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Our Nation_Role of the President’s Chief of Staff.

During the swearing in ceremony of his ministers on Wednesday, 21st August 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari streamlined communication channel to his office from all appointed government officials. He directed that henceforth all communications to, and requests for meetings with him, be routed through the office of his chief of staff. Note that this is only for all appointed officers of the executive branch, meaning from the directive does not affect the Vice President, as some have alleged.

 

This directive has caused a lot of furore in the ever bubbling social media space – ranging from those who know absolutely nothing of the functions of government in a presidential system, to those who are plain mischievous (those who know but always jump on any ‘opportunity’ to trash the president). Even the official opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) thought it another opportunity to criticize the president.

 

[For the PDP, yet again it showed that it is yet to master the major issues that require its comment and/or alternative narrative. PDP is not a party to criticize a policy like this. Why? The office of chief of staff was introduced into our governance system by a PDP president – Chief Olusegun Obasanjo! And the two PDP presidents after him – Yar’ Adua and Jonathan followed suit!] 

 

As a sort of enlightenment, the office of the chief of staff was a presidential innovation of America’s 33rd president, Harry Truman; and all presidents after him have all appointed chiefs of staff. Truman formalized the position in 1946 as Assistant to the President. Today, the formal title is Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff. Occupants of the office are political appointees of the president who do not require confirmation of the Senate; and they all serve at the president’s pleasure. 

 

The responsibilities of the chief of staff to the US president are both managerial and advisory and can include the following:

  • Select key White House staff and supervise them;
  • Structure the White House staff system;
  • Control the flow of people into the Oval Office (president’s office); 
  • Manage the flow of information;
  • Protect the interests of the president;
  • Negotiate with Congress (our own National Assembly), other members of the executive branch, and extra-governmental political groups to implement the president’s agenda; and
  • Advise the president on various issues, including telling the president what they do not want to hear.

 

Now, because Nigerian operates a presidential system of government COPIED from the US, president Obasanjo decided to adopt the system of having a gate keeper in a chief of staff. Fair enough. And this has become a tradition of sorts. State Governors to now have them. Even the Speaker of the 9th House of Reps has appointed one.

 

For history buffs, Nigeria has had 5 chiefs of staff in the presidency since May 1999. There was even a brief interregnum between August 2008 and May 2010 when Nigeria’s presidency had no chief of staff because president Yar’Adua abolished the office. The office was reinstated in May 2010 by president Jonathan. The 5 personalities are: (1) General Abdulahi Mohammed (May 1999 – 2nd June 2008) He served 2 presidents – Obasanjo and Umaru Yar’Adua; (2) Dr. Gbolade Osinowo who had the briefest time in office – June – August 2008; (3) Chief Mike Ogiadomhe May 2010 – February 2014); (4) General Jones Arogbofa (February 2014 – 29th May 2015); and (5) Abba Kyari (August 2015 till date).

 

So please, for Iroko’s sake, the chief of staff is not the creation of this 4th president of this 4th Republic. Even if it were, so long as he has a precedent to follow (as shown above) it cannot be ‘unconstitutional’! 

 

Also, many wonder why ministers must go through the chief of staff, and not have direct access to the president. Real question is why would a minister want direct access to the president in the first place, outside of the administratively laid down avenues of Executive Council meetings and political fora? It is only in these parts that we equate relevance with access to the ‘main oga’. Many of us who have worked in corporate settings, pray how easy is that we have (or had) access to the CEO, without making an appointment? Please!!!!

 

Another fellow even said the president’s directive is unconstitutional ‘because the 1999 constitution does not recognize the office of chief of staff’. Well, we can as well cancel all agencies and parastatals that the constitution does not specifically mention, but which form a cog in the wheel of governance, while we are at it! 

 

Another of these ‘critics’ who claims to be in the know categorically declared that said some newly appointed ministers do not like the restriction of access! If he is right (and I have no way of knowing for sure), I say tough luck! The solution is simple: any minister who does not like the new chain of command should quit. Chikena. I want to wager none will!!! 

 

There is the reasonable fear though that a chief of staff (if not the present incumbent) can abuse the powers attached to the office. That without doubt is possible. Americans still have tales to tell about H.R. Haldeman. However, just like it happened to president Nixon’s Haldeman, the system always has a way of sorting itself out. I remember the Oghiadome, president Jonathan’s first chief of staff was replaced when it appeared his actions (and inactions) were slowing down the president’s pace.

 

My point in all this is that It does not take much to research what you do not know before you put out your views into the public space. By openly stating your views, remember that others who have better information will call you out. Just saying. 

©️ Adewale Adeniji. 23/08/2019

2019 Presidential Elections_Laying An Improper Foundation!

2019-elections

 

It is no longer news that the National Elections in Nigeria will begin in a few days from today, 14 days, if all goes according to INEC’s time-table.

It is also no longer news that the two dominant parties – the ruling APC and the PDP – have been criss-crossing Nigeria, canvassing votes. 

What is no longer news is the hue and cry of the PDP and its managers (elected and self-appointed) with every APC presidential campaign and the humongous crowd it draws! It appears that one political party is running scared! Or how do you account for OBJ’s alarmist comments that APC had perfected plans to rig, hence the large crowds (fresh from a beneficiary of rigging!); or Uche Secondus’s call on INEC to disqualify PMB because 2 Niger Republic governors attended an APC rally in the north (Cheap coming from a party whose default mode is too appeal to “America” and “the EU” to warn PMB against rigging an election that had not taken place!)?

It appears to me that the PDP now acknowledges that the only way out for it from the obvious impending political loss is to try and discredit the process. 

