Minister Muhammadu Bello: Very much like Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari

Ministers, close aides of lower ranks and other high appointees of every president are usually appointed based, basically, on the following consideration: the appointee as a team player by virtue of his being a citizen of Nigeria and a member of the cabinet or of some cabinet-rank, representing a state or a geo-political zone. With this qualification, the President must necessarily relate with him as a matter of duty because the appointee has a duty to perform for his constituency and for the president.

Second, the appointee may have some technocratic ability, expertise or gift with which he is expected to deploy in the service of his country and the achievement of a president’s mandate. Finally, having both the qualification and representational angle, some ministers or appointees get to enjoy a unique kind of relationship with a president. A president may decide, based entirely on his perception of that appointee, to bring him close to himself and cultivate a mentor-mentee relationship with him for their mutual benefit. An appointee, on his part, may admire a president and from his distance, choose to be like the man who appointed him and begin to carry out his work in a manner that would please him; he will show him exceptional loyalty and by so doing, gets himself drawn to the president and they commence a relationship that is beyond the official and enters into the realm of the personal. It is in the nature of man to impart his virtue into another and seek his mentee to become a person of impact upon the world.

Since President Muhammadu Buhari came in 2015, he has had to forge a relationship with scores of Nigerians based on those stated consideration. As to be expected, his relationship with some of these high appointees are deeper and more fruitful than with some others. Any keen watcher of what is going on in our governance realm would have realised that one of the men with whom President Buhari has had some of his most chummy relationship with is none other than the FCT minister Muhammadu Bello.

Frail, frugal, focused and quiet. In both looks and attitude to life, Bello is very much like Buhari. In fact, he is more of Buhari than any of the other ministers. This is perhaps traceable to the fact that both father figure and son are traceable to the same bloodline. The mother of Bello is a granddaughter of Raji of Yola who is a brother of the famous Dan Fodio of Sokoto from whose roots Buhari is also traceable to!

The FCT ministerial portfolio is not usually given to just anybody. It is always given to a person who enjoys the confidence of Mr. President’s. Bello is not just Buhari’s team player. he has pursued his work with a rare sense of humility, and uncommon commitment to please his father/boss with a panache of a man with a pan -Nigeria mandate. He is not a noise maker but a quiet worker whose focus is his responsibility to deliver what is expected of him.

As an admirer of Minister Muhammadu Bello, I have taken a keen interest in how the man and his boss, Buhari, relate and have found the partnership between them an admirable model. I was, therefore, not in the least surprised when along with other Nigerians, he was recently conferred with the national honours of Commander of the Order of the Niger by the President as a fitting affirmation of the nationalist credentials of his devoted aide.

As the Buhari government begins a countdown to its glorious exit next year, the stocktaking must begin. This piece is a step in that direction. Which are the possible ‘materials’ that Buhari will bequeath to a succeeding administration, especially if the APC candidate who has said publicly that he is going to build his administration on the foundation laid by Buhari can inherit, may be not necessarily in the same capacity but in another to help him succeed?

The first will, no doubt, be FCT minister Bello. The next Buhari man for possible consideration is the former minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu who stuck to Buhari for a considerable length of time but had to leave the cabinet because of the requirement that whoever wanted to contest for the presidency must first resign his current position. This was a Buhari devotee of a high pedigree.

Raji Fashola has also been another high profile Buhari follower who can be of use to an incoming administration that needs people of high commitment to help it succeed. These are all Buhari bequeaths to an incoming administration.

Another key Buhari ally that can be a suitable bequeath to another administration is the man in-charge of Customs and Excise, Hameed Ibrahim Ali. The Customs under Ali, became one of the highest revenue generating agencies of the country. Surely, there is something Ali did that none of his predecessors never did to have the type of results we got under him. It may be integrity; it may be managerial ability such as the use of motivation. It may be all of these and even more.

Although a later comer to the Buhari fold, the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development is another of Buhari’s key allies that can be ‘signed’ by another of administrative ‘managers. These are the people one may look back and say these are Buhari’s people. They are a people of whom Buhari can look back and say ‘’these are men and women in whom I am well pleased’’. They speak most eloquently of what Buhari has been able to achieve for Nigeria. With these men and a woman, Buhari has been able to imprint his DNA on public life in Nigeria.

In politics and in governance, these men and a woman have stuck to Buhari since 2015 and after as they were always re-appointed at every cabinet change or rigging. But of all such men and women, FCT minister, Muhammad Bello seems to be one of the closest to President Buhari.

Nataro is a former candidate for the governorship of Kebbi state.

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