By - Tobi Idowu
On July 24,2019, President Muhammadu Buhari finally submitted his ministerial nominees to the senate and, upon receiving the much touted list, the senators, on the second day, swiftly commenced ‘screening’ of the President’s proposed cabinet members.
It had taken Buhari 54 days after his second term inauguration to be sure he could now forward those names he sent to the senate. Still he still uncharacteristically beat his own record of tardy six months, which was what he took in his first term, to make his cabinet decision public.
Nonetheless, since the list was released, and judging by the large pessimism that trailed it, it is left to be seen how much Nigerians would fare in Buhari’s second term. This is very significant as some Nigerians, still clutching at the promise of change that got Buhari the presidency in the first place, had thought the puzzling delay in the constitution of his cabinet, which had also affected government’s function, could at least enjoy momentary benefit of the doubt once the list was released. Alas, as it has been established in this administration, hinging hope on it amounts to trying to fill up a basket with water.
The list, comprising of 43 names has five former senators; ten former governors, with one of them being an ex-military governor; thirteen previous members of that mostly adjudged as underwhelming Buhari’s first term cabinet; seven women, and no youth.
Out of the five former senators, three of them – Godswill Akpabio, George Akume and Alasoadura – had unsuccessfully tried to return to the senate. One of them had lost his election uncommonly after he had vaunted his uncommon invincibility in his home state, in fact in his geo-political zone. His loss was that unsettling that he had refused to accept it as he is still, as of the last media reports, trying to undo that electoral damages through the court. Who knows if he realized in the closet, that he actually isn’t much of the heavyweight he thinks himself, which could have prompted his acceptance of a ministerial slot.
One might be tempted to ask, if president Buhari actually thinks persons, whose services were rejected by their constituents, ought to still be called upon as representatives of their people in the formation of the national cabinet? It ought not be thought of at all, but Nigeria has now descended to a phase where ministerial appointments have been turned into consolatory gifts for electoral losses.
Furthermore, the president seems to wittingly (unwittingly?) enjoy throwing up ironies in his much publicized anti-corruption crusade. At every given opportunity he has shown to be fond of those who carry corruption albatross, an irony if you think of his assumed incorruptibility. About the nomination of Akpabio, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), who is Buhari’s Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), in a recent interview, had this to say:
“ I don’t know how he got into the list. That is the only one I have a reservation about,” continuing, he offered, “You know when we have a programme in which anti-corruption is number one, if anybody is under investigation or not, I don’t think it is wise to include him in that list. But the president knows why he did that.”
Apart from Akpabio, others like former governor of Bayelsa, Timipre Sylva, former governor of Benue, George Akume and even former Information and Culture minister, Lai Muhammed, have had to answer questions bordering on corruption practices while in office. What does President Buhari feel about the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC)’s case that involves Mr Lai Muhammed? Silva’s case is interesting as he would now be joined in Buhari’s cabinet by no less a person than Festus Keyamo, who had been his prosecutor for the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC). A bad taste but not much of a surprise in Buhari’s faux anti-corruption era. One only needs to recall Babachir Lawal and others in his last cabinet. More so, has Adams Oshiomhole, Buhari’s party chairman, not said once people move over to their party, they become saintlike and get washed off their previous corruption stains?
Or could it be said that former governor of Osun state, Mr Rauf Aregbesola is his state’s most preferred choice in the national cabinet? Maybe the state government whose executive governor had been his former worker, but the people of Osun? A measure of what the people thought of his eight year stewardship was the controversial election that brought in his successor, Mr Gboyega Oyetola . Even though Supreme Court has validated Oyetola’s victory, Buhari’s ‘remote control’ moment of Freudian slip is revelatory enough.
What about Buhari’s failed promise to the teeming population of young ones in the country about their inclusion in his government? The same president who did not have any reservation in signing the “Not Too Young To run bill” into law, and who had enthusiastically said “young people of Nigeria are now set to leave their mark on the political space,” could not trust any of them in his cabinet. Not even in the ministry that purportedly caters for the youth, the Ministry of youths and sports. The average age of Buhari’s proposed cabinet is around 52, that is a lot of gap above any categorisation of youth. In fact, five of those he prefers to work with are 70 years and above.
Buhari’s choice of ministers also makes it clear his stand on the legitimate agitation for more representation of women in governance in the country, of which he had appeared to have hearkened to during his reelection campaign. While the number of his ministers increases from 36 in 2015 to 43 in 2019, Buhari could only add one more female minister to the six he appointed four years ago. Would it also be much of a surprise if, most of these imminently qualified women – Sharon Ikeazor, Pauline Tallen, Zainab Ahmed, Sadiya Farouk Umar, Ambassador Mariam Katagum, and Ramatu Tijani – are given junior cabinet posts? Surely not.
The foregoing, not exhaustive enough surely, doesn’t foretell good tidings that Nigerians so much desire. Also it will be much of a surprise if Nigerians are offered positive surprises this time around as one could even say that the constitution of a cabinet might amount to nothing of a significant sort, in an administration which is known to defer its key decision making process to some few powerful persons, known as the cabal. Would the overbearing spectre of the cabal not hinder the works of the new ministers as it was widely said to have done the last term?
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