Muhammadu Buhari: The Benevolent Dictator?

By ISHOLA EBENEZER
The notion of ‘benevolent dictator’ became popular in my circle after one of our classes on development administration at the University of Lagos. In its classical form, a benevolent dictator is a leader, usually of a political entity, who is autocratic/dictatorial in his leadership style but ensures that the developmental needs of the populace are met. Popular examples of benevolent dictators include Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, Muammar Ghadaffi of Libya among others. Interestingly, irrespective of their leadership styles, these individuals are celebrated widely and have assumed the status of demi-gods. Singapore todays represent a lighthouse for countries hitherto referred to as third-world countries in the development discourse. Late Lee Kuan Yew played an indispensable part in Singapore’s success story. Lee Kwan Yew recognized that an imposed conception of democracy and its tenets promoted by Western countries could not guarantee the development of Singapore. Hate him or like him, Muammar Ghadaffi steered Libya to the apogee of being the pride of the continent in terms of welfarist states. Healthcare, education, electricity, among other social services was free under Ghadaffi. Numerous tales abound of Nigerians migrating to Libya for better living conditions. Irrespective of the autocratic/dictatorial toga, strong leadership is an indispensable component of the character of any benevolent dictator.
Transmuting to Nigeria, a country stuttering in its democratic voyage, strong leadership is needed to right the many wrongs of the past administrations. The present leadership of the central government led by President Muhammadu Buhari and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo offers ray of hope in this regard. Their presidential campaign hinged on change particularly in the areas on corruption, insecurity and economy offered promise for Nigerians. President Muhammadu Buhari’s age and experience as a former Head of State and elder statesman, military background, renowned intolerance for greed and impunity, are vital in the bid to provide the required leadership to steer Nigeria out of the pitiable abyss we have found ourselves. Buhari’s able deputy is a legal practitioner of no mean repute as evident in his title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), as well as a respected Cleric. This combination without doubt is one of the very best we have had till date to govern our affairs as a nation. Their fascinating background will come to bare as they navigate the affairs of the country for the next four years.
As we enter into the second hundredth of the days of the new administration, President Buhari and Prof. Yomi Osinbajo have showed that the times have indeed changed. Their actions thus far are a pointer that governance at the federal level is no longer business as usual. In the early days of the administration, the President rejected the proposal for the purchase of new vehicles for the presidential fleet. This is quite significant in a country where materialism has assumed the order of the days. Another pointer to the strong leadership exuded by President Buhari and Prof. Osinbajo is the 50% pay cut announced. This considerate action in the light of the country’s ailing finances is remarkable. I am hopeful this action will rub off on the remunerations of members of the ‘almighty’ national assembly and ministers when they are appointed. Similarly, the directive by a supposed ‘religious bigot’ and Pastor to stop the federal government’s sponsorship of pilgrims to the Holy Land deserves kudos. Sponsoring pilgrimage is not and should not be the concern of the government.
Another important highpoint of the new government was revealed to me like a mystical vision by an academician who specializes in public administration. He noted that the briefings on the activities of the ministries, departments and agencies to the President by the permanent secretaries has strengthened the bureaucracy as permanent secretaries who ideally are the administrative heads of these ministries are held responsible for the activities of their respective ministries.
The required strong leadership is further exemplified in the improved power situation in the country traced to safer gas pipelines with lesser incidences of pipeline vandalism as well as the availability of petroleum product and its sale at the regulatory retail price especially PMS at N87/litre. Stakeholders are convinced the days of impunity are clearly over as the body language of the President reiterates. The NNPC which was gradually becoming a ‘parallel government’ now has a clear sense of direction. It is no longer business as usual at the institution which hitherto had been a cash cow for Nigerian leaders.
One conspicuous area we have seen strong leadership is the war against corruption. Corruption according to the World Bank (1997) is “the abuse of public office for private gain”. The indecisiveness of the last administration’s fight against this endemic social malaise was brought to the fore in one of the presidential media chats where the former President noted that corruption in Nigeria is glorified as most of the instances of corruption are mere ‘stealing’. Today however, anti-corruptions agencies are up and running pursuing their mandate, civil societies are not left behind in revealing the identities of those who have milked our commonwealth dry over the years.
As we continue our adventure under the new leadership, I am unapologetically hopeful President Buhari and Pastor Osinbajo know their integrity is at stake, as they seek to repair the comatose entity known as Nigeria under the auspices of change.

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