Policy Briefs

Policy Brief No. 24-4 |Blame Game Is Not Policy Game


A befuddling vagary of Nigerian politics is that some who seek political power on getting into office don’t seem to know what to do. Yet, the abandonment of Nigerian political space to transactional politicians is deeply rooted in the “Sit George faciam” and “Laissez George le faire” culture. The English counterpart, is “Let George do it.” The language notwithstanding, the mantra underpins the willful abdication of moral responsibilities; good men abandon politics to fraudsters and elected officials lack of the political will to take hard-headed decisions, or take responsibility for governance successes or failures. An adjunct to that leadership hubris is The Blame Game (TBG).


Nigeria’s major governance challenge has always been bad leadership, on which greed and corruption pivot. But governance dysfunction is also totally rooted in another leadership oddity. It has become a cliché to speak of lack of political will as an albatross, but hardly is it defined. ‘Let George do’ is squarely about passing the buck. In definitional terms, the blame game, “a situation in which one party blames others for something bad or unfortunate rather than attempting to seek a solution,” is also passing the buck. For long, Nigeria’s politics has been fraught with the blame game and finger pointing. It happens in a warped political environment, in which elected leaders at the federal and state levels, instead of engaging in problem solving, resort to blaming their predecessors. 


The blame game is a form of psychosis; a miasma and national malaise that continues to hobble Nigeria. It retards her development insidiously, in very oblique ways. The syndrome has a tight knit correlation and an inextricable nexus to lack of elite consensus in Nigeria. Overcoming such mindset, perhaps, is the only way to extricate Nigeria from her present governance and development rut.


Ironically, it is the overarching need for continuity-in-government (CiG) and sustainability of policies that compel exiting administrations to work assiduously to ensure that they are succeeded by leaders from their own party. Such succession planning would readily explain why, the outgoing Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration ensured -at all costs, including the most egregious methods- that it was not succeeded by a Labour Party (LP) or Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration; but by another APC administration. As far as strategic ambiguity goes, there are still clearly defined lines between the blame game and policy game. Yet, rather than govern, the present APC administration has made the blame game itsfavourite pastime. Hence, Nigeria observers are witnessing gross dissonance within the government and deep-seated consternation nationwide.


First, as hunger manifested in Nigeria thanks to the subsidy removal, the grossly devalued naira and road food and general inflation; the Presidency blamed political opponents for the sad state of affairs; with Vice President Kashim Shettima, alluding that smugglers and politicians were the brains behind the attempt to pull the nation backward. Second, as hungry Nigerians expanded their protestations and some resorted to self-help with food, wherever they could find it; Senate President Godswill Akpabio publicly suggested that the hunger protests were not genuine, but were sponsored presumably to embarrass the Tinubu administration.


Third, Mr. Wale Edun, the finance and coordinating minister of the economy, publicly and on record, blamedformer President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for causing Nigeria’s hyperinflation “by aimlessly” printing trillions of naira, without productivity. As he asserted; “The N22.7 trillion printed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through Ways and Means overdraft for the federal government from 2015 to 2023 landed Nigeria into hyper-inflation.” In a nutshell, for the entire eight years of the Buhari administration, the federal government printed money without commensurate productivity, and aimlessly so. 


The vexatious paradox is that while in 2015, the Buhari Administration spent its early years blaming the out gone Goodluck Jonathan PDP administration for all governance ills it seemed incapable of addressing, in 2023, the Bola Tinubu’s APC’s administration is doing exactly the same thing; except that its predecessor-in-office was also an APC administration. Such uncharitable recriminations assumes even more insidious colouration, when it is recalled that in 2022, candidate Tinubu had pledged that if elected, “he will show due honour to the efforts and legacies of the President and work in the spirit of unity, national purpose that informed the creation of the party” and that “his government will be devoted to continuity.”


