By Donu Kogbara
THE Senate Majority Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, has said that the screening of ministerial nominees may not be concluded for another seven weeks.
Ndume pointed out that the nation had patiently waited while the President took his time to submit the ministerial list to the Senate…and wondered why Nigerians cannot also patiently wait for the Senate to vet the nominees at its own pace.
According to Ndume, “in America, they screen one minister in two weeks” and those who are grumbling because they feel that he and his colleagues should handle this task more speedily should concentrate on issues rather than on “trivialities”.
When I read Ndume’s comments in newspaper reports, my heart sank!
As far as I’m concerned, President Buhari took WAY too long – six whole months! – to compile his list. He knew, by the beginning of April, that he had won the election; and I’d have been much happier if he had decided whom he wanted in his cabinet before – or shortly after – he was sworn in on May 29.
When he failed to deliver a list during his early days in office, I swallowed my reservations about his slowness and allowed myself to be persuaded by APC supporters who were saying that it is extremely difficult to select a suitable team quickly…and that we should even be glad that Buhari is super-meticulous by nature and is not the kind of man who makes important decisions in a hurry.
As the months rolled by, my impatience and irritation mounted; but I kept urging myself to resist the temptation to complain publicly because I believed that Mr President must be carefully searching for very special individuals to work with.
And then the list was finally published a couple of weeks ago; and, sure, it contained some decent choices, including (but not restricted to) Lai Mohammed, the APC’s highly articulate National Publicity Secretary; Kayode Fayemi, the erudite ex-Governor of Ekiti; Tunde Fashola, the famously effective ex-Governor of Lagos; Udo Udoma, a onetime senator with a big brain, and Rotimi Amaechi, the charismatic and clever ex-Governor of Rivers State who courageously broke away from the majority of fellow Niger Deltans (who allied with ex-President Goodluck Jonathan) and who, as Director-General of the APC’s campaign organisation, played a key role in terms of enabling Buhari to make history by unseating an incumbent.
However, I found the list pretty disappointing overall, not least because a) I abhor sexism – there are only six women on the list, b) I abhor ethnic chauvinism – there is only one Southern female on the list and c) I abhor nepotism – too many ministerial nominees are related by blood or marriage to senior APC personnel (for example, the wife of a former Yobe governor whose husband is now a serving senator and the Imo State nominee whose son is married to the Imo Governor’s daughter).
And it is not as if all of these beneficiaries of nepotism, sexism or ethnic chauvinism are uniquely qualified to be ministers. Some, frankly, are no big deal.
Also please note that there is a shortage of people who actually participated in the election campaign and made personal sacrifices (and, in some cases, risked their lives) to actively back Buhari.
I have heard it said that groups – competent Southern women and folks who have no relatives in the corridors of power and APC card-carriers who worked tirelessly – that are under-represented within the context of this list will later be compensated with other appointments like Board memberships, DG positions, etc.
But the Cabinet is the visible face of any government. Ministers are the stars of the show. And it’s a pity that Buhari’s Cabinet is not more balanced.
Focus on the future
But let’s move on, accept what we cannot change and focus on the future.
OK, so the list is far from perfect overall. But I – and the many other Nigerians who are unimpressed by some of the names on the list – will have to live with it. And my main concern now revolves around the urgent need for good governance.
Mr President will do much better when he has a full team in place and the distinguished senators can finish the screening by the end of next week if they want to, so can they please not foot-drag and waste yet more time?
Even if it is true that Americans spend two weeks screening each presidential nominee, Nigeria is not America by any stretch of the imagination!
Screening here is notoriously un-rigorous and many people who would not stand a chance of getting government jobs in America wind up with big jobs in Nigeria. So let’s not pretend that the Senate needs several more weeks in which to round up.
Worst Airports of 2015
1. Port Harcourt International Airport (Nigeria)
2. King Abdulaziz International Airport (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
3. Tribhuvan International Airport (Kathmandu, Nepal)
4. Tashkent International Airport (Uzbekistan)
5. Simon Bolivar International Airport (Caracas, Venezuela)
6. Toussaint Louverture International Airport (Port au Prince, Haiti)
7. Hamid Karzai International Airport (Kabul, Afghanistan)
8. Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
9. Benazir Bhutto International Airport (Islamabad, Pakistan)
10. Beauvais-Tille International Airport (Paris)
This list was compiled by CNN, the international TV channel, and is based on comments made by ordinary travelers who have visited the above airports.
I hope that whoever winds up being Minister of Aviation will take note of the pressing need to provide my home city with a befitting airport that reflects the fact that Port Harcourt is our third most important city and the capital of the Niger Delta and the oil industry that pays most of our bills!