Buhari's Ministerial List; No Clean Hands, Only Half Saints!

The much expected list of ministerial nominees have been made public and Nigerians can now begin to expect a new “high” from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. From the inception of his foray into partisan politics, President Buhari did not hide his plan to manage a Nigeria he would inherit with a team of new managers; a position which was often misinterpreted by political analysts. Even citizens implied that he may draw his nominees from the organized private sector.

It was therefore expected that his inability to quickly form a cabinet upon being sworn in would generate controversies. Already, President Buhari; nicknamed “Baba Go Slow” (because of his remarkably slow speed in accomplishing tasks) explained the necessity of carefully selecting trusted hands for national assignments. This again was misinterpreted by many to mean that he was on the lookout for only persons with a clean slate – a nearly impossible mission in a Nigeria where graft and vices are tradition. While the private sector is known to offer huge bribes to win contracts; the public sector and government officials are notorious for creating bottlenecks which will ensure a flow of plenty illicit cash to private pockets.

Often, President Muhammadu Buhari indicted himself through his statements. First was the (in) famous 97% and 5% dichotomy. Next was a statement from him declaring that his appointments will be merit based. He would later say that only people who have worked with him all through his unsuccessful shots at the presidency will receive consideration as ministerial nominees; this was taken to mean that he will compensate his loyalists first before selecting a proper cabinet. These conflicting statements gave him out as a leader with no clear idea of what criteria should be adopted when selecting a cabinet. Ordinarily, merit should be the only yardstick but on account of the diversity of Nigeria and past incidences that have bred mutual distrust and suspicion along religious and tribal lines, other variables like federal character could determine who receives what “reward” from government.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s list of ministerial nominees comes with a bag of plenty expectations. The emergence of the much anticipated list reveals not a few about the readiness of the new President to birth a new Nigeria. What is instructive to note is that the list of nominees as cleared so far by the senate is slightly impressive; ranking at par with similar lists presented by the immediate past administration at different times. But it should be admitted that if President Buhari ever hoped to manage Nigeria with a team of “saints”, his hopes have been dashed. Simply put, in the list of would be ministers are the good, the bad and their ever ugly counterparts.

Within the Nigerian context names like Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, Kemi Adeosun. Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu & Chief Audu Ogbeh are the good. In the same context, Senator Chris Ngige, Dr. Kayode Fayemi & Barr. ‘Tunde Fashola are of the bad class. The most notorious class of ugly nominees has at their helm immediate past governor of River State; Rotimi Amaechi.

The immediate past governor of Rivers State is fast translating to Nigeria’s most unpopular politician. His screening by the senate was deferred on at least 3 occasions under (un)clear circumstances before is eventual apearance yesterday. Spokesperson of the senate, Dino Melaye disclosed that other matters of equal importance rose; demanding urgent attention thus the necessity of deferring further screening of nominees. He denies that the screening of the ex-governor is on account of petitions submitted by interests against his emergence. He also says the petitions have been studied by the ethics committee. On the contrary, another senator, Obinna Ogba says the petitions have not been reviewed by the ethics committee where he serves as member. More damning is the strange silence of opposition senators of the PDP stock who disappointed Nigerians when they failed and/or refused to ask hard questions of national importance touching on perceived acts of theft the ex-governor engaged in while he governed River State.

The unclear position of the Nigerian senate on the ex-governor is perhaps the reason why not many serious questions were asked during the screening process. The quality of questions thrown at nominees was substandard and did not reflect the magnitude of the assignment they were being screened for. The nominees understood the “body language” of senators and with calm, walked through the entire process. They clearly were more articulate than the senators including “warriors” like Kabir Marafa and other greenhorns who are ever willing and ready to apply fists where only tenable facts should matter. If the screening process was rigorous, it would have still been in process by now for some nominees in the initial list. It ended quickly because it was only ceremonial.

Former governor of Lagos State, Tunde Fashola dealt a severe blow on the intelligence of Nigerians as represented by senators; most of who are career politicians when he replied that as governor he did not sign cheques with which some N78M was paid to an ICT company that built & maintained a personal website for him. While there may be no element of fraud in the transaction under reference, excusing it on the premise that the governor who presides over a state executive council which approves hefty disbursements doesn’t not sign cheques is akin to assuming that while some governors sign cheques, other do not. As a matter of fact, no governor signs cheques. Not even the President. Another senator had asked a nominee if after he is appointed minister, he will receive telephone calls to his direct line. These two scenarios are classic instances of the “seriousness” with which senators handled the screening process.

Finance experts and publishers, Ventures Africa, predicts that if Nigeria’s economy faces a recession as predicted, international trade, foreign investments and reserves will be worst hit. It therefore adds that exports will reduce as investors will decline to provide more funds. Unfortunately, the 2015 fiscal estimate which should normally factor and confront these challenges is on technical suspension.

Sufficient proof suggests that estimates for the 2016 fiscal year may not be presented for review by relevant committees of parliament anytime soon. Doubts exists about if there will be enough time to tackle vital issues like significant drops in crude oil prices and other issues struggling for attention from critical sectors of the economy.

Contrary to President Buhari’s perception of ministers as noisemakers, they are essential components in governance. It is therefore expected that their eventual emergence will aid the process of governance. It however remains to be seen what tangible new Rotimi Amaechi will bring to governance. Competence, merit and capacity played a secondary role in his nomination.

Ezeani, Chukwunonso Elvis is an avid thinker, reader & researcher. He tweets @NonsoEzeani1

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Articles by Ezeani Chukwunonso Elvis