In 2015, when President Muhammadu Buhari was elected for his first term in office, the president took six months to make public the names of ministerial nominees and not a few Nigerians were taken aback by that action, which some described as lack of preparedness for the office, for a man who had contested elections to that office and only won at his fourth attempt.
And so, when he was elected for a second term in February 2019, the expectation was that whatever problem it was that caused the initial delay may have been fixed and so it will take a shorter period to put together a team. In fact, the expectation in many quarters was that the president will reveal the names of nominees immediately after taking the oath of office on May 29, but that was not be.
Last week, five clear months after his election for a second term and two months after taking his oath of office, President Buhari finally sent the ministerial nominee list to the Senate. Even this took a reminder from the leadership of the Senate that if the list did not reach the Senate before July 26, members would be proceeding on a long recess to resume in September.
The president had stated at a meeting with the National Assembly leadership that even though he was under severe pressure to reveal those he would be working with, he was being careful and more thorough this time, to avoid a repeat of the situation in his first term when people not known to him were foisted on him by his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and some individuals. He assured that this time, he would pick only those personally known to him, whose competence and suitability for the job he could vouch for.
It is for this reason that the list, as finally released, left not a few people wondering what the long wait was all about, as the list is populated with returning ministers from his first term, people who have been in public service and those who held political positions previously. In fact, it is perceived as an assemblage of election losers for compensation.
With the delay in coming up with a team to initiate and implement development polices, there is the tendency to imagine that there is some rocket science behind this but no.In the United Kingdom, only last week, the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, assembled his cabinet shortly after having declared in his speech that “Today, the campaign is over and the work begins.” Johnson was reported to have spent the 24 hours after his emergence, locked away with aides gathering a cabinet that will help him deliver the promises on which he campaigned. That is how a man prepared for the onerous task of leadership approaches his job.
It is the position of this newspaper that the myriad challenges Nigeria faces, especially with the economy was enough impetus for the president to come up with a crack team that would help in actualising the policies and programmes he has outlined in his Next Level agenda for the country.
Nigeria, more than ever before, is in need of leadership that can midwife the process of returning the country, which economy is struggling, having pulled out of a recession not too long ago with warnings of a relapse from the Central Bank, back to prosperity.
According to reports, the economy contracted by 43 per cent in 2018 to foreign direct investment, government divestment from businesses, and reform of the corruption-infested oil sector. This is in addition to IMF’s low growth rate forecast of 2.3 per cent for the year and 11.4 per cent inflation.
Wealth creation and jobs is what the country needs to change the trajectory of the economy and what needs to be done to achieve this is to first of all, have leaders who have the required competence, egghead technocrats with proven track record of performance, across party lines, to drive the process.
Beyond the less than inspiring team of ministerial nominees, the manner of screening of the nominees by the Senate leaves so much to be desired. The screening of the nominees by the Senate was a total sham and elevation of the absurd, as nearly every nominee was simply asked to “take a bow and go.”
A serious Senate would thoroughly grill the nominees, especially the returning ministers on their past performance but this wasn’t the case. It is unimaginable that past holders of public office, some of whom have cases of alleged corruption with the anti-corruption agencies were not questioned about those by the Senate in that poor show it put up.
What the Senate did was just a hollow ritual, which goes to prove public assertions that it is a rubber stamp legislature.
It remains to be seen how this team assembled by the president can move Nigeria to the much touted “Next Level,” in the hope that the ministers would be inaugurated with the same speed at which their screening was conducted, so that they can hit the ground running with the business of governance.