It is important to commend President Muhammadu Buhari for yielding to the call to have a proper economic team. Even though it took the President over four years.
The new economic team led by Prof. Doyin Salami has some prominent economists in its midst. Some of them are from the academia. Others are in the private and public sector with vast experience in monetary and fiscal policy.
Other notable members of the team are Prof. Charles Soludo, Bismark Rewane, Prof. Ode Ojowu and Dr Yahaya Shehu. Also on board are Dr. Iyabo Masha and Dr. Mohammed Sagagi who is the Vice Chairman.
Indeed, their CVs are impeccable.
However, many commentators on social media are skeptical if their recommendations would not be gathering dust on a shelf. In other words, there is an overwhelming concern on whether the President will heed their counsel.
Of course, that is in the realm of speculation. But with hindsight of the president’s actions in the last four years and in his declaration, Buhari does not get easily convinced on issues. This, most likely, explains why it appears that decision making by the current administration always grinds slowly.
During the last elections, Buhari admitted that he does not get easily convinced on initiatives. Additionally, he disclosed that the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, struggled to convince him on Trader Moni and school feeding.
He said: “These are very good initiatives. Initially, I was quite reluctant. But I must admit that they are very good programmes and they endear this government to a lot of poor people because of these N5,000 or N10,000 being given to them as loans.
“They are fantastic programmes.
Will Buhari heed the advice of his new Economic Team? No one knows…
“I have to admit quite honestly that the Vice-President was ahead of me by insisting on them.
“But he knows me. If he insists, I will say `okay go and do what you like.’ He did it and I’m very pleased as he is being very successful,’’ he said.
The main job of the new Economic Advisory Council (EAC) will be that of convincing the president on their recommendations. It is the President’s prerogative to take or reject the advice. In fact, he was the one given the mandate and his ideology got him elected.
Well, it could be a thing of surprise to use the word ideology in Nigerian political discourse. However, the last election clearly showed ideological differences. President Buhari tilted towards the left: social welfare, big government, infrastructure. On the other hand, his opponent, Atiku Abubakar moved to the right: privatization, private sector-driven approach.
Also, the cabinet did not really change. Buhari retained Godwin Emefiele as Governor of the Central Bank, and Zainab Ahmed is still overseeing the Ministry of Finance.
Hence, the President is probably not expecting a radical departure from the existing norm. Perhaps, feedback from the sectors and means of improving things. The performance of the team is too early to judge, but everything depends on the President.
Will he listen to them? No one knows.
But to be fair, just because they are subject matter experts does not mean their advice will be perfect. After all, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommended Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to Nigeria. However, the fact that Buhari hand-picked them from the lot, means that he probably agrees with them.
Onigbinde and the APC Rottweilers
The appellation used above is not a derogatory term. Indeed, it is a rather a new badge proudly worn by several hardline supporters of President Buhari on Twitter.
The resignation of Seun Onigbinde from his appointment as technical adviser to the ministry of budget and national planning is the latest in a series of successful campaigns by this group.
Earlier, the APC Rottweilers had claimed the scalps of Festus Adebayo and Olu Onemola Both men were appointed by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, as Spokesperson and New Media adviser respectively. The campaign against those two was ferocious, until they both resigned.
The same strategy was deployed in the campaign against Onigbinde. In fact, Onigbinde had stated that the attacks sent his way was not a factor in his resignation.
“Kindly note that it is not the online anger or rage that made me resign. 90% of the comments I had no chance to read. I believe an atmosphere of mutual trust is critical for whatever I dream of. God bless,” he had posted on his Twitter timeline
However, until another fact emerges, then the APC Rottweilers are still winning.
Just like the famous Thatcherites of the United Kingdom, the Buharists are gradually emerging. Moreover, they are enjoying the sweet rewards of victory in telling those politicians they spent hours on social media defending: “Look, you have to listen to us.”
But how long will their run of victory continue?