How President Muhammadu Buhari can Redeem his Battered Image

by Jude Obuseh

President Muhammdu Buhari’s popularity rating must be currently at its lowest ebb, consequent to the plethora of debilitating crisis situations his administration is being forced to grapple with.

Sequel to a mishmash of searing challenges such as, an escalating economic imbroglio, worsened by a COVID-19 induced recession; worsening state of insecurity in the form of Boko Haram insurgency, armed banditry, herders-farmers clashes; growing animosities among ethnic, religious and other primordial groups; a battered international image, consequent to avoidable internal administrative and foreign policy summersaults; centrifugal strains, due to secessionist agitations by ethnic nationalist groups, alongside other visceral challenges to the corporate existence of the Nigerian State by irredentist groups, Mr. President must be wallowing in a cesspool of confusion.

The foregoing developments have etched serious question marks on the president’s competence to continue captaining the country’s ship of state. Simply put, many Nigerians believe their president has failed to redeem the promises he made to them in 2014 and 2019, the two occasions when he sought their mandate to manage their affairs; a collective conviction that since assuming office as the country’s Commander-in-Chief, Nigeria has not exited the Rubicon of stagnation, hopelessness and underdevelopment the country wallowed in prior to Buhari’s assumption of duties as the country’s Commander-in-Chief.

For a president, whose pre-election campaign was anchored on promises to arrest insecurity, defeat corruption, develop critical infrastructure and provide better living conditions for the populace, as encapsulated under his “SEA” (Security, Economy and Ant-Corruption) Agenda, Mr. President cannot be said to have fared better than his predecessors.

However, in the face of the growing disenchantment against Buhari’s Presidency, which has led to calls in some quarters for his outright resignation, consequent to his perceived poor stewardship, there’s still room for him to redeem his badly battered image. The following tips, which are gleaned from some of the pertinent issues at the heart of the general angst against Mr. President, will go a long way in helping restore public confidence in his leadership, all things being equal.

Take Full Charge of Governance: Mr. President must begin to practically run the affairs of Nigeria as her popularly elected Commander-in-Chief, and not as a mere figurehead. Nigerians want to see a president that is truly in charge, not one that seems aloof from the nation’s affairs.

Nigerians want to see a leader who commands from the front, not a rubberstamp introvert that relies on courtiers and other hangers-on in decision-making. Nigerians want to see a president who communicates with them regularly, not one who delegates his aides to respond to urgent national questions. Nigerians want to see a president who wants to make amends for all his past failings; a born-again president they can relate with and trust. Mr. President must begin to act more to disprove the theory in some quarters that he is “a clone from Niger Republic”.

Review Cabinet Appointments: The President should proceed to immediately review his disjointed cabinet and other principal federal appointments to reflect federal character by recruiting the most competent hands around, irrespective of political, ethnic or other primordial considerations, to help him actualize his administration’s lofty policy goals.

A situation where most of the country’s principal ministries, departments and security agencies are exclusively headed by Mr. President’s Hausa-Fulani kinsmen and cronies, at the expense of more qualified Nigerians of other ethnic groups, is untenable in a true federal state, and accounts for the barrage of charges of nepotism and cronyism leveled against him by the court of public opinion.

The truth is that there are several underperforming ministers and redundant political aides, appointed on the grounds of primeval considerations by Mr. President, who should be summarily sacked without further ado for leading his administration into the cul-de-sac it currently wallows in. The president needs competent, dedicated, trustworthy lieutenants in these perilous times, not vacillating saboteurs who do not share his passion and vision for the country.

Check The Spate of Insecurity: The worsening security situation in the country, which has witnessed an escalation in the activities of armed bandits, terrorists groups and other forces of violence killing, maiming, kidnapping and spreading terror across the country unchecked, is at the head of the president’s dwindling popularity rating.

A paradigm shift in the administration and structuring of the country’s security architecture will suffice as the best way going forward. The President must accept that it is time to try out newer, more modern approaches to the country’s security administration. In this wise, the Service Chiefs, who have obviously outlived their usefulness should be immediately removed and replaced with more competent hands, having terribly failed to arrest the escalating state of insecurity in the country. There is no need to keep keeping faith in dead woods with nothing more to offer. The time has come to try out other hands with fresher ideas.