What Minister Edu expediently ignored, is that like the Tinubu-led government, the Buhari-led government was also an APC Government; two ugly sides of the same counterfeit coin. He also ignored the fiscal profligacy exhibited by the Tinubu administration since its inception on 29 May 2023. The pathology of the blame game is that “a person consciously puts allegations against others without accepting one’s faults.” Should Nigerians assume that the two APC administrations are incompatible and have differentideologies, or different governance ethos? The reality is that Nigerians no longer make any pretenses of their politics being driven by any form of ideology. As a people, political ideology never got stuck in our craw.Yet, APC of yesterday is the APC of today! The ‘Change’ and ‘Renewed Hope’ Buhari and Tinubu respectively promised Nigerians are fungible.  Both emanate from the APC stable. 


The blame game is neither a good policy game nor good governance attributes. It is neither a badge of honour nor political bibelots. The blame game is hardly ever mirific. The blame game is never a solution. Rather, it is simply passing the buck and not taking responsibility or ownership for failing or failed governance policies.  In present day Nigeria, this is standard fare at the federal and state levels. But something ought to be clear. “Every time our government plays the policy game, some of us win and some of us lose;” but every time our government plays the blame game, the entire nation lose. Repeating the exact mistakes of the Buhari administration, means the Tinubu’s Government is entirely oblivious of missed opportunities and lessons learned. Nigerians must recognize the blame game syndrome and its increasing adverse impact on her national wellbeing. The blame game translates to lack of accountability. Grasping that reality entails also grasping why leaders double down on faux positions and policies, rather than explore proactive and purposeful transformative and redeeming policies. 


Perhaps, pretty soon, the Buhari administration will be blamed for not prosecuting those public officers who were publicly accused, arrested and charged with various forms of grand larcenies.  Such non-fiscal liabilities were also inherited. That being the case, Nigerians may yet be told that the Tinubu government cannot do anything about such cases; as if the statute of limitations has run out. Just as there were perceived ‘sacred cows’ during the Buhari administration – those beyond the reach of the law- who enjoyed unfettered immunity, the same mindset is emerging with the present administration.  Will the blame game be deployed for the ensuing inaction?  


Nigeria, like most nations, has its schizophrenic history. In Nigeria, where most of the national elite and leadership have no allegiance to pristine ethics, the challenges become even murkier. Our predisposition –a predilection of sorts- is that resort to the blame game contributes invariably to the weakening of national institutions, a reality that runs in parallel with the decimation of the national economic strata. Perhaps, a word of caution here will suffice; playing the blame game can be extremely toxic. There are some notablepersonalities in the present executive and legislative branches of the Tinubu administration, who were also key players in the Buhari administration. They were party to the legislation that facilitated the Ways and Means overdraft for the federal government. Will their roles be audited and if need be, will they be prosecuted, if found liable?


As an Africa adage says, “While one finger is pointed at a presumed culprit, three fingers point back at the accuser.” In present day Nigeria, there are enough blames to go round; and certainly, finger-pointing will not solve the nation’s onerous leadership and governance predicament. Purposeful leadership and governance goes well beyond sloganeering and political sound bites; and certainly, the resort to blame games. Leadership must strive for governance that is positive — via positive governance and robust institutions. Only in that context can we as a nation pursue the rule of law in all sincerity, while emphasizing the core pillars of “development” and “empowerment” firmly anchored on unbiased “enforcement” of extant laws, rules and regulations.


It’s important to grasp fully, what true leadership and governance represents. Inheriting a bad economic situation is not peculiar to Nigeria. At different times, in the U.S., China, Vietnam, Argentina, etc., incoming administrations inherited parlous economies. Rather than waste time and energy blaming the predecessor administrations, they respectively focused on problem solving and particularly, on how to structurally transform their economies. If our leaders have not been told, engaging in the blame game is tantamount to gross abdication of leadership responsibilities by those elected to govern. That such abdication now seems collective and predisposed to groupthink, will explain our intractable national rut and sustained dysfunctionalism.

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.

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