Nigerians have waited for President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint Ministers that will help him drive his change agenda in line with the constitution of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria, but 100 days into office, the President is yet to form his cabinet.
The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, section 147 sub section (1) states that: “there shall be the offices of the Ministers of the Government of the Federation as may be established by the President”. Sub section (3) further stated that: “provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid the president shall appoint at least one Minister from each State who shall be an indigene of such State”.
Though the constitution did not give a timeframe for the constitution of a cabinet, Nigerians however feel that President Buhari’s delay may hinder the desire drive for change which the citizens yearns for. One of the first groups that have reacted to the non-formation of the president’s cabinet is the Afenifere. According to the chairman of Afenifere, a Yoruba socio cultural organization, Pa Reuben Fosoranti, “President Muhammadu Buhari is running a one-man show. He should appoint his cabinet and start serious business”.
Speaking for the Igbos also was Professor Ben Nwabueze, an erudite professor of law. In an article titled, “Constitutionality of President Buhari Ruling Nigeria for More than two and Half Months without a Council of Ministers: The Concerns of the Igbo Leaders of Thought” said that the president was expected to consult with “various executive bodies” before presidential actions, describing President Buhari’s refusal to appoint Ministers as a reflection of Buhari’s Military personality.
However, President Buhari has defended his actions. In a chat with newsmen, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said the appointment would be made but they have to tarry until the process of evolving a corruption free society has gather momentum.
The presidential aide noted that the President was careful in his selection so that he would have political appointees who were never implicated in corrupt practices in the past. He said Buhari did not want the drive for a corruption free system to rub off negatively on anyone who would be announced as ministers in the future. According to Shehu, should any Minister after appointment be found to be corrupt or alleged to have stolen public funds in the course of his job, the president would not hesitate to fire such a person. He would also regret that he ever appointed such a person.
Speaking also on the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, programme “Good Morning Nigeria”, Buhari said the delay in the appointment of his cabinet is because he did not want to appoint people who have been compromised, stating that if compromised people were appointed as Ministers, then Nigeria will be back to square one and the country will be the loser.
He said that “it is taking much time because the number of knowledgeable people has been compromised. The worst thing that I think can happen is to get a compromised person to in charge of institutions. There is no way he could be efficient or patriotic. Somebody behind the scene will be tele-guiding him at the expense of the nation”.
The President lamented that though Nigeria has people who are educated and experience but many of them had been compromised so he intends to look for decent people thus: “we have to look for technocrats and politicians. We have to look out for decent people in this class to give them the responsibility of being in charge of Ministries and important parastatals”.
The implications of the statement made by the President on why the appointment of Ministers is being delayed is that he intends to search for corrupt free and untainted Nigerians who will form his cabinet and occupy some sensitive positions since he believes that the last administration used persons who are alleged to be corrupt. So in order to fight corruption, President Buhari wants to go to equity with clean hands and in doing so, he needs credible Nigerians who has not or may not be indicted for corrupt practices. Good thinking, but how plausible?
His decision has however been divided along two schools of thought. The first, are mainly chieftains of the ruling APC who feels that PMB is on the right course and Nigerians should be patient with him to look for the right kind of persons hence the need to give him the necessary support. The National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Oyegun is in this school. According to the APC Chairman, “the expectations of the public in terms of the kind of persons that they don’t want to see in governance are so high that even he (Buhari) with his pedigree and core followership has to be careful about who he appoints even as a cleaner in the villa”.
While it is not out of place for any sane society to appoint people of indisputable credentials as their Ministers, the second school of thought is of the opinion that Buhari may shoot himself in the leg if he decides to stick to the plans of appointing “saints” as Ministers because a larger number of members of his party, APC, are allegedly corrupt.
Recent reports have seen the clamour by meaningful groups and individuals calling for the probe of some of APC chieftains, most of whom were major backers and financiers of the president’s ambition. And with such calls, analyst are of the view that the President has two choices before him; either to do away with these chieftains who had expected to cling Ministerial positions after working to install the president and risk destroying the party or use them and destroy his integrity which many people close to him say he holds with high esteem.
Nevertheless, if the president decides to adopt the first choice of neglecting those that are close to him and have worked for his successes at the election, who are the likely persons to be nominated by the president since the president has rejected advances from the governors who before now felt it was their rights to nominate ministerial candidates to the president.
Observers opines that no single president can nominate all the ministers alone and that the president will sooner or later to succumb to friends, former colleagues and close associates from every parts of the country for recommendations because he does not likely have a vast national outreach or appeal to get the right people he intends to use in his cabinet. And if he does get people to recommend persons to him for nomination, how feasible is it that they would be of good credentials and uncompromised character in line with the president’s posture?
While public opinion believes party leadership is a very crucial factor in choosing Buhari’s 36 saints, not too many feels comfortable with his delay. The latter opines that except Buhari wants virgins as Ministers, his drive for incorruptible Nigerians as Ministers is farfetched. Whichever the case, as Nigerians await the plausible persons that will join the new Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Engr. Babachir Lawal, at the weekly Federal Executive Council meetings, FEC, there is every possibility that Buhari’s 36 virgin will have a mixture of the same old line and blood streams of the type of cabinet Nigerians are used to before him.
This is because if we must take PMB serious and judge him by his word which he had said earlier on that he cannot change Nigeria within a twinkle of an eye, or can he perform miracles few days in office, there is certainly no need to trust him to look for incorruptible Nigerians since almost all credible persons have been compromised and the possibility for compromised Nigerians to change to saints within a twinkle of an eye will amounts to looking for pregnant virgins among sisters in a seminary.
Tom FredFish is a public policy analysts and media consultant wrote in from Uyo.