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A Ministerial List And The Politics Of Attrition

President Buhari’s ministerial list is still like pudding that is just about to be placed on the fire for cooking and should not be condemned as if it has been eaten and found to be unsavoury

Ikeogu Oke Largely, the criticism of the first ministerial list released by President Muhmmadu Buhari, containing twentyone nominees, reflects a lack of sobriety on the part of the critics.

In other words, the critics have hardly been dispassionate in their reactions, which reflect the censorious politics of attrition that is prominent in our country.

This is the politics which considers it obligatory to generate antagonism and find fault with opposing political interests. It is quite different from opposition politics, which is expected to be constructive in its criticism, though it is not always so.

It is a corruption of opposition politics whose inherent perversity is made worse by its conscious and compulsive desire to injure real and imaginary adversaries even without justification. In a word, this brand of politics is marked by its inclination to antagonise and find fault for its own sake. Voltaire, the French writer and philosopher once said, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”

For this negative type of politics, the credo seems to be: “If no ground for criticism exists, it would be necessary to invent one.” It would have invented many grounds to criticise any leader’s ministerial list regardless of its composition.

If Buhari’s ministerial list were dominated by fresh hands and “young” people, unlike Audu Ogbeh, Chris Ngige and Abdulrahman Bello Danbazau, who are experienced and above sixty, this type of politics might still have found fault with it, as it also has for its having a greater number of “old” people.

It might still have criticised the list, alleging that it exposes the President’s lack of understanding that our nation’s present challenges require tested hands as ministers, that our country needs experienced people as ministers to help pull it out of the quicksand of political and socioeconomic troubles.

If the list were found not to contain names of political allies who stood by the President through the years and resolutely during his presidential campaigns until his eventual victory after a fourth try, like Ogbonnaya Onu, Lai Mohammaed and Babatunde Fashola, this type of politics would have criticised it as a mark of the President’s ingratitude or inability to appreciate loyalty, and a disincentive to those who would rather not be fair-weather friends in a country where fidelity is hard to find, especially among the political class.

This type of politics has criticised the list for not being populated with “saints”. However, this criticism is coming from those who, if their names were on the list, might justify its composition by urging its critics to cast the first stone if they have never sinned and so regard themselves as saints. Or they might remind them, like Jesus in that Biblical passage, that if you point one accusing finger at someone the remaining four points back at you. Or they might urge them, also like Jesus, to remove the log in their eyes before attempting to remove the mote in the eyes of those on the list.

Still, vacating the spiritual realm, such people, to justify their names being on list against such criticism by agents of the politics of attrition, might argue that, though they may not be “moral saints”, as suggested by the general perception that they are not pure, they are “legal saints”, since they have not been convicted for any offence under the law.

The list has also been criticised for being “unreasonably delayed for four months”, since it is comprised of “people we already know” – even by people who should know that, as humans, our nature is so complex that sometimes those we believe we know thoroughly can still surprise and disappoint us by what they evolve into. And if it was released as early as those behind this criticism would prefer, the politics of attrition might still have criticised it for being released too hurriedly, without the President taking enough time to scrutinise the character of the nominees for reliability in spite of our familiarity with them, considering that the challenges before him require him “to do things methodically and properly”.

The idea – and this clarifies the modus operandi of the politics of attrition and its peculiar type of censoriousness – is to find out what is not done, or what its not present, and latch on to it as a defect to generate criticism. And if that thing were done, if it were present, then to latch on to the opposite or whatsoever that is not done or is not present to generate criticism. Of course, such politics, with the drag it imposes on national progress, did not originate under the Buhari presidency. In fact, it was played to devastating effect in the era of former President Goodluck Jonathan, having existed in some less prominent forms under previous governments.

Its survival into the Buhari presidency perhaps underscores its staying power in its most insidious form following its metamorphosis into a pervasive political misconduct of the ruling party, the opposition and myriads of their supporters in the Jonathan era. Needless to add that, in the interest of national progress, we must dispense with this type of politics and the primordial, negativist inclinations it promotes, especially at times like the present when the obvious challenge is to build the nation and not to win votes.

Viewed soberly, President Buhari’s ministerial list is still like pudding that is just about to be placed on the fire for cooking and should not be condemned as if it has been eaten and found to be unsavoury. And who would not admit that the skills of a chef can make the difference even with cooking done with long-familiar ingredients – for those who insist that the ministerial nominees are all too familiar? Or that a bad cook may not produce a tasty dish regardless of the condition of the ingredients at their disposal? The real question should be: “Is Buhari such a skilled chef?” Time will tell. But if majority of Nigerians did not believe he is, why did they vote him in preference for a much younger incumbent President?


-Ikeogu Oke

• Oke, a public affairs commentator, wrote in from Abuja via ikeogu.oke@gmail.com. Tel:08034531501

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