Home Inside Africa Nigeria Buhari?s Administration can sure use some lessons from George Washington

Buhari?s Administration can sure use some lessons from George Washington

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Being the first President of the United States, George Washington realized that his administration would have to set the precedence for subsequent administrations. He was therefore painstaking in attending to the responsibilities of the office of the President of the United States of America. Initially, he refused being paid a salary, simply because he wanted to project an image of a selfless public servant. While I do not ask President Buhari not to receive a salary, I would suggest that the salaries of his and other high-level public officials be revised downwards.

George Washington also proved to be an astute administrator. He worked with a team of highly disciplined technocrats in his day, and delegated authority cautiously with the highest sense of integrity and responsibility. Notably, President Buhari has a track record of being steadfast and honest. Whilst he held several ?juicy? positions such as being the Commissioner (Minister) for Petroleum, and a military head of state, he remained by all accounts incorruptible. Known for maintaining a relatively modest lifestyle, he has no gas stations or chains of businesses like others after him. Nevertheless, integrity alone will not suffice in fixing the challenges Nigeria is confronted with at this time; like Washington, President Buhari has to build a team of technocrats who have the capacity to deliver on a daunting national development agenda.
Consequently, a cabinet lineup of the ?usual suspects,? namely, former Governors, Ministers, legislators, or their children will be the first signal that Nigeria is headed along a regular route. At this critical time, Nigeria needs a crop of new people who put their country before their legacy. Any attempt to recycle the ?usual suspects? will seem like his party?s ?CHANGE? slogan was merely cosmetic. In fact, for Buahri to truly live up to his campaign slogan and help Nigeria reach the change it yearns for, he should not appoint anyone to his administration who has already served at the cabinet level.

In my candid opinion, it may take so much as not inviting those who have ever held public offices or been top government functionaries to be part of the administrative team to create the desired changes Nigerians yearn for.
The Goodluck Jonathan administration has allegedly incurred a domestic debt of about N5 trillion, representing a 157.48 per cent increase in federal debt between 2010 and 2015, without recourse to foreign debts. Domestic debts incurred by various State Governors also grew by 116.83 per cent within the same period, the administrators responsible for these losses clearly could not serve as the ?agents of change? that Nigeria needs, and President Buhari?s campaign promised. Going forward, Nigeria needs more fiscal discipline from the presidency, which in 2014 under Johnathan, spent over N350 million on catering meals and refreshments alone.
Going forward, the extent of administrative expenses incurred by various public office holders should be based on whatever any official would have ordinarily been able to afford if not in government. Washington adopted a series of measures to reduce the United States? debt and placed national finances on a sound footing.

The Buhari administration will need to build a team of economic experts, reduce the cost of governance, cut salaries of government officials and reduce the cost maintaining the office of the President. Moreover, given the recent decline in world crude oil prices, the economy of Nigeria needs to be diversified. In order to prevent leakages and corruption, the Federal government can run a single account, as against many accounts it currently has.

Finally, as stated in the Nigerian constitution, the primary purpose of government is the security and the welfare of the people! The Buhari administration must dutifully implement the recommendations of the recently concluded National Conference, if it is to be taken seriously. Besides this, President Buhari needs to work with the right people, not usual suspects, to engineer change in various aspects of the Nigerian polity and set the nation on a path of sustainable progress.

Tolulope Ola-David is an Analyst with a Global Risk Consulting Firm.

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