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Godwin Emefiele: How not to implement policy

Perhaps the most ironic action taken by outgoing President Buhari is his signing into law a bill mandating the president-elect to choose ministerial nominees within…

Perhaps the most ironic action taken by outgoing President Buhari is his signing into law a bill mandating the president-elect to choose ministerial nominees within 60 days of inauguration. On the eve of departure he also assented to a further 16 bills.

This last-minute assenting to bills is ironic for two reasons. Firstly, his administration has a well-earned reputation for ignoring constitutional and legal restraints. In their recent reversal of the naira-swap policy, the Supreme Court pointed this out when they said “the unlawful use of executive powers by the president inflicted unprecedented economic hardship on the citizens”.

Indeed the whole mess was caused by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) lending the federal government money under “Ways and Means” in complete contravention of constitutional constraints. It’s ironic that a president, who serially breached the constitution and disrespected court judgments, is busy assenting to laws which he expects others to obey!  

Secondly, and perhaps even more ironic, Buhari himself took almost one year to choose his ministers and constitute the Federal Executive Council (FEC). Lamentably after dawdling, he still appointed yesterday’s men as round pegs into square holes! Therefore, it came as no real surprise that his administration was unable to solve any of the nation’s most pressing problems as the situation deteriorated disastrously under their watch.

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It’s also ironic that eight years after he was first sworn in, Buhari has belatedly realised how inappropriate it is for someone, who was president-elect three months prior to  inauguration, to require a further nine months to properly constitute the Executive arm of government!  

Choosing ministers in 60 days is still too long. It’s on record that Liberian President George Weah nominated his ministers the same night he won the election, proving that he was ready to do the job from day one!

Even if the current president-elect appoints ministers within two days there is little hope that he would assemble the most competent people to run his government. Although he has said he would not sacrifice competence for mediocrity and primordial sentiments, if he really means it he would have to sideline most of those who supported him vociferously during his campaigns. This would be difficult if not impossible, and there is every reason to expect that he will be obliged to “settle” political debts.  

This being the case, the incoming Executive will most likely be yet another gathering of yesterday’s men, comprising former governors, who never served meritoriously, political jobbers who served on various presidential campaign committees, and former political officeholders who never did what needed to be done and realistically have nothing new to offer.

It hardly seems reasonable to expect them to conceptualise modern solutions to modern problems without espousing the same outdated and inappropriate ideas that got the nation into this mess in the first place!

It’s a paradox of Nigerian democracy that those who run the country as ministers are selected and appointed, not elected. It isn’t possible to ensure that any incoming president appoints the right sort of people to top positions, but it is at least possible to learn from past mistakes and advise them on how to implement their policies so that they will not aggravate current hardships.  

The most valuable legacy of the outgoing Buhari government is their blueprint on how not to formulate and execute policy! Even though the constitution doesn’t restrain public officials from taking actions which inflict mass suffering on innocent Nigerians, the tenets of their religion definitely do.  

The correct protocols of policy formulation and implementation are morality, constitutionality, logic, cost, practicality and expected outcomes and Emefiele’s cash policy failed on all counts!

As the nation continues to suffer the consequences of his abominable “new naira” policy no tears should be shed for the CBN governor; he deserves all the criticism he is getting. How or why he is considered still fit to remain in office is a mystery. It is crucial that unlike Emefiele the incoming government observes the correct protocols of policy formulation and implementation.   

All public office holders swear an oath of office on one of the Holy Books to uphold the constitution. This implies that they should ascribe to a higher morality than outlined in the constitution.

There is absolutely no moral justification for the mass suffering Emefiele inflicted upon Nigerians. Bank customers lost their lives, traders lost their perishable goods, businesses closed down, bank premises were destroyed and their staff assaulted; there were public demonstrations and citizens were arrested or shot, and yet at the end of the day the policy was a monumental failure which had to be reversed.  

Questions being asked deserve answers. Where are the new notes they supposedly printed at enormous cost? Why are banks issuing raggedy old notes not the mint old notes which were returned? Most importantly how can Nigerians be assured that the nation will never again be put through reprehensible suffering by a political appointee who nobody voted for, who rejected all sound expert advice, ignored ministers, the Senate president, speaker of the House of Representatives, and state governors, and indeed did not see fit to take on board the opinion of any elected representative of the people?

The incoming government would be well advised not to try and implement its policies in such a disastrous ill-considered, ill-advised, and opaque manner which almost brought the nation to anarchy.