By Abdul Oroh
I am trying to understand what Professor Ibrahim Gambari meant by saying he would be loyal and answerable only to the president. If he doesn’t want to be heard publicly while working quietly and efficiently, fair enough but to separate presidential responsibilities from national interest is to be clever by half.
It is dubious. If we assume that whatever the president does or fails to do impacts on the nation one way or the other. All those who work at the presidency or in public office generally owe their allegiance and loyalty primarily to the nation. There are no options on this.
It is dubious if not unpatriotic, to draw a distinction between serving the president and serving the nation. Anybody who is paid from the National Treasury must primarily and ultimately be loyal and answerable to the nation. Yes, loyalty to the president is important and fundamental but it is only to the extent that the president acts in the interest of the nation.
If for instance, the president tells the chief of staff to arrange the assassination of a political opponent and he carries out the order, that he did the act in loyal service to the president would not avail him of criminal liability. If the president orders the Chief of Staff to do an act which is in breach of the constitution the chief of staff has a duty to put the national interest first and refuse to carry out the presidential directive.
History is replete with abuse of presidential powers, from Nixon to Obasanjo. So we cannot take it for granted that the president will always act in the National interest. The Chief of Staff sits in the Federal Executive Council even as the office is not mentioned in the constitution. The ministers must see him before they can see the president. That is a powerful and strategic national appointment. If well discharged, it would be to the benefit of the nation and president . If abused, it would be to our common peril.
Professor Gambari owes Nigerians a duty to ensure that the president does not put his personal interest above national interest. That is at the heart of the presidential oath of office and oath of allegiance. The president is not the nation. He is not the state.
I see the role of Professor Gambari as a servant of the nation working in the office of the president. His role as a gatekeeper is to ensure that the President is properly guided. And the nation better served. If he can’t understand that, it is not too late to decline his call to serve and enjoy his retirement.