By this time in 2015, there were guesses as to the “size, shape and colour” of the first inaugural Muhammadu Buhari cabinet. For sure, Nigerians knew about the constitutional provision of picking at least one minister from each of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
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But their permutation was whether the president would choose below or above the mandatory 31 ministers, and adhere to the principle of Federal Character and geopolitical spread.
Members of the public were also concerned about the persons to be so appointed: Would they be picked based on party affiliation, primordial sentiments, or competence to perform on the job?
Soon, Nigerians were to have additional worry on their plate: When would the cabinet be formed? The President-elect was inaugurated on May 29, 2015, and days, weeks and months rolled by without naming his cabinet except the Service and Security Chiefs that’s labelled “lop-sided.”
And when, six months later, the Executive Council of the Federation, popularly called the Federal Executive Council (FEC), was formed, not a few Nigerians expressed “disappointment” over the make-up of the personnel.
Many people had issues with the cabinet’s non-inclusiveness as a pan-Nigerian or national government that took care of the various tendencies in the polity.
Among the nominees were known players on the political scene, some for decades; former schoolmates and professional colleagues; and others that Nigerians never heard of or knew, and couldn’t vouch for their competence and ability to deliver.
But in the midst of these stated shortcomings that didn’t satisfy the expectations of a complex society as Nigeria’s, some people, especially members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), felt shortchanged in their contributions to the emergence of the Buhari presidency.
Recall the oft-repeated complaints by the wife of the president, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, that her husband’s government was peopled by “those who reaped where they did not sow.”
Most surprising, according to her, was that many of the appointees were not known to her “as a wife of the President of 27 years,” whereas those men and women she knew, and who worked for the APC successes, were not adequately compensated.
That, in the local parlance, is described as, “monkey dey work, baboon dey chop.” And Mrs. Buhari said the situation would be reversed before long – a hint the watching public read as an imminent cabinet reshuffle that never materialised.
The alleged non-compensation of APC members that ensured the defeat of the incumbent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) partly led to a revolt, which resulted in the “exodus” of powerful chieftains from the APC prior to the 2019 polls.
Come May 29 – nine days away, another chance beckons on President Buhari to form a “new” cabinet, and the expectation is for him to deviate from the past, and assemble an “inclusive” government that he has, indeed, promised Nigerians.
Accepting his declaration as winner of the February 23, 2019 poll, and receiving a Certificate of Return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Buhari iterated his commitment to a paradigm shift in the composition and management of the new administration.
First at the APC Presidential Campaign Office on February 27, he said: “We will strive to strengthen our unity and inclusiveness, so that no section or group will feel left behind or left out.”
Later in the day at the INEC office, Buhari declared: “All Nigerians, going forward, must stand in brotherhood, for a bright and fulfilling future… I, therefore, want to assure that we will continue to engage all parties that have the best interest of Nigerians at heart.
“Our Government will remain inclusive and our doors will remain open. That is the way to build the country of our dream; safe, secure, prosperous, and free of impunity and primitive accumulation by those entrusted with public offices.”
Also on March 21, Buhari told a delegation of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) that, “As I look to the next four years, I will remain committed to a safe and secure nation; creating an inclusive and diversified economy; and a governance system that is free of corrupt practices.”
Will the president follow through this pledge, and offer a robust, pan-Nigerian cabinet of “square pegs in square holes” or listen to the voices of APC members for a “winner takes all” cabinet that will not substantially deviate from the subsisting order?
A particularly loud voice in the clamour for “compensation” for “hardworking and loyal” APC members is the party’s National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. To him, there’s no room for sharing the so-called “spoils of office” with members of the opposition.
And the “opposition” equates those in other political parties, chiefly the PDP, and Nigerians, who canvassed and voted against the APC or stood aloof during the electoral process.
Truth is, Nigerians don’t begrudge the appointment of party members into the government, which, besides catering to the welfare of the citizens, is partially a reward system for those that bring it to power.
Such people, as in the 2019 election, mustn’t be denied the “fruits of their labour” they expended precious time and huge resources on to achieve, for the opposition APC, the “impossible” defeat of the ruling PDP: the first of such a feat in Nigeria’s political history.
Yet, “rewarding” party faithful shouldn’t subsume the overall interests of the people, and the ability of the appointees to discharge assigned onerous duties!
Well, talking about naming the “right” persons into government, President Buhari may have kicked-off his second term on a commendable note by re-appointing Mr. Godwin Emefiele as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
There’s no emphasising Emefiele’s competence on the job since his hiring in 2014, the most remarkable being the exit of Nigeria from recession that birthed the Buhari administration; and steering and stabilising the economy towards a trajectory of steady growth.
Mr. Emefiele and his team have their imprimatur in the several “revolutions” in the past four years to diversify the economy, make Nigeria export instead of import-driven and dependent, and be self-sufficient in food production and agribusiness.
Thus, the CBN governor’s re-affirmation for the job flows from the adage of “not changing a winning team,” a gesture President Buhari should also extend to some members of his cabinet that have “excelled” in their positions of trust, notwithstanding the negative public opinion and perception about them.
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.