As the nation waits for President Muhammadu Buhari to form his cabinet, SAMUEL ODAUDU takes a critical look at the issues that may shape the president’s cabinet structure.
For the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to perform well and live up to the high expectations of eager expectant Nigerians, the persons that will form his cabinet are expected to define the character and direction of his government. Of course, for the president to form a credible cabinet demands more than just laid-back planning and presidential pronouncements.
However, questions are being asked: What kind of cabinet will President Buhari government form? Will he populate his cabinet with political patrons and jobbers or thoroughbred and result-oriented bureaucrat?
Observers expressed concerns that since 1999, political protrons got the highest percentage of ministerial and some other sensitive appointments and the results are very glaring. Failure of good governance leading to infrastructural decay, economic stagnation, unemployment, high rate of corruption among other pervasive social ills.
Some observers advised that while it is totally impossible to shove aside the political class and money bags who contributed to the electoral success of President Buhari, he will do better if he shares his ministerial appointments 70-30 percent in favour of bureaucrats. The president, it is argued, will fare better with this kind of administrative structure.
Beaurocrats, according to Mr. Johnson Ibila, an Abuja-based creative artist, will help the president to think and come up with new ideas of purposeful governance and development.
According to him, “Bureaucrats are not afraid to think and take bold steps as long as they have the backing of the president. They display tendencies for better performance because they are primarily interested in in enriching their curriculum vitaes with positive track record. Buhari should know that bureaucrats are more inclined to patriotic services than political ministers.
“Politicians in government are full of eye service to their principals and that is because their ultimate target is next elections. That is why they corruptly enrich themselves in office through contract awards and abuse of power and privileges”, said Ibila.
Others are of th opinion that the president is delaying in forming his ministers, arguing that it may affect his government’s performance with regard to 2015 budget implementation.
“Remember, it is ministers that are the reporting officers to the president in terms of the performance and level of budgetary implemtation. Remember also that the 2015 budget was passed late by the National Assembly. What this implies is that there is a tendency to drag back implemtation if the ministers and key presidential aides are not quickly appointed”, said Bala Yusuf, a civil servant who did not disclose the agency he works.
Mr. George Idu, a civil engineer, however, disagreed with the views being expressed in some quarters that the president is wasting time in constituting his cabinet. According to him, Nigerians are very impatient and that could push the preident into error if care is not taken.
“The business of governance is not as cheap as ‘one plus one equals two’ the way many Nigerians think. I say so because this is what I see among Nigerians, especially each time I listen to the radio, watch the television and read the newspapers. We must be careful not to push the president into error. It takes time and careful planning to select the right persons to work with, especially if it has to do with heads of sensitive agencies of government.
“I think we should apply wisdom in the way we interprete the motifs of the president. I for one don’t expect the person of President Buhari to be casual in his choice of cabinet ministers. Don’t also forget that he has been under pressure from different quarters that want their candidates appointed into the cabinet.
“Such decisions cannot be taken in a hurry because if you do, you will offend sensitive persons that you are not supposed to offend”, he said.
There has been reports that the president is considering reducing the number of the ministers so as to cost down cost of governance. There have been debate over whether the president can appoint less than 37 ministers. The last report stated that the president intends to appoint only 25 ministers. There are others who contend that however the president wants to handle the matter, he should not go beyond the constitutional limits. The constitution states that every state of the federation must be represented in any government.
For instance, the 1999 Constitution as amended states in Section 147 (1) that, “There shall be such office of Ministers of the government of the federation as may be established by the President: (2) Any appointment to the office of Minister of the government of the federation shall, if the nomination of any person to such office is confirmed by the senate, be made by the president : (3) Any appointment under subsection (2) of this section by the President shall be in conformity with the provisions of section 14 (3) of this constitution, 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”.
Some analysts have wise counsels for the president saying that he should project his government through his ministerial nomination as well as the performance of his adminmistration as the government of the people or the masses. This view is drawn from the fact that the president is basically a man of the masses or talakawas in Hausa language. If his government wears elitist mien and alienates the masses, he could incur their (masses) wrath.
The theorists of this position maintain that there is an increasing mass political enlightenment among Nigerians and that it is perilous to push them backward in governance structure. They argued that voters have suddenly woken up to the realisation that with their permanent voters cards, PVCs, in a free and fair election conducted by impartial Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, they are the real landlords and are in a better position to negotiate what they want from any political office holder.
In other words, any elective office holder who fails to come down to their level does so at his or her own risk because they (voters) will eject him from office in future elections.
“It is important for President Buhari to carry the masses along”, said Hajia Asabe Musa, a petty trader who spoke in Hausa language adding that, “the role of the masses in the last presidential election was huge. Buhari is our president, not their (the rich elite class) president. Buhari should select only the people who can feel what we ordinary people feel. We are tired of elite deception”, she said.
It is expected that after the inaguration of the 8th National Assembly, the president will be set to sned the list of ministerial nominees to the Senate for screening and approval. Untill, then, Nigerians will keep their fingers crossed on the matter of President Buhari’s ministerial formation.