Dismantling the culture of indiscipline in government, by Sufuyan Ojeifo
Whenever I remember that the General Muhammadu Buhari-led junta of December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985 was anchored on the philosophical foundation of war against indiscipline (WAI), it always beggars belief that it is the same Buhari that is in the saddle, scandalously superintending over a culture of indiscipline and impunity.
I cannot understand why Buhari could not use the magnitude of his acclaimed antecedents as a man of discipline and integrity to recreate that legacy. Nigerians, who witnessed that era, cannot forget in a hurry how the junta whipped out indiscipline from public life. Nigerians dared not engage in open urination let alone defecation along the roads in state capitals and other major cities that had the presence of enforcing soldiers.
Nigerians conducted themselves maturely in service-delivery offices. It was first come, first served. Everybody must take his or her turn on the queue. The new culture was already being imbibed when the regime was overthrown and, because the regime that took over charted an entirely different trajectory, Nigerians returned to their old ways. Indiscipline rebounded in its vast flourish. I am sure Buhari would be sad at the imprudent dismantling of his legacy.
Besides his celebrated war against indiscipline (WAI), there was the policy to prosecute second republic politicians and public office holders who plundered the financial resources of the nation. That process also suffered a reversal following his overthrow. Indeed, both audacious policies were capable of transforming the nation through moral reorientation and rearmament. Perhaps, just perhaps, Nigeria would have become a disciplined society with zero tolerance for corruption if the regime was not short-lived.
But many years after, Buhari’s personality and political profile had continued to hugely benefit from the enormity of his legacies. It benefited in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 presidential elections. It was in the 2015 presidential election that his persona reaped much more bountifully, against the backdrop of the countrywide desire for change in the way administration and public finance were being mismanaged. That nationwide approbation of the Buhari candidature bolstered, in the main, his defeat of an incumbent to become president
More than three years in the saddle, Buhari has not been able to reconnect with the significant social character of his military administration. I had expected him to hit the ground running with a reinvigorated war against indiscipline. He failed to seize the essential momentum that had sustained his presidency in the first six months to one year. Whereas, the issue of discipline should have been an easy one for him to tuck as an immediate achievement in his kitty, he possibly got distracted by some seemingly much more audacious anti-corruption war.
Unfortunately, officials of the Buhari administration have since been caught by the bug of indiscipline and, by their unconscionable acts, they have exposed the integrity, credibility and commitment of the president to propriety in governmental conduct to critical queries and indictments. There was therefore a sense in the righteous indignation expressed recently by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, about the disrespect being shown by some appointees and party leaders to the office of the president.
But while Oshiomhole had succinctly put the issue in context and expressed zero-tolerance by the new leadership to any such acts of disrespect to party lines and supremacy, a position that has since been generating ruckus within and outside the party, credit must be given to the acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, for belling the cat on Tuesday, August 7, 2018, with the sack of the Director-General of the Department of State Services, DSS, Alhaji Lawal Daura, for deploying his men in and around the premises of the National Assembly, blocking federal legislators and bureaucrats from gaining access to the chambers and offices for official duties.
There were reports that Daura got the boot for being rude to the acting president when he was asked to explain on whose orders he acted. It was apparent that he did not act on the orders of the presidency; otherwise, Osinbajo would not have questioned his action. If Daura’s alleged impudence was actually indicted in the process that resulted in his immediate sack, then it would only go to confirm the extent the culture of indiscipline has become entrenched in the administration. Daura must have been overwhelmed by the folly that the president, who is his kinsman and possibly a relation, employed him and an Osinbajo who is dressed in the garb of acting president did not have the guts to deal with him.
That myth that had, all the while, perhaps sustained the Daura phenomenon in the saga of security reports that stalled the non-confirmation of the acting chair of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, by the Senate on two occasions and the invasion of the residences of some judges by DSS operatives in a Gestapo-like fashion in search of alleged loot, crumbled like a pack of cards, under the imprimatur of the acting president, in the twilight of the blockade of the national assembly.
There are sensitive political issues that are beyond the discretion of the DSS DG and which, in order to act in accordance, he must get clear directives or instructions from the president. On this sensitive issue that had far-reaching implications for the survival of democracy, he acted outside his authority. His characteristic conceit, the kind that had consistently sustained the undisciplined posture of some strategic position holders in the administration, took the better part of him and he goofed.
Some persons have continued to express concern that Daura could send security reports to the Senate for the non-confirmation of Magu, a presidential nominee, on two occasions, in apparent disrespect to the office of the president. And the president carried on as if it was normal. Or was it that Buhari’s hands were tied to deal with Daura? However, one thing would appear very clear: the “presidency” wants Magu as EFCC chair, which is why Buhari has retained him in office in acting capacity.
I have used the “presidency” wisely and with a sense of responsibility against the backdrop of feelers that Osinbajo has been the force convincing Buhari to retain Magu in furtherance of some agenda of a particular cabal. This is a theme that will be interrogated in a separate piece some time soonest. But talking about indiscipline in the Buhari administration and the condonation of the same, Daura is not the only culprit. Even Magu cannot escape indictment.
Validation: EFCC is one of the agencies that constitutionally reports to the Office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF). Magu has been working at cross purposes with the AGF and minister of justice, Alhaji Abubakar Malami (SAN), in the prosecution of corruption cases. Not too long ago, the AGF directed the EFCC chair to remit all files for high-profile corruption cases to his office. Magu did not obey the directive as at then. If he has done so now is immaterial. That original disobedience was pure administrative indiscipline and disrespect to due process.
The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, was also reported to have disobeyed presidential directive to inaugurate the board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) for which the APC national chair, Comrade Oshiomhole, threatened to use the authority of the party to get the president to sack him from both the cabinet and the party. There were many other instances. Their totality points to indiscipline as a fundamental malaise afflicting the Buhari government. However, the sack of Daura is a good signal at self redemption. How much of self-cleansing can the administration do?
Ojeifo, an Abuja-based journalist, writes via [email protected]