The Wait for Special Advisers, Buhari Foreign Trips and Our Lack of Pregnancy

“I write to request for your kind consideration and approval of the distinguished members of the Senate of the Federal Republic to appoint 15 special advisers as prescribed in Section 151(2-3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). While trusting that this exercise will receive the traditional prompt attention of the Senate, please accept, Mr. President, the assurance of my highest consideration.”

Those were some of the words contained in President Buhari’s letter to the last senate headed by Senator David Mark, dated the 2 day of June 2015. The following day, June 3, the President’s request “receive(d) the traditional prompt attention of the Senate”. But alas, the appointments have received the traditional slow attention of the President.

Up till date, exactly 6 months and 3 days, the President has only appointed 1 of the 15 Special Advisers he requested approval for. Why this delay? I don’t understand; especially when I look at it against the backdrop of the urgency contained in the President’s letter seeking for the Senate’s approval. Why will a man who has contested for the president 4 times in 12 years find it so difficult in finding 14 Nigerians in advising him?

Section 151(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended says “The President may appoint any person as a Special Adviser to assist him in the performance of his functions.” I believe this power is discretional and as such the President may choose not to have Advisers. I also believe that the president has chosen to have advisers that is why he asked for the Senate approval. Or has he changed his mind?

The framers of our constitution were well aware of the enormous responsibilities the President of Nigeria will have, this is why a constitutional provision was made for the President to have Special Advisers who will assist him in the performance of his functions. The continuous refusal of the President to appoint Special Advisers is communicating to us that we have got a President who thinks he knows it all and can do it all. But no one knows it all and no one can do it all.

Personally, I had expected an improvement in this area. I have always been appalled with what Special Advisers do in real life. They had become a bunch of eggheads who use their intelligence and imagination to spin commentaries that will suit the whims and caprices of their Master, the President. They are a bunch of yes-men who spend their entire time parroting the President’s virtues and explaining his vices to look like virtues.

An ideal meeting with SA’s, PA’s and SSA’s should be an intellectual wrestlemania: disagreeing with the President, with hard facts and data flying around, delivered with clinical erudition and then agreeing and forming an indivisible front. But this is not what we have seen in past administrations.

SA’s, PA’s and SSA’s gather round the President to chant “yes sir” like a bunch of apprentice dibias gathering round the shrine of Amadioha. They are errand boys, period. I believe strongly that if a President fails, his Advisers should be crucified. They failed to advise the president right. And if they claim the President didn’t listen, they should have resigned in protest.

So I expected PMB to reform this by giving more latitude to the advisers to perform, but it seems things might even be worst. President Buhari has begun by showing he doesn’t even need them. By the time they are appointed, the message must have sunk in; and the ritual of gathering round the President to chant “yes sir” will continue.

The President should appoint his Special Advisers soon. The wait is getting too long. And please this time around, we need competent and fearless people, not a bunch of choristers singing the Responsorial Psalm of the President.

On the President incessant foreign trips. Every President must travel abroad. That is part of governance. The world is a global community and we can claim to be a member of this global community by having a president who sits at our backyard always.

But I hope the President understands that there is a political and socio economic flip side to all of this. The President should do more of travelling inbroad than abroad. What he is looking for in Sokoto might just be in his Shokoto.

And I hope what happened to him recently in France were there was no welcome Party to greet him is instructive. President Buhari by his unending frequent travel is breaking one of the laws of power: “Too much circulation makes the price go down; the more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear.”

No powerful President who is serious about governance travels up to 12 times in 6 months like our dear President has done. The records are there. Check it. Is Vice President Osibanjo not eminently qualified to represent him in some of these meetings?

The wheel of this government is spinning too slowly. Those who are asking us to be patient should know that patience is a verb not a noun. Patience is what you do after you have done what you should do. Patience is what a farmer does after he has sown. Patience is what a woman does after she has gotten pregnant.

We know some things take time. You can’t get a baby in 1 month by getting 9 women pregnant; but you can’t expect to get a baby even in 12 months if you have not impregnated a woman. Before you ask us to be patient, show us the road map, show us the economic policies, show us the blueprint, show us the plans, and show us where you have sown… then we will patiently wait for the harvest. Show us the pregnancy and will endure the gestation period.

Mr President, focus and impregnate us.

First Baba Isa (FBI) writes from Abuja

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