By Mon-Charles Egbo
When it mattered most, the overwhelming majority of Nigerians entrusted the leadership and governance of the country into the hands of Muhammadu Buhari as President. He was massively chosen on the basis of what he represented and what he promised to bring to the table in the face of the daunting challenges facing the country at the time. Also many people won their elections seamlessly by mere association of their aspirations with that of Buhari at that time. In other words, rather the party, All Progressives Congress, APC, Muhammadu Buhari was the brand to beat.
Although he is exercising this mandate through the instrumentality of organs and institutions made up of appointed, elected and specialized individuals at various levels, and to a reasonable extent on the guidance of the manifestoes of his party, APC; it is the man Buhari who would solely take the glory and blame of the government and governance in the end. It thus implies that the prerogative particularly relative to choosing those that would aid his leadership’s overall success resides with him alone. And expectedly in appointing them: shared vision, competence, character and capacity as well as commitment to national interest must tower above all other considerations. However it is to be added that until one is proven guilty of any criminal offence either by the courts of law or any other statutory organ of the state including security reports, they are qualified to hold positions of trust if these conditions and perhaps other eligibility provisions are met.
Hence in reviewing the appointment of Prof. Ibrahim Gambari as the chief of staff to the president, one is tempted to believe that most Nigerians are unfortunately over-whelmed by the effects of misplacement of priority. Their attitudes to patriotism and nationalism are being on the decline. By their conducts largely, relationships are not strong again as there are rapidly growing mutual suspicions across the country. These compatriots are seemingly uninterested in things that tend to move Nigeria forward. Primordial sentiments and self-seeking agenda drive their motives and motivation for all they do and say. Rather than come up with national narratives that suit the urgent need for healing and reconciliation, they promote those very things that divide and hold us down as a people even with a common destiny. For all intents and purposes, they live in denial and in the past. Their predominant actions and words are lacking in wisdom and sense of unity. And sadly in all these, our weaknesses as a nation are unwittingly and progressively being advertised to the outside world including even the enemies within, manifesting as bandits and terrorists. In short, the unity of Nigeria has been greatly undermined such that the future of the on-coming generation is regrettably mortgaged by the antics of those promoting divisive tendencies. In their desperate efforts at advancing their egocentric pursuits, they feign ignorance of the workings of the government. They pretend not to understand the roles and responsibilities of aides of office holders generally. In their grandstanding, they exhibit limited awareness that presidential aides and notably the chief of staff are not in any way different. The public knowledge especially in Nigeria’s situation, that the president applies discretion in deploying his staff to duties outside their schedule, seems lost on them. As long as they are fulfilled in demeaning individuals and inciting the ignorant and vulnerable public, nothing about national development matters to them. Yet they claim to love Nigeria!
Quite curiously, none of them is in any way inspired by the impeccable credentials of Prof. Gambari among others, as a world-class diplomat and scholar who has paid his dues in the service of humanity both nationally and internationally. The self-seeking critics appear unaware that even though he is confined to the office of the president, his rich intellectual background, encyclopedic knowledge of foreign policies and international politics as well as leadership and service experiences particularly occasioned by age are added strategic advantages with inherent capacities to complement federal government’s agenda at taking the country to the next level if properly exploited. It is even a disservice to our collective psyche that no one is concerned that Gambari is rather being under-utilized. By every standard of assessment, he is not just qualified but eminently and over-qualified for the office of chief of staff to the president. He has no direct bearing on the processes and procedures of governance except as directed by his principal. Those who are deliberately over-bloating his functions and possible influence in the polity are driven perhaps by past experiences or vendetta which are all based on individual perception. They are not excited that at least, president Buhari eventually appointed someone he has known for over four decades thereby eliminating the perennial insinuation of having his aides being foisted on him and manipulated by the “cabal”. Nobody remembers again that Buhari was roundly applauded when at the inception of this second term that he would appoint only those well-known to him so as to squarely take the blame and glory of the eventual outcome in the long run. As such, any choice of appointee by public officials should be respected as the right and priviledge of the principal as long as it will not interfere unproductively with the security and welfare of the citizenry. But anyone holding a contrary view cannot claim to love Nigeria or believing in democracy.
And for Prof. Gambari who as a man that truly understands the deliverables of his office, he was quick to announce that “I don’t report directly to the nation. I report directly to the president”, adding that “he needs my loyalty, competence and support”. Expectedly, with this show of profound understanding of his schedule, Gambari is set to go to work justifying the confidence reposed in him by the unpredicted-but-wise choice of the president. And instructively however, if in his diligent commitment according to him, “to serve the president with all my ability” he distinguishes himself to the extent of being saddled with certain exceptional duties, it is still the president that will take the whole blame and glory at the fullness of time. Nigerians gave him their mandate and he is at liberty to enlist the services of those he adjudges fit to play roles at delivering, provided his activities are subjected to the legislative checks and balances.
Therefore Gambari should not be distracted but be dispassionately assessed on the basis of his services to his boss. Unarguably as a man who has seen it all, there is no possibility that he would be carried away by whatever attractions that may accrue from the new position. He cannot afford to rewrite his history at this age. Similarly, he would surely resist inordinate appeals to misrepresent the president before the Nigerian masses.
Then may those who for whatever reasons fault the choice of Gambari for the position, kindly reset their mindset to the effect that first and foremost, he is a direct appointee of the president to superintend over the entire presidential personal staff. He has no place in the constitution and also the order of protocol. It is at the discretion of the president to determine what else to assign to him. And certainly as a long standing ally of the president, he is not going to be ‘hijacked’ against the national interest. Also by his pedigree, he must surely deliver within a sane operating environment. Then above all, the massive goodwill cutting across partisan, religious and regional divides coupled-with the mostly misplaced criticisms by a few should combine to challenge him towards performing excellently and beyond expectation. After all, in all the uncharitable words and prejudiced expressions, none has clearly linked Gambari to any form of official infraction previously.
And so moving forward and rather than dissipate energies running down our own with uncharitable words, we should embrace unity and things that promote inclusion and participation as well as always seeking to demonstrate commitment to national interest, peace and progress. For it is only in them that we can actualize the Nigeria of our dream even as we wish Prof. Ibrahim Gambari a rewarding outing as he settles to work.
-Egbo, a public relations practitioner writes from Abuja