Buhari’s All Stick And No Carrots Government


By Dele Sobowale

“Brute force without wisdom falls under its own weight”.


One of the “bad” habits of professional economists is the tendency to quantify virtually everything. They develop metrics for assessing real human experiences in a manner that reveals certain truths which might be hidden from others. Like most Nigerians, it was clear to me, as a strong supporter of Buhari, long before the 2015 presidential elections that we might be electing a military-style disciplinarian.

After all, the best guess regarding what a person would do in a given situation is provided by his performance when placed in a similar situation in the past. In January 1984, Buhari became the Head of State after a coup planned and successfully executed by others. Thereafter, he and the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarter, late Major-General Tunde Idiagbon, unleashed the most draconian regime Nigeria had ever experienced until Abacha’s more murderous one. Incidentally, of all the military leaders in their set, only Buhari could be trusted by Abacha to work with him as Chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF. Those of us who remembered the lop-sidedness of the allocation of funds between North and South will not readily agree that it was a great accomplishment. We have forgiven but not forgotten what happened.

We expected Buhari to be a stern disciplinarian as civilian president. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – as everybody knows. But, we also assumed that we missed the chance to see the benevolent side of the man because his former “All Stick and no Carrots” regime was short-lived. To be quite candid there was no lasting legacy from that regime other than the monthly sanitation exercise. So eager were they to whack everybody on the head they hardly found time to introduce any programme designed to make life worth living for Nigerians.

With his second coming as a civilian president, supported by others who we thought understood the meaning of democracy, it was expected that his government, this time, would serve the people a mixture of the discipline needed to set Nigeria right again after sixteen woeful years under Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and mostly Jonathan and compassion. Ten months into his four years and what we are witnessing is a government that is all stick and no carrots. The point was made about quantifying everything. At first, the tendency was unnoticeable. But, gradually, it became so obvious it could no longer be ignored.

More than his so-called body language is his choice of words and the frequency. Words like vandals, culprits, looters, saboteurs etc. With every one of those attached to, usually unnamed individuals, the president declares that they will be punished, dealt with etc. Harsh words, and perhaps deserved by some people if they are identified. But, not once in the month of March was it announced that President Buhari sent a condolence message to the leaders of Agatu in one instance or to Governor Ambode of Lagos State after the building collapse which claimed many lives. Granted a presidential condolence message would not revive the dead.

But, it would tell the people of Nigeria that they have a leader who cares about their lives – wretched as those lives might be. What is even more disturbing is the fact that having declared the unnamed individuals saboteurs, Nigerians waited for weeks or months for the broad accusation to be substantiated. Yet no proof emerges. The allegation that the 2016 Budget was padded was made by Buhari on February 23, 2016. Till today, not a single person had been presented to the public as one of the “culprits” who he vowed will be punished. How much time is required to spot where the budget was padded and who did them? The emphasis on punishment has become so common that the question can be asked if Buhari thinks that arrest, detention and imprisonment of offenders is the sole business of government.

“If you can keep your head while others around you are losing theirs…you will be a man my boy” said Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936.

But good old Ruddy could be wrong; you might be keeping your head because you don’t have a good grasp of the situation. In sharp contrast to the fast and easy answers about punishment of miscreants, Buhari had been very silent and almost unconcerned about the economy and how it is affecting the lives of 170 million Nigerians. The only statement credited to him about the economy was totally wrong. He claimed that the Nigerian economy is the fastest growing in Africa and one of the fastest in the world. That shows how totally divorced from reality our leader is. It is understandable. He and his Ministers and assistants have no problem – they have well-paid jobs and there is free food in the Aso restaurant.

The same cannot be said about millions of Nigerians – including the employed who are owed salaries by their employers. Public servants in most states are in a fix and riots might soon break out in some states on account of mounting unpaid salaries. Simultaneously, prices of goods and services are going up and his own government has added some surcharges to peoples’ expenses. The Federal government’s budget is in a mess and the outcome is doubtful.

Perhaps out of desperation, Professor Wole Soyinka proposed an economic summit or conference (what’s in a name?) to address what concerns most people in this country – their means of livelihood. It was shocking that the government had to be prodded to undertake something which other governments globally take as routine. As if to prove that the economy was not considered important enough, a panel was established. Then, a date set; and no summit was started on due date. That is the peoples’ carrot they are toying with.

What is coming through in all these is a government lacking in compassion; it provides neither psychological nor physical sustenance to the people. History might be repeating itself in one aspect. From January 1984 to 1985, Buhari and Idiagbon also ran a self-righteous government without compassion. In the end, even their colleagues in the armed forces had enough; and the rest is history…..


“Thanks for Fortune and her treacherous wheel. That suffers no estate on earth to feel secure.” Geoffrey Chaucer, 1342-1400. VBQ 65.

If the “All Stick and no Carrot” approach to governance continues, Nigerians can expect the Senate to return to the PDP any time soon. APC now has a slim majority of four. Three, names withheld, are poised to move immediately. Another two or three might join them…..

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