Policy Briefs

Excerpts from Obaze’s new public policy book, Prime Witness – Change And Policy Challenges In Buhari’s Nigeria  to be presented  on 2 May, 2018

“The collection of articles in this book turns critically on three questions: Has the Buhari administration delivered on what it promised during the electoral campaign? Has President Buhari demonstrated the qualities of responsive and responsible leadership? And has he displayed the necessary statesmanship in the governance of national affairs?” (p.xiv)

This book “represents a first draft of detailed analytical history of the administrations performance in the first two years.” (p. xv)

“This book, by a thoughtful public policy analyst and former diplomat, senior United Nations official and high-ranking state government official, provides a detailed analytical assessment of the performance of the Buhari administration.” (p. xv)

                            ~~  From the Foreword by Amb. Ejeviome Eloho Otobo

Reflections on Buhari

“In the history of Nigeria two men stand out for coveting the leadership of Nigeria and working exceedingly hard to realize that dream. They are Obafemi Awolowo and Muhammadu Buhari. Where Awolowo failed and became known as the “best president Nigeria never had”, Buhari succeeded after four tries, joining Olusegun Obasanjo as the only two leaders so far to have ruled Nigeria twice.” (p. 304)

“Buhari’s success after an unprecedented fourth attempt was impressive and seemingly heralded. Many believed that after seeking the job for sixteen years, he was perhaps the most schooled and prepared person to lead Nigeria. His reputation for honesty and high integrity bolstered his bona fides.” (p. 304)

“This author is a five-percenter. I did not vote for Buhari, despite my very high personal regards for his integrity, discipline, frugality and honesty. These were values I cherished in him, but could not ascribe to his cohorts in APC.” (p. lvii) 


“The sense that Nigeria needed change was beyond debate. What nature of change? To move Nigeria forward and as one entity required a grand governance strategy. The ruling PDP had proven itself incapable of reform.” (p.xxvi)

Under PDP, corruption seemed to have reached its zenith, dwarfing the scales observed during erstwhile military regime and in the failed Second Republic. (p.xxxv)

“A possible third-track related to concerns about Buhari’s vindictiveness and possible retribution against military personnel involved in the coup which ousted him from office.” (p. xxx)

“The prospect of a Muslim-Muslim ticket, i.e. Buhari-Tinubu, in a secular democracy was too galling for most non-Muslim Nigerians. It had happened twice before more by happenstance; Buhari-Idiagbon and by coincidence; Abiola-Kingibe presidential ticket in 1993. For it to be allowed to happen a third time would clearly be defeatist and adversarial. In a democratic but fractious Nigeria, such contemplation was most unacceptable.” (p. xxxii)

“Nigerians did not buy into that change format. It was not what they bargained for. Indeed, some Nigerians from the very outset reacted derisively and openly to such a disposition.” (p. xxxvii)

“As Nigeria’s challenges and unmet needs in various sectors persist, Nigerians across board worry about government’s conflicting signals. Many feel that the president has fritted away the overwhelming goodwill Nigerians had for him.” (p.279)

“Whereas Buhari’s aspirations, promised change and resulting positive developments cannot be premised empirically on his accomplishments within the first year, there is no escaping the consequences of his governance actions and inactions, which were by no means a coincidence.” (p. 318)

“As Buhari celebrated his first year in office the broad skepticism remained. Unquestionably, Buhari had tried to forge change, but change without a focus on nation-building, that act of creating a sense of national community among disparate peoples could hardly translate to sustainable transformation.” (p. xxxiii)

“If Buhari did not meet public expectation at the end of his first year in office, there were tangible reasons. The fallacy of Buhari’s ‘change’ mantra was that it casually overlooked Nigeria’s complexity and sought to solve rather than manage the nation’s many and often times humongous and incongruous challenges.” (p. lvii)

“By May 29, 2016, the one year anniversary of Buhari coming to office, Nigeria was not littered with evidence of change; not in infrastructure, not in policies and certainly, not in the national mindset.”

