Nigeria: Buhari's Final Impression Cabinet

24 April 2019

If President Muhammadu Buhari goes on a retreat to consider his cabinet for 2019 and the years ahead, Nigerians would undertake the retreat with him in prayer that he makes the right choices of people.

With the worsening insecurity in the country, nothing seems more important than safety of life and property, but Nigerians believe that the sordid predicament is owed mainly to the failure of the President's men, and blame his choices openly.

The Ministerial selection is even the more crucial because although President Buhari is an elect of the whole country, it is felt that divergent interests in the land can only be adequately represented by that of assistants chosen as Ministers. As simple as it sounds, this is the one act that can determine the sense of belonging of the various regions and interests in Nigeria, far more than the elected representatives in the National Assembly can ever do. Ministers have executive powers different from elected representatives whose roles are mainly legislative and weakly supervisory. Thus the nature of the polity is a pregnancy as the citizens hold their breath in hope that it shall not like the 2015 offering, be a still birth.

Citizens waited in 2015, in hope and patience and even as they empathised with the President, bedevilled then, by illness for nearly a whole year, the outcome of a six month long wait was disappointing. President Buhari gave the nation its most lacklustre cabinet in a long time. Not only was the choice not made of the best available to Nigeria, the regions and the divergent interests did not feel included in the administration. Nigerians have not hidden their disappointment, and although the President always gives the cabinet a pass mark, it must be stated that his below expectation performance has a lot to do with the lame cabinet he himself chose, and without doubt, it caused him a lot of suffering in having to hold responsibility for all the national disappointments. The stress showed often.

It pains me to hear arguments that with President Buhari's appointments, Nigeria has experienced far less corruption than under the preceding PDP regime of President Goodluck Jonathan. While the comparison of the level of corruption is debatable as only the person of President Buhari can be vouched for, accountability alone is not an achievement if the regime performance is short on delivery of dividends in critical sectors of the development index. We have degenerated into a recession and even though we have clambered out of it, our people have never known the current type of poverty, penury, and want. Life has never been as insecure as is known today for we live through days and days when people are killed robbed and kidnapped for ransoms by criminals operating at will. Daily we have asked, if this indeed is the Buhari that we knew in 1984, the one we voted for.

President Buhari would do well for himself to offer Nigerians a cabinet that points to the future he must chart for the country. It is so important for him because it would be the final impression of his second coming as leader of Nigeria. Final impressions are the ones that last, Nigerians need more than the President's integrity to remember him by. It needs youth without exuberance, and vitality without indiscipline.

A departure from the 2015 selection, President Buhari must strive to give Nigerians an all-inclusive cabinet, but made up of competent men and women, of proven integrity and community acceptability. If need be, the President should reach out to many of those impressive ideologues that contested the 2019 Presidency from the mushrooms of political parties in the land. Evidently each region and ethnic or other primordial nationality did present one or even more both locally and even more so in the diaspora.

This is a line of counsel already being canvassed by wife of the President Aisha Buhari who at a public hearing in Yola promoted President Buhari and his vision of Nigeria very well, but emphasised a call on Adamawa State Governor-elect Umaru Fintiri to install an all-inclusive regime in her home state of Adamawa. This is counsel direly needed by President Buhari. This counsel runs counter to the public stance of the ruling APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole who sees Ministerial Appointments as a reward for party loyalists. President Buhari must discountenance this whimsical political push and pull and submit to the aspirations of the people to look beyond the ruling APC. Qualification and competence must not be sacrificed on the altar of filial political demands.

The years ahead will see Nigeria grappling with the debilitating economic downturn indicated by high inflation, low productivity and critical levels of the growth domestic product (GDP). Oil is degenerating as an economic mainstay and the need for immediate diversification of the economy is now more apparent than hitherto. With business mogul Dangote putting finishing touches to his one cure refinery in Lagos, we must boldly scrap our moribund refineries and dispose of them as such. Already, we have a runaway oil subsidy regime in place even if officials deny that it is indeed subsidy, and aside all this, we have recorded an alarming debt profile, also never mind the assuage of the Minister for Finance that the nation is still comfortable, given its impressive balance of payments position on the foreign reserves. We are in the deep. President Buhari needs a carefully selected economic management team that can fetch the nation out of its current depths.

We have enormous challenges of employment and low labour productivity. Soon we shall implement the unsettling minimum wage, setting off a chain economic reaction. In education, the crisis lingers on from primary to secondary and tertiary levels. Not for us to even bat an eyelid from the 13 million street children of Northern Nigeria. All told, and in every sector, President Buhari needs a cabinet of not only the qualified, but the most imaginative within the context of emerging global trends and the challenge of optimising Nigeria's potential as a leading African nation.

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