The standoff between Buhari and the Nigerian Senate suggests a bigger issue; his past


Nigeria’s budget fiasco reared its ugly head again last week as, this time, the Nigerian Senate removed some projects in the budget draft submitted by the Presidency. Last week’s drama was the latest surrounding Nigeria’s 2016 Budget, which now almost five months late for implementation. It appears that Muhammadu Buhari has no regard for members of the senate, with the body language of the president’s office indicating it was unaware of the importance of the Senate in the process of passing the budget. Buhari’s lack of co-ordination with Nigeria’s parliament, perhaps, speaks of a bigger issue, his military past.

The former Nigerian dictator who had tried four times to be president under a democracy was elected last year, calling himself “a reformed democrat.” However, it seems Buhari has failed to take cognisance of the fact that in a democracy, unlike military regimes, the president’s word is not always law. There is the Executive, the Parliament and the Judiciary, none can claim exclusivity to power; these three arms of government must work together. Perhaps Buhari is accustomed to giving orders and expecting obeisance, regardless of how inconvenient or strange they are. But in a democracy, the focus should be on the people and not gaining the upper hand in tussles between the different arms of the government. Negotiations are started under truce, concessions are made, and ‘egos’ put aside. The budget debacle has gone on for so long that most Nigerians have forgotten that the nation is currently running on no budget.

His “my way or the highway” approach to leadership in this democracy seems to be steadily losing him followers and sympathisers in this administration. His statement in January this year, borne out of frustration in his war against corruption, that “the Nigerian Judiciary is his biggest headache” looked like it came out from the mouth of someone who didn’t really know one of the purposes of the judiciary was to contain the excesses of the Executive. And he seems to want to be toeing the same path with the senators.

His communication skills seem to be lacking and is not being helped by his seemingly ineffective media team. Buhari’s stance on the devaluation of the Naira, for example, has baffled experts who expected otherwise. Not that the president is wrong or right, time would determine that, the fact that he has not given Nigerians a valid reason to why the Naira is not going to be devalued seems to be a problem. Instead, Nigerians have made themselves financial analysts in a bid to explain the decisions of their seemingly authoritarian president. The only times Nigerians hear their president speak is on one of his several visits to foreign countries, which is how most people heard of his stance on devaluation. He probably got away with not speaking much in the Military era, but many presidential speeches are expected and made in a democracy. Now, it seems like a privilege to hear Buhari speak to the media.

Buhari’s anti-corruption drive has been, and will continue to be, undermined by the Nigerian Senate if he does not find a way to go past this impasse with them, especially the APC senators. These senators seem to not be on the same page with him, probably because they don’t feel like they are a part of the team.

The CCB/T act that passed the first reading in Nigeria’s Senate, last week, will protect future senators from being quizzed about their wealth, thereby enabling corruption. Many Nigerians had expected APC senators to oppose this bill, simply because of the president, but where there is no clear communication between both parties; they probably shrugged their shoulders and made their soft “ayes” allowing the bill to be enter a second reading.

Buhari needs to speak out more to address issues before the whole nation begins to feel like he really doesn’t care. This is not a military regime where every order from the top is carried out without questions. Nigeria is in a democracy and people are expected to question your decisions, and they will because it is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

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