Japheth J Omojuwa: Before It Is Too Late for Nigeria’s ‘Change’ Team

In just over two months, we’d have had one year of the administration that was voted in on the strength of its claim to make change happen in Nigeria. Is it too early to judge? Compared with the five disastrous years of the last administration, you could say that nine months is too small to judge a wholly new administration.

Against its promise to hit the ground running and against the ruling party’s claim of understanding what needed to be done to fix Nigeria, nine months is certainly enough time to see traction or, at least, the possibility of same. At the moment, it is either that I need better glasses or I see no signs of traction.

Save me the story on the fight against corruption. There is time for everything. There was a time to tell the previous administration the truth about its failures and a time came to make it pay. That administration did not only refuse to listen; it demonised the critics of its actions by describing them as tools of the opposition.

The time has come for the ruling All Progressives Congress to read some hard truths. You can take it as the ranting of one who knows not what he is saying, or you can take it as the reality of your last nine months in office.

Ours is a country where survival, even for the so-called big men and women, is often dependent on being connected to power. This essentially means that many would rather say to power what would keep them connected to power than they would what power needs to hear. I am not about that life. Those who can’t handle the truth can leave it hanging in the air. This government needs to know a few things or it can choose to ignore them and wait for the consequences in what is now just about three years from now.

Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo is an essential part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. This is not just because he is the Vice-President. Namadi Sambo was VP, but I doubt if anyone expected him to be useful beyond just making cosmetic appearances that added zero to the country. On the contrary, it is because the President was voted in based on his avowed commitment to clean the Augean stable, not on account of his economic know-how or acumen.

Whether or not it has been clearly stated to the general public, the direction and state of the Nigerian economy depends and will continue to depend on Mr. Vice President. I have the utmost respect for him. He was the one that finally convinced me to support the APC during the 2015 elections. Even I appeared in a one-episode reality show with him in a last ditch attempt to rack up votes from the undecided.

Osinbanjo embodies passion, competence, character and capacity in more than enough dose to last several lifetimes. On top of that, he is hard working in a classic sense of the word. He is used to working tirelessly without consideration for time or space.

Prof. Osinbajo’s work as Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Lagos State continues to define the reality of the judiciary in Lagos to this day. He changed the process of recruitment, training, discipline and made sure to automate the court process. Today, the judiciary in Lagos is miles apart from the rest of the country, including Abuja.

The Vice President is the same man, whose work and pedigree cuts across our continent and the entire global community. Something seems to have changed this time. As an observer from outside, I’d think he does not have the same team that he probably had going for him.

It has been stated over and again that the most defining secret of a great leader is a great team. The same goes for performing companies and organisations. This is not to take anything away from the current individuals attached to the Vice President. You can have a team of stars but just not have the right manager to make them work in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Where is Babatunde Irukera? He organized the VP’s team during the campaign and few will argue against the value ‘Act Now’ brought to the APC then. He lost out in his bid to become Governor of Kogi State. But a man like that, who obviously understands the VP’s ideas and vision, should be organizing his present team.

I have probably exchanged less than 30 words with Mr. Irukera, but anyone who understands the workings of the Vice President pre-Aso Rock would see how much of a space his absence has left in the VP’s team. In his absence, can the Vice President get his current team to understand the vision and the mandate? What is the team busy with? If they spend a year preparing to deploy policies to fix the economy, how many years do they think they have before the elections?

Joe Biden and Barack Obama complement one another in a sense that one brings something to the table that the other does not readily have. That is what I see when I look at the Buhari-Osinbajo team.

The fact that this piece has not focused on the President’s team should not be assumed that his team is working. The less said about that end, the better for me. Better to deal with these things one after the other because there are consequences to articles like this. But what needs to be said has to be said and all of us cannot keep quiet, especially as I know that many feel the same way but they are constrained by different factors from speaking out.

Where is the economic team? The current Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, has received knocks from different quarters. Instead of defending herself, she should look within. She needs help. The Nigerian economy needs help. Aso Rock needs help.

Our country boasts some of Africa’s best economists. How can we make their expertise count? When are we going to relegate politics and let necessity decide for us? I believe that we need an advisory team on the economy. They need not be paid. Nigeria has been great to some of these world class citizens of ours and some of them will feel privileged to be called to serve, even if in advisory capacity. We can have a roving/non domiciled economic advisory team composed of the likes of Chukwuma Soludo, Emir Mohammed Sanusi II, Oby Ezekwesili and Shehu Yahaya. We already have them and we can make their expertise count for our country at this time.

The world’s greatest institutions have backroom think tanks that because of their birds eye view of events and occurrences are able to assist those charged with authority to make decisions make the right decisions. This writer is not an expert. So, don’t invite me to the table.

I had to make that clear. In our country one is always guilty of speaking the truth to power because he is often suspected of wanting something from those in the corridors of power. Let us even say that one wants something, at least take a critical look at these issues and make amends before it is too late. And the clock is ticking so fast that the long run will be here soon enough and we will all be gone. Should we then say that we did the very best we could for Nigeria? You have the power that you always craved, so tone down on the ceremonies and deliver the change you promised Nigerians. This is not a note of impatience; it is a reminder of the ticking clock.