The way the cookies crumble, By Zainab Suleiman Okino

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The latest scandal in President Buhari’s crumbling governance structure is the open squabble over schedule of duties between the National Security Adviser, Mohammed Babagana Monguno and the all-powerful Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, in a series of scandals, controversies, and confusion that have dogged this administration. This time, as it has been observed over time, it is a question of who the service chiefs should report to and take orders from, between the chief of staff and the National Security Adviser.

A crisis does not consume a government in one day; it is always in many folds, unravelling at different times and finally snowballing into a conflagration capable of exposing—and possibly consuming it. The APC-led government seems to be in that phase now.

Just like in the days of the PDP, which faced series of self-inflicted problems, so it is today with the ruling APC.  The President Obasanjo- Vice President Atiku quarrel during the PDP primaries of 2003, shook the party to its foundation but when Obasanjo single-handedly picked Umaru Yar’adua as president and Goodluck Jonathan as Vice president, the consequence of that irrational decision led to Jonathan becoming president after the death of Yar’adua leading to Jonathan’s mishandling of the affairs of the party and the country, and the final loss of power to the opposition.

But unlike the PDP government, which had in Obasanjo a hands-on leader, with effective control of government and party machinery, in President Buhari, there is no such control and the man himself is neither proactive nor pragmatic. Thus, potshots are thrown at each other by those in government and at the party level without anybody calling them to order. Now, the party is in disarray, governance suffers, while the nation’s ship is rudderless and being wrecked slowly.   

I imagine the emotions of those in line to take over from the service chiefs who have either attained the compulsory age of retirement or have spent mandatory 35 years in service according to service rules and extant laws, but have remained in office after the renewal of their terms. The idea of retirement is for others to climb the ladder of progression, but in the current dispensation, once appointed, you stay put forever, while others murmur within the confines of their homes. 

In over 20 years of democratic rule, no service chief has ever completed four whole years with an elected president, not to talk of a renewal of terms over and over.

 However, with a Buhari presidency, where anything goes, and without a standard procedure, the current service chiefs would go down in history as the longest serving set of service chiefs. The story is also the same with some ministers who have been in government since inception even though some have performed so poorly.

 Therefore, when Premium Times, in an exclusive story, exposed General Monguno’s leaked memo complaining about the usurpation of his powers by Abba Kyari, it was a confirmation of what had been public knowledge and discussed in hushed voices over the years. But because the government can’t be bothered about public opinion, not even the protest calling for the sack of the same service chiefs, has been responded to except an advisory.

As comatose as things are at the highest echelon, so it is at the ruling party hierarchy and other facets of our national life.

The APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has been in the eye of the storm for months over his mismanagement of the affairs of the party and his knack to curry trouble. The erstwhile populist labour activist has become a persona non grata even in his home state of Edo and at the party headquarters, where he presides. The groundswell of opposition against him is so much, he could not go to his state without being protected by the army, even as protests were organized calling on him to resign. 

This week, his trouble was further ignited from the headquarters of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, which described him (Oshiomhole) as “intolerant” and “incompetent” noting further that “APC is not a functional political party”. Saliu Lukman, the Director General of the forum accused the NWC of the APC under Osiomhole as a “very efficient Trojan horse that opens the backdoor for electoral victory to our political opponents”. Thus the hard-talking critic and activist is now a drowning man, hinging his survival on the president who is neither talking to warrying parties in the “fight” nor acting well to save his party and the man he supported to emerge as chairman.   

The civil service is not immune from the incompetence of the government, contrary to the expectation of the electorate who gave Buhari massive support especially in 2015. A recent report by Daily Trust on the grounding of the Federal Character Commission is heart-breaking. The FCC is said to be operating with only one commissioner (who is the acting chairman) out of the 37 that should be in place at any particular time and contrary to the Federal Character Act. The 36 other members (now out of the commission) are said to have served their tenures or retired. For God’s sake, what does it take to make political appointments among the millions that voted for the president? Is it not absurd that among these voters, the president could only appoint those he knows, as he himself admitted? Intentionally or inadvertently, this anomaly at the FCC has since engendered another problem of employments to MDAs without recourse to spread, balance, fairness and equity. As a matter of fact, employments at MDAs are allegedly being sold to the highest bidders. The jobs are hardly advertised, and even when they do, to fulfil all righteousness, letters of appointment are discreetly issued to those who can afford to pay. In the past it was about having the right connection; now you need the connection and the cash.

Meanwhile, according to the 1999 Constitution, sections 14 and 153, the FCC is mandated to “work out an equitable formula, subject to the approval of the National Assembly, for distribution of all cadres of posts in the public service of the federation and of the states, the Armed forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force, other government security agencies and government-owned companies/parastatals of the states” among other provisions bordering on “principle of proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, and political posts”.

So, after feigning ignorance and pretending all was well,  the APC hierarchy finally accepted our existential threat, that is that Nigeria is the third most terrorized country in the world and Boko Haram is very much alive and thriving and not technically defeated, the same way the “progressives” have come to the realization that their party is “not functional”. Lies have short lifespan no matter how colourfully coated. This is what party and government supporters are just coming to terms with. Not even during the military era did we witness this level of degeneration in governance and administration, yet no government in Nigeria had been reposed with trust like the Buhari government.

The APC government like its predecessor, the PDP, would soon realise that taking people for granted has a price, and of course consequences; and that propaganda has its limit. The government needs to be more sensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of the citizens, otherwise the day of reckoning might come sooner than expected.