Truth is, in any electoral contest, there is bound to be a winner and a loser; and the Electoral Act has adequate provisions for any one dissatisfied with the outcome of the elections to contest same through the court system; and our recent history shows that this route is effective. Cue the restoration of stolen mandates in Anambra, Ekiti, Osun and Edo states since the beginning of this Republic in 1999!

So, it shows the paucity of ideas, this poor foundation laying tactics of the PDP of the shrinking of its electoral prospects. So, assuming, but not conceding, what happens if the PDP now causes an electoral upset by winning? After discrediting the very same process? PDP should go out with dignity if it loses, not discredit the process. That is the way of democracy. 

Not that you PDP will know this, since one man, one vote was anathema to them in their years of rulership, save in 2015 when they had humane politicians at the top of your party, not desperados! 

My name is Adewale Adeniji. I wrote this message. 2nd February 2019.

Our Nation_Ponder This Series_Corruption. Everyone Is A Victim.

Corruption Background Image.jpg

Corruption. A lot rail against it, some defend it, many condone it. But it really affects all of us, whether we acknowledge it or not; whether we see the effects immediately or not. Regardless of our social standing, without prejudice to our clout or influence, corruption is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. (Permit the cliche)

Let’s take tax evasion, for example, which is a form of corruption. Those who pay a fair share, whether they want to or not are most likely to be those who work in the formal sectors of the economy, those whose income can be tracked. For many in the category, their tax is deducted at source. For some others, they are compelled, by reason of trade or professional requirement to pay. In some cases those in this category do not pay the total tax they ought to. What they pay is “guesstimated” (a corruption {sorry now!} of “guess” and “estimated”!)

More difficulty comes with the high-end earners in the informal sector, the business or professional categories. Without mincing words, observance for many in these categories is more in breach than compliance. There are several legitimate and less-so legitimate ways of not paying their fair share, or at all!

So, how does it affect everyone? For the folk that pay their fare share, with or without compulsion, they are affected in the schools, hospitals that ought to have been built and equipped; in the roads that ought to have been constructed and/or properly maintained; in the social safety provisions that ought to have been designed and funded. But are not!

For many in this tax paying category, because of corruption of paying or avoiding due tax revenue by others, they now have to pay premium for basic education; they get mis-diagnosis for treatable ailments or ailments that if caught on time should not be terminal, and even when diagnosed, they go through hell and back to afford palliative medication that keeps them coming back for more ineffectual treatment; they risk limb and life on roads that are not safe for human passage; they are left bereft of succor when they have financial emergencies! And they repeat this cycle, day after day, year after year, until some die prematurely in middle age! A form of constructive homicide tax defaulters ought to be charged with, if you ask me! 

For the upper class, those who have perfected the art of gaming the system, they live in constant fear of their lives because the gulf between their status (sustained by the way with the full taxes paid by others) and the generality of others. They virtually live in prison, behind high walls, they hoard the protection of policemen who should ordinarily keep the peace among generality of the citizenry. When they do fall sick, they travel abroad to pay premium because their dishonesty has denied their immediate environment funds to build, equip and run first class health institutions. They pay premium for vehicles that can ply the failed roads, and pay higher premium to avoid plying those roads by investing in helicopters. One can on and on!

If only everyone pays his/her fair share of tax! Then maybe, just maybe, all will not lose out.

Then there is the issue of embezzlement, brazen or subtle, the popular form of corruption known to all. It is now known that the crudest way to become ‘financially independent’ is to hold government office, or be a beneficiary of government largesse. No, not for provision or delivery of service, but for what you can get out of gaming the system, deliberately broken. This malaise is not political party, gender or faith specific, so no one should come here to beat any chest! It is pervasive, among public office holders, and sadly even in the private sector, and their hangers-on. 

Yes, everybody loses in the end. 

Where public services are deliberately compromised to feed corruption – the roads that are budgeted for but not constructed or maintained, the hospitals that are stocked with fake medications , or no medication at all despite budgetary provisions for them, the public transport system deliberated compromised so that more funds can be allocated for repairs and purchases that are never done etc.; everyone suffer the telling effect. Those who perpetrate these dastardly acts, and those who see and turn the other eye, hoping for a time when “my turn/the turn of my person, will come”, or when for primordial/parochial sentiments, condone or defend such acts!

Maybe time has come for a PERSONAL conversation with ourselves? Would we want our lives run the way we have allowed our governments, and public enterprises’ to be run? Would we wish that our children, born and unborn, continue to suffer for our collective amnesia? Oh, yes people can emigrate, but how many can do so? Even for those who emigrate, would you rather have access to a little of a whole, or a whole of a whole? 

Each person to his corner, to her tent, meditate. How have I been part of the problem? What can I do, in my little corner to begin to reverse (note I am not saying change, for that is a long, long way down the road) the trend? 

It will be a long, hard grind; but as they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with just a step! And please this is not a political piece! 

Ponder this, dear reader.

©Adewale Adeniji. 3rd December 2018.

Our Nation_2018 Independence Anniversary_Commemorative Poem_ “Loud Silence”

Deep breaths

Furtive head shakes

Moaning sighs

Vacant looks.

Breath, breath boy!

What’s gwan?

Darting looks, here, there

Still not a word!

Is it cowrie issues?

No? Oh, a maiden?

Or, or idea troubles

No? Now, what ails you?

That deep sigh again…

And bowed head

With Furrowed brows..

What now in Iroko’s name?

All entreaties done

Silent you remain

No comments?

Or Complaints?

Very loud indeed,

this studious silence.

Birth something, a sign..

Nothing? Oh well.

Come anon, reveal.

Expose the labyrinth

of your mind; thoughts

that a weakling make

of valiant veterans.

That time of the year again.

To look back. What could’ve

been. Well, we press forward.

© Adewale Adeniji. 01/10/2018.