Barely two weeks from now, the long wait for President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial list would end. Nigerians, who had been waiting with bated breath after the President’s inauguration on May 29, would be set free from the grip of suspense generated by the “delay.” The waiting game is nearing a climax. September is around the corner and Nigerians cannot wait any further to know who and who would eventually make the list.
The ministerial list is arguably one of the greatest issues that have stirred controversy since the inauguration of the Buhari government. The delay in announcing the cabinet members has also earned the President an unpleasant appellation of “Baba go slow” from his critics. But Buhari’s supporters, such as the General Overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, have simply defended the President, saying, “slow and steady wins the race.”
Buhari’s different path
The President has taken a sharp detour from the style of his predecessors. President Buhari has set an unprecedented record of being the only President, since the return of the country to civil rule in 1999, to spend the longest time, after inauguration, in appointing members of his cabinet.
It will be recalled that former President Olusegun Obasanjo announced his ministers barely a month after his inauguration on May 29, 1999. Former presidents, Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan also announced the members of their cabinets barely two months after being inaugurated in 2007 and 2011 respectively.
Buhari had said that he would not follow the practice where governors literally picked ministers for the President. He said in an interview, “I have been around long enough to know people that I can approach for things like that. Deliberately, we will look for competent, dedicated and experienced persons to head ministries and, of course, there will be schedules for ministers and we will expect them to fill them. Certainly, there is a lot to do but we are hoping that we will get good people to be in charge of ministries; people who can apply themselves to their responsibilities so that in no time, Nigerians would begin to see the difference.”
A season of drama
The controversy over the delay in the release of the ministerial list also generated a lot of drama. It will be recalled that a Lagos lawyer, Ebun Adegoruwa, reportedly threatened to sue Buhari in order to compel him to name his ministers or cease to be President. The story got Nigerians asking questions on whether the delay in announcing the minister contravened the provisions of the constitution. Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, a staunch critic of the All Progressives Congress, also kept people talking when he asked Buhari to give him the privilege of nominating an Ekiti indigene for appointment into Buhari’s cabinet.
Fayose said, “I shall be happy to nominate a worthy and competent professional, who can always oblige Mr. President and your cabinet the benefit of a second opinion in the serious business of governance.” Fayose’s critics had simply laughed at his suggestion.
The benefits of waiting
“When on a Tiger’s back, it is hard to dismount,” says a Chinese proverb.
President Buhari seems to perfectly understand that when taking risks, such as the appointment of the members of his cabinet, he would have to live with the consequences throughout the tenure of his administration. Although certain mistakes may be corrected, the retired general understands that every step leaves a footprint.
Observers have said the delay in announcing the ministers has enabled the President to clear the rot left behind by the past administration. Others believe that the delay enabled the President to lay a clean foundation to deliver on his promise of change to Nigerians. It suffices to say that if President Buhari had hurriedly sent names to the National Assembly in June, it might have compounded the crisis of the legislative arm.
The refusal of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to accept the decision of their party led the legislative arm into a prolonged crisis. The dust raised by the impasse has yet to settle. Observers had said that the ministerial list would have made the resolution of the conflict difficult.
Buhari’s party, the APC, has also been defending the President’s refusal to name his ministers at the time that most Nigerians considered appropriate. The party said Buhari was trying not to be hasty , saying he was taking his time to enable him to appoint competent hands. The APC had asked Nigerians to give the President the benefit of the doubt.
How the delay affected governance
Despite the reasons proffered for the delay, it is clear that Buhari’s three months in power without substantive ministers has hampered governance. Many Nigerians expect that while the President would be marking his 100 days in office in September, there would have been many capital projects to point out to as achievements.
The great expectations that followed the APC’s campaign of change have made many to be impatient with the style of the President. The disillusionment of Nigerians with past governments has drained every iota of patience for the Buhari government. The much awaited change sold to the Nigerians during the campaigns cannot be achieved without substantive ministers.
What to expect
Buhari’s ministerial list would definitely spring surprises. While some have been clamouring for competent hands, some groups have asked the President to appoint technocrats. Some critics have also said the ministerial list would generate more controversies than the row sparked by its delay.
Shortly after the inauguration of the President, a list of some prominent APC members was circulated on the social media as nominees for ministerial positions. The list included Senator Olorunnibe Mamora, Chief Audu Ogbeh, former governors– Babatunde Fashola, Kayode Fayemi, Rotimi Amaechi, Rabiu Kwankwaso , Chris Ngige, and a host of other party loyalists.
Buhari, while going through the purported list in a national newspaper, was stunned. He reportedly said, “They have chosen my ministers for me.”
The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, however, dismissed the list as a mere speculation. President Buhari, who is well known for his anti-corruption stance, has promised to appoint only honest persons as ministers. Nigerians are hoping that he would fulfill his promise.
However, the questions dominating public conversations are whether the President would defy his party as he names the ministers. Observers have predicted that the President’s ministerial list might deepen the leadership crisis rocking the APC. It will be recalled that shortly after the election, there was the news that the APC would ratify the list of persons to be appointed into the Federal Executive Council. This, according to the report, was to enable the APC maintain party supremacy which the Peoples Democratic Party lost during the last administration.
However, the crisis rocking the National Assembly over the sharing of principal offices has validated the point that the party can no longer foist its choices on its members. As the APC lost grip over its lawmakers, it is clear that the party cannot ratify the President’s list as Buhari has repeatedly maintained that only competent persons would be appointed as ministers.
The announcement of the ministerial list might also confirm whether it is true that the President and the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, were not on good terms. Due to the immense contribution of Tinubu to the APC merger, feelers have it that the APC leader is expected to nominate at least three persons as federal cabinet members. Whether this purported agreement would be honoured is a matter of time.
Despite these, it is clear that when President Buhari eventually releases the list, the confirmation of the nominees would not be delayed. The Senate President, Saraki, has assured Nigerians that the upper legislative chamber would not delay the confirmation of ministerial nominees once the list has been forwarded to his office. The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, also said that the senate would resume from a recess when President Buhari sends his ministerial list.
Buhari cannot afford to fail
Despite the hue and cry, President Buhari cannot afford to fail Nigerians. With the long wait, Nigerians expect that the ministerial list would be a perfect one. Nigerians are waiting to confirm whether the patience was worth it.
A reader of The PUNCH online, Sylvanus Aburime, aptly captured the expectations of Nigeria when he said, “President Muhammadu Buhari is reported to be searching for people of integrity to be appointed as ministers. For me, it seems that the President has not yet realised that with the system we operate in this country, a seemingly saintly person can easily embrace corruption if things remain unchanged. A Yoruba adage says if a child finds honey, he will throw away ‘akara’ (beans cake).
“It goes without saying that if the President finally settles with those he considers good enough and our institutions remain what they have always been, then it will not be too long before the ministers come face to face with ‘honey’ and throw away their ‘akara.’ So, let the President embark on the reformation of our institutions so that even ‘Alibaba and the 40 thieves’ would have no choice but to work for Nigeria and serve the country with integrity.”