The long road to September By OLOLADE AJEKIGBE

President Muhammadu Buhari

In his most definite address regarding the growing criticism of his administration’s delay in naming a cabinet since he assumed office over two months ago, President Muhammadu Buhari confirmed that he will not appoint ministers until September in his July 20 Washington Post article following his four-day official visit to meet and discuss burning issues with President Barack Obama of the USA in Washington D.C. He also cited the example of his US counterpart, who also did not name a full cabinet as soon as he assumed office, stating that that didn’t stop his administration from functioning in the interim.

Prior to the President’s article (and even after then) critics have questioned the rationale behind Africa’s biggest economy not having a cabinet for so long with valid concerns about the direction of the economy given that Nigeria’s financial markets have taken a turn for the worse as investors await policy direction on key issues such as the currency and oil. Apart from that, but for the recent encouraging news about the rescue of 178 women and children in Borno State from the jaws of Boko Haram, the terrorists have had a field day unleashing death and destruction on hapless Nigerians in various parts of the North.

Indeed, aside the genuinely concerned citizens, who are worried about the possibility of our democracy mutating into an autocracy considering the fact that President Buhari was a former military dictator, there are those who have been smacking their lips and rubbing their palms with glee in anticipation of they or their preferred candidates snapping up the “juicy” job of minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Apparently, the President’s laid-back approach to constituting a cabinet was not written in their scripts and as the days went by and it became more and more obvious that he was more concerned about tackling terrorism and corruption first rather than toeing the bandwagon path of naming ministers on immediate assumption of office, these political jobbers and charlatans have grown increasingly disgruntled.

The average Nigerian believes that this administration’s course of action can surely move faster, but the President has shed light on the need to be thorough and get things right rather than employ a fire brigade approach to our numerous challenges only to fail or run around in endless circles and achieving nothing significant at the end of the day. I believe he has a good point. In the past couple of weeks, all the heads of the Nigerian military have been replaced, so also the head of the State Security Service in a bid to inject fresh ideas as well as produce renewed onslaught in tackling terrorism. The heads of a couple of government agencies and parastatals have also been given the boot and replaced. Unsurprisingly, this move has also resulted in controversy as some have expressed uneasiness at the perceived leaning of the presidency towards individuals of northern extraction in his appointments so far to the detriment of the South, thereby renewing fears of a northern agenda and pointing to a disregard of the underlying principles of federal character and fairness. But, the latest appointment of Emmanuel Kachikwu, a southerner and technocrat with an impeccable record as the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (arguably Nigeria’s biggest agency) has left believers of the rumoured northern agenda of the president scratching their heads.

In similar manner, there have been several speculations about the calibre of people expected to make up the ministerial cabinet of the corruption-averse former military ruler as soon as he won the elections with many touting personalities like Prof Tam David-West, who was Minister of Petroleum and Energy under the Buhari-led military government to hold that position yet again. Former governor of Lagos State; Babatunde Fashola, has at different times been rumoured to be the President’s preferred man for the job of Minister of Justice/Attorney General of the Federation or Minister of Works while the irrepressible immediate past governor of Rivers State and Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, Rotimi Amaechi, who is arguably the most controversial figure in all of the political permutations trailing the new administration has also been rumoured to be the next Minister of Interior or Secretary to the Government of the Federation or Chief of Staff. It will certainly be interesting to see if any of these predictions come to pass.

The long wait for the ministerial list of the President has also invariably piled on the pressure on this administration for only the brightest and the best minds to be shortlisted. Nigerians expect people of impeccable character and pedigree, who haven’t soiled their hands in the dirty waters of corruption, to be named. Anything short of that will make nonsense of the president’s intention and claim to be taking his time on this matter because he wants to avoid making mistakes and ensure that the right pegs are put in the right holes. President Buhari must be aware that both genuine critics and the “wailing wailers” are waiting for the slightest hint that any name included in the all-important list of his cabinet members is suspect or that there is a misrepresentation of federal character before they pounce!

On one hand, the month of September is only a few weeks away and will be upon us before we know it, and on the other hand it appears not to be approaching fast enough as politicians, political spectators, godfathers, learned fellows, social media activists, the opposition parties and of course the general populace wait with bated breaths for the ministerial appointments.

One thing is certain; things are about to get very interesting!