Since President Muhammadu Buhari won his re-election, Nigerians have shown concerns over the calibre of persons he should appoint as ministers in his new cabinet. In this report, ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU and TOPE SUNDAY write on whether or not President Buhari will toe a different line in the appointment of ministers into his new cabinet, which starts on May 29.
For someone who had made failed attempts to be the President of the most populous black nation, Nigeria, the then General Muhammadu Buhari and his then newly formed party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) defeated an incumbent, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in 2015.
Prior to this, during the electioneering campaign, the ‘change’ slogan was introduced, and the party promised to offer the country the expected change. Among what they expected of President Buhari in 2015 was the earlier appointment of competent and new faces as ministers. However, all hope was dashed, as it took the president about six months to appoint members of his cabinet. It was argued then whether the six-month wait was worth it because some of the ministers were known old faces in the country’s political cycle.
As the president gets set to begin another four years on May 29, expectations are high on who should make his new cabinet.
How long will it take this time?
In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari took six months before he appointed his ministers. Explaining the reason for the delay, the president said it was for him to appoint competent people and manage the little resources left by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). A few agreed with the president, while majority argued that government’s business suffered a major setback during the period.
Consequently, political pundits and concerned Nigerians are optimistic that having realised that the earlier the ministers are appointed, the better for governance, he will do it differently this time. That is, President Buhari will toe a different line this time around on the issue.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, assured Nigerians that his principal won’t delay in appointing ministers during his second term in office.
He said: “The circumstances are no longer the same. So, there would be no delay. When you land in the mud of poor and delayed handover notes as happened in 2015, with a vandalised economy and a polity with different types of challenges, the delay would be understandable. But now, we have the good fortune of transition from government to government headed by the same President and Vice President, things can then be done more expeditiously.
“The party will surely have a stake and voice in who makes the cabinet, but it won’t lord or impose things on the president. The president is a member of the party, and the party will have its dues, but the buck still stops at the president’s table.”
Merging of ministries
Upon announcement of his cabinet in 2015, it was discovered that President Buhari reduced the number of ministries by merging some ministries. The president merged the Ministry of Power, Ministry Works and Housing, with now enlarged ministry being headed by the former governor of Lagos state, Raji Babatunde Fashola. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism was also merged with the Ministry of Information with Alhaji Lai Mohammed at the helm of affairs. The Ministry of Aviation that was headed by a substantive minister was also collapsed into the ministry of Transport with just a minister of state for aviation, Hadi Sirika.
In a phone chat with Blueprint Weekend, a political analyst and public affairs commentator, Jide Ojo, urged the president to appoint persons into all the ministries as required by the constitution in order to make everybody equal.
“Then in 2015, I think it was expedient because the ministries were too large and President Buhari then promised a lean government, but we didn’t see that lean government. So, for me, whether President Buhari unpacked or he doesn’t unpack, the major issue is productivity.
“Having two ministers in a ministry is creating backlog because when you say this is the substantive minister; then you are the subordinate, the state which that subordinate minister of state comes from felt it has been shortchanged. It’s better if you want to create ministry, then create ministry and make everybody equal.”
As Nigerians wait anxiously for the next set of ministerial appointees that will work with President Buhari in the new cabinet, stakeholders have called for an-all-inclusive government.
A presidential candidate of the Movement for Restoration and Defence of Democracy (MRDD) in the 2019 general elections, Mr Danjuma Mohammed, said President Buhari should reconcile with all and sundry and make his government all-inclusive.
He said, “My message to him is that he should be magnanimous in victory and also that in every democracy after every contest, there comes political reconciliation and it behoves on him, being the victor, to pilot this reconciliation.
“I want to commend him for taking the initiative to tell the nation he is going to form an all-inclusive government, I think politically, he should start with that and he should take us to the Next Level.”
Also, the Ndigbo social cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, stated that it expects President Buhari to make all-inclusive and equal representation ministerial appointments.
The president-general, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Chief Emeka Attamah, urged the president to give all part of the country a sense of belonging with the ministerial appointment.
