When the President went on vacation By Nasiru Suwaid

Nasiru Suwaid

Since the beginning of man, It has been a tradition for people to seek a period of rest after an extended season of labour, and, as the good books also stated, even the Lord had to take time off to rest, after the tasking work of creation. Thus began the institution of vacation, which, in countries using the Gregorian calendar, is usually Saturdays and Sundays, while in countries using the Islamic calendar is Thursdays and Fridays.

It is within such a context that an employee reserved the right of an annual holiday, usually undertaken during the end of a working year, to unwind and prepare for the productive challenges of the incoming working year. Typically, such a period offers the vacationer the excuse for seclusion. Indeed, during the oil boom years of the seventies and the eighties, it was the privilege of the middle to higher echelon civil servants to be on the safari, either at the tail end of the year or in the beginning of the new working calendar year.

This was how Kenyan, Zimbabwean and South African wildlife reserves were always frequented by the middle income vacationers, while the top end civil servant visited the tourist paradise of Western Europe and the sightseeing splendor of the United States of America.  Had it not been for the economic downturn of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, a period of deep cost cutting, occasioned by  the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Program, the tradition of going to faraway places annually to unwind,would have been sustained by a great number of Nigerians.

Thus, when, a forthnight ago, the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Communications announced that the head of state is embarking on his annual leave, to resume work after the Easter holidays, I was one of those that gave a proactive nod of approval, convinced that, after all, it was within his status as a citizen and a public servant to enjoy such rights, more so, as governing such a comprehensively complicated nation like Nigeria requires episodic bouts of rest.

It then seemed so gracious that the vacationing period was a mere two weeks and, as the presidential spokesperson asserted, the annual leave would be in Abuja, still attending to non official matters of state. You never have it so well!

Unfortunately, however, for majority of the citizens of this great country, the headlines that followed the presidential announcement, was the most ironic back stab in policy world. The fact was that, as the president was taking off for vacation, he was yet to sign the budget, four months into the current year  and a few days after the expiration of the 2011 financial year. This technically implied that any expenditure in the days of his vacation and thereafter fell into the range of extra budgetary spending.
 
In the past few days too, any keen observer of international discourse on Nigeria would notice the media bombardment we all had to endure on the alleged brilliant financial management currently apace in our nation.  This is presumably part of the achievements under the leadership of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and the unofficial prime minister of the Jonathan administration, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She is being touted as the wonder manager who brought a  sense of financial discipline to a government perennially confronted by the  menace of corruption.  

For this super woman, who we are told had brought order, stability and discipline to the system, one is forced to ask how the the non appendage of the presidential assent could have happened? Was this then a subversive plot to inhibit the ambition of a fellow Nigerian, by throwing spanner into the works? 

As the president stated in his official communiqué of support on the nomination of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala for the World Bank presidency contest, , it is virtues of openness, transparency and a merit-based selection process that would see the ambition of our financial icon to fruition.

Yet, one cannot fail to wonder if it wasn’t these same values that have come under assault during her watch as the chief economist of the nation.


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