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Buhari’s victory and the burden of political liabilities

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By Aisha Usman

As President Muhammadu Buhari prepares to begin his second term in office, he and his party APC now have to take stock so the administration could perform better than it did in its first term. A government is as good as the men and women who run it. The President’s next cabinet must, therefore, be composed of the best the APC can offer.


Those who made the victory possible deserve to be rewarded this time, for it has not come easily. There were some challenges. The campaign was intense as the opposition tried to take power back by deploying everything in its arsenal. After an arduous electioneering campaign, the dates for the elections were shifted before they eventually held with some drama in many states.

In the different states, there was glaring power play, intrigues and eventually the tumbling down of many who were hitherto considered political godfathers. Some were featherweights who had federal might at their disposal but couldn’t deliver any votes for their party, thus making it easy for the major opposition party, PDP, to emerge victorious in unexpected places.

Now that the ruling party has been returned to power, it is pertinent for the APC leadership to go back to the drawing board and learn from past mistakes. The leadership needs to wield its big stick: some members who took their positions for granted have to be sanctioned.  Earlier on, they didn’t work for the party but were rewarded handsomely with plum positions, while those that had been working since inception were left behind. The poor reward system of the party created rancour among party members.

APC desperately needs a strong reward system in order to maintain its grip on politics in the future. It is gratifying that President Buhari has promised to reward all those who worked for his victory. To keep his promise, the President has to look in the direction of women while making his appointments. During the elections, women trooped out to polling units in their millions – of course, they comprised a large majority of voters nationwide. I expect the President to exceed the minimum 35% affirmative action for the female gender. This time, it should be 50—50! Luckily, women who are qualified to fill even 100% of available posts are not lacking in every state of the federation.

A major mistake of Buhari’s first tenure is that, while appointing people to positions, there was too much emphasis on technocrats who are perceived to be more competent. It is important to have “technocrats” in office, but it is more important to have those who can deliver the votes first. There would be no appointments to make if the party failed at the polls. Besides, elections are tests of political viability.  The skills necessary to win an election are largely the same skills necessary to govern. If you can’t win elections, you can’t govern.

The performance of some ministers during the general election has truly exposed the levels of their competence or lack thereof. A case in point is the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Alhaji Muhammadu Musa Bello, whose performance has been nothing to write home about. Bello has failed to harness the political fortunes of the people of the FCT for good.

An instant revelation of Bello’s incompetence as the political leader of the FCT was his failure to galvanize support for President Buhari’s re-election within the territory; accordingly, the APC suffered an avoidable defeat. Political pundits believe that the minster’s lackadaisical attitude towards the wellbeing of the party faithful gave the opposition PDP a stick to beat the APC at the Presidential and National Assembly elections. As a minister, Bello has the support and might of the federal government to deliver the votes in the FCT to the APC. But he lost the opportunity and the goodwill, and the result is a painful defeat of President Buhari in the FCT!

Rather than concentrate on building a strong political structure, he was too preoccupied with the local politics of his native Adamawa State. While we were here trying to return President Buhari for a second term in office, the minister was occupied with trying to prove an imaginary political point in Adamawa. The fact that he was absent during the polls did a lot of damage to the commitment of the party faithful. He lost the FCT to the PDP and was also defeated at his polling unit in Adamawa, where he went to cast his vote.

The case of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, and other cabinet members especially from the South-East speak to the danger that confronts nascent democracies—fascination with technocrats as if they are a magic potion guaranteed to solve all problems. Many so-called technocrats do not have any political value, nor do they have the guts to run for office. The era of using political godfathers or those close to the corridors of power should be thrown into the abyss of history. This is the case of one of the ministers who does not have a voter card even as I write this article.

In appointing people to political positions therefore, the President must consider politicians who have the capacity to deliver their constituencies when the chips are down. Most of them made huge sacrifices of their time, energy and resources. They should, therefore, have the right of first refusal.

All hope is not lost. The task of rewarding committed party members who worked assiduously at the recently concluded general election falls squarely on Buhari’s shoulders. This time, he has to take action before May 29.

  • Aisha Usman writes from APDC Capital Estate, Abuja, Nigeria.

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