I HAVE always been amused by it all. I mean the anxiety of those who waited with bated breath for President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees. They had expected something out of the ordinary because of the fetish the president made of the appointment of ministers.
But as someone who is not easily drawn into the paroxysms of excitement, I always hold my breath when I see people building castles in the air. Situations like that draw me into reticence. I usually pity those whose lack of circumspection have led into erroneous conclusions and tragic errors. Some people around me have packaged this disposition of mine in many ways. Some call it pessimism. They say that I am always anticipating the worst of situations. Others call it cynicism or skepticism. But I suspect that cynicism captures my situation better. It is a disposition that runs in my veins. That is why it is difficult to railroad me into a point of view. I travel along with doubts all the way.
It was in the light of this disposition of mine that I became suspicious of Buhari when he started all the shenanigans about the appointment of ministers. My suspicion was that Mr. President had no plans to appoint ministers, especially since he did not know the implications of such an omission. From all indications, Buhari sees ministers as unimportant in the day-to-day operations of government. That is why he recently described ministers as noise makers whose mission in government is to minister to the needs and demands of their constituents. For him , the people that matter are the civil servants, the technocrats who man sensitive beats in various government departments. Buhari, for these and other reasons that he treasures, did not really want to appoint ministers.
Unfortunately, he was unmindful, or ignorant of the fact that the constitution bars him from carrying out certain tasks without the concurrence of ministers. That is why many believe that Buhari operates with the mentality of a sole administrator or a military dictator who does not understand the language of people’s power.
In the light of this disposition of his, Buhari had to be reminded of the need to appoint ministers. But he was obviously uncomfortable with those reminders. That was why he went into a justification binge. He told us why ministerial appointments had to wait. He told us that it was not unusual for a president to wait for months on end before appointing ministers. He combed round the world to justify his delay. But hardly anyone was taken in by the justifications. When the president was not making impact in this regard, he had to be assisted by the Bola Tinubus of this world who told us that we should not make any fuss of the non-appointment of ministers because the president’s first 100 days was supposed to be a period of honeymoon. But Nigerians, in spite of these head-shrinkers, would not let the president to get away with those justifications. When the president could not find any more place to hide, he had to give them a September deadline. But again, to confirm the suspicion that he is not really interested in the ministerial distraction, Buhari waited until the last day of September to submit the list. This goes to show that he was reluctant about it all.
In doing this, Buhari created a lot of suspense. He heightened people’s expectations. They became anxious. Some analysts and commentators said Nigerians were waiting for Buhari’s ‘Saints’ to be announced. Others said they were waiting for the ‘masquerades’ to be unveiled. And so, the appointment of ministers became a big issue.
Now, the hour the people have been waiting for has come. And what did the president give them? A partial list of ministerial nominees. Yes, it took Buhari 125 days to produce a partial list. Now, he wants the people to believe that a comprehensive list of ministers would come later. The president can as well tell this to the marines.
Those who were interested in who and who would make the list have been expressing their disappointments. They are disappointed that they did not see a list of saints. They are saying that the unveiling of the masquerades did not produce surprises. It gave them the known, the familiar, the jaded, the beaten, the recycled, the disused and even the questionable. They are also disappointed that the list was a partial one.
As I hinted earlier, I am not a part of this drama of anxiety. Instead, I have always approached the issue with cynicism. I do not believe in all the make-belief that the Buhari Presidency has been dishing out over appointments, be they ministerial or otherwise.
When Buhari constituted his kitchen cabinet and left out the entire south east, some people tried to explain away the ugly situation. They assured, even without knowing what the president was plotting, that he would balance his appointments later. I told those who came my way then that there was not going to be any balance since every State of the Federation is entitled to a minister. Therefore, any zone, like the south east, that is shut out in the earlier appointments would have no way of making up for the loss.
But I suspect now that Buhari has disappointed the more those who thought that he would balance his appointments or try to close a bit the appointment gap between the south east and the other geopolitical zones. Of the 21 ministerial nominees before the Senate for consideration, only two came from the south east. Since ministerial appointments follow the rule of federal character, each of the six geopolitical zones should, under Buhari’s 21-member cabinet, get at least three ministerial slots, leaving us with a balance of three. If every geopolitical zone were to have two slots as the south east, then we should have a total of 12 ministerial positions. But we have 21 with the already disadvantaged south east getting only two. This shows that Buhari has continued to deepen the woes of the south east. He is on a revenge mission. His guiding philosophy must be one of tit for tat.
Buhari, obviously, does not care a hoot about balance. He finds delight in lopsidedness. That is why many now see him as northern president. But the man dies not care. Imbalance, instead, has continued to take the centre stage in his administration. In fact, the present situation has amplified the point some mischief makers were making that Buhari was justified in shutting out the south east from the All Progressives Congress government because the zone did not vote for him. Views such as this can only take us back to Egypt. They will only remind us of the fact that we are not yet ready to build a nation that everyone of us can call his own.
Now, the new deception that we will be treated to is that Buhari would appoint more ministers in due course. That those whose slot fell short would be compensated when the full list is out.
Again, I refuse to be taken in by this antic. I do not even believe that Buhari will appoint more ministers in due course. What he has done now is to divert our attention from the real situation. He wants to operate a 21-member cabinet while making us believe that he would increase the number later. This is bare-faced deception. With his latest action, Buhari has taken the ministerial drama to an anti-climax. He has finally disappointed those who were imagining that he would right the wrongs he earlier inflicted on them.