Between the Rock and the Dome18 views
In a space of two weeks the Senate of the Federal of Republic of Nigeria has rejected two very important requests presented to it by President Muhammadu Buhari. The first was the request for approval for the Federal Government to borrow an estimated $29.96bn for execution of capital projects from 2016 to 2018.
The Senate said that it rejected the request because the letter conveying it was not accompanied by a borrowing plan. In other words, the Senate wanted details of the sources of the loan, the cost of the borrowing and the specific projects it was supposed to be expended on. Feelers however had it that the prevailing economic situation of the country informed the position of the Senate. The Senate, it would appear, was more concerned about sincerity in the application of the would-be borrowed fund, as well as the ability to pay back given the current economic recession. The Government has however said it would engage the Senate and provide all the needed documents and borrowing plan requested.
The second request, also rejected by the Senate, was the list of 46 non-career ambassadorial nominees which the President sent for legislative approval. The Senate said it rejected the ambassadorial nominees because many of them had petitions pending against them. Earlier, some state governors had protested against their non-involvement in the selection of the non-career ambassadorial nominees. Two of the nominees themselves – Paulin Tallen and Usman Bugaje – had also rejected their nominations on grounds that they were not duly consult before their nomination.
As important as these two requests are, it is difficult to fault the Senate for rejecting them. The reasons adduced are valid. Which is why I am worried that the Presidency seems not to have carried out adequate due diligence before putting forward the requests. Why must every Presidential communication sent to the National Assembly be mired in controversy before the most basic things are done? One also recalls the controversy that characterized the 2016 Appropriation Act.
It is baffling that the government of a party that commands majority in the legislature would face the embarrassment of having its requests routinely rejected. This simply shows that beyond attention not being paid to details, there is also a huge communication gap between the Executive and the Legislature on the one hand, and the Executive and other state organs on the other. It ought not to be so.
Ordinarily, one expects that before any request is formally presented to the National Assembly for consideration, Aso Rock would first of all reach out to its leadership through informal channel so as to secure its prior approval. This seems not to have been done in these instances, and I am wondering why. What is the job of Senator Ita Enang, the Presidential Liaison between Aso Rock and the National Assembly? What is the job of Babafemi Ojudu, the Special Adviser on Political matters?
State governors’ inputs also seem to be lacking in the matter of the ambassadorial nominees. Again I ask, what is the job of Presidential Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari?
The National Assembly is a political battle ground, more so, given the not-so-rosy relationship between Senate President Bukola Saraki and President Buhari. So I expect Enang and Ojudu to be proactive in lobbying at least APC legislators whenever any issue requiring approval of the National Assembly is on the table. It doesn’t seem to me they were in this instance, thus raising the question of their suitability for their job. In fact, the continued frosty relationship between Aso Rock and the Dome may rightly be attributed to the failure of these two in interfacing with the National Assembly.
On the seeming inadequate due diligence conducted before requests leave Aso Rock to the National Assembly, I would put it squarely on the President’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari. A Chief of Staff is supposed to be the intellectual brainbox behind the leader. He is supposed to be the organizer and supervisor of the Presidential staff, the man who ensures the execution of the President’s vision, sets the strategy, controls Presidential Access, and acts as an all-purpose adviser. All these in addition to perhaps the most important aspect of his job – scrutinizing all official Presidential documents to ensure that every “i” is dotted and “t” crossed. Abba Kyari seems a dismal failure in all respects. The earlier the President shakes up his immediate team members the better.