BUHARI'S CABINET: CLEANEST DIRTY SHIRTS IN THE LAUNDRY?
In a bid to ensure that Nigeria is in safe and secure hands for socio-economic and political regeneration promised during his campaign, President Muhammadu Buhari, PMB, has spent the better part of four months into his new administration scurrying around the country for Nigerians, incorruptible and professionally competent, to serve in his cabinet.
For a country located at the bottom rung of Transparency International, TI, global corruption perception rating index, finding 36 good men to fit the lofty expectations of PMB in consonance with his high integrity persona is akin to identifying the cleanest dirty shirts in the laundry.
Although the task is as arduous as seeking for a needle in a hay stack, it would appear that PMB maybe on target to accomplishing his mission as he prepares to roll out the list of the Change Agents that l would like to refer to as his economic 'Husband Men’ in the coming days.
Already, the security agencies have been putting the potential candidates in the crucible and quite a number of names floating around in the main stream and social media seem to have passed the litmus text.
In a country where people are judged based on ethnic bias and religious inclination rather than from the prism of their character and content, PMB, APC and indeed Nigerians should brace up for the flurry of criticism that would trail the official release of the names of the ‘few good men’ to the National Assembly, NASS, for scrutiny and approval as ministers.
One way of vitiating the associated agony and stress is for PMB to take solace in the wise counsel of the philosopher, John Adams, who posited that “Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organizations of haters”.
The quote above underscores the fact that political hate is not peculiar to Nigeria.
While the aphorism that, one can never be prepared enough, holds true in almost all instances, a counter strategy against the aforementioned onslaught of ethnic jingoist and religious bigots that would seize the media space to literarily slay the president as soon as the list is released, may not be a media management master stroke, but suffice it to say that the initiative would evince similar benefits realisable when measures are put in place to mitigate an anticipatory response to an uncommon policy.
By that l mean that President Buhari’s spokesmen and APC’s reputation managers should proactively hedge against any backlash by preparing upfront, information underpinning the principles behind the choice of the candidates and the values they are bringing to the table.
As image and crisis managers would agree, the efficacy of pre-emptive actions is undeniable and one way of justifying the appointments is by engaging their principal, PMB, rigorously in dialogues that would elicit reasons for his choice of the candidates for the cabinet positions-professionally, ethnically and religiously. In a highly polarized country where divisive factors such as the tongue, tribe and worship pattern of candidates were freely used as commodity, currency and fuel during campaigns for the general election, appointments into public offices have assumed an equally combustible dimension; so one can never be too careful.
For instance, two of the recent appointments made by President Buhari that generated the most public opprobrium are the military service chiefs and his choice of Secretary of Government of the Federation, SGF and Chief of Staff. While the appointment of his Chief of Staff and SGF were later explained – he chose people he can trust having worked with the appointees over the years which was deemed treasonable -his explanation that professionalism was purely the criteria applied in choosing the top brass of the three Armed Forces- Army, Navy and Air Force has been received with skepticism. Dissenters believe that it is unlikely that in the entire armed forces of Nigeria, no Southeast or South-south candidates were qualified enough to fit the bill.
Against the foregoing background, it would be deft if detailed professional competence and political balancing factors that came into play in selecting the proposed cabinet members are availed members of the public to enable them judge for themselves, the rigour invested in the exercise by Mr. President and how altruistic his intentions are.
The idea that NASS should also be furnished with the proposed portfolio of the list of nominees being sent for clearance (recently canvassed in an editorial by a newspaper) should also be given due consideration as such facts could serve as public enlightenment that could take the wind off the sail of critics or those who may have some axe to grind.
As we all know, putting a round peg in a round hole can hardly attract sustainable criticism and fundamentally, facts are antidotes to rumour mongering.
Expectedly, there would be the tendency for some hawkish advisers to contend that Mr.President does not owe Nigerians such detailed explanation, but such people would be misguiding PMB because the ultimate objective of any good politician is to carry the populace along in his policies and programmes. In my experience from studying politicians over the years from Winston Churchill’s (1940-45 and 1951-55) war time exploits in Great Britain encapsulated in his “battle of Britain” speech to parliament before the war against Germany; Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR (1933-45) ‘New Deal’ to Americans during the great depression and Deng Xiaoping's (1978-92) introduction of ‘Four Modernizations’ in China after the Cultural Revolution, nothing engages the mind of a great politician and leader more than how to get his voting stakeholders to buy into his programmes and policies.
