Beyond the fallout of the trending tango between the federal government and Twitter, courtesy of the response by President Muhamadu Buhari to the presentation by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Mahmood Yakubu at their recent meeting, there is at least one more angle that equally qualifies for more than passing attention. That is the reference by the president to his dalliance with the country’s Constitution on whose provisions he was elected into office. In the same response he had self-righteously claimed that as far as he was concerned, his administration was running in compliance with Constitutional provisions. According to him “I lead the country according to our Constitution, and anyone who wants to destroy the country would answer for it”. In fact, it was on the strength of this assertion that he issued the now trending warning to secessionists and those with the intent of bringing his administration down. However, in all fairness it is also clear that the warning is directed to members of his kitchen cabinet, some of whom as the vivid lessons of history teach, could be like Ahitophel – the apostle of toxic counsel in the Bible, whose advice may seem credible now only to prove worthless and even lethal in future.
Among the instances that justify the long held view by not a few Nigerians that the president may be routinely running on toxic counsel, is the recent take on his now trending threat to secessionists by Femi Adesina, one of the presidential spokesmen. In his last week sermon ‘FROM THE INSIDE’ on the infallibility of Muhamadu Buhari as president, Adesina not only justified the threat by the former but went further to endorse the view by a Buhari acolyte who pontificated that Nigeria needed a man of steel like the President – a euphemism for inflexibility and dictatorial tendency in leadership.
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As had been advocated previously by several other commentators, this advocacy by Adesina which reflects a precedence of the president’s personal predilections over the provisions of the Constitution, falls out of context with his antecedents as a journalist who had not enjoyed the Olympian perquisites of leadership roles in some of the nation’s media establishments, as well as serving as former President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. Considering that a cardinal feature of the canons of journalism practice is the defence of the rule of law, it remains interesting to share with Adesina where he downloaded the brainwave that the Nigerian Constitution which is the grundnorm for driving rule of law in the country, provides for an iron-willed President or a dictator, as all that Nigerians settle for in the democratic dispensation is a Constitution-driven and law abiding President. This is the very anti-thesis of Adesina’s advocacy.
The absence of any constitutional premise for such a wild card assertion leads to the question of why Adesina would deploy such an anathema into the public space from his gilded loft as the President’s spokesman. As one of the presidential spokesmen, and who with his partner Garba Shehu have recently transformed into alter egos for the President, the least that is expected of him is to present the better side of his principal, to the public. That is basic public relations practice. Even if the principal is seen in the public space as a demon, it hardly reflects wisdom for his image maker to accentuate a blood-thirsty visage for the former.
In any case, taking Buhari’s self-praise along with Adesina’s clap for the former’s iron will, provides for the country little cheer for the remaining days, weeks and months of the Buhari administration. Not only is the president presented as insensitive to the hellish conditions of living in the country, there seems to be no plans for easing the burden on the citizenry soon. This implies that there may actually be no respite from the country’s descent into the vortex of crisis, even with the backdrop of an avalanche of criticisms of his style of leadership, especially in the context of the increasing wave of insecurity, proliferation of secessionist tendencies and other incontinences, all of which account for the unrelenting administrative meltdown of the country. Does the president actually want the country to implode as the advocates of toxic counsel are goading him on?
In fairness to Adesina, while his toxic endorsement of a dictator president for the country may be outlandish given his antecedents, he is not alone in that misdirected venture. The country’s public space is replete with instances where leading lights of the administration have shamelessly launched toxic policy measures with clearly deleterious implications for the Nigerian public, without blinking an eye. Others have simply paraded untruths and half lies to mask their incompetence in the discharge of official duties without consequences. Hence if one may ask why his indulgence in such misconduct is an issue, the answer remains that he is a voice of the administration and its public face, is to be taken more relevant than many other officials of the system. This is especially so now that the President has been operating in questionable hibernation.
The truth of the matter is that with respect to the president’s claim to have run the country in line with provisions of the Constitution, not a few Nigerians will agree with him, since he had demonstrated scant compliance with the Constitution since the beginning of his tenure in 2015. Another lobby is that which has stood toe to toe with the system to challenge I on its numerous constitutional infractions. It is this second lobby that share common aspirations for democratic governance, belong the true democrats, pro-democracy groups, the #End SARS movement, the secessionists, the labour movement, as well as the democratic elements in the country’s largely docile legislative assemblies, just to name a few. They are the ones who are reacting either discretionally as civil protesters, or violent rebels as well as insurgents, as the case may be, only with a mindset to change the system. And from the look of things, the longer the government insists on the present system, so will its agonies last.
Hence, while the government may feel threatened by them, its more potent danger may lie in-house, as the coterie of albatrosses, whose stock in trade is spewing out self-serving toxic counsel.