When will the Presidency get it right?
By the presidency, I mean that section of the national bureaucracy that is supposed to stay under the direct superintendence or control of President Muhammadu Buhari but which lamentably has been taken over by a coterie of aides who speak in the name of the president.
The foregoing piece of information is for that reader who is new to this column.
Otherwise, regular readers must, at the very least, recall the piece that appeared here a couple of weeks ago in which I called attention to the proclivity of the media to attribute every statement from one of the better-known presidential aides, namely, the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and the two spokespersons of the president, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, to the presidency.
The impression is thereby conveyed that such statement or the position emanating from it was directly approved by the president even when it is clear that the leadership vacuum created by our president is only being filled by an aide acting on his own initiative or at most under the instruction of Abba Kyari, the defacto president.
Since a fish rots from the head, the kind of dereliction that has led to the situation where surrogates now act in the name of their principals has apparently permeated our entire bureaucratic set-up. Which was why a mere assistant in the Federal Ministry of Finance could in the name of the country act like a beggar with a bowl seeking ventilators from the billionaire businessman Elon Musk.
That a relatively junior officer could make such an unauthorised request, as the Ministry of Finance would later claim, would be both outrageous and unprecedented had the person concerned or others in that ministry not been involved in such misadventure in the past.
Now it’s the norm that any middling official can speak in the name of the president; it is any surprise that the presidency has remained very much in the news in the last two weeks since the national lockdown following the outbreak of coronavirus?
Indeed, much of the activity from the presidency has been prompted both because and in spite of the absence of Abba Kyari who has himself become a topic of interest following his evacuation from Aso Villa after he was infected with coronavirus.
But for the fact that the disease, shameless as death, is an equal opportunity killer, it is probable that Mr. Kyari would have stayed put inside the Villa and the presidency would have either denied outright the report of his infection or ignored it all in order to portray it as fake.
He lingered a few days more within the Villa, ensuring that at least three of his aides were thereby infected before somebody probably realised what mortal danger he constituted for the president and got him to seek treatment outside.
Initial reports had it that his destination was Lagos but in what looked like an attempt to discredit the news, this was neither denied nor confirmed by the presidency. The mystery being created around reports of the health of the president’s Chief of Staff would be cleared by the man himself in a personally signed statement in which he confirmed his infection with coronavirus. He went further to say in the statement that he would be seeking treatment on his own bill.
Yet days after the release of his statement, Abba Kyari’s whereabouts still remain a mystery. He has neither been spotted in Lagos where reports said he would be nor has he reported at any of the isolation centres in Lagos or anywhere else in the country.
So, where then is he? To whom can anyone turn for enquiry when the presidency itself, personified by Abba Kyari, is ill or in disarray? Which was probably why the days before Buhari finally addressed the nation on the outbreak of COVID-19 were marked by confusion in the presidency.
Even if Kyari may not be expected to be kept in one of the many isolation centres considering his status, what is the mystery about his whereabouts for? Is it to enable him infect as many more persons as he could?.
As if the drama surrounding Abba Kyari’s health was not enough, an aide of the wife of the president, Aisha, chose to remind the rest of us of an issue many would rather forget by announcing gleefully on twitter the release from self-isolation of an unnamed daughter of the president’s, one of the few Nigerians to sneak into the country as the infection rate of the coronavirus gradually rose and Abuja was compelled to order the closure of the country’s entry ports.
Many Nigerians believe the delay in closing the air and sea ports was partly influenced by the need to ensure relations, friends and associates of the ruling elite like the president’s daughter, were allowed back into the country before any step was taken.
This media aide of the president’s wife could not resist the gratuitous insult of impressing on us ignorant and privilege-hungry Nigerians the impropriety of not only following COVID-19 treatment protocol and not conducting oneself in a respectful manner that is without regard for privilege in the manner of the president’s daughter.
All of this was accompanied with a still image of the back view of the president’s daughter whose face must neither be seen nor name disclosed in warm embrace with her mother after her release from a two-week period of self-isolation.
But the cake for these series of miscues from the presidency since the national lockdown goes to the dilettante scribbler, Garuba Shehu, who in the name of the eponymous presidency wrote a response that was supposed to be a witty dig to Prof. Wole Soyinka who had demanded in a widely circulated statement that President Buhari back his order for the “cessation” of all movements in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT with appropriate law.
Shehu said Soyinka stepped outside his area of competence as a writer to dabble in medicine, advising that the respected writer should let Nigerians listen to the advice of scientists while he restricts himself to writing a fictive account of government’s response to the pandemic. This, Shehu considered a task more suitable to Soyinka’s vocation as a writer.
But if only Shehu had resisted the burning desire to quip at the expense of chopping logic and engaging in ad hominem argument, he would have realised that Soyinka’s comment was not about the “science” of COVID-19 that informed the lockdown but the simple demand for adherence to due procedure in a federal state.
Soyinka only wanted to ensure that Nigerians are not in the future ambushed by a government whose disregard of due process and extant laws has become a normed mode of governance.
Culled from Vanguard.