To achieve that objective, a lot of what is today referred to as Emotional Intelligence, EI had to be invested.
Emotional Intelligence being the ability to recognise one’s own and other people’s emotions is the skills required to better understand, empathize and negotiate with others.
Churchill relied on it in Great Britain, when he made the famous speech to parliament that Brits should prepare for “the battle of Britain” that enabled the country hold out against Germany and thus led them out from the brink of defeat to victory; Roosevelt deployed it in the USA when he re-established hope during the Great Depression through his pursuit of the three Rs policy of: Relief, Recovery and Reforms conveyed in the New Deal and Xiaoping adopted it in China when after the calamitous Cultural Revolution, he had to deftly negotiate with the communist party leadership to allow a bit of openness in order to introduce the “Beijing Spring” that allowed criticism of government and enabled him pursue the policy of ” Four Modernizations” which entailed the opening up Chinese economy to foreign investments in the economy, agriculture, scientific and technological development and national defense.
Now, PMB had mentioned in his Chatham House, UK presentation last February that one event that significantly inspired his change of ideology from autocracy to democratic system of governance is the fall of the Soviet Union. So l assume that PMB has abiding interest in history of how nations leap forward or collapse. That's why l chose England, USA and China as references in my analogy as models for success.
It might interest PMB to note that in more ways than one, he is like Winston Churchill of Britain as both were soldiers, and both also ruled their country twice-first as soldier and later as politician .PMB is also to some extent, like Deng Xiaoping of China who sought to foist radical changes to leadership and fell from grace only to return to power later. The Nigerian leader is also basically similar to Franklin Roosevelt of the U.S., as both governed their countries in the period of economic recession.
Let me elucidate: After being appointed prime minister in 1940 by King George Vl to lead Britain in war, he reigned for some time after he won the war but was thereafter defeated in a general election due to his radical approach to leadership. Winston Churchill switched parties and in1951, he became the prime minister of Britain again through election. Recall that PMB ruled Nigeria 1983-85 before his incarnation in 2015.
Similarly, it is on record that Deng Xiaoping was ‘purged’ or expelled three times by the Communist Party due to his independent mindedness before he was pardoned and accepted back into the party after which he cleverly took over the party and subsequently led the country into prosperity through his policy of one country two economic philosophies. PMB seized power in 1983 and was toppled in 1985.
On his part, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR defeated incumbent president Herbert Hoover in 1932 ostensibly due to the economic depression in the U.S., as is the case in Nigeria today with Buhari who defeated incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan as a result of the decision by Nigerians for a change in how an equally debilitating economic recession is managed.
Remarkably, it is FDR’s economic recovery policy in the mid 1930s that has given rise to modern day Keynesian economic policies of STIMULUS-injection of funds into ailing industries which is still in practice till date – currently driven and given public face by renown economist, Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate and New York Times columnist.
It is worthy of note that PMB’s policy of releasing bailout funds to the 27 insolvent states in Nigeria and financial stimulus packaged as intervention funds to other sectors of the economy such as aviation and textile amongst others are derivatives of the FDR economic recovery policies of the Great Depression era.
In a nutshell, PMB has many great leaders to emulate and benchmark.
For the avoidance of doubt, l’m not averse to positive and radical changes in Nigerian polity as enunciated by the APC and the postulations in my articles are not rendered as an adversary of PMB’s government, but rather as a patriotic Nigerian stakeholder-leader who is independent minded and leading from the streets as a public intellectual, who do not play to the gallery.
In the meantime, before PMB releases his much awaited list of cabinet members, he might want to consider the merits or demerits Of VISA credit card co-founder and former CEO, Dee W Hock’s admonition : “Never hire or promote in your own image. It is foolish to replicate your strengths and idiotic to replicate your weakness. It is essential to employ, trust and reward those whose perspective, ability and judgment are radically different from yours. It is also rare, for it requires uncommon humility, tolerance and wisdom”.