“In order to seek a new beginning and attempt to foster the illusive change Nigerians yearn for, Buhari must undergo personal remediation and transmute; but Buhari has proven over thirty years since he left office as Head of State that he is near immutable and thus unmasked the hypocrisy of the political rhetoric those who did and still consider him a change agent.” (p.383)

Governance &  Promises

“In 2015 and 16 years after the PDP assumed the leadership reins in Nigeria, it was evident to all, that Nigeria was not enjoying the best form of governance and purposeful leadership. Bad leadership in Nigeria had become an accepted multi-generational saga and ‘existential question about the unity of this diverse polity’ persisted.” (p.xxvi)

“Concerning Nigeria, there exist an alarming weakness and gaping loopholes in our governance infrastructure as it pertains to public policy-making, implementation and policy validity. Nigeria’s fifty-five year old political landscape which Buhari inherited had some dubious characteristics…” (p. lvi)

“As Nigeria’s nascent democracy evolves, it is evident that the nation has arrived at the critical juncture where identifiable governance pitfalls, challenges as institutional and infrastructural failings compel urgent directional change.” (p. 7)

“Political promises and decisions tend to induce public trust. Yet, a promise undelivered is no promise at all. And good intentions espoused, but not concretized, remain a fluke with immense undermining capacity. As such, any unfocused leadership will falter, regardless of its abiding expression of good intentions. When that faltering happens, vexation, agitation and ennui are natural responses, as is now the case in Nigeria.” (p. 269)

“Confidence is eroded when leadership performance is sub-par and government fails. In such instances, the people must retake or withhold their mandate. Not doing so, only postpones the inevitable – enduring bad governance and suffering.” (p. 275)


“Buhari’s challenge was in two parts. First, rather than go into overdrive by pushing the policy reform contained in his campaign manifesto and inaugural speech, Buhari seemed fixated with retrospective politicking – making his predecessor’s failings and policies his governance plank rather than governing. Soon enough it became all too evident that the ‘change’ mantra was all about words and exhortation, but hardly about concrete mobilisation.” (p. xxxvi)

“Two key areas of challenges for the Buhari presidency remain most discernible. These include evident dissonance in strategic communication and policy coherence and coordination. Buhari’s government has profound communication challenge.” (p. 290)


“Corruption and its insidiousness in Nigeria are real; and fester like a plague that had affected the entire population. Nigerians knew that corruption in their nation had become endemic and that its deleterious impact continued to bedevil Nigeria. This scourge richly deserved to be routed; but by whom? Winning the war against corruption had to be both political and moral. Buhari seemed the best candidate for the job, but the forces arrayed against the desired ‘change’ were huge and vested.” (p. xxxiv)

“Beyond debate, Nigerians understood fully that only good leaders could resolve its seemingly endemic problems such as greed, corruption, nepotism, absence of patriotism; disequilibria, social injustice, indiscipline, kleptocracy and the ascendancy of mediocrity over meritocracy.” (p. xxxiv)

“No one is above the law; certainly not judges. And those public officials who enjoy prosecutorial immunity are clearly delineated in the Constitution. However, every Nigerian citizen, judicial officers included, is protected from arbitrary arrest, unlawful search and seizure and is accorded right to counsel, presumption of innocence, and the right against self-incrimination.” (p. 199)

Public Policy

“Public policy in Nigeria, as elsewhere, remains hostage to the idiosyncrasies of special interests, ideologues and rogue analysts. While public policy-making is always ascribed to public interest needs, they inevitably turn out for the leader a means of differentiating his administration and style of governance from those of preceding governments.” (p. xxv)

“One policy option open to President Buhari is simple; direct the adoption of the practice in the United States, whereby funds earmarked in the federal budget for the maintenance of federal highways are paid to the states on a per-mileage basis…This fund allotment policy has tremendous upside potentials.” (p. 5)

“The fallacy of Buhari’s ‘change’ mantra was that it casually overlooked Nigeria’s complexity and sought to solve rather than manage the nation’s many and often times humongous and incongruous challenges.” (p.lvii) 


“‘The crux of the problem is that every ethnic jigsaw component of Nigeria feels sufficiently aggrieved marginalized and therefore, seeks equity via restructuring.” (p. 191)

“Since the civil war, Nigeria has never been as polarized as it is now. Restructuring Nigeria is therefore, naturally compelling for reasons, which may include the desire to tweak management, ownership and operational or administrative modalities, with a view to achieving equity and efficiency.” (p.190)

