By Prof Charles Adeyinka Adisa,
and Onyenachi Nwaegeruo
President Muhammad Buhari and his family have excelled in the art of generating national controversies. His has become a case of “one week one trouble”. There is hardly a day that passes without the first family being negatively in the news. Only last week the family added another controversy to its indecorous record with the news that the president’s daughter, Hanan Buhari, used the presidential jet to attend a private function in Bauchi, presumably at a huge cost to the nation.
We have listened to the debate on this matter on the legality/illegality and propriety/impropriety of the action. We are of the opinion that legality alone should not be the issue. Rather, the unfortunate act should be interrogated from the viewpoint of expediency and morality. Our holy book, the Bible says that all things are permissible, but all things are not expedient. Even if the law permits the President to make available the presidential jet fleet to his family members, should discretion not have informed Mr President that flying his daughter to Bauchi with the presidential jet is not cost effective, when flying even on first class on a commercial flight would not have in any way diminished the personality or status of the young, upcoming lady?
We are worried that Mr President is not leading by example, neither is he living according to his profession. He presented himself to Nigerians as a man who is not given to frivolities. He exuded the picture of a stoic and ascetic personality who is not given to the epicurean lifestyle.
As an opposition candidate, he condemned the maintenance of a large presidential jet fleet and promised to reduce the size if elected, as a way of reducing the cost of governance. Also as an opposition candidate he criticised medical tourism and other extravagant trips outside the nation.
What the nation has witnessed in the last five years is the direct opposite of what Mr Buhari professed. In fact, he has surpassed his predecessors in terms of frivolity within the sphere of governance. Had he presented himself as an epicurean fellow Nigerians would not have been surprised at the emerging scenario. But to profess an aversion to wastefulness and go on to indulge in opulence is the height of hypocrisy and double standards, which is common with this administration. Obviously, controversy is bound to dog such hypocrisy.
President Buhari needs to learn from history and take a lesson from the Late Sardauna of Sokoto.
In the days of the Northern Region, the government constructed air-strips for use of the Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello, in most of the provinces that made up the Northern Region, including Mubi, Jalingo, Wukari, Sokoto, Gusau, Minna, Azare, Gombe, Bauchi, Idah, etc. Sir Ahmadu Bello had three small Cessna aircrafts in his fleet. The administration and operation of the fleet of aircrafts was supervised directly by an Assistant District Officer, ADO, in the Premier’s office. His name was Alhaji Suleiman Gurin, a former teacher from Adamawa Province.
One day, Sir Ahmadu Bello flew one of the aircrafts in his fleet to Sokoto on a private visit. When he returned to Kaduna, the administrative headquarters of the region, the ADO, under the leadership of Alhaji Suleiman Gurin sent him a bill for his flight to Sokoto! His explanation was that the Premier went on a private visit, using the aircraft that was strictly for official schedules.
The importance of his request was that the Premier was owing the government, and therefore, should make the appropriate refund to the government’s treasury. Without any hesitation, Sir Ahmadu Bello, who was amused at the request, made the payment. When he went public with details of his exchange with Alhaji Gurin, it was his way of commending the ADO, and setting his conduct as one that others should emulate. He wanted to further affirm the reality that everyone who served was a subject to the state, and to the laws that have been made to effectively govern that state.
When state actors, regardless of the privileges conferred on them by their offices, begin to assume superiority over the state itself, perdition is not far from that society. When subordinates respectfully hold their bosses up to these standards, the pillars that hold societies together remain firmly in place. Of course, the whole saga became an unforgettable one for the ADO and his family”.
Mr President would appear to be a man living in regret of his first (military) coming, making up for not maximally enjoying the perks of governance at that time. Might he have suffered some degree of nagging from his immediate family, on account of which he and the rest of his family are now seemingly in a hurry to grab all the “grabables” this time around? If not, how would one explain the craze regarding the obvious materialistic tendencies of the first family?
On our part, we can only call on Mr President to live and lead in an exemplary manner.