“Failures are divided into two classes; those who thought and never did and those who did and never thought.”
John C. Salak, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ p 54)
On May 29, 2017, the Buhari administration will be two years old; that means it would have reached the half-way mark of its four-year tenure. Nigerians should, right now, disregard those crack-pots talking about second term. The focus should be on mid-term assessment. Plainly asked it comes down to: What has been achieved in the two years under Buhari? Put another way: “Are we better off now than in 2015?
Before proceeding however, let me share the thoughts of a Professor of Communications, in the US in 1970. According to him, any organization, public or private can be judged by how much of its report announces positive achievements and how much is devoted to explaining failures. Spokes persons for the Buhari administration have spent the better part of the last two years explaining failures – usually by blaming them on the Jonathan administration. There have been few instances where they announced good results. In fact, the successes have been so few that they can be summarized in one paragraph. The failures have been overwhelming.
Unfortunate as it might be, the place to start is with the President – or more precisely, his health. Years ago, the Brazilian coach of the Green Eagles, Otto Gloria, was putting those called up through their physicals which started from running laps round the field. Suddenly, he noticed the Captain slowing down. Gloria called him and made a declaration which is pertinent here. “Captain finish, team finish”. As we approach the half-way mark this year, the “Captain” of the Nigerian economy is not quite finished but he is certainly not leading the team as vigorously as he should.
One very vital aspect of management of human and other resources is sadly missing. The weekly Top Management meeting is one duty no Chief Executive Officer, CEO, wants to miss except for the most important reasons. Certainly, none would ever contemplate missing three in a row. There is a simple reason. The weekly meeting is the opportunity provided to ensure that all sections and departments of the organization are moving in the same direction and not working at cross purposes. The weekly meeting becomes more important as the organization gets bigger. In most countries, Nigeria included, the largest organization is the Federal government; the CEO is the President or Prime Minister. A CEO who is indisposed runs an organization whose effectiveness is impaired – perhaps dangerously because power abhors a vacuum. Power tussles arise whenever the CEO is absent.
Chief Bisi Akande, former Interim Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, made the same point recently. He said: “The health of the leader is intricately intertwined with the health of the nation. It is more so in a delicately fragile union of nations called Nigeria.” Obviously, if the health of the President or CEO is a metric for assessing the state of the economy, Nigeria’s economy is on a sick bed. And, nobody knows exactly when it will be discharged.
However, the Nigerian economy started showing signs of distress long before Buhari departed for treatment in London. The APC government came into office without an economic blueprint which would serve as a guide for managing the economy. The APC Manifesto which was full of Politicians’ promises cannot be regarded as an economic plan by any professional economist. It contained no specific statements about fiscal or monetary policies to be introduced, why and when. It certainly had no statements of objectives in terms of GDP growth expected, millions of jobs to be created and in which sectors. “Captain” Buhari stepped into the Nigerian ship of state without a compass or any discernible destination. In a way, the nation’s economy is on auto-pilot, running along on its own. That explains why shares’ prices on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE, have not reflected Buhari’s absence. His presence was never felt.
Nothing demonstrates the lack of preparedness for leadership better than the Economic Recovery Growth Programme, ERGP, recently launched twice – once by Osinbajo and again by Buhari. ERGP was almost one year and nine months too late. Every candidate running for President anywhere in the world today must present an economic programme to voters. And, they will hold him to it once elected. Buhari presented no economic programme – partly because Nigerians were too stupid to ask him – so he has nothing to work with.
The economic programme invariably selects the people to be appointed to top positions to manage the economy – except he Governor of the Central Bank who has a definite term to run. The person who eventually becomes the Minister of Finance or Economic Planning must have been one of the advisers during the campaign. They designed the programme which the candidate presented to the people; so they are best positioned to implement it. None of the members of Buhari’s Economic Management Team, EMT, was his adviser during the campaign – not even Osinbajo until very late. All the Ministers were handed empty portfolios on economic programme on November 2015. The bag remains empty till today. There is no direction to the economy. Even the Made-In-Nigeria campaign is more of a gimmick than a policy. Violations of it carry no penalties.
Fortunately, failure was not total. Next week, we start from the heights, with the success stories; then go down…