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Competence Mr. President, not integrity

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By Ernest Osogbue

It has been reported that President Mohammadu Buhari following the euphoria of his reelection has been making statements painting a picture of how his second tenure would unfold. One of the statements credited to the president was that only men and women of integrity would make his cabinet this time around.

President Muhammadu Buhari

It is easy for me to understand where the president is coming from; the victory of the APC which catapulted him to power in 2015 was predicated on ‘change’, which presupposed a departure from the old ways of doing things and a new dawn as espoused by the well-worn cliché.

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After his inauguration in May 2015 however, the long delay in naming his ministers, had led to speculations as to the quality of persons who would populate his cabinet. Nigerians in their numbers gathered at different points in different cities, towns and villages to debate this expected crop of young technocrats never seen or heard of in the corridors of power or in public office, who would mount the saddle and transform the nation for the better.

Alas, when the president finally reeled out his ministerial list on Wednesday November 11  2015, six months after his swearing-in, many were disappointed.

There was a silent grumble across the land as the expected fresh, young and new faces were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the same old crop of politicians who had held sway in previous governments, men who had been accused of stealing from the public till in past administrations, persons of unsavory public persona and others, were thrust in the faces of Nigerians as drivers of the much vaunted ‘change agenda’.

The opposition was quick to jump out with the ‘I told you so’ arguments, but Buhari and APC supporters also came up with a counter argument; that with a tough no-nonsense Buhari on the saddle, none of his appointees dare attempt anything untoward. This argument did not satisfy the opposition which went further to dig up dossier after dossier of the misdemeanors and previous wrongdoings of some members of the president’s cabinet to buttress its point.

For months the issue of governance was in abeyance as the integrity of some cabinet members was brought to question. This in the long run led to questions as to Mr. President’s integrity; a man known for his frugal lifestyle, a life devoid of ostentation and covetousness. The presidents’ supposed integrity was lampooned and impugned in the media as a result of the character of members of his cabinet.

From indications, the above scenario must have hurt the president deeply in his private moments and he must have wondered that his loyalty to those who helped him achieve his ambition after several traumatic attempts may have exposed him to ridicule and brought his well-manicured character to question. He must have had time to mull over the issue in the last four years, and therefore possibly determined that the 2015 scenario must not repeat itself in 2019.

Before we go further in this story, let’s ask the question; what is integrity? According to my dictionary, it is the adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

As a byproduct of their position or image, certain persons are expected to be people of integrity. In this category are members of the clergy, parents, teachers and moral instructors. Events around the country and around the world however, have given the lie to the above supposition. The recent jailing of a Cardinal for child sex abuse in Australia, the confession to adultery of a prominent Abuja based pastor, the sex for marks scandal leading to the jailing of a university don in Nigeria and the several parental failures in the moral upbringing of their children, are pointers to the fact, that integrity is simply a matter perception; as position or image has absolutely nothing to do with the inner person.

It therefore becomes worrisome to see our president still caught up in this integrity bubble. Everywhere you look in our country there is poverty, infrastructural decay, low productivity, unemployment, insurgency and banditry, lack of innovation and sundry challenges that require competent hands to bring urgent interventions and solutions. The president must therefore come down to earth and acknowledge that he is presiding over a country that is home to the largest number of poor people in the world. He must also realize that pandering to higher ideals is good, but that a hungry man’s ideals and integrity most often than not elude him when his stomach is empty.

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The president must close his ears to the rantings of sycophants who reel out unsubstantiated statistics showing how he is the greatest president Nigeria has had. He must look beyond the voices of those surrounding him, cocooned in their sheltered lives apparently sustained by public funds. He must look at the hungry faces of Nigerians as they surround his motorcade shouting ‘sai baba’, he must hear the cries of men, women and children in IDP camps inside their own country, he must hear the voices of Zamfara citizens daily deprived their lives and property by armed bandits, same with southern Kaduna where lives are being lost daily. He must see the footage of young Nigerians who would rather be slaves in Libya with the hope of getting to Europe, than remain hopeless in their own country.

The president should know that Nigerians need food on their table, regular electricity supply in their homes, medicines in the hospitals. Christians and Muslims want to live together in peace and harmony and go about their lawful businesses unmolested. Nigerians no longer want to be kidnapped for ransom or robbed of their property by criminals, in fact, Nigerians want their country back.

The integrity of the last four years has not brought solutions to the above situations. While we apologize to Mr. President for impugning and lampooning his integrity previously, we must remind him that a new tactic would not be out of place. He must realize that integrity is of secondary value to a hungry person who has no shelter.

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It follows therefore, that what Nigeria needs now, are men and women of competence; people who can get the job done, people who know what to do to stimulate the economy and get Nigeria bubbling again and put the smiles back on our faces. For goodness sake Mr. President, we do not need Angels and saints in your cabinet, we need people who can get Nigeria working again.

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