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Buhari’s Ministers and Campaign for Change

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buhariThe success or failure of any administration is a function of the people that make up its cabinet. The chief executive of any purposeful administration keeps

the list of his potential major cabinet members to his breast pocket and updates it as he navigates the rigorous electoral campaigns. It’s during campaigns that he traverses the entire country and meets with various groups of people. Such interactions expose him to the full breadth and depth of the people and his constituency – in this case the entire Nigeria. He meets with all manners of people including Party operatives and loyalists, sycophants, dubious shades of people, intelligent people, super smart people, first grade intellectuals, people with unbridled patriotism, people that would like to sell the entire country in one short deal, etc.

In the United States, it’s customary for Presidents to personally interview the key members of their cabinets. They usually do not populate their cabinets with Party supporters and stalwarts. They very meticulously select people for such appointments and it always shows on the quality of service such people render to the United States administrations. They do not use such high profile appointments for party patronages. These appointments are based on qualification, experience, performance and productivity. They are not based on Dad’s and Uncle’s connections. Neither are they based on state of origin and Party affiliations.

George W. Bush stated “The people you choose to surround you determine the quality of advice you receive and the way your goals are implemented”. One can easily see the truth in this statement when juxtaposed with the dramatis personae of his administration. The statement directly reflected on the caliber of his cabinet and the eventual invasion of Iraq: Donald Rumsfield, Dick Chenney, Collin Powel, etc. The same goes with Bill Clinton and even Barack Obama administrations. The point: the President assembles people whose experiences, orientations and backgrounds are going to be congruous to the goals of his administration. The President also makes it clear at the onset on the goals and type of administration he wants and searches the would-be cabinet members’ minds and souls as to being in sync with his vision. 

Contrastingly, the past Nigerian administrations are very differently from this conception. A typical Nigerian President usually commences by being bombarded with unsolicited names for Ministerial appointments. Such names usually come from about every person that did anything tangible regarding his winning the election ranging from Party members to friends and family. When General Buhari won the election, all sorts of people began trooping to his house to have a meeting with him. Most of those people did not show up in courts for solidarity with him when he was challenging the prior election results with President Obasanjo or President Jonathan. One of the reasons corruption seems to be very difficult to combat in our country is that the Ministers that are supposed to make sure there are no instances of corruption in their ministries are sadly the ones exacerbating it. And most people become Ministers with no intention to serve the country rather to amass wealth in the same manner their predecessors did. The President on the other hand, would not do anything in order not to lose favor with his friends who brought the names of those individuals that were appointed Ministers. Besides, the President might be doing some shady deals with some of the Ministers making it very difficult to actually get tough on the corrupt Ministers. 

The hallmark of President Buhari’s campaign was “change”. That change obviously cannot be excused for anything. Based on the election results, the Nigerian people asked for change primarily from the status quo. That change will begin from the names that will be submitted to the National Assembly for confirmation as Ministers. Majority of Nigerians will be interested in seeing the caliber of the Ministers to be people of honest means, very high morals, carrying enormous experience and performance proven. Nigerians are not interested in seeing a parade of Professors because Professors are academics most of whom have no solid managerial and executive experience. IBB proved this fact when he used many Professors in his cabinets. The result was abysmal failure in their job performance. Therefore they couldn’t make the connection between theories and practice. Neither are Nigerians eager to see a parade of retired Army Generals most of whom may not be in sync with the 21st century workings of advanced nations we want Nigeria to be transformed into. Another area of possible Ministerial pitfall is using former governors as Ministers. This will inevitably be greasing the corruption mills of the country since no Nigerian governor (politician) is too Rich to steal. Besides, there’s no point recycling leadership – especially poor leadership – in the presence of abundant leadership potentials craving to have a chance to prove their worth.

Above all, Nigerians are fed up with their Presidents assuming the role of Minister of Petroleum Resources. This trend started with President Babangida administration. President Obasanjo did same. And may President Buhari not look in that direction. Nothing good has come out of this trend. When the Executive President of Nigeria takes up additional responsibility of being a Minister, it either smacks of joblessness of the Presidency or some masked ulterior motives. They never take up any other ministry except Petroleum, the oil, which sustains our economy. Furthermore, it’s this same ministry that ranks worst on corruption scale yet they never cleaned it up. These Presidents literally sat on the palpable and monumental corruption in the oil sector while they assumed dual positions: President of Nigeria and Petroleum Minister. The job of the President is enormous enough for any high performance individual let alone additional oversight of the oil sector.      

The leadership sets the tone for his administration. The Ministers reverberate that tone across the country. If the leadership decides to make Ministers out of the lists he received from Party stalwarts and operatives, Nigeria will be short-changed in the change campaign. A case in point is the former EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, who performed exceedingly well fighting corruption while that administration was busy negating the effects of his fights.   

From the moment President Buhari took the oath of office, he became accountable to Nigerians and no longer to his Party. He is now above the Party politics and should leave the Party shenanigans to the Party and concentrate on his assignments. While he is compiling the list, he must keep in mind that he is the President of ALL Nigerians and not his “95% and 5%” line of thought. 

We wish him all the best!

by Holden Anele

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