By Ehichioya Ezomon
FOUR years ago, the shape, size and colour of the cabinet of the then president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari dominated public discourse. As names were pandied, it turned out that the only obvious point of agreement was on the constitutional provision that at least one minister should be appointed from each of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
The questions were there: Would the president go beyond the mandatory 31 ministers or adhere to the principle of federal character and geopolitical spread. Who would be appointed? Would he sacrifice competence for party affiliations and primordial sentiments?
Those worries paled into insignificance when the President appeared in no apparent hurry to appoint his ministers. The question became: When would the cabinet be formed? The President meanwhile ran his government without a cabinet, except for the Service and Security Chiefs.The answer came six months later. As the Federal Executive Council (FEC) settled, the concern was with the cabinet’s non-inclusiveness as a national government that took care of the various tendencies in the polity.
Among the nominees were known players on the political scene, former schoolmates and professional colleagues. And some “unknown names.”The President’s wife, Aisha Buhari, added to it when she said that her husband’s government was peopled by “those who reaped where they did not sow.” According to her, many of the appointees were not known to her “as a wife of the President of 27 years,” whereas those men and women she knew, and who had worked for the success of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), were not adequately compensated.She was so concerned that she voiced that the situation would be reversed before long.
Buhari’s second term is another opportunity for Buhari to form a “new” cabinet, and the expectation is for him to deviate from the past and assemble the “inclusive” government he promised Nigerians.
While receiving his Certificate of Return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) after winning the February 23, 2019 presidential polls, Buhari reiterated his commitment to a paradigm shift in the composition and management of the next administration. He had said: “All Nigerians, going forward, must stand in brotherhood, for a bright and fulfilling future… I, therefore, want to assure that we will continue to engage all parties that have the best interest of Nigerians at heart.
“Our Government will remain inclusive and our doors will remain open. That is the way to build the country of our dream; safe, secure, prosperous, and free of impunity and primitive accumulation by those entrusted with public offices.”
That hint was first thrown at the APC Presidential Campaign office on February 27 where he said: “We will strive to strengthen our unity and inclusiveness, so that no section or group will feel left behind or left out.”On March 21, Buhari told a delegation of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ): “As I look to the next four years, I will remain committed to a safe and secure nation; creating an inclusive and diversified economy; and a governance system that is free of corrupt practices.”
Will the president in his second term keep his pledge, and offer a robust, pan-Nigerian cabinet of “square pegs in square holes?” Will he harken to APC members for a “winner takes all” cabinet? The APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole has been loudly clamoring for “compensation” for “hardworking and loyal” APC members and supporters. To him, there is no room for sharing the so-called “spoils of office.”
Do Nigerians actually begrudge the appointment of party members into the government? Yet, “rewarding” party faithful shouldn’t subsume the overall interests of the people, and the ability of the appointees to discharge assigned portfolios.
President Buhari may have kicked-off his second term on a commendable note by re-appointing Mr. Godwin Emefiele as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). There’s no emphasising Emefiele’s competence on the job since 2014, the most remarkable being the exit of Nigeria from the recession that birthed the Buhari administration, steering and stabilising the economy towards a path of steady growth.
Emefile and his team have their imprimatur in the several “revolutions” in the past four years to diversify the economy, make Nigeria export, instead of import-driven and dependent, and be self-sufficient in food production and agribusiness.Thus, the CBN governor’s re-affirmation for the job flows from the adage of “not changing a winning team,” a gesture the President should also extend to some members of his cabinet who have “excelled” in their positions, notwithstanding the negative public perception about them.
Mr. Ezomon, journalist and media consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.