Ministerial List and Buhari’s Dilemma: The Price of a Hasty Coalition?, By Ikechukwu Odigbo

To match Interview NIGERIA-BUHARI/The list of ministers therefore which represents the diversity of APC is a confirmation that President Buhari must have been arms-twisted. He has said many times that he is taking so long to appoint ministers in order truly to dig deep and choose competent and credible candidates, but now we see in fact that the length of time it took him has nothing to do with any informed or keen search for those who will help him redeem Nigeria. For all I can say the names in the list was largely predictable. So it is plausible to conclude that the length of time has been spent agreeing and disagreeing on who will make the list according to party interests, not necessarily on who the best candidate was.

After waiting for over five months, the Buhari-led federal government has finally released its list of ministers in two batches. Comments are running wild on whether these politicians who have been nominated are truly able to midwife positive change. A cursory look at the list reveals that most of them in the past have been either governors, senators or have held, at one time or the other, high offices in government. But what is particularly worrisome is that some of the names are gravely tainted with corruption. They are people whose pedigrees are known to Nigerians. President Buhari has begged the patience of Nigerians for so long before the appointment of ministers in order to take time to select not only skilled and competent Nigerians, but candidate with clean credentials and probity of character. But did he succeed?

It is unlikely that he succeeded in his aim because the list does not boast of such moral high-standing. But it is not difficult to guess what happened within the last months while Nigerians waited for the list. Key figures of the APC coalition have been meeting to decide those to be nominated ministers. In the final analysis it will boil down to quota, where the constituent parties will be required to submit their own list, taking cognizance of the norm of the federal character system. It can be imagined that President Buhari must have objected to the inclusion of some names, but what can he do? Is it not said that he who pays the piper dictates the tune?

There are two points that interest me in this emerging scenario. One is the dilemma of President Buhari in his relation to his party, APC; the other being whether this kind of party can indeed midwife the sort of radical change that Nigerians are hoping for. President Buhari has found himself in a very unenviable position. He has sought for the coveted office for so long and had failed on repeated attempts obviously because of the weaknesses of the party platforms on which he contested, including the ANPP as well as the CPC. None of these parties could challenge the spread and strength of the PDP during those years when he lost the presidency to PDP candidates. President Buhari himself knew this; that it would be impossible to win the presidency if he did not have the magic of winning also in some parts of the Southern Nigeria. His most successful attempt in 2011 in which he routed the North and secured as many as 10 million votes still left him defeated, because the Electoral Act states that his votes must have sufficient spread across Nigeria to represent a national character. Even if he vied a million times under the platform of a strictly Northern party, he would have still failed in that bid. Probably CPC could have grown across Nigeria, which would have been good, I think, if President Buhari had all the time and resources to expand and consolidate the party.

But if a hasty coalition is not the solution to moving Nigeria beyond the pit of rot, what other options are open? I think that it is possible to save Nigeria riding on the wind of change. It is clear that most Nigerians are thirsting for positive change although many are not sure how this kind of change can be realised. I don’t think it can be realised through the kind of coalition we see in APC, constituted mainly by politicians of questionable persuasion.

But Buhari was getting old quicker and still had his eye on the presidency, so like a politician he accepted a coalition. I doubt if he truly considered its implications and even if he did whether he had any option. In the end it turned out that the coalition that became APC consisted of strange bedfellows. Although they managed to present a common front and organised themselves behind a common image of change through which they won the presidency, it did not take long for clear differences to begin to emerge. It became clear to Mr. Buhari that he would not run a CPC agenda. But even if he wanted to, other members of the coalition quickly reminded him the terms of the coalition and its implications. The list of ministers therefore which represents the diversity of APC is a confirmation that President Buhari must have been arms-twisted. He has said many times that he is taking so long to appoint ministers in order truly to dig deep and choose competent and credible candidates, but now we see in fact that the length of time it took him has nothing to do with any informed or keen search for those who will help him redeem Nigeria. For all I can say the names in the list was largely predictable. So it is plausible to conclude that the length of time has been spent agreeing and disagreeing on who will make the list according to party interests, not necessarily on who the best candidate was. Therefore I conclude that President Buhari is in dire dilemma now in relation to his campaign promises. This is the price of a hasty coalition.

But if a hasty coalition is not the solution to moving Nigeria beyond the pit of rot, what other options are open? I think that it is possible to save Nigeria riding on the wind of change. It is clear that most Nigerians are thirsting for positive change although many are not sure how this kind of change can be realised. I don’t think it can be realised through the kind of coalition we see in APC, constituted mainly by politicians of questionable persuasion. What we call APC, one may say, is actually a re-gathering of embittered members of the PDP. They did not leave the PDP because they adopted a new ideological persuasion or fresh moral conviction, but rather they left because the PDP was not running according to their own terms. Today this form of carpet-crossing has characterised Nigerian politicians, showing in fact how shallow they are. In Igbo we say that he who sells a dog and buys a monkey is still stuck with a squatting animal. Some politicians have moved from one party to the other, and eventually back again to the old party. What they pursue is mere morbid self-interest not service or moral conviction of what they think is right.…moving from one party to the other and doing the same thing will not produce any change. On the other hand Nigerians are too much in a hurry and have been inflicted with a quick-fix syndrome. I think that redeeming Nigeria can only succeed if the values that underlie it are thoroughly grounded. It is possible for genuinely motivated young Nigerians with a progressive spirit, who are ashamed of the collective malaise presently afflicting our common psyche to build a party with impeccable and transparent ideals.

Riding on the wind of change is not about dumping one party and joining a new one without any change whatsoever in perspective and orientation. For change to be possible, the party values, not structures must change. It is said that only a mad person does the same thing and expects a different result. So moving from one party to the other and doing the same thing will not produce any change. On the other hand Nigerians are too much in a hurry and have been inflicted with a quick-fix syndrome. I think that redeeming Nigeria can only succeed if the values that underlie it are thoroughly grounded. It is possible for genuinely motivated young Nigerians with a progressive spirit, who are ashamed of the collective malaise presently afflicting our common psyche to build a party with impeccable and transparent ideals. Such a party can set its standards. It will grow slowly but steadily. It cannot change Nigeria at once, nor can it spread to the entire Nigeria overnight. But a party that is truly founded on change will grow slowly but steadily. If it is able to transform states or local governments where it wins elections, nothing can stop it over time to winning elections at the federal level. It needs conviction, patience and steadfastness. The only condition that needs to be fulfilled is to keep out politicians who will attempt to cross over with their old baggage, since this will bring the kind of rot that it seeks to keep out in the first place. In this, we can learn from the mistakes of the APC.

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