Restructure the Federation: Mr. President’s most vociferous critics belong to the school of thought that the country’s structural incongruities are at the root of its contemporary economic, security, political, social and administrative challenges, including resource distribution. For this crop of Nigerians, the country can only move forward if the faulty political structures, through which the country is administered, are revamped to reflect the country’s federal character.

Mr. President will become an instant hero if he can dare the odds by kick starting the processes of restructuring the country by either organizing a Sovereign National Conference where the terms of a new Nigerian Union would be discussed, or adopting the reports of earlier national political reform confabs which have tenable, feasible templates on how to properly reconfigure the Nigerian union on the principles of equity, Justice and fair play.

Arrest Economic Decline: The debilitating effects on the populace of the country’s economic downturns under Mr. President’s watch cannot be overemphasized; a development that has resulted in the recent rating of the country as the “poverty capital of the world”, displacing India; a toga that is as shameful as it is unacceptable, considering the country’s undeniably huge economic potentials, alongside the fact that the resuscitation of the economy was one of the major pivots of Mr. President’s campaigns in 2014 and 2019.

Mr. President and his lieutenants must stop blaming phantoms such as the fiscal recklessness of preceding administrations, dwindling oil prices, and the unpredictability of local and external market forces for the country’s economic woes. As the incumbent, the onus rests directly on Mr. President to rally his economic advisory team to hash out effective strategies to correct the supposed mistakes of the past and check the contemporary vagaries of the much maligned market forces. Having promised to do better than his predecessors if given the mandate, Mr. President should be seen walking his talk.

Clamp Down On Corruption: Beyond mere rhetoric, Mr. President’s mantra of “zero tolerance for corruption” should be seen to be practically driving his administration’s war on graft. His administration must ensure that corrupt individuals, no matter how highly placed, including serving government officials, most especially member of his cabinet, political allies as well as cronies, and not only opposition members, are made to face the full brunt of the law when found wanting. He must ensure that there are no sacred cows, contrary to the views in some quarters that his anti-graft efforts are vindictive, selective and propagandistic.

The truth is that there are several corruption cases in Nigeria that are yet to see the light of day under President Buhari’s watch, despite the hype that have accompanied them, which is an indictment on his anti-graft efforts. Apart from a sprinkling of instances, most of which are yet to be concluded, where some top government officials were indicted for alleged corrupt practices, Mr. President’s war on graft is light years away from being won.

Be Tolerant Of Criticism/Opposition: The seeming intolerant disposition of PMB’s administration to opposing views has pitted it against a large segment of the populace, most especially the media – traditional and social. The penchant of the administration to interpret any criticism of its policies – good or bad – from an adversarial standpoint creates the impression that it is intolerant of any form of opposition, real or imagined; a confrontational stance that has prevented it from noting its shortcoming and learning from them.

As an expression of goodwill and proof of its new demeanour, the PMB-led administration must henceforth stop the intimidation of opposition groups through outright proscription, arrest and imprisonment of their members; stop muzzling the press through the enactment of repressive laws meant to stifle freedom of expression; stop its penchant for slamming and, in some cases, placing blanket bans on peaceful, legitimate protests, alongside halting other overt and covert attempts to check any perceived challenge to its authority.

In all, Mr. President stands to lose nothing by making efforts towards redeeming his badly soiled image and ultimately leaving a befitting legacy behind that would become a building block for future occupants of the Aso Rock Villa. He might have made some seemingly disastrous errors since the onset of his stewardship, but there’s still a lot of room for redemption.

Considering the goodwill Mr. President enjoyed when he rode to power in 2015, the onus rests directly on him to seek ways of correcting his mistakes by meeting the aspirations of the Nigerian electorate who mandated him on two occasions to rescue them from the black hole of hopelessness, stagnation and underdevelopment they currently wallow in, and bring them into a new era of peace and prosperity; mandates he has so far failed to justify.

PMB can still make history!


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