Finally, the search for ministers has ended. The full list of nominees is now known. On the whole, 36 lucky men and women made the list that took a whole four months in coming. Already 18 of them have been confirmed by the Senate. The screening of the others on the list will be concluded in one or two days and latest, by the middle of next week, the Federal Executive Council, FEC, should be fully constituted, ready to hold its inaugural meeting.
Reactions to the exercise, that is, the appointment, screening and confirmation of ministers, were more critical of the delay in making the appointments than on the quality of men and women named. Some people have asked why it took President Muhammadu Buhari that long to come with a list of ministers if it was this set of persons he was looking for. That is to suggest that those he finally selected were not in any way special and it should not have taken him such a long period of time to fish them out.
Such remarks miss one valid point. The Buhari government is a product of an election which its sponsoring party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, did not expect to win. Before now, no opposition party has ever defeated a ruling political party at the federal level in Nigeria. The ruling party always won, by hook or crook. All it takes is to buy the conscience and loyalty of the chief electoral umpire and his key officers and the needed results will be generated to return the government to power. But President Goodluck Jonathan never wanted to take the last electoral contest to that level of disrepute. He accepted defeat and congratulated the winner. And so Buhari won a victory that was a little bit of a surprise. Surprise, not because he did not actually win the election but because the person who was expected to do the expected wrong thing to deny him the victory or at least, make it somewhat controversial and doubtful, failed to do so in the interest of peace and survival of the nation. So the winner came into office unprepared for governance. And that includes the list of persons for key positions in the new government.
Secondly, the APC is an amalgamation of political parties whose relationship, hitherto, was defined by requited suspicion. Any government coming out of such an encumbered orbit must be extra careful in order to clearly and adequately reflect the interests of all the political parties in the victory train. That process also takes time. But whether Buhari succeeded in doing that is another phase of the debate that has trailed the unveiling of the ministerial list.
I have heard some people argue that President Buhari appointed only those he personally wanted and not from the recommended list from other leaders of APC, including Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the man who is today the most influential political figure in the South West. You may then ask: what about Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) and Dr. Kayode Fayemi? The answer you will get is that the two men are rebels in the camp of the Asi- waju, appointed by President Buhari to spite him. To that, my response is, may be. But I bet you, I will be very reluctant to swallow such arguments hook line and sinker.
What do I think personally about the list of ministers? It is a good job. It is a good and fair mix of the old and new generation of Nigerians. President Buhari will surely need the mature and reflective contributions of members of the old generation in the cabinet which has Chief Audu Ogbe and Dr. Ogbonnanya Onu. The list also has a good number of young and brilliant minds who will provide the new and dynamic angle needed to run a government in a technological age. But what Buhari did not fully succeed in achieving is the avoidance of controversial persons. Rotimi Amae- chi, former governor of Rivers State and to a smaller extent, Fashola, belong to this group, on account of the allegations of corruption being raised against them in their respective states. Buhari also did not achieve gender balance. He didn’t even attempt to do so. I can see the women spoiling for a fight.
On the whole, the list is good. What is required is for all these lucky people to imbibe the philosophy of zero tolerance for corruption which has informed the public attitude and conduct of President Buhari for many years. He has come into office with a huge expectation to provide a leadership that will be different in significant ways from what this country has seen in the past. That is leadership that is transparent, patriotic and people-oriented. A government that is openly fighting to recover national wealth stolen by those who served in previous administrations should not accommodate or even protect any of its own members with such tendency to steal from the public till. I congratulate the new ministers and wish them the best of luck.
– BALA DAN ABU e-mail: email@example.com