By Emmanuel Aziken
President Muhammadu Buhari last week cited the need to get people personally known to him as the reason for his dithering procrastination in naming his ministers.
The president by that, confirmed the claim by the First Lady that those he did not know and who did not contribute to the election victory of the All Progressives Congress, APC, hijacked the machinery of government in his first term. His decision to look for those he knows may actually flow from perceptions that the first cabinet was not up to it in addressing the three cardinal campaign agenda of the president, to wit; economy, anti-corruption, and security. However, given past scripts of the president being a taciturn and largely unsocial person, the search for those the president personally knows is bound to be tasking. If the president took six months in 2015, to pick those he didn’t know, mathematical progression posits that he may well take years to find those he knows as cabinet ministers.
Remember that last time when the president went out of his way to appoint those he knew personally, some of them were later discovered to have died. Many of those alive were discovered to be well advanced in years. Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States is 82 years, while the one to the United Kingdom is 79 this year.
The uncertainty in the formation of the new cabinet after serving a four-year term lays bare the fact that the president may not have been satisfied with the performance of these ‘strangers’ who worked with him in the first four years. Many of the governors who were first elected in 2015, as the president, have, however, been more proactive on the same issue. In Akwa Ibom for instance, Governor Udom Emmanuel on the basis of the sound delivery of his campaign promises and the popular mandate he won for a second term returned all but one of his commissioners.
President Buhari’s mentee, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was even more forward looking in designating portfolios to his commissioner nominees submitted to the Kaduna State House of Assembly.
However, admitting that the federal administration was scrappy in the delivery of its agenda would fly in the face of the glittering records that administration officials repeatedly claimed over the last four years.
In security, for example, the recurring claim was first that Boko Haram had been defeated. That was followed by chants of technical defeat and subsequently, the imprecise assertion of an insurgency that has been degraded.
The president’s assertion of picking only those he knows to work in his cabinet could put the president’s prospects in jeopardy.
What if the people the president know are not up to the job? In the education sector for example, does the fact that virtually all the heads of education parastatals speak the president’s language, come from one side of the country and worship the same religion helped in raising educational standards over the last four years? Nigeria is such a big, diversified and endowed country that one man cannot on his own know the best human resources across the country. The exemplary leadership recruitment style of Mallam El-Rufai is indeed revealing. In his first term, several of those El-Rufai chose to work with him were not personally known to him. They were brought into government on the basis of competence and many were reappointed on that score.
Projecting competence may also have its challenges as El-Rufai discovered last week. One of the commissioner nominees proposed by El-Rufai was later discovered to have been a harsh critic of the governor on social media. That was after postings he made in the past were unearthed and laid before him at the screening by the House of
Assembly. The state House of Assembly apparently on the prompting of the Government House dropped the nominee.
Remarkably, many of those the president know, who fought for his victory in 2015, are no longer available. Some have simply moved on after the first government was formed and they were left behind. Uche Onyeagocha who fought with President Buhari in the trenches from 2003, was so messed up by the president’s new friend, Rochas Okorocha that he was forced out of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Okorocha fought Onyeagocha for the simple reason that he did not know him! It was
apparent that Okorocha was strange to the virtuous political predilections that Onyeagocha and Buhari espoused Onyeagocha joined with the insurgency against Okorocha and is today the Secretary to State Government in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP controlled Imo State.
Many others who the president knew in the days of his struggle and remain in the APC have now given up. Some of them prefer not to be known by the president any more!