Buhari’s First 30 Days: Slow, Steady, Serious
Buhari’s First 30 Days: Slow, Steady, Serious
To the consternation of political associates, the sign of activity, as reflected by appointments and dismissals, have not been seen in the new administration. But that does not mean that the administration has been short of constructive engagements.
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & Dapo Akinrefon, Vanguard
It has undoubtedly been an anti-climax for those Nigerians who had been roused by the idea that the first month of the new Muhammadu Buhari administration would be a re-enactment of the action-packed first 30 days of his first advent as a military dictator.
President Muhammadu Buhari
In his first outing as a military dictator, Gen. Buhari’s days were filled with scintillating sights and sounds of activity. Appointments were made over the radio. Arrests of corrupt politicians were severally made and broadcast to the enjoyment of the citizenry.
But 30 years on, Buhari’s approach is remarkably very different. So different that several associates are complaining that even preceding civilian presidents like Olusegun Obasanjo, Shehu Yar‘adua and even Goodluck Jonathan had faster velocity at the starting point.
But no one is, however, giving up on Buhari in his seemingly second messianic outing.
President Buhari, however, gave much reason for expectation on his inauguration on May 29, 2015. The well-attended inauguration by the international community also showed the international goodwill that was at the disposition of the new administration.
International leaders that were seemingly at odds with the country and its immediate past leaders either came or sent high-level delegations for the Buhari inauguration.
Among the surprising guests were President Paul Biya of Cameroon, a longstanding foe of many Nigerians, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and United States Secretary of State, John Kerry who stood in for his country’s vice-president, Mr. Joe Bieden whose son was at that time at an advanced stage of a terminal illness that subsequently took his life within two weeks.
Buhari who had made security a key point in his campaign and reiterated such in his inauguration address was quick to start off from that point after his inauguration with visits to the nearby countries of Niger and Chad purportedly to seek sub-regional alliances towards combating the spectre of insecurity presented by the Boko Haram militant group.
On Wednesday June 3, the president left the country for Niger Republic making his first visit out of the country within a week of his inauguration. After a sleepover in Niamey, he left for Chad, another strong regional player in the domestic equation being framed by the new administration to solve the Boko Haram crisis.
At the end of the discussion in both countries, he was able to win high-level endorsement for the take off a multinational task force devoted to fighting the Boko Haram menace.
A communiqué issued at the end of the visit to the Chadian capital, Ndjamena, on June 4 read in part: Their Excellencies IDRISS DEBY ITNO and MUHAMMADU BUHARI strongly condemned the inhumane terrorist acts perpetrated on civilians in Nigeria and in its neighboring countries by Boko Haram insurgents. They underlined the consequences of insecurity which include displacement of people and disruption of their trading activities, livelihood, and destruction of lives and properties in Nigeria and the entire Lake Chad region.
Both Heads of State expressed their willingness and commitment to collaborate at all levels to make more effective the common fight against the Boko Haram sect and restore peace and security which are vital for development in the region.
His Excellency President MUHAMMADU BUHARI expressed his gratitude to His Brother and Friend, His Excellency President IDRISS DEBY ITNO for the vital role his country played to weaken this sect. Thereafter, he condoled the families of Chadian soldiers who passed away in the battlefield, and paid special tribute to the gallant soldiers.
President IDRISS DEBY ITNO commended the commitment of President MUHAMMADU BUHARI to eradicating the Boko Haram terrorist group. He also reaffirmed the commitment and availability of Chad to collaborate with Nigeria on both bilateral and multilateral levels. In this regard, His Excellency President IDRISS DEBY INTO agreed with the need to move quickly to make the Multinational Joint Task Force operational in order to restore peace and security in the north-east of Nigeria and everywhere Boko Haram operates. In this vein, the two Leaders called on the International Community to provide LCBC and neighboring countries with all necessary support.
By Sunday, Buhari was again airborne, this time to Germany for the G7 Summit of the World’s leading economies. His invitation and photo opportunities with some of the world’s leaders also helped to project a new image of the country. It was the first time in a long while that Nigeria was invited to the summit.
Remarkably, he went on the invitation of the G7 leaders who asked him to come along with his shopping list!
Earlier, on May 31, the president had announced the first appointments into his administration with Mr. Femi Adeshina being appointed as Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu as Senior Special Assistant Media and Publicity and Mallam Lawal Abdullahi Kazaure as the State Chief of Protocol (SCOP).
Kazaure, remarkably, was a carry-over from the preceding Jonathan administration, having served the former president as Special Assistant on Presidential Matters.
The appointment of the trio had whetted the appetite of many Nigerians of the imminence of a flood of appointments. That expectation was further heightened with the dispatch of a letter to the then outgoing Senate of a request for the appointment of 15 special advisers.
The letter which was received on June 2, 2015, was approved promptly the following day, giving indications that the new administration was all set to hit the ground running.
However, almost a month after that appointment, the portfolios have not been filled. Indeed, only one political appointment, that of Mr. Laolu Akande as spokesman to the vice-president has been made since then.
