IT happened twice within a week. First, it was the request for the $29.96billion foreign loans sent to the Senate by President Muhammadu Buhari. The Senate rejected the request on the ground that the executive failed to attach to it the details of how the loans will be deployed after it is accessed. Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was almost dumbfounded after asking for a voice vote on the matter with the legislators voting that the offer be turned down. He called for a repeat of the exercise and, when the result was the same, had to align with the wish of the majority of senators and ruled that the request be returned to the sender. That was on Tuesday last week.
Then on Thursday, Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, raised the issue of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), which contains the parameters for the 2017 budget, being empty. Expressing his exasperation, Ndume said, “If you look at this document that they call MTEF, it is empty; it is empty and it doesn’t contain anything. If you have nothing, how do you consider something?”
The impression these two scenarios create is that there is knowledge gap in the executive. Were it not so, how would the executive have sent to the National Assembly a document as critical as the request for foreign loans meant to bridge the nation’s infrastructure deficit without attaching the required documentation? For crying out loud, this is the highest level of governance in this country! What explanation does anybody want to advance for allowing such a lapse? In the same vein, what excuse does anybody have for sending an ‘empty MTEF’ to the Senate for consideration, especially when this forms the foundation for the 2017 budget?
These are the issues that constitute a clog to the country’s progress. If the MTEF is not ready in November, how will the budget be ready in December? How can we hope to avert the situation we had in the current year of the budget being passed in June, which has resulted in a mere 11 per cent execution of the budget in less than two months to year end?
Now that the Senate has returned the executive’s request for $30billion foreign loan, the immediate effect is that the speed the government wants to record with addressing infrastructure deficit in the country has suffered a setback because precious time will be wasted as the executive has to go back to the drawing board to get the documents that it should have attached to its letter ab initio.
This is quite unfortunate because in the life of a country like Nigeria where dependence on government is quite high, every wasted day is thousands of lives lost, millions of people impoverished, millions of hopes dashed, agony multiplied and sorrow increased. But regrettably, this fact is lost on those who lead us. They approach affairs of state as if they have eternity to discharge their duties. Our leaders need to come to the understanding that their actions and inactions shape the destinies of people. So, those who have been saddled with leadership responsibilities should understand that not only does their tardiness slow down projects and programmes of government, it actually destroys lives.
The flip flop that has characterised the management of state affairs is unbecoming of the executive. This is suggestive of its unpreparedness for the serious task of leading the country out of its current challenging economic situation. Those who were saddled with the responsibility of sending these documents to the National Assembly should have known the process and the requirements. It is the shoddy handling of very sensitive issues that results in the avoidable executive-legislature spats. These constant disagreements by these two critical arms of government adversely impact on the country and its people.
The most unfortunate part of this is that the whole situation rubs off negatively on the President. The sloppiness of presidential aides has subjected the President to public opprobrium. To the opposition, it is the President that has bungled the process. To the hungry, hurting and angry Nigerians, it is the President that has slowed down the process. But is the President the one who is supposed to attach documents to his letters to the National Assembly? Is he the one who is supposed to give a detailed MTEF document to the legislators?
Perhaps those who have been suggesting that the President should take a look at his aides and their fitness for the assigned roles are not too far from the point. The undeniable fact is that the leader is only as strong and competent as his lieutenants. A leader’s aides make or mar him. If a leader has good intentions and his lieutenants consistently botch these, the leader is held in derision because in the final analysis, it was the leader who was given the mandate, not his aides.