Ultimately, it is hoped that from positive contributions in the form of critical analysis being unleashed on a daily basis into the public arena by patriotic Nigerians like us who strive to air their views against all odds, that viable solutions to Nigeria’s myriad challenges would be wrought and PMB’s name would be written in gold at the end of his tenure in 2019.
This intervention would be incomplete without pleading with the major players in the political arena to exercise more caution in the way they assail the integrity of some of our leaders and country in the media. Need l remind politicians that every diplomatic office in Nigeria has a team collecting data and sending same back to their home countries, which is analysed and used to gauge Nigeria to make them simmer? Given the bile in the brush with which some of us are tarring our country men and women black as we accuse ourselves of mind boggling financial embezzlement that portray Nigeria and Nigerians in the media as a country of artful thieves, we don’t need a rocket scientist to remind us that, our rating by Transparency International, TI would drop further and to the extent that the international community could demand that every Nigerian be literarily put even in the laundry for a clean wash to make Nigeria an attractive place to live and do business by international investors again.
It is my hope that we don’t descend to the ugly past when Nigerian government through the CBN, bought advert spaces in Financial Times, FT and New York Times, NYT to warn foreigners of Nigerian scammers. What a di-service because it’s tantamount to washing Nigeria’s dirty linen in public. The aftermath of that negative initiative was that Nigerian travelers were separated and subjected to humiliating experiences at airports abroad and they were also targeted by law enforcement agents in foreign countries for persecution because Nigerian government had alerted those countries that her citizens are fraudsters and criminals. Vicariously, and as a result of the flawed process, along with the few ‘bad eggs’ that the warning was meant for, hard working Nigerian aeronautic engineers in NASA and hordes of medical doctors contributing positively to their host societies and academicians imparting knowledge in renown institutions of higher learning in their communities of abode, amongst other professionals resident abroad, became victims.
Some may argue that despite all the opprobrium being heaped on the economic team of the immediate past administration, most of them are getting appointed into top positions in global and African financial organizations: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, appointed chairman of the GAVI Foundation and Advisor to Lazard Bank, one of the oldest investment (merchant) banks in the U.S.; Akinwunmi Adesina, CEO of Africa Development Bank, ADB; Arumah Otteh, Vice President /Treasurer of the World Bank and Bright Okogwu, Executive Director at ADB but it may be too early for the damage being done presently to Nigeria’s image to take its toll.
Without further equivocation, let it be known that my contention is not that financial misconduct should not be punished, but let it not be said again, that in the bid to be holier than the Pope or Imam, Nigeria practically threw away the baby and the bath water.
After all said and done, there is a lot of good in Nigerians but as in all things in life, there are bound to be imperfections; so there is room for improvements.
That’s why we all probably need to literally put in the laundry, our minds, from where all our actions are initiated and of which change is needed, the most. Unfortunately, the much-flaunted change is so far not focused in the direction of the mindset of Nigerians and our value system. Nigerians who have been around in the country in the past 30 years may recall the positive effects that the War Against Indiscipline, WAI initiative, introduced by Buhari as military head of state in the mid 1980s had on the society. We probably need to re-enact it with a human face and in consonance with democratic tenets. Equally, Mass Mobilization for Social and Economic Orientation, MAMSER, promoted by former military head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, aimed at bequeathing on Nigerians national ethos and common sense of belonging, may need to be re-introduced. These would realign our minds to progress and development rather than concerning ourselves too much about who holds political power, which currently occupies 80 per cent of the time and mind of our leaders in NASS and Aso Rock.
Yes, Nigerians probably need to be ‘brain washed’ -no pun intended- into positive thinking about our economic future as opposed to who becomes president in 2019 which the current power struggle in NASS and Aso Rock has turned out to be about. Perhaps, after the wash, instead of just PMB’s cabinet members, all Nigerians may become the cleanest dirty shirts out of the laundry so that the next generation of Nigerians will be more prosperous than the present, as we are presently witnessing in China.
*** Magnus Onyibe, a development strategist, futurologist and former commissioner in Delta State Government, is an alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Massachusetts, USA.