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Buhari’s Trapped Vehicle Of “Change”

BALA DAN ABU e-mail: bala.danabu@theunion.com.ng

He lived in a village next to mine. He is now dead. But his remarkable reputation of a slow and careful driver has lived long after him. His name was Idris but that name eventually faded out of people’s memory and yielded place for Baba Go Slow, the sobriquet which his approach to his job, first as tipper lorry driver and later Peugeot Saloon car, earned for him.

Passengers preferred his style of driving and always waited for him. Some would even cancel or postpone their trips if Baba Go Slow was not on the road. But that was in those days when the world was not in a hurry and the speed at which people got to their destinations didn’t matter much more than just getting there. Today speed and safety are in acute competition and most people seem to be queuing behind speed as the preferred option when on an important journey, hoping that God will take care of the risk that comes with that option. The memory of that Baba Go Slow from the village next to mine came back recently as the controversy over President Muhammadu Buhari’s slow approach to the job of governing the country raged. I noticed an overwhelming rejection of his slow style by the Nigerian public.

People are angry and complaining that nearly forty days after he was sworn in as President and Commander-in- Chief of the armed forces, Buhari has been unable to make even the basic appointments. He has ignored the problem of fuel scarcity which only required a meeting of stakeholders. His vehicle of “change” is apparently trapped. The situation is not also helped by President Buhari’s open confession that age will be a big constraint against his performance as President.

Although Femi Adesina, the President’s spokesman, has done a good job of trying to turn around that obvious Presidential gaffe, the impression created is not completely erased. The sluggishness that has characterised the beginning of the administration’s four-year journey says a lot about the rest of the road. So, there is legitimate cause for apprehension. Yet, I believe it is premature to dismiss Buhari as unlikely to do a good job just because he has not started out with the speed that Nigerians are craving for. I have read some comments in the papers expressing despondency and even counselling Nigerians against expecting much from Buhari.

That position is also premature. It is too early in the day to give up hope on Buhari. I am of the opinion that the tempo of activities will gather momentum with time. The greatest problem of the Buhari administration is that he did not expect to win the election and so came in with no blueprint for forming a government. What it had was a comprehensive plan for post-election protests and litigations. This became irrelevant as soon as victory fell on his laps. What this suggests is that Buhari and his political party deserve our sympathy rather than condemnation. We should allow them time to sort themselves out. All the quarrels in the party over positions at the National Assembly and the delay in the appointment of ministers are all a product of their unpreparedness for governance. In addition, Buhari needs to be a lot more careful in his choice of people to help him govern.

We must not forget that his reputation is built on his anti-corruption posture. In our country today, politicians whose hands are untainted are very few. His political Party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, doest have too many of them either. So Buhari has the burden of doing thorough background checks on the people he might consider for appointment. This takes time and a lot of effort. Let’s not also forget the aphorism that says “Speed Kills.” Speed is not necessarily the best style of driving.

Ask the people in the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC and they will tell you speed is the greatest cause of road accidents and deaths. So over-speeding comes with its own risks. At the same time, slow driving can also be an invitation to accidents. What this means is that any of the styles, if applied excessively, could be a huge disadvantage and a risk. The style must, therefore, be a balanced combination of the two approaches to achieve the results that are desired.

Buhari is aware of the huge amount of public expectations of him. He was elected on the basis of his well-advertised reputation for honesty and modest lifestyle. As much as possible, he would like to see many of the people who subscribe to such beliefs and attitudes working with him. That is the only way he can offer the country the kind of leadership that is needed and which he has promised to offer. The exhortation for more patience with Buhari should not be taken in the Buhari camp and elsewhere as an endorsement of lethargy. He should now wake up and prove that he has actually come to work.

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