“If we should take President Muhammadu Buhari by his words he has assured Nigerians that it is going to be a different ball game this time around. He has assured Nigerians of an all-inclusive government and that all the wrongs of past four years will be corrected.
“He also assured that all the different parts of the country with have equal representation, not just in the areas of appointing ministers but in all appointments that he is constitutionally entitled to make.
“We also expect not just to look within his party, but to also go out of his party and bring those he thinks have what it takes to run a government. Those that will assist him to deliver on all the promises he made.
“Though, we heard that Mr. President is about to give in to his party, APC’s idea of winner takes it all. If he does that, he will not get the caliber of people that will need to move his government forward,” he said.
Youth, technocrats for consideration
In settling his agenda for the president, the President, National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Ambassador Sukubo Sara-Igbe Sukubo, charged him to keep to his promise and appoint more youths into his cabinet.
He said: “If you remember, Mr. President promised sometimes ago to hand over to the youth in 2023. In line with his promise and for national development, we on our, part expect the president to make at least 40% of his next cabinet youth.
“All over the world, youth are taking over, Nigerian youth are also competent, qualified; they are well-educated and have the required energy to make positive impact in governance. So, if he appoints more of youth, the country stands to gain a lot. Youth are the majority of the segment of the country that voted for Mr. President. So, he should reward them with appointment into critical ministries,” he said.
“Appointing youth will help Mr. President to come up with solutions to some of the problems bedeviling our country. So, more of youth and a few of elders are what we as a council expect in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet.”
But on his part, a political analyst and public affairs commentator, Jide Ojo, said he expects the president to appoint more technocrats base on merit and chat a performance key indicator for all ministries.
“Well, it’s obvious that President Muhammadu Buhari needs to re-gig his cabinet first and for most. This, I say that once you are appointed you can take a nap and after four years you go. I think it should be performance based- appointment and performance-based retention of your position.”
He further said: “There should be a chart of demand or key performance indicator for each ministry. He needs to get private sector consultants to help him set goals for each of those ministers and their ministries. So, there should a key performance indicator to say that this is what you are expected to achieve in six months or in one year, and failure to achieve it, without good reasons means that you are losing that appointment.
“I also expect the President to relinquish himself of some of the burden he has put on himself. Retaining the position of minister of petroleum resources when he doesn’t have the attention to manage the ministry is not good enough. How can you be a minister of Petroleum and your minister of state will not see you for six months and there are urgent issues to be dealt with?
“He already has too many issues on his plate even as the president because the buck stops at his table. So, for me, at his age 76, he should let go of some of the portfolios.
“He needs to also appoint more technocrats. This does not necessarily mean that technocrats should not be partisan, partisanship should not be the reason why somebody is not performing. People who have the clout and the experience should be appointed. The appointment should be merit base but not for political consideration.
“People that he needs to appoint should not be the analogue people, in contemporary society, you need people who are technologically savvy who can respond to issues at a go. A minister that can respond to mail from his smart phone, this will be an added advantage. This is the era when even people in their thirties and forties are becoming presidents of nations.
“We should not be having septuagenarians, octogenarians and nonagenarians holding portfolios and depending solely on the advisory given to them by their subordinates because they cannot do things on their own. So, being technologically savvy and ICT compliance is important.”
‘Pick outside APC’
Some human rights activists called on the president to select some of his new cabinet members outside his party, the All Progressives Congress.
President Nigeria Voters Assembly, Moshood Erubami, urged Buhari to choose some presidential candidates who contested against him in the last election.
Erubami recently said, “The president made a promise when he was declared winner of the presidential election in February, maybe out of the joy that he had won the election. For me, I think he should pick some members of his new cabinet from those who contested with him. Look at Dr Oby Ezekwesili, Prof Kingsley Moghalu and Omoyele Sowore. Those are people that he should not ignore. His cabinet should be made up of those who can deliver.”
As the countdown to May 29 winds down, all eyes are on the president as he selects those that will work with him in taking Nigeria to the Next Level. However, will President Buhari toe the old path?