President Muhammadu Buhari: One Week After - by Fola Ojo

He was crowned as the set-man in charge of all of Nigeria in a fanfare just one week ago. The lives and destinies of Nigerians home and abroad are now under the presidential control of one man, Muhammadu Buhari, for the next four years. Although piercing thorns may not necessarily be the adornments of his presidential crown, his route for the next four years will be laced with botheration.

The Nigerian economy we all know is as not as peachy and perky. Unfortunately, it is the pivot which will determine how far Buhari can launch out to effect the CHANGE he has promised. But how has President Buhari fared in his first week in office? It depends on who you ask.

Pain is pervasive and at an all-time high. There is no major city spared of agony in Nigeria and we see it daily on the street. Citizens are crying endlessly, businesses are sighing heavily, and some state governors who can’t pay workers’ salaries are still wailing; times are just too harrowing for them and their agenda for the people. But I am still very hopeful that Buhari will alleviate our pains and sufferings to the best of his efforts.

The President by now must have caught a close glimpse of where Nigeria is across the board. A bulk of the information and some misinformation have already been tossed in the public domain for our perusal. One sitting governor told me one-on-one on Monday that Nigeria needed a lot of prayers because, according to him, “the economy is very weak, and the road ahead of us is rough. Among other things that will have to be done, oil subsidy has to be removed…” for the Nigerian economy to be far removed from turbulence. Based on facts available, prudent decisions will be made in coming days.

The business of leadership is not designed to satisfy a clique and class but to guarantee relief and opportunities for ordinary people to get ahead. During his inauguration, the President made a statement that immediately roared into a buzz all over the world. “I belong to everybody, and I belong to nobody”. It was a sonorous and mellifluous music that many ears had been itching to hear. Handclaps which went slam-bang and ear-splitting were more for the last part of the line: “… I belong to nobody.”

The monster that has messed up Nigeria to date is the cabal called “NOBODY” whose modus operandi of doing business is always sinister and anti-people. Some of the “NOBODY” we probably know; and many of them are faceless. But what does it mean to “belong to nobody”? It only means that President Buhari is audaciously announcing that he will not be controlled, pushed and shoved around by special and cabalistic interests domestic or foreign. “NOBODY” is ANYBODY who may be trying to control EVERYBODY including Buhari. They are lawless, evil agenda-driven and unscrupulous elements special interests. They are those who specialise in frauds, frivolities and deliberate acts of disorderliness. They are those who will lobby and pressure to put square pegs in round holes; driving to make unqualified people hold lofty positions; and with outstretched arms aggressively press for returns on their “investments”. “NOBODY” steals EVERYBODY’S money and makes EVERYBODY’s life become miserable.

It was the band of “NOBODY” that crashed our economy, crashed our refineries, crashed NEPA, crashed Nigeria Airways and crashed the railways; and loves to crash some more as long as he is not affected. “NOBODY” drains our foreign reserves, and depletes our domestic savings. “NOBODY” is an arch-enemy of Nigeria’s progress, and Buhari’s statement was a warning shot to them. Whether they are family members or friends who donated to his campaign, “NOBODY” should not expect any special treatment from this President. He’s made it clear enough that he belongs to everybody, but owned by NOBODY. This statement for me is a sign of good things to come.

When some overzealous security operatives at some of our airports harassed some vacationing members of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, Buhari immediately pulled back the leash on the dogs hunting in their own self-designed games. Even if anyone of those fellas travelling out was the “NOBODY” Buhari was talking about, due process of the law will have to be pursued to compel them to answer some questions; not just a reengineering of some arbitrary, jungle-justice shenanigans that violate people’s rights and freedom. Buhari’s subtle message was that this is not a season for revenge, but for rebuilding of a nation with big cracks in its walls. For me and many Nigerians, this is another sign of good things to come.

When the Presidency announced Femi Adesina and Shehu Garba as its spokesmen, some voices including those of some avowed and unapologetic Buharists pilloried the move calling it wasteful and unnecessary duplication of duty. My friends who don’t appreciate the move must understand that the world has changed immensely, and the office of the President cannot be manned by just two people. Media arts have gone beyond issuing press releases, organising sporadic press conferences where men speak endlessly in bombastic postures, or tottering around in unbridled Facebook journalism. Public and media relations, from my 30 years experience, is a lot of work that helps in building the public perception of a government. Any administration that loses the perception war will lose all wars. Media and communication guru and ex-chief of The SUN newspapers, Mike Awoyinfa, told me in Lagos that the appointments of Adesina and Shehu are very intelligent moves. “These are not appointments made as favours for political supporters; these are sensible moves. This President needs an army of internet and media support and whatever is done in developed countries of the world should be replicated here to help President Buhari. Adesina and Shehu are very trusted hands who will do a good job”, Awoyinfa told me.

I don’t know what the vision of Buhari’s media team is; I suspect that the social media will be a sizeable gulp of new internet-savvy hands because of its vastness and temerity. Any government can be built up and pulled down through the social media. Barack Obama’s White House a few years ago had about 19 people running the social media arm alone. Internet-savvy aides were drafted to produce a series of videos, digital op-ed, Facebook and Twitter posts to capture a larger audience than the mainstream media’s shrinking number of viewers and readers. These appointments, for me, are signs of good things to come.

During the electioneering, Buhari had promised that he alongside his deputy would decl0are their assets publicly. But when the declaration came in a one-liner press statement, I was unhappy. That was not what many of us had expected. The Code of Conduct Bureau tried to cool down the heat a bit when it said that even though the constitution makes it clear that the agency should make available to the citizens the assets declared by public officials, the same law vested the National Assembly with the power to decide the terms and conditions for making such materials public. I trust Buhari and Osinbajo that they have nothing to hide now, or trying to shield some information in the future. The President and the deputy should go one step further by making their assets truly public; and it will only reinforce a lifestyle of transparency for which Buhari is known. This should also qualify as a sign of good things to come, but the signs are too fuzzy and hazy. In this area, I score the Presidency just an ordinary pass. Buhari and Osinbajo will lose nothing by letting all his assets hang out for all to see.