The height of presidential incompetence


It is no longer news that the Senate last week overwhelmingly rejected the request for approval by President Muhammadu Buhari to source external loans of almost $30bn for the purpose of funding infrastructure across the country and to generally jumpstart the nation’s ailing economy.

What shocked me to my bones later was when I listened to the explanations given by Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, as he gave reasons why the Senate threw away the loan request. According to Ndume, the Senate rejected the request on technical grounds because the letter did not contain any detail on the proposed loan, the lending institutions, interest rates, among others. In specific terms, the Senate Leader said the letter from the President made reference to words like Please, see the attached document, meanwhile, no document was attached to the letter.

I was deeply disturbed to hear this. Why would such carelessness happen at such a level? Why would the President’s letter to the National Assembly make reference to an attached document and no document was attached? This is probably one of the most important letters ever written to the National Assembly by the President. A letter which seeks parliamentary approval for a loan bigger than our foreign reserves and excess crude account put together. Why would such important letter be handled with such embarrassing unseriousness and outright irresponsibility? Why would the President sign off on such a letter that had no attachment, even when the letter made a copious reference to an attachment? Could this be a confirmation that President Buhari readily signs any document given to him even without reading it or he reads with it without any shred of understanding? Let’s even assume that the President does all of that, who is his Principal Private Secretary? That position, from time immemorial, is usually occupied by a seasoned civil servant not below the rank of a Permanent Secretary who is at home with extant policies and procedures at the highest level of government. Where was he when such a document left the President’s office? Where were the presidential advisers on National Assembly Matters? Did they not see that letter before it reached the National Assembly? I am even more worried because the Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters in charge of the Senate is Senator Eta Enang. Enang is a seasoned parliamentarian who served for two consecutive tenures in the House of Representatives and spent one tenure at the Senate. In both chambers, he was Chairman of the Committee on Rules and Business. I have followed proceedings at the National Assembly for a very long time and I can say that Enang is a compendium and repository of parliamentary procedures. How come he never saw this document? This situation speaks volumes about the calibre of people that run our affairs in this country at the highest level and their approach to serious issues that affect you and I.

In my official capacity at work, I handle lots of critical correspondence with key public and private institutions as well as key company documents such as resolutions and other things. These letters require the signature of my MD and at times, together with mine. Before these documents leave my table, I would have painstakingly gone through them. I will cross every t and dot every i. I have an MD who is a Korean but has a superb understanding of English Language on account of many years of international exposure. Before he signs off on any document, he will spend at least an hour reading it. He will check and cross-check. He usually has his dictionary beside him when he reads my letters and he accuses me of trying to confuse him with some of my words. He calls me most times to explain the meaning of some words and he confirms what I say from his dictionary. When any reference is made to any attached documents, as happens often, this man will personally cross-check every single word on that document. If it’s a document that deals with figures, he will demand a written confirmation from the Chief Financial Officer. Indeed, when the letters are going to key places, like our headquarters in Korea or any top government office here, he usually calls a meeting of the top management and the letter is displayed on the big screen and we go through it word for word before he signs off. The man and his attention to details shock me and this puts me on my toes all the time. So, if the Managing Director of an organisation can be this meticulous, you can understand how embarrassed I feel when I hear that a letter emanating from the office of the President of Nigeria and issued under the hand of the President cannot meet even the most basic requirement. If such an important correspondence between the President and the National Assembly can be handled with such levity and treated with this level of carelessness, then, we are really
on a very long thing.

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