One baffling feature of the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration since 2015 has been the rate of discord between cabinet members and agencies of government under them.
We recall the sting operations conducted on the homes of judges of the Supreme and Appeal Courts during the first tenure of President Buhari. That raid eventually took out the Chief Justice of the Federation at that time, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
He was the principal target. Other judges were literally dragged on the floor, but at the end of the day, many of them walked away unscathed, beyond the media blitz that attended the invasion of their private homes by the Department of State Services (DSS).
We recall also that when the now suspended acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, was presented to the Senate by Buhari for confirmation some years ago, Magu failed the screening ostensibly because of a damning report on him by the Department of State Services (DSS).
All efforts by Buhari to push Magu through failed. He remained in acting capacity until his removal from office last week.
While the Magu show was ongoing at the Special Presidential Investigation Panel in Aso Villa, the nation was also being buffeted with a show of shame between the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio and a former Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Ms. Joy Nunieh, over very sundry issues ranging from corruption to the mundane.
We are also aware that part of the problems of Magu is traced to inter-agency rivalry and his failure to subordinate himself to the supervision of Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
Also of note was the battles at the National Assembly that nearly derailed the government between 2015 and 2019.
Although, that is now in the past, but there is no doubt that the bickering within the government, dominated by the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the executive to the National Assembly, still lingers.
Not quite long ago, the APC itself was in tumoil. That rage consumed the National Chairman of the party, Adams Oshiomhole and all members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling party.
It also cost the APC Edo State, where Governor Godwin Obaseki left the party for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after his disqualification by APC’s governorship aspirants’ screening committee.
Again, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), is currently at war with the National Assembly over the employment of 774,000 adhoc workers approved by the Federal Government.
At the same time, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is also at daggers drawn with the National Assembly over the agency’s financial activities. All over the place, the problem is the same.
Confusion reigns in the air in the government with everybody sounding as an Island of his own in a government controlled by one political party. We are aware that robust engagements are part of the ingredients of a healthy democracy.
We had expected that the opposition PDP would engage in robust engagements with APC, the party in power. But, unfortunately, that has not been the case. Rather, there are multiple civil wars raging within the party and the cabinet members and even within the ministers.
There is open disobedience by government agencies to directives by their supervising ministries and ministers.
We find it difficult to believe that both the National Assembly and the executive are of the same party. More confounding is that the ministers and other agencies that are squabbling internally are people appointed by this same government. The quarrels have gone from the important to the not-so-important and even the useless and shameful.
Although we know that this is a presidential system of government, but that does not remove the fact that there is collective responsibility in government. The theory of Collective Responsibility is the convention that has been held in governance since the 18th century.
Although, it is often held as a convention for governments that run parliamentary system, it is nonetheless a principle that is practiced all over the world where government exists.
The theory presupposes that individual members of the government are held accountable for the actions and decisions of government as a whole.
In governments that run the parliamentary system such as the United Kingdom, the Institute for Governance in the country stresses “the principle that ministers should be able to have free and frank discussions prior to coming to a collective decision, and that these discussions should remain confidential.
“Second, that once a position has been agreed in Cabinet, all ministers are expected to abide by that position and vote with the government, or else resign from office.”
Further, it stated that members of the government should publicly support government policies, even if they are opposed to such. But that seems alien to the Buhari government and its key players.
Rather than move as a collective unit, what Nigerians see every day is bickering, mudslinging and dog eating dog, to borrow the words of Ibrahim Magu.
What this means is that the Buhari government is seen as one discordant bunch, where anybody can do anything as he pleases. That needs to be tamed for the overall health of the government and the people of the country.
We believe very strongly that the president needs to call his officers to order so as to give his government a semblance of coordination. Until that is done, the impression before Nigerians is one of a government in disarray.
That is neither good for the image of the government nor that of the country.