Some stakeholders in this piece by FISAYO FALODI highlight qualities President Muhammadu Buhari should consider before appointing his ministers this month
Scheming, lobbying and maneuvering for preference by politicians are some of the activities that are likely to dominate the polity this month as President Muhammadu Buhari is set to appoint members of his executive council as he has earlier promised.
Buhari, who many believed would name the cabinet members shortly after he was inaugurated in the second quarter of the year as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, took expectant politicians and technocrats by surprise when he postponed the appointment till this month.
Explaining the reason for the delay, the President was quoted to have said in an article published on Washington Post that he decided to put off the appointment to enable him to make the right choice(s).
He justified his action by making reference to the United States President, Barack Obama, who did not have his full cabinet several months after he took the oath of office.
Buhari was quoted in the article as saying, “In Nigeria’s case, it would neither be prudent nor serve the interests of sound government to have made these appointments immediately on my elevation to the presidency; instead, Nigeria must first put new rules of conduct and good governance in place.
“I was elected on a platform of change. I know this is what the people of Nigeria desire more than anything else. I know they are impatient for action. I realise the world waits to see evidence that my administration will be different from all those that came before. Yet reforming my country after so many years of abuse cannot be achieved overnight.
“In our campaigns against both Boko Haram and corruption, we should remain steadfast and remember, as it is said, ‘Have patience. All things become difficult before they become easy.’”
Also addressing journalists at the recent African Union summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, Buhari attributed the delay to the late submission of the transition committee’s report on the previous administration to him.
The President had said that he was being careful to avoid making mistakes while appointing individuals to key positions such as in the ministries of finance and petroleum resources.
Buhari had said, “I was waiting for this report because I would like to know what position in the government especially in terms of finance and petroleum industry. So, I am not in a hurry to get ministers.
“I want to get ministers after at least I have seen the report because I don’t have to appoint a minister today and sack him the next week because this report would give me what actually happened in terms of security, economy of the country.”
The President’s explanation subsequently became a subject of controversy among some Nigerians. While many people welcomed the idea, critics described it as a demonstration of lack of preparedness for governance.
The critics also flayed the President for dissolving the boards of federal agencies when he had yet to appoint cabinet members for the smooth running of government.
According to them, Buhari’s action shows that he lacks a clear-cut plan for delivering dividends of democracy to the people.
But the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and the founder of Latter Rain Assembly, Lagos, Pastor Tunde Bakare, defended the President’s action. While Oyegun said the delay was deliberate and cautious, Bakare said the President should be given enough time to think right.
Oyegun, who spoke against the backdrop of growing public concern over the slow pace of the APC-led government under Buhari, noted that the APC came with different manifesto and would need individuals that were passionate and understood what is required to be done.
Similarly, Bakare, who spoke during an interview at The Glory Christian Ministries recently, emphasised the President’s earlier claim he did not get the handover report until May 28, adding that the President’s committee did not have anything to work with.
As if he had studied the mood of Nigerians, Buhari during a joint press conference earlier in the week with Ghanaian President, John Mahama, gave the assurance that he was committed to his plan to form his cabinet before September 30.
The President said Nigerians and the international community were at liberty to query him if he failed to announce his ministers by the of September.
As Buhari sets to name the cabinet members, however, some stakeholders have asked the President to justify the delay in appointing trusted, patriotic and competent individuals with innovative ideas for change.
The stakeholders said such potential ministers should be able to hit the ground running after their confirmation by the National Assembly.
They urged the President to thoroughly subject the would-be ministers to discreet investigation to enable him to have information about their past before giving them national assignments.
The human rights community, represented by a lawyer, Mr. Femi Aborisade, asked Buhari to look out for people who had shown demonstrable conviction that, primarily, the philosophy of governance should be about using public resources for the improvement of the material wellbeing of the downtrodden.
According to him, Buhari’s cabinet should be peopled by those who have a track record of credibility, integrity and strength of character.
The activist said, “The next federal executive council should consist of people who enjoy positive public perception of not being corrupt or people who are not known or perceived to be corrupt.
“The President should bring on board people who have a track record of demonstrable concerns for public good, those who are known to have made sacrifices and spared some thought for public good and who have not merely made a mark only in their individual private businesses.
“The next ministers should be persons who are willing to serve the public without earning salaries or persons who are prepared to serve by earning salaries not more than 12 times the statutory national minimum wage, plus reimbursement of any incidentals such as transportation and/or accommodation when they travel or embark on public functions.
“Such persons should be knowledgeable in the practical functions or objectives of the ministry where they are to be chief executive officers. In this regard, professionals in each ministry and/or credible unionists working in given ministries, should be subject to popular election by their peers and recall once they fall short of public expectations.”
Above all, Aborisade asked Buhari to set up a standard that should be used to measure the performance of the ministers and other political office holders.
“The President should operate from the standpoint that once a minister or an adviser falls short of the standard or principles, such official should be made to resign or sacked outright,” he said.
An anti-corruption campaign group said Buhari’s government would achieve the desired result if he worked with persons with courage to resist temptation to dip hands in public funds.
The Executive Chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said for Nigerians to enjoy realistic good governance in the next four years, Buhari should form a cabinet dominated by honest and unbiased persons.
Adeniran expected the President to have used the last three months to look for candidates with track record of achievements in previous positions.
“A cabinet position should not be for green horns and not for persons with national problems waiting to be surmounted,” he said, adding, “Ministers should be transparent in their duties and open-minded.
“They should be discretely assessed to find out if they understand economic issues which are absolutely essential to taking policy decisions that will lead to the well being of the citizens.
“They should possess the ability to form and lead an effective team of capable people, that is, ability to choose right people, making each member of the team work as a group, provide enough freedom to each member to manage affairs under their charge and ensure that members remain honest.”
Candidates for ministerial positions, according to the anti-corruption group, should have a banner without stain. They should not be politicians and technocrats with suspected cases of abuse of office or misconduct.
Adeniran added that the would-be ministers should have genuine love and concern for people without which they could stray into directions that could incite catastrophic consequences.
“It may not be out of place to conduct interviews and administer competence tests on potential ministerial nominees,” he said.
He said in line with the President’s example, ministerial nominees should be willing to publicly declare their assets, which include those of their spouses, children, siblings and dependants as soon as their nominations were confirmed.
The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria recommended experts or professionals by training with experience relevant to the proposed portfolios.
MAN President, Dr. Frank Jacobs, is of the opinion that the potential ministers should not be corrupt and incorruptible persons.
Jacobs believes that Buhari will cover significant millage in terms of fulfilling his campaign promises if he constitutes an executive team of highly principled people who have personal conviction on actions taken and ready to defend such actions.
While noting that fame or attention seeking-persons might lose focus if appointed as ministers, the MAN president said, “They should have a non-political mindset and not unduly interested in recouping campaign expenses.
“Buhari should look for persons who are not self-seeking, but ready to serve the nation. They should be individuals with focus on specific, achievable and measurable goals.
“They also should not pay attention to being politically correct, but ethically so.”
Source: The Punch.