President Buhari Needs Hard Talking Ministers
By Taju Tijani
“Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth” Proverbs 16:13 KJV.
President Mohammadu Buhari’s 100 days of warming the highest seat of power in the land has come and gone. We all still remember with quiet nostalgia that breezy May 29, 2015 as a day of audacious magic that brought back the optimism of our collective will for a new Nigeria. To make a success of rebranding and repositioning Nigeria as a true giant of Africa, President Mohammadu Buhari must begin to love his critics and also arm his ministers with freedom of dissenting views.
In retrospect, it is a documented fact that ministerial silence doomed ex-President Jonathan’s presidency. During his tenure, Jonathan was made a helpless prisoner to reason by a cabal of fruitcake acolyte fringe who refused to say the truth but rather supported many of his bad decisions that eventually catalyze the loss of his presidency.
His political peers, Ministers and advisers lost the ethical commitment to relentlessly and unflinchingly speak out against all odds, against ex-President Jonathan’s excesses, against all entrenched privileges, and even against all hegemonies – real, imagined and self-induced. There was no gesture of defiance to save Nigeria, no challengers to bring us back from demoralisation, no statement of hope to cheer the intellect, no voices in their angry cadences to speak truth to power, no radical declension to stop the structural malfunction of a treasonous PDP government that lived and survived on turbo-charged corruption of incomparable global scale.
As a result of the silence around him, Mr Goodluck Jonathan lost all radical determination to fix Nigeria. He made no concerted effort to swing the political pendulum away from suffocating corruption fetishism. PDP Governors became political predators and resource hyenas who developed demonic and covetous attitude toward the total cleansing of our commonwealth. Billions of money was stolen blindly, carted away blindly to foreign banks and with equal measure was spent blindly on opulent passing fancies like billion dollar mansions, foreign homes, private jets, prestige cars, watches, sexual orgies, women and even on facelift.
The brutal stupidity of blathering Okonjo-Iweala (Jonathan’s Prime Minister), her lies and effrontery of normalising the abnormal showed the moral death of one of our compliant educated conservatives in government. It was a person like Okonjo-Iweala who lost the moral and patriotic battle to stand up to Jonathan and make a hell of a noise about the breathtaking bankruptcy of Nigeria’s economic condition. Rather, she played the welder-in-chief and soldered the economy with unutterable lies, innuendoes, false statistics, financial abracadabra and the ultimate insulting prattle like “the economy is fine.”
Rather than advise ex- President Goodluck Jonathan on the mood of the nation, his advisers fooled him with the idea that adversarial political messages against the person of President Mohammadu Buhari will swing the vote for him. But alas, Nigerians were ready to decide the Manichean struggle between integrity and banality, good and evil, freedom and slavery and the desire to change from the continuity of an evil administration. Voters voting pattern at the presidential poll was shaped by the sheer rational brutality and memory of 16 long years of PDP turning Nigeria into oasis of decadence, draught and economic paralysis. The soul of Nigeria was left in the hands of plutocratic technocrats and these hounds swallowed our riches in one gulp.
Even Femi Fani-Kayode, a commentator well known for inflated idea of his own brilliance, documented multiple insecurities, intellectual hooliganism, polemical rage, toxic propaganda, duplicitous effusions, errand boy mentality, hokey pokey game of political thrones, hectoring rhetoric, shifting allegiance, emergency cross-bearer for Jonathan’s sinking political roof and Pharisaic indulgence all combined to be more of moral hazard to the polity than the plan to capture hearts and minds through a monstrous spin of lies, slander, demonisation, defamation, fantasy and invalidated charges against President Mohammadu Buhari.
There was stark departure of collective outcry to speak truth to power and call former President Goodluck Jonathan to order on his hideous excesses. This is where President Mohammadu Buhari must embrace a timely lesson on governance. If indeed it is true according to the proverbs above that kings value the man who speaks the truth, then President Buhari must listen more to his future outspoken aides, critics and enemies more than his flatterers who want one favour or another.
What we want is ministers who will be courageous and patriotic enough to speak truth to power if the president is going adrift in his change agenda. We want ministers and advisers who will be audacious enough to trespass their turf by articulating cold truth without fear of retribution. Pursed lips or resignation to cowardice as happened during the time of ex- President Goodluck Jonathan among his ministers and aides should be seen as a crime against the voters who voted for change. Truth telling should no longer be silenced by material indulgence. Already, there is public outcry against President Mohammadu Buhari’s lopsided appointments, selective justice on war against corruption, his religious bigotry and even militarism.
He has to listen to these critics and make necessary correction. Nigerians would prefer a listening president who will respect the opinions and sentiments of internal and external critics who speak out against aberrations that might destroy the democratic renewal and reconstruction we all have been yearning for in the past 16 years. Rather than cosy up to his flatterers, he should rather warm up to his critics and respond to constructive ones with courage and conviction and admission of wrong in the true spirit of the time.
If indeed integrity and honesty are the twin pillars of President Mohammadu Buhari’s change administration, then these values must be elastic enough to accommodate dissenting voices and irritating critics who may have valid reasons to disagree with his public policy formulations. His Ministers and advisers who are closer to him must enjoy the liberty to express their mind when things are going wrong with the ship of state. The ongoing tragic emblem where appointed government officials are turn into demagogues, see no evil and speak no evil zombies should now be a thing of the past. The President should not be blindsided by sweet talk alone he also needs hard talk. That is the true meaning of leadership.