. Much is left to imagine how the CBN obtained that approval. Apparently, Godwin Emefiele, who has become a very useful tool in the hands of the cabal and has thus become a bosom friend of the president walked into the expansive office of the president, exchanged a few pleasantries, and told the president “Your Excellency, I will be redesigning the naira. In fact, everything about the process is done and I’m ready but the law requires that I get your approval.” Buhari waved to Emefiele and said, “thanks, friend, you can go ahead.” Possibly, the idea was Buhari’s but sold to Emefiele so that it will look like that of the governor of CBN. The economic adviser was not brought into the picture to provide expert opinion, and the finance, budget and planning minister was not invited to sit where Emefiele would lecture to convince the executive of the wisdom of his redesigning of the naira. No neutral expert from the university was invited. No coordination. And so, a minister in the same government, Zainab Ahmed, for finance told the whole world she did not know about it. The deposed emir of Kano and former governor of the CBN, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi put a call to Emefiele as northern Islamic scholars thought that Emefiele’s action was aimed at removing the Arabic script from the naira. When Sanusi Lamido Sanusi found out that was not true, he sent a message to the scholars that there was no attempt to remove the Arabic script called ‘Ajami’ from the naira. When there is no coordination or when the president is avoiding owning his actions, there cannot but be rumours. If there is anything that has thrived abundantly in this administration, it is rumour.
Again, Buhari’s one-on-one style had sent the wrong signal to the investment community overseas. Can any business operate successfully in an environment where information does not flow and where non-state actors determine what the people think? Again, Buhari’s style has almost thrown the nation into another religious crisis. Not only the naira redesign, the security alert over which the Nigerian public was thrown into panic, is another clear example of a lack of coordination in Buhari’s style of governance. America, well known for its intelligence apparatus got to know that Abuja, the nation’s capital is under threat of terrorist invasion. Nigerians were not surprised to hear that because criminal elements amongst the Fulani herdsmen had become a nagging problem kidnapping people across the country. The American embassy told certain government functionaries who probably did nothing with the information except to deny any invasion after the US embassy had issued travel instructions to its citizens and ordered an evacuation of non-essential staff from its embassy. Nigeria’s security operatives got angry and resorted to lies. After the bombshell from the US embassy, President Buhari travelled to the United Kingdom for his usual medical check-up. Whatever happened to the nation was nothing of his bother.
Perhaps the president was told and perhaps he was not. Recall that Kuje prison was breached and more than 100 inmates, all detained Boko Haram insurgents were released by the invaders who spent so many hours completing their job. The Department of State Security, DSS, the nation’s intelligence service said it told the relevant authority, but nothing was done. Despite that, nobody was fished out for punishment making some Nigerians speculate that the administration might be complicit in the jailbreak due to Buhari’s alleged Islamization agenda. The president only visited the scene on his way out of the country. When the bandits threatened to abduct President Buhari and Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State, it took El Rufai to tell the president one-on-one, two weeks after the bandits issued the threat. Just like the president’s uncoordinated style of governance led to his removal at his first outing as head of state in 1984, it is important that the president must change his style to avoid the errors that led to his ouster back in the military era. To say the least, Nigerians did not put Buhari in power to be careless with their security.
Tunde Akande is a journalist and a pastor. He earned a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.