One of the most noticeable trends of the Buhari administration is the silence and seeming absenteeism of the President on critical issues and at times when the nation needs to hear from their leader.
This worrying trend has been dismissed consistently by his administration who continue to insist that it is not his “style”. Suddenly, hearing directly from Mr. President has become the privilege of a select few who get to be privy to seeing and hearing from him and then relay information received from him to the rest of us who are in most cases the ones facing the brunt of any decision taken.
The most recent example is Mr. President shunning the National Assembly. The Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami (SAN) in a statement came out to say that the “National Assembly lacks the power to invite President Muhammadu Buhari to speak on security matters”. This in itself was a laughable ploy to try and create a loophole to wriggle out of yet another opportunity for Mr. President to address us.
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria empowers the National Assembly to invite or summon “any person” in Nigeria to answer questions relating to areas within its legislative competence and for purpose of enabling it to expose corruption, inefficiency, or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it according to [Section 88(2)(a)(b)].
The Attorney-General opined that the President could not discuss his security strategy with the National Assembly and “an invitation that seeks to put the operational use of the armed forces to a public interrogation is indeed taking the constitutional rights of law-making beyond bounds” but in fact, no one asked for him to do that.
The issue of security does indeed fall within the legislative competence of the National Assembly and under Section 4 of the Constitution, is empowered to invite or summon the President to answer questions on National Security.
The immunity clause under Section 308 of the Constitution does not exempt Mr. President from accountability to the people through the National Assembly but rather shields him and elected executive from civil or criminal proceedings and the invitation neither represented a civil or criminal proceeding.
Sadly, this wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
The EndSARS protest issue arises and brings to mind the fact that despite the gravity of the situation Mr. President chose to keep mum at a time when the nation and indeed the youths needed to hear from the leader they voted in. For an issue that brought the nation to its knees and got the International community wondering what exactly was going on, the deafening silence on his part left many bewildered. Despite the desperate outcry of teeming youths of the nation, how it was convenient to remain silent and absent remains a worry.
The fact that it took as long as it did after days of protest before the President deemed it fit to address the nation and the address itself showed that indeed Mr. President would rather not speak than speak at all.
We have had too many pertinent issues go unaddressed and in other cases, an expression of shock and a promise to resolve the situation has become the order of the day.
No one demands that the President organizes media parleys every day or go on live television every week to address the country, NO! but the people deserve much more than silence and late timed press releases that make you wonder if the President is aware of the real situation of things in the country.
The people deserve to have the privilege to speak with their elected President and not just a select few who have meetings with the President at his behest. The people voted for Mr. President and accountability is the least required of him.