Buhari’s FEC: A team or a collection of individuals?

It is becoming clearer by the day that a major flaw of the current administration is its lack of coherence. Key officials of government are so often on different pages concerning the same issues that one cannot but wonder whether they ever meet to discuss state matters. Unfortunately, without coherence not much can be accomplished, because it is coherence that results in cohesion, which produces cooperation that principal actors in government require for commitment to the realisation of the common goal of effecting a positive change in the country. So, it is a given that when major players in government take different positions on the same issue, there will be motion without a corresponding level of movement.

While speaking during a radio interview in Kano last Monday, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Mallam Garba Shehu, said that the nation could experience famine starting from January 2017, sequel to the exportation of food items, especially grains. The presidential aide had said the “Ministry of Agriculture has raised concerns about a massive rate of exportation, which could lead to a shortage of grains in Nigeria by January.”

But on Thursday, during a visit to a farm at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, said, “there are no statistics that there is going to be famine in January. What I heard in the news was that he (Shehu) said that people are coming from other countries to buy our grains in bulk. As a government, we are also buying.”

The question now is if the Ministry of Agriculture, indeed raised concerns about exportation of grains, why is it that Lokpobiri’s position is different from that of Shehu? If the government is also buying grains, as said by Lokpobiri, why is it that the president’s spokesperson is not aware of this? If the presidency is of the opinion that there is a likelihood of famine in the country but the Agric Ministry thinks otherwise, who should Nigerians believe? Did the Minister say what he said as a defence so that the Ministry would not be deemed as failing in its responsibility, or is it actually taking steps to address the situation?

If this were just a one-off development may be it would not have been a cause of concern. But that is the pattern.

In July this year, the Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, appeared before the Senate where she said that the economy was technically in recession. She hinged her position on the definition of recession, though she went ahead to say that the country would soon be out of recession given the efforts put in place by the government. However, on the same day, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, Budget and Planning Minister, said the country was very far from being in recession.

Again, who should Nigerians have believed between these two ministers who play critical roles in managing the economy? If these two top government officials with access to latest information on the economy disagreed on a matter of this nature, why should Nigerians believe either of them?

Why is it so difficult for this government to harmonise its position on critical issues? If this is not incompetence, then the word needs redefinition.

I suspect that President Muhammadu Buhari does not have a team but a collection of people who work with him. Unfortunately, and most regrettably, each of these individuals comes into government to defend a position. That is why it has evidently been so difficult for them to work as a team. The people around the President work at cross purposes; they pull in different directions as each of them pushes for and defends various positions instead of working for the common purpose of steadying the polity, stabilizing the economy, and improving the people’s lot. The dispersion of efforts in different directions is the albatross of both the people and the government. Immobility becomes inevitable when the tyres of a vehicle attempt to travel in different directions.

This obvious crack in government has had a telling effect on the citizenry because they are confused. There is so much hardship in the land, yet there is no coherent communication from the government on what to expect. This chasm has foisted despair on the people and this has turned the country into a jungle where survival of the fittest is the rule.

Similarly, it has spiked disillusionment among foreign investors as they try to make sense out of the cacophony of confusion that emanates from key government functionaries. The result is that there is a slide in foreign direct investment. If there is no injection of fresh funds into the economy, what is the hope of halting and reversing the retarded economic growth?

But the government can change the trend by putting its house in order and harmonising its positions on critical issues. When the President’s people work together as a team, success becomes a cinch for the administration.