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Who really is the Presidency?



Who really is the Presidency?

It’s not doing what is right that’s hard for a President. It’s knowing what is right.” –Lyndon Johnson



Journalists are fundamentally trained to ask questions with a view to drawing out an answer for the story to be made. Oftentimes, the journalists ask stimulating questions deliberately to draw out the difficult interviewee.

Some hard to penetrate interviewee evade questions and often end up throwing questions back at the journalists. Rarely does an interviewee’s question to journalist make news unless it is asked hypothetically.

It is perhaps in this category that one can situate the weird question from the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Lawal Babachir, to State House journalists last week Wednesday.

It was one of the few occasions that an interviewee’s throwback question make news not for the answer but due to its oddity. As the embattled SGF was asked of his suspension he asked back ‘suspended by whom’? Which the reporter replied by the Presidency and he again asked the reporters: “Who is the Presidency?” To the journalists it is puzzling and nothing could be a bigger story that a man who should know as the scribe of the government, a man who indeed signs most government official statements and who is perceived to belong to the almighty cabal from where authorities flow, is querying who the Presidency is.

Could it be that the SGF knows more than the reporters about the Presidency to warrant such response? Did he feel that the President he knows could not have suspended him that way? Was he thinking like most Villa watchers that some forces within the system may have hijacked the show to make him a scapegoat?

Even the journalists have not been able to provide an answer to the question, not that they are not aware that in the operational presidential system the Presidency begins and ends in the president, but going by happenings in the corridor of power lately, that question from an insider should not just be waved aside. Never in the history of Nigeria Presidency has occupants of the seat of power been this divided and uncoordinated.

Even in the early age of this democracy when then President Olusegun Obasanjo and his vice, Atiku Abubakar, literally tore apart the Presidency during their squabbles their aides remained focused as they guided the seat of power ensuring that the political bad blood then never overflew to upset the system. But what political watchers have been witnessing with this Presidency in the last two years of this administration shows everything but cohesion and unanimity.

The no-nonsense and brusque image of President Buhari that many Nigerians desired to see and feel never came in the running of the seat of power in the last 23 months.

This clear show of ineffectiveness at the Presidency derives largely from the way and manner they were recruited. The mawkishness of religion, tribe and geography took front seat in requirement for the job than merit. Most of the people found themselves where they are knowing they were not qualified but came to protect an interest.

In trying to protect this narrow interest they arrogantly run afoul of the national and broader interests. Few weeks before the inauguration of Buhari Presidency in 2015, a domestic assistant without consulting media practitioners working with them ordered AIT crew out of the coverage of pre-inauguration events.

The uproar created by that act died when the crew were recalled after some interventions but it already created some panic of what was to come especially given the unfriendly past of the president and the media.

Exactly two years after that ugly incident, a Chief Security officer (CSO) to the president, one Bashir Abubakar, without recourse again to the media chieftains in the Presidency, ordered the sack of the accredited Punch Correspondent at the Villa, Olalekan Adetayo, after interrogating him. The media office in the Villa quickly disowned the action, saying they were not consulted.

The media people know too well that there is really no auspicious time for a government to fight journalists and win more so coming from an already wobbling Presidency.

The action was reversed but not without some damage on the expected cohesion and solidity of the highest seat of power in the land. The disregard of the media office by the CSO brings to the fore the place of media in this regime.

Undeniably, the only department in the Presidency that one can talk of square pegs in square whole in terms of personnel both in experience and qualification is the media.

Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu were once President of the Guild of Editors and they both rose through the rank in the newsroom to be Managing Directors of top media houses. If the Villa pick in all the departments had been like the media department, perhaps the situation would have been different.

The CSO who didn’t find them respectful enough to be consulted on matters concerning media would probably not have reached line editor position in the newsroom where these men held sway.

He probably sees Adesina and Garba as press boys the way he sees the reporters. But that is what you get when sentiment drives the choice of who occupies sensitive positions.

That is what you get when a government in a plural environment is “one sided” if I may borrow the words of the angry Catholic Bishop of Gboko in Benue State, Rev (Dr.) William Avenya whose house and parish were desecrated by some soldiers who went in search of weapon in Bishop’s house.

When former President Obasanjo as-sembled his Presidency in 1999 and placed it in the hands of experienced technocrat Ufot Ekaete as SGF and a security guru Major General Abdullahi Mohammad (rtd) as Chief of Staff, this type of mess never happened.

Presidency was intact and focussed. That was when religion and tribe did not play any role in determining who gets what. Mohammed, the Chief of Staff, came from Kogi State; Ekaette came from Akwa Ibom and the President came from Ogun State.

More than any other factor, their experience and record of service informed their choice not their religion or tribe. Under such set up there couldn’t have been any question as to who is the Presidency as is the case now.

As CEO of any organisation whether business or politics if you misstep in your choice of personnel your journey to failure would be swift and that is exactly what our president is experiencing now.

Even if the president health is not at its best as it now seems, if he had assembled a good team around him, the effect would not have been as glaring as we are seeing.

That perhaps is the import of Governor Nasir el Rufai’s memo which was politicized and misconstrued. By now after two years in office, President Buhari would be in complete agreement with the former US President Thomas Jefferson that “No man will ever carry out of the Presidency the reputation which carried him into it.”

When record keepers compile two years of Buhari Presidency they would be unanimous that he means well for Nigeria but they would be harsh on him regarding his choice of wrong and inappropriate hands amidst many great egg heads in the country.

The good thing is that he still has great opportunity to correct his mistakes, after all the journey is just half way gone. He must eschew bigotry and any form of intolerance against opposing views.

To achieve this however the President must first find a way to navigate the murky waters of the mystery cabal team who from all indications have successfully seized the arena. God help us.

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