Audit (3): The Practicality of The Social And Buttery Commissioner- Adeniji Fifehanmi

By: Ochi, Maduabuchi Nnamdi 

When you think of a manifesto in the context of student political environments, what usually comes to mind is outlandish promises made by politicians with the sole aim of convincing the electorate, many times without any plans on how it would be enacted. However, when looking at the manifesto of the current Social and Buttery Commissioner, Adeniji Timilehin Fifehanmi, one is hit with the feeling of being underwhelmed. There are no grand plans or outlandish promises, just simple and straightforward directives that seem to be aimed at doing a base minimum.

Whether it was as a result of, as he stated in his manifesto, his belief in a “realistic approach to governance,” or a manifesto “rooted in practicality”, or something else entirely will be determined as we examine it closely. Taking a look at the first item, “Bringing Katangites with various talents to the limelight”, the point looks harmless enough, but upon closer inspection, we realise that the point is very vague. The manifesto does not include an idea of how he hopes to achieve this.

In the unlikely case that we accept that he has the plan for execution in his head and doesn’t need to pen it down, there should be signs of implementation already, stories of Katangites who stood out in one capacity or the other, because you can’t stand in the limelight and remain obscure. Understanding that some work might have indeed been done and some others might not know, Fife was asked if he could cite specific Katangites whom he has helped to bring into the limelight, but at the time of writing, there has been no response.

The practicality of the manifesto, at least by the first point remains to be seen. The second and third points are both slated to happen in the upcoming hall week, so implementation still awaits. However, when we look at the second point we see that it relates very closely to the first. Katangites who have standout performances will be appreciated.

But while the first point does not outline how he aimed to bring them to the limelight, the second point states it more clearly. He intends to use the platform of the hall week, where there already exists a form of appreciation, to also appreciate different standout Katangites, whether they stand out socially, politically, or academically.

A good idea, but we wait to see how feasible it is, and what might prevent it from being carried out. The third point in the manifesto is titled “Hall Week Plans”, but it seems to be devoid of actual plans for the hall week. Instead, the point talks about ensuring that the programme takes place by choosing the right committee members and soliciting support from alumni and Katangites who wish to put their brands out there.

A good idea, no doubt, as the hall week must take place, but then the name of the point becomes a bit misleading. When someone makes plans, it’s usually not just to ensure that things go smoothly, plans are supposed to contain ideas that would guide the general direction of the project. It includes the aim of the plan, what it is trying to achieve and how it wants to go about doing that.

It is possible, perhaps, that the plan is to have a normal hall week that goes on without a hitch, which would indeed explain the bare-bones plan. And being practical-minded, he might not have wanted to make promises that indeed he would not have been able to fulfill. But the hall week is still approaching and it would be interesting to see how he goes about executing, at the very minimum, his idea of making the right personnel choices.

The fourth point of his manifesto was aimed at improving the standard of the cafeteria by working with the Health Commissioner. Well, whether or not efforts were indeed made, the quality of food at the Indy cafeteria remains a problem. The standard, while not dropping, hasn’t really increased.

This point does indeed have an action plan, namely working with the Health Commissioner to ensure that hygiene is maintained where the food gets cooked, and while this is indeed a good thing, and important for improving the quality of the cafeteria, there is still a lot more to be done.

If there was one visible change that has occurred in the cafeteria since last semester, it might be a reduction in the number of flies that were present at the cafeteria building.

If you look at the title of the fifth point in the manifesto and the recent facelift that the JCR just went through, one would be obliged to believe that Fife was behind it all, a champion of a brand-new JCR. After all, what else could “Urgent and Prompt Response to the Needs of the JCR” mean?

It means ensuring that the DSTV subscription on the JCR does not expire. That is indeed an important duty as no Katangite who is a football fan would want to miss a match because there was no subscription, but with such a vibrant heading, one can’t help but expect more from the point. Perhaps that is why it feels so underwhelming reading through the manifesto. The headings seem to promise more but only to reveal little substance under the hood. The substance might be very important, yes, but it remains little.

How much of the idea of practicality actually influenced the choice of the points put into the manifesto? We can see it in the fact that he doesn’t give promises that would not be achievable just for the sake of winning the election. But even this does not absolve him of his shortcomings, still. In trying to appear realistic to the electorate, Fife preemptively attempted to excuse mediocrity. If the desire was to avoid unachieveable targets, it was still a matter of clearly outlining only those plans that are within reach. Simply, even bare minimum ideas or strategies for executing constitutional duties deserve detail. That would not mean that in ensuring that they are actually realized, he cannot adjust to new realities while in office.

Subscribing for DSTV, ensuring that hygiene is maintained in the cafeteria cooking area, having a good Hall Week committee and finding sponsors, and recognising Katangites, this just looks like a handful of ideas hastily brought together under the banner of a single manifesto.

There is no unifying vision, no idea that ties all the points in the manifesto together, and it ends up feeling like the manifesto is all over the place. Being practical does not mean that one does not have a grand vision, but that one understands that things need to be worked out to be achieved, that you have laid out plans for achieving the goals you set and that you have taken into account the situation on the ground in the process of achieving it.

As someone with aspirations for the position of Administrator General, the state of his manifesto does not speak well of his plans. It seems devoid or rather deficient in the practicality it claimed and more focused on a baseline.

It speaks of a leader concerned mainly with maintenance and not advancing. This is not to imply that these things are bad; they are, in fact, quite good, but a leader is expected to have a vision, and a practical leader is one who not only has a vision but also knows the steps required to get there.

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