Sunday, 20 February 2011

Nigeria: Presidency seeks the nth opinion

The captain needs crew

Steering the ship of state called Nigeria can be an arduous task and one should not begrudge a president the availability of human resources and more to concentrate on that job so as to perform to the best of his ability and hopefully for the best of Nigerians the dispatch of this responsibility.

The reference article from AllAfrica.com might soon be archived and hence, I take the liberty to quote extensively from it for record purposes in this blog to ensure that the context is maintained.

allAfrica.com: Nigeria: Jonathan Appoints Danjuma, Anyaoku Into Policy Committee

Soon after President Goodluck Jonathan took office as Acting President, he appointed a Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) [1] which was formed to “provide alternative inputs into policy formation; promote good governance in the areas of power, economy, security, infrastructure, social sector, the electoral process and the fight against corruption … It will evaluate policy implementation and advise Jonathan on areas requiring adjustments.

The council will also advise the Acting President on how to maximize the benefits derivable from government's efforts; advise on such actions and programmes that may improve credibility and performance of the government; and advise on any other matter referred to it.

The PAC packed with expertise

The council was headed by Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma (Rtd.) and constitutional lawyer, Prof. Ben Nwabueze as deputy with the other members being a “former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Alfa Belgore, former Secretary-General of Commonwealth Emeka Anyaoku, former Inspector-General of Police M.D. Yusuf, former Minister of Science and Productivity Bartholomew Nnaji, pioneer Managing Director (MD) of Guaranty Trust Bank Fola Adeola {recently selected as a Presidential Running mate of a rival aspirant}, Mallam Abubakar Gimba, ex-Shell MD Basil Omiyi and Ambassador G. B. Preware.”

Others include Chairman, National Economic Summit Group Sam Ohuabunwa, ex-MD of FSB International Bank, Mallam Muhammed Hayatuddeen, former Deputy Speaker Chibudom Nwuche, former Justice Minister and Attorney-General of the Federation Kanu Agabi and President of Africa Business Roundtable and former Minister of Industry Bamanga Tukur, former Mtel Chairman Hajiya Halita Aliyu, Chairman, Allied Energy Kase Lawal, Alhaji Ismaila Isa, Alhaji Magaji Danbatta, Prof. B. G. Bajoga, Dr. (Mrs) Sally Bolujoko and Mrs. Mariam Uwais are also members of the committee.

The Nigerians called to service to advice the president on this council could not be faulted for their wealth of experience in governance, law, business, academia and international relations; they represented a broad cross-section of advice made available to a neophyte President who could do with all the guidance he could get.

The PAC belittled

The PAC recently produced a report that criticised the size of government and the need to trim down ministries and presidential aides to which an unnamed source within the presidency has responded saying, “that the Danjuma group is made up of people who do not understand the workings of government.”

The source further stressing that, “Danjuma and his people have become infamous because of the report. To them, the group does not understand issues like national character or the constitutional provision for the engagement of assistants.

Having now been in office for over a year, it would be sad to conclude that power is already having a corrupting influence on this accidental president such that hubris is clouding his judgement that he feels that the PAC have no idea of what they are talking about.

The constituents of the PAC seem to be people of greatly independent means and they could easily have been gainfully employed in other activities than to have their counsel belittled because they have refused to play sycophant or genuflect to the Presidency by rubberstamping all actions especially where it appears the National Assembly has abdicated their responsibilities for oversight and moderation of the powers of the executive arm of government.

The Court of Goodluck the First

No limit has been placed on the number of advisers the Presidency can employ but that does not mean that there should be a race to break records for the numbers that can be engaged to prop up the office and offer it a mystique of distance and unapproachability due to courtiers exuding self-importance that comes with closeness to power.

The Presidency now has 133 aides [2] in hierarchies of duplicated functions with that atrocious setup that allows the First Lady to have two protocol officers and the aristocratic luxury of ladies-in-waiting; who being a Dame of dubious provenance has become Nigeria’s equivalent of Marie Antoinette.

Too many advisors hamper decisiveness

It is utterly absurd that there are six physicians to cater for the health of the President, his wife and the vice-President, all of them in their different cadres of seniority might introduce a confusion of diagnosis where normally people might be satisfied with a second opinion; the possibility of an nth opinion in critical matters might stifle decisiveness, thoroughness and agreement leading to complications and poor treatment of assessed situations.

Insult is added to injury with a Senegalese and Malian tailor on hand to make the President’s clothes and other personal assistance with grandiose titles that include special assistants on presidential household matters, domestic affairs, domestic matters, household administration, social events and household matters.

Why matters should differ from affairs escapes me but there must be some reason behind the madness and the semantics that create the differentiation between the roles that allows for the abuse of office that engenders a Presidency that has suddenly come into power and is at risk of intoxication redolent of absolute monarchies of old.

Not needed better heeded

The First Lady does not need her coterie of genuflectors just as the President cannot suggest that the presence of these acquiescent followers at best and entourage of fawning backscratching groupies at worst makes him more effective at being the best President Nigeria ever had.

Their presence risks distracting from the business of government as the elixir of megalomania is fed the President appealing to his vanity through adulation, toadying and mastery of grovelling for attention and self-promotion and selfish interest.

The President might well heed the good advice of the PAC, they have nothing to gain or lose from giving him good counsel; so rather than castigate the PAC, the truth is some excess load needs to be shed allowing for refinement and quality before the making of the Court of Goodluck the First becomes the finest parody out of Nollywood.

Sources

[1] allAfrica.com: Nigeria: Jonathan Appoints Danjuma, Anyaoku Into Policy Committee

[2] 234Next.com | President Jonathan's 133 aides

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