Professor Ango Abdullahi is a former minister and former Vice Chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. He is now the chairman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF).
In this interview with News Desk on Friday, he has, among others, blamed what he called incompetent and selfish appointees/associates for the “failure” of Buhari’s administration.
Excerpt: Nigeria is celebrating 21 years since the return of democracy, what is your take on that?
I did not believe 29th of May is the Democracy Day for Nigeria. Democracy Day is 1st of October, because that is the day that Nigeria became politically independent from colonial masters. If the interpretation of Democracy Day means Nigeria has moved from military to another form of administration, I wouldn’t say that we have moved from military administration to democracy. What we have done was to move from military administration to civilian administration.
There is difference between civilian administration and democratic administration. As far as I am concerned we have not enjoyed democratic administration in the last 21 years, including the current period that we are in now. In fact, we have suffered more in terms of less democracy in the last four to five years than any other time in the last 21 years.
How then do you view the leadership style of the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari?
Well, it is difficult to give straight answer to this question. From a distance, I would say that he delegates power to other people who probably have no qualification and competence to execute the duties of their offices. They may also have no mandate to execute those powers delegated to them.
The presidential powers that are enshrined in the constitution are entailing the responsibilities of a person who offered himself for election, as Buhari did. Eventually, he emerged as the president and therefore those powers are exclusively his own powers. All he needs to do is to ensure that those powers are executed in the expectation of the people of the country. Yes, he can’t do everything all alone; we concede. He has to find people or assistants, associates and colleagues who would be assigned various roles and responsibilities to carry out those functions that are his own.
I once postulated few months after he emerged as president for second term that we trust his honesty, but unfortunately he has failed to gather the necessary materials with which to execute the duties and functions of the office of the president by the poor quality of people that he gathered around either as ministers or any other role they play.
As a teacher, if you asked to grade the performance of Buhari in comparison to the previous presidents since the return of democracy, what would be your score for him?
I have worked with only one of the presidents. I worked with Obasanjo for three years. Of course, Obasanjo was a better president. I ranked Obasanjo far better president than Buhari. This is because of his ability to take on the duties of president whether sometimes right or wrong. The critical job of the president is to take decision. Some of the decisions may be right, while others may be wrong. The most important thing is that there must be somebody who takes decisions and take responsibility. This is where Obasanjo excelled. He took decision and took responsibility. This is the major difference between Obasanjo’s presidency and that of Buhari.
Aside selection of competent lieutenants, which other area do you think that the Buhari presidency is lagging behind?
I have never personally been close to him, but from afar I would say lack of firmness. Firmness means that he should come out as president to ensure that his decisions are executed to the latter. However, we notice that he did not exhibit that firmness.
For example, when somebody is alleged to have done something wrong and you requested for evidence and ample of them were provided; the president should take decisive action to serve as deterrent. The reverse is however the case. We have instances of people close to him that engaged in one wrong doing or the other, but went scot free after a lot of evidences have been adduced directly and indirectly. These were in terms of both moral and material corruption.