Home » Back Page » Look Before You Leap’

Look Before You Leap’

Buhari had also banned and unbanned some companies involved in the crude-swap deal with NNPC.


– Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu

One of the commonest advices one got in primary school was ‘look before you leap’. That has remained a watch word growing up. Wise people often use that dictum to measure their steps.

Those who are not given to wisdom, and deep thought, often act before they think. In President Muhammadu Buhari’s young administration, there have been doses of acting before thinking.

These are similar to what Goodluck Jonathan did in the early days of his administration. He took several actions which he believed were populist, but later rescinded after thinking through. Buhari is on the same course. No doubt, President Buhari is well intentioned.

He means well for Nigeria, so we all believe. And having been away from the power ladder for over three decades, his return means that he has a lot of reading to make.

He also has a lot of steps to take and those include stumbling, fumbling and outright mess of the system, which he is doing graciously and generously. He is dishing out orders without thinking through the consequences.

For this, he has had to make a u-turn and reverse himself on a number of occasions. Those would have been avoided had he been a good student of history.

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it, George Santayana told us. Some others had said that a wise man learns from the mistakes of his predecessors.

Buhari is neither a good student nor a wise man. Both ways, he fails the test of wisdom and the demands of introspection.

In acting before he thinks, the President turns governance into a laboratory for trial and error. Nothing, so far, indicates that the President is in a hurry to avoid Sports Flakes No Comment such avoidable errors which, to my mind, arise from his decision to learn, after 30 years, without guides. Returning to the classroom after a 30 year disconnect is no easy task.

Therefore, for President Buhari, governing Nigeria more than 30 years after his last stint with power was not going to be rosy. But those who fashioned out how governance should be expressed had made provision for some people called advisers, special or not special.

Buhari has ignored these in his quest for messianic approach to leadership. His know-it-all disposition led him to rush into such mistakes like placing a ban on 113 oil-lifting tankers without regard for the rules of competition in an era of globalization of commerce and trade.

Agreed that Buhari aimed at stopping crude oil theft, but the approach through the ban on tankers, was not his best shot. Lifting the ban few months afterwards was an indication that perhaps, superior logic had won him over.

But, it was avoidable. It could have been a different situation that may not have necessitated intervention by foreign governments, if he had an adviser with specialization in such trade.

Buhari had also banned and unbanned some companies involved in the crude-swap deal with NNPC. Import of his action again, is one of acting before thinking.

Everyone knew that one of the direct fall outs of his becoming president would be the realignment of businesses to favour those who invested in his election. To that effect, the drama of ban-replaceunban in the crude swap deal was not necessary.

He could also have avoided it if it mattered to him. And the one that has become a classic in Buhari’s leap-before-you-look style is one on Treasury Single Account (TSA).

Is it another policy somersault? Could be! Just last Monday, the Buhari administration, which had pursued the TSA order with so much gusto and clenched fist, issued another order over-ruling itself and re-ordering the TSA order.

Suddenly, and perhaps, someone may have whispered to the President the dangers that he faces running a TSA for government.

The new order exempts NNPC, Bank of Industry, Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Nigeria Railway Corporation, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, Bank of Agriculture, Niger Delta Power Holding Company/ National Integrated Power Project, National Communication Satellite Limited, Galaxy Backbone Limited, Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited, Urban Development Bank, Nigeria Export-Import Bank and Transcorp Hilton Hotel Plc, though there seems to be a disagreement with the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, on the exemptions. He says no MDA is exempted from the TSA regime.

Whichever way, someone is refusing to look before taking the plunge. What strikes most is reason for the exemption. The reason as stated in a circular signed by M.K. Dikwa is that they “are profit-oriented government business entities”.

Implication of this is that the President, and whoever encouraged him to order the blanket TSA for all government earning, failed in the task on them to properly understand the functionality and operational status of some the agencies.

Further implication could also be that even the President did not know the ownership status of some of the agencies he is to oversee. Separately, I had argued that the TSA portends danger for the country though it seems the right move to monitor government income and expenditure.

I also insisted that there are reasons governments maintain several accounts, most of which are secretly maintained.

For instance, I imagine what would become of government if a litigator wins a $100 billion judgment against the Federal Government of Nigeria and obtains a garnishee order against government’s single account.

This is not impossible because there are evidences to suggest that government officials often connive with aggrieved parties to frustrate defence of a suit against government and further collaborate to ensure the payment of judgment debts; for a fee.

Recall that Jonathan had insinuated, on the eve of his departure from office that government has about $1billion judgment debt hanging. Imagine that he operated a single account and the details are easily accessible.

A garnishee order will shut the operations of government until the debt is paid. That was the danger Buhari was proposing for himself with the blanket TSA order.

Glad he detoured. Now that he seemed to have obtained some knowledge on the operation of critical aspects of government, it would be in the interest of the country, and good judgment, for the president to listen more, be a little bit more precise and avoid such overturns which indicate that he may be in a hurry to ignore reasonable advice in his bid to fix Nigeria, even if wrongly.


– ACHILLEUS-CHUD UCHEGBU                  e-mail: achilleus.uchegbu@theunion.com.ng

%d bloggers like this: