Posted by News Express | 21 March 2017 | 3,056 times
Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, founding National Coordinator of the frontline civil rights platform, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), is former National Commissioner of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and also served on the Presidential Committee on Restoration of Peace and Dialogue in Northern Nigeria (PCCDR). In this interview, Onwubiko, argues that President Muhammadu Buhari must re-jig his aides and advisers for maximum productivity and actualisation of good governance.
News Express: How would you rate President Muhammadu Buhari’s close aides?
Comrade Onwubiko: Right from day one, since after President Muhammadu Buhari picked members of his inner chambers, such as the Chief of Staff, Alhaji Abba Kyari Mohammed and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir Lawal, and a few other personal aides: members of his media team and a retinue of other picks like special assistants and personal assistants, who are within the figure of over three dozens, doubts have been unleashed on the public space regarding their capacity to deliver.
What are the doubts?
Critical questions have been asked by right-thinking Nigerians regarding the professional competence and the quality of these persons in strategic offices. Accusations of nepotism and entrenched partisanship have been raised. It didn’t take too long to manifest given the wise saying: ‘Nothing is hidden under the sun.’
Holding political office is just like working as a journalist in a very busy and credible media platform. This is in the sense that your goodness or badness cannot be concealed for a long period of time, because sooner rather than later your line-editor would notice the porosity and incoherence of your news-reporting; and if your quality portends serious danger to the rating of the newspaper you are shown the way out. Some newspapers in the days of yore were known to be setting competency tests for their journalists and those rated as lagging behind are shoved aside.
In politics, your inefficiency and incompetence are so stark-naked like a stripper that soon the ordinary people watching from the streets will start pointing fingers at you as the odd person out. And if the appointing authority is being exercised by a no-nonsense person, you are shown the way out without further delay.
And so it is with the personal aides of President Muhammadu Buhari who have been adjudged by observers as incompetent and unqualified to hold such high profile offices. Their gross incompetence has become so notoriously annoying that those who love the President are asking him to re-jig his staff roll.
The Chief of Staff to Buhari came under scrutiny over allegations of bribery to the tune of N500 million, which he purportedly collected from the South African telecommunications company, MTN, which got slammed with a multi-million dollars fine for breaching Nigeria's anti-terror law. The chief of staff was accused of collecting the largesse so as to work out soft-landing for MTN. He denied the allegations, even though MTN went on to get reprieve from the Presidency by securing heavy slash of its hitherto outrageous fine. But President Buhari kept his cool and accommodated him, making tongues to keep wagging.
Soon after, the same chief of staff was again in the news, for gulping millions of taxpayers’ money on UK medical tourism. The Presidency found a way of absolving him of this latest claim of impropriety.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Lawal, soon joined the ranks of key government officials accused of mismanagement of public fund. In his own case, the Senate found him culpable in the alleged disappearance of N2 billion meant for Internally Displaced Persons.
He was ridiculously accused of blowing up N250 million for weeding of grasses to erect internally displaced persons’ tents in the North-East – a claim which even the Borno State Government testified before the Senate that there was nothing like such a contract executed, yet so much money disappeared.
The Senate recommended Lawal for prosecution, but President Buhari is looking for soft-landing for his beloved ‘pastor-friend’ from the North-East.
What gives you the impression that the presidential aides are incompetent?
Let’s examine the APC’s internal schisms. The Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nassir el-Ruffai, a member of Buhari’s political party (the All Progressives Congress) has even written a celebrated lengthy letter to President Buhari, accusing these Kitchen Cabinet members of this government of incompetence. Buhari’s aides, like the spokesmen, have become discredited in the eyes of critical observers for openly lying about President Muhammadu Buhari's (health) situation whilst in UK for 50 days.
Mr Femi Adesina and Mr Garba Shehu consistently lied that Buhari was hale and hearty, but on his return to Nigeria few days back President Buhari openly stated that he was so sick that he thought he could die, even as he thanked Nigerians for praying for his survival.
Another of Buhari’s aide, like the one that is called Special Assistant on Prosecution, Mr Obono Obla, has been accused of using his office to fight personal battles. The Senate even rejected his nomination by Buhari as a non-executive commissioner of the National Communications Commission, for lacking fitness to hold such a highly prised office.
That Special Assistant is facing so much criticism for dabbling into issues that he isn’t knowledgeable about. He has waged meaningless media battles to propound an issue that even affects the interest of his political zone, known as South-south. He (Obono Obla) shamelessly defended Buhari’s unorthodox decision to put the now substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onoghen on long probation in a scenario suspected to be a game-plan to bypass the south from occupying the plumb position, which the north had dominated for three decades. Both Onnoghen and Obla are from the same Cross River State.
Currently, he, Mr Obla, has been dragged to court in Abuja for using the name of Attorney-General of the Federation to demand the suspension of a director in the police service Commission, Mr Emma Ibe, over matters that falls outside his remit.
Ibe and the Staff Cooperative Society are in court with this special assistant. Joined as necessary defence parties are the offices of Attorney- General of the Federation and the Police Service Commission.
The plaintiffs claim against the defendants jointly and severally are as follows:
A declaration that the purported directives of the 1st defendant against the plaintiff conveyed through the letters dated the 20th June, 23rd June and 4th July, 2016 issued and signed by the second defendant to the Police Service Commission and the third defendant respectively were ill-motivated and in breach of the second defendant’s oath of office and Code of Conduct of a person in public service as enshrined in the seventh schedule, sections 172, 174(3) and the fifth schedule (section 9) part 1 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
They also want declaration that second defendant (Obono Obla) is not an officer in the department of the first defendant and, therefore, lacks the competence to act on behalf of the first defendant to initiate criminal proceedings against plaintiffs under section 174 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
They are praying for declaration that the purported directives given by the second defendant on behalf of the first defendant, directing the third defendant to re-open investigation into the case of IGP V Emmanuel Ibe & Ors, charge No: CR/102/2013 is null and void, having regards to section 174 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Also they want an order setting aside the directives issued by the second defendant purported on behalf of the first defendant to the third defendant or any other, concerning the plaintiff, the Police Service Commission Staff Multi-purpose Cooperative Society Ltd and charge No: CR/102/2013.
What’s your advice to the President?
President Muhammadu Buhari must shove aside these officials endangering any legacy his government may garner before his tenure ends in 2019. A stitch in time saves nine. The current administration has less than two years to go. Yet, the poverty rate amongst majority of Nigerians has ballooned. President Muhammadu Buhari must look for quality aides and advisers who have something concrete to give by way of offering technical and strategic solutions to the plethora of man-made problems afflicting Nigerians. There is no way the government can make significant impact if the majority of those surrounding the President have questionable loyalty to the change mantra of this government. Majority of the aides are only interested in enriching themselves to the detriment of corporate Nigeria and the citizenry.
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