19 June 2017

Nigeria: Buhari, Osinbajo and the Political Urchins

opinion

Miami, Florida — It is worrisome to note that despite the clustered cum directionless approach of the Buhari-led presidency in Nigeria, some Nigerians are still bent on stifling the powers of the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo. For example, debating the other day on who should sign the Nigerian budget, or even pondering on what may be the limitations of the powers of an Acting President is derailing. Osinbajo MUST be allowed to exercise the full powers of his current status. Those who claim to love President Buhari had unwittingly advised him to hold on to power despite his clear-cut inabilities to discharge the stressful duties of a President. Interestingly, the same political cabal or do I say, urchins, have quickly forgotten the matter-of-fact counsel of President Buhari to his kinsman and former President Yar'adua when the latter had a running battle with his health during his stewardship as President of Nigeria.

Kindly recall that President Buhari had genuinely advised President Yar'adua to resign his position and focus on the betterment of his health. The big question on the heart and mind of every well-meaning Nigerian is this: Why is President Buhari refusing to do what he had counseled some other person in his shoes to do? Why is he rejecting his own self-crafted good counsel? And in case he now possesses a new vista of knowledge that tells him something different than what he had pontificated to be true, what stops him from telling his cabal of unwitting advisers to allow Osinbajo to discharge the duties of an Acting President without hindrances? How can there be an Acting President in office and we detour the political discourse by questioning his capacity to sign any document meant to be signed by the President? Has Osinbajo not demonstrated a leadership capacity that appears to have a touch of political beauty?

Contemporary pieces of evidence have shown how the Nigerian economy and polity seem to experience a POSITIVE jolt each time Osinbajo steps in to act as President. Even the Professor's sense of humour had oftentimes, helped to melt the current tension in Nigeria in a most disarming way. The saddening consequence of a clustered form of leadership is that the beleaguered followers will be open to any form of alternative. And that alternative may include the current alternatives by some public commentators that are anything but democratic. In making this contribution, I am by no means saying that a President cannot be sick in office. Neither am I saying that history is not saddled with political leaders who latch on to power at all costs. As a researcher on the subject of leadership, I am aware of the fact that President Woodrow Wilson suffered a severe stroke while in office in early October of 1914 and remained incapacitated for the remaining17 months of his presidency. In order to cover up the development, many historians inferred that his wife forged his signatures on very important documents needed to be signed. As a matter of fact, Journalist Louis Seibold once published a questionable interview with President Wilson, who at the time of the interview was too sick to speak to anyone.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was another classical case of a sick American President. Before the amendment of the American constitution which restricted the maximum terms of an American President to two terms, President Roosevelt set the record of winning the presidency for four terms. The peculiar thing about the tenures of President Franklin Roosevelt were that: he kept his Vice-President, Harry Truman away from the details of his bouts with polio and heart problems; refused to brief V.P. Truman on the details of his meetings with Stalin and Winston Churchill during the Second World War; furthermore, with the connivance of the press, FDR ran for the Presidency for the fourth time in a wheel chair (having suffered partial paralysis from polio) and won. Why? His being on a wheelchair and failing health were shielded from the American people by the Press until he succumbed to a failing health in 1945.

Another interesting case was the case of John F. Kennedy. Very little was said by the Press about John F. Kennedy's health bouts with adrenal dysfunctions, rapidly disintegrating bones, and Addison's disease during his campaigns. Historical details have it that President Kennedy stayed on pain medications and amphetamines for the better part of his presidency. A curious observer might wonder why the Press was able to shield those men in their political pranks from the public. Two main reasons were chiefly responsible: the American economy did not nosedive in the course of their presidencies and the internet technology was not yet available to the public! Unfortunately for the ongoing melodrama in the current Nigerian context, the economy has nosedived, the high dollar rate is grinding the economy, a one-sided battle against corruption is continuously being waged, a directionless cabal is holding Nigeria hostage, and the advent of the INTERNET now empowers news to criss-cross every space. In other words, we no longer live in that era where a handful of political urchins and Press folks can stifle information from the polity in order to score a political goal. I will be concluding this contribution by recommending that the Nigerian citizenry needs a new mindset. It is a mindset that will demand equal accountability from their leaders, it is a mindset that will look beyond our states of origin to the status of our abilities. It is a mindset that will invigorate the patriotic element in us without fanning the embers of segregation. The above mindsets will serve as a way forward for the current political dilly-dally in Nigeria.

Deciding to hang in there, while watching and waiting for a President who to all intents and purposes should do what he had advised other Presidents in his shoes to do in the past, creates a mental state of political apathy among the led. The continued cry by the North each time this kind of situation confronts Nigerians along the line of losing power to the South is most unnecessary. The question our brothers and sisters in the North must also endeavour answer is this: who presented candidates Yar'adua and Buhari to the South and indeed to the rest of Nigerians to be voted for? My humble take is that Nigeria and Nigerians must decide to move forward. And in our quest to move beyond this spot, we must remember that every step of political advancement must begin with a sense of clarity. And one easy but good, way to exercise that sense of clarity is to encourage, empower, and energize Osinbajo to live up to the billing of an Acting President as stipulated in the Nigerian constitution and not as demanded by the political cabals and urchins in the corridors of power. I rest my case and may God bless Nigeria!

Dr. Nwambie is leadership consultant, wrote from Miami, Florida.

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