The anxiety of many Nigerians over the seemingly slow start for the administration was frontally tackled by Alhaji Ahmed Joda, the chairman of the Buhari Transition Committee which interfaced with the officials of the Jonathan administration.
Following the presentation of the report to Buhari at the Defence House on June 12, Joda in an interview with newsmen debunked insinuations that the president was slow, noting among others the uniqueness of the transition from Jonathan to Buhari which was a first from one political party to another.
“One of the terms of references for our committee is to receive the handover note of President Jonathan and this we did not receive until about weeks after our inauguration. We received the handover note on the 25th of May and that report was about 18,000 pages and it took time to even sort them out and to make sense from them. Read them, analyse them and come up with recommendations.
“Political appointments are entirely at the prerogative of the President. He will go through our report and understand our recommendation. I think he deserves a little bit more time.”
Subsequently, administration officials have disclosed that the content of the report would determine the manner of government that Buhari would run. The report would specifically guide the administration in its formulation of policies on mergers of government ministries and agencies and perhaps the appointment of key aides.
Besides security, one nagging problem the administration inherited was the issue of petroleum supply. The administration was welcomed to power with an acute petroleum supply crisis that saw the price of petrol rise to as much as N300 per litre in certain parts of the country.
A day after returning from Chad, the president with bureaucrats of the Ministry of Petroleum in attendance, met with oil marketers on how to resolve the crisis.
According to a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting by Taiye Haruna, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the marketers agreed to begin to deliver fuel products to all parts of the country immediately.
Meanwhile, on June 11 the result of his first shuttle diplomacy came to near fruition at a summit of regional leaders from Niger, Chad, Benin, Cameroon and Nigeria at the Abuja airport where authority was given for the formation of the Multi-National Joint Task Force to fight Boko Haram.
The MNJTF to be based in the Chadian capital of Ndjamena, would, however, as a concession to Nigeria always have a Nigerian as a commanding officer.
Aliyu Ismail, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defence at a press conference on the sidelines of the summit told reporters that the task force would be operational by the end of next month.
“The heads of state and government of Lake Chad Basin Commission and Benin Republic took the following decisions: approve the concepts of operations, strategic and operational and related documents of the multinational joint task force for the fight against Boko Haram terrorist groups; approve the immediate deployment of the multinational joint task force headquarters at N’Djamena, Chad, by implementing its human, logistics and financial requirements; approve the development of the national contingent with the multinational joint task force under the operational command of the multinational joint task force commander assisted by his joint headquarters by 30 July, 2015.”
On June 13, within a week of his return from Germany, the president proceeded to Johannesburg, South Africa for the 25th African Union summit. The summit which had the theme of Security was also an auspicious opportunity for the country’s new leader to further canvass his push against Boko Haram.
It was while there that he announced that he had already given approval for the release of $21m out of the pledge of $100m which Nigeria made to the Multinational Joint Task Force.
Buhari made the disclosure while chairing the peace and security session of the AU summit that was attended by the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, Chairperson of African Union (AU) Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security and Ambassador Smail Chergui among others.
Following his return from South Africa, on Tuesday, June 16, the president made a private visit to his home in Daura, Katsina State apparently to tidy up his personal affairs. While in Daura, he was pictured bidding a last bye to many of his matured cattle on his farm and also handing over the affairs of the farm to his son, Yusuf.
On returning to Abuja penultimate weekend, the president who had all along been operating from the Defence House, moved to join his wife, Aisha in the Presidential Villa.
While many of the president’s actions in solving the security problems have been largely welcomed, two controversial policies have received mixed reviews.
In his inauguration speech, the president had directed the military to relocate its command and control centre to Maiduguri, nearer to the theatre of operations of the anti-Boko Haram war. The move was welcomed by many people but also flayed as hasty and expensive in some other quarters.
The military in compliance with the directive, moved its command centre to Maiduguri on June 9, 2015.
The establishment of the Command centre for ‘Operation Zaman Lafiya’ was contained in a press statement signed by the Acting Director Army Public Relations, Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman.
Another controversial policy issued by the new administration in its first month was the dismantling of military checkpoints across the country.
The president had on June 22, ordered the Chief of Defence Staff and the Inspector- General of police to dismantle all military check points nationwide purportedly to free military manpower and resources for the conflict against Boko Haram.
The move, however, raised panic among some governors especially in the Southeast and South-South who have come to rely on the military more than the police in the protection of their citizens against insurgents, bandits and kidnappers.
On June 26, in a long-expected move, the president announced the dissolution of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
The dissolution, according to a letter signed by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mr Danladi Kifasi, was with immediate effect.
However, on the political front, many stakeholders in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC are increasingly disgruntled over the president’s seeming failure to take a grip of the affairs of the party.
Critics within the party fume that under his watch the National Assembly elected all four presiding officers that were not candidates of the party, even if three of them are members of the APC. Even more irritating for them is the return of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as the Deputy President of the Senate on the ticket of the PDP.
The APC has moved from crisis to crisis since the advent of the new administration and a cleavage has clearly emerged in the top ranks of the party.