“Nigeria in its present state is analogous to a dysfunctional computer. In both instances, there is evident systemic failure arising from non-responsive applications and institutions not operating as intended. Such instances require a reboot in order to overcome the redundancies.” (p. 7)

“Given its badly frayed national aspirations and values, we must accept without being coy, that the nation is faced with two stark choices: reboot instantly or risk systemic collapse and consequent catastrophic failure.” (p. 7)

“Nigeria is at risk unless it finds the courage to restructure. A nation in dire straits, Nigeria has a choice, to restructure by plan or by default. A default restructuring, will happen, certainly not by choice, but definitely like an uncontrolled experiment with attendant risks and indefinite outcome.” (p. 189)

“Restructuring sometimes arises from crisis situations or the need to preempt political catastrophe. The latter is a core premise for Nigeria. Regardless of what opponents of restructuring think, Nigeria must restructure or risk self-destruction.” (p. 190)

Local Government Autonomy

“In a nation suffused with developmental and other unmet needs, the best national governance structure required to address those pressing needs – the local government – is being systematically truncated. (p. 15)

“In Nigeria, the local government is a constitutional creation and thus a federating unit, even if putatively. But certain constitutional ambiguities persist. These ambiguities cost Nigeria much in progressive development. They also make good governance values and practice at the grassroots laggardly. (p. 17)

“Most State governors in Nigeria continue to treat local governments as counterfeit institutions and at best; as their fiscal fiefdoms. This default disposition finds vigour and draws its impetus from the constitutional ambiguities on the status of the local governments and the attending self-serving argument by most state governors that the local government is not a federating unit.”

Nigeria’s Unity

“In the absence of history, it will remain a worthy footnote that those who worked hard and fought to “Keep Nigeria One”, are retrospectively, in attitude and practice, the very persons who are dismantling the legacy they fought for.” (p. 66) 

Fulani Herdsmen Crisis

“Inexplicably, this age-long, peaceful husbandry practice has transmuted into a national security challenge. It is now a source of bloodletting. Indeed, Fulani herdsmen violence ranks within the top four risks facing Nigeria. Such situations, even if mundane or primordial, deserve priority attention.” (p. 155) 

“For now, Nigeria is at a dubious junction of a multi-fangled conflict, with no clear policy guidelines or remedial measures in sight, but with a surfeit of official pussyfooting.” (p. 158)

Boko Haram

“Unquestionably, Buhari’s regional geopolitical outreach had yielded results leading to the diminution of Boko Haram and the containment of its activities to a limited and defined space.” (p. 317)

Niger Delta

‘Billions of Naira poured into Niger Delta has not yielded tangible results. But then, billions of Naira taken from the Niger Delta has also left the region desolate. If Buhari’s government cannot handle the Niger Delta crisis proactively, and don’t trust those who handled it previously to continue doing so, then the least it can do is to deploy the services of neutral international arbiters, who can engage constructively, map the crisis properly and proffer workable and broadly acceptable solutions.” (p. 169)

Poor Management Culture

Nigeria is not a poor country in the real sense of the word poor; we are simply a poorly managed country. Every facet of our nationhood, bar none, has been mismanaged (p. 465)

“…it is worth recalling that Nigeria set up the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF) at the bank [African Development Bank] in 1976, with a view to assisting needy, distressed and financially troubled African nations. Today, Nigeria is on reverse role; no longer a benefactor of the bank, but a beneficiary. Such a development is sad and painful and speaks volumes about the state of affairs in Nigeria. (p. 295)

Power Generation

“Power generation and distribution in Nigeria is problematic, not due to lack of reform efforts, but due to lack of sincerity. Putting Nigeria on solid footing requires resolving the core power sector problems.” (p. 211)


“Some goings on within the federal government seems sufficiently innocuous. In truth, they are not. We are witnessing a macabre, unfettered and troubling expansiveness of the presidency. Such developments are egregiously dangerous.” (p. 115)

National Budget/Recycled Projects

“Nigeria’s annual national budget brims with recycled projects. Nigeria deserves cabinet members who will not tolerate such recidivism in budgeting, accounting, project implementation and service delivery.” (p. 6)

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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