The imperative of Change for Buhari and co (pt 2), by Etunke Emmanuelmary


Change is an active word

Buhari won the presidential election promising”change”.
Now that APC has captured power,”change” must move from slogan to action.
During the campaign, “change” was a noun, an idea, a jingle. “Change” must now function as a verb, an active verb at that.

Verb, we were told in primary school, is a “doing” word. Active verb “does”; passive verb is “done”

So Buhari must change Nigeria else Nigeria will change him. He must be the subject, not the object. If he does not “do”, he will be “done” for. If he does not “change” Nigeria very soon, trust
Nigerians to become nostalgic and romantic about the past. You’ll start hearing: “Even Jonathan was not this bad!”

In Nigeria, we always think a former president is better than the current one. After all, it was suggested at some stage that Gen. Sani Abacha was better than President Olusegun Obasanjo. I
heard arguments about how Abacha kept the exchange rate at N80 to $1 and how it had fallen to N120 under Obasanjo. While I would agree that Abacha and Obasanjo were alike on many counts, I wouldn’t suggest Abacha, who spent five years torturing and murdering Nigerians, was better.
However, if people could say late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua — who did virtually nothing — was
better than Jonathan, then I have seen it all.
Three things will define the Buhari administration in its infancy: one, his first cabinet; two, his first decisions; and three, his first budget.
Will his first cabinet be dominated by jobbers, losers and other hopeless nominees intended to settle political IOUs like Obasanjo’s team in 1999? Will Buhari spend his first days in office reversing policies, instituting politically motivated probes and canceling contracts like Yar’Adua did in 2007? Will Buhari’s first budget be overloaded with overheads and subsidy payments like Jonathan’s in 2011?

These could end up shaping the direction of any administration.

The morning foretells the day in many instances. For Buhari to make a difference, he must start from his first cabinet. If he gets it right, he has a good chance of getting his initial decisions and first budget right. If he gets it wrong, he will have misappropriated his goodwill so quickly.
One of the most enduring self-destructive traditions of new governments in Nigeria — and I include states as well — is the tendency to assemble cabinets that are heavy on regular politicians and light on men and women who have more than politicking to offer.

The conventional wisdom is that the full-time politicians helped the president to power and he will need them for re-election. Hogwash. You only need a few full-time politicians in the cabinet. If I were to advise Buhari, he just has to break with tradition. At 72, he has seen it all. He has nothing to lose. I don’t think he is planning to build more houses or buy private jets or marry more wives. He can afford to throw himself into changing a system that has ruined us for ages. He has to put his feet down on the kind of cabinet he wants. He must resist the suggestion to transfer people from APC headquarters to the federal executive council.

Those who have proved that they can manage party affairs very well should continue to do so — after all, APC still has a lot of electoral battles to fight. You don’t disband a structure that has served you so well. In setting up his first cabinet, Buhari should insist on having nominees who must have more than politicking to offer. He should state the criteria. They must be men and women who have demonstrated competence in their fields and careers, not only in partisan politics.
I would suggest that rather than getting one nominee per state, Buhari should request at least three so that he can have a choice and will be able to weed out those who are not fit and proper to be in his team. At every turn, he must maintain that only the best should be nominated so that he can have a quality shortlist of 36 ministers, as provided for in the constitution.
In my opinion, a ministerial nominee should be asked to prepare a brief proposal, stating their preferred ministry, highlighting the sector’s problems and proffering the solutions. The nominee should then defend the proposal before Buhari and an interview panel. It will be very glaring if the nominee knows what he is saying or he is just a piece of matter seeking to occupy cabinet space. A tough nomination process will serve Buhari extremely well. If you have a competent team, your job is half done. All you need do is give them the political backing and the leadership needed to translate “change” from a noun to a verb, from slogan to action.
In 2003, Malam Nasir el-Rufai actually faced a panel chaired by Obasanjo, with Vice-President Abubakar Atiku and Chief Audu Ogbeh, then PDP chairman, in attendance.
According to el-Rufai, Obasanjo asked him specifically: “If you are appointed FCT minister, can you restore the Abuja master plan?” El-Rufai responded: “Of course, I can do it if I get your
backing because those violating the master plan are your friends!” At the end of the interview, it was clear to all that el-Rufai could do the job. We remember what followed. This shows the importance of screening, matching nominees with positions and allowing them to prepare for the job ahead. If Buhari makes the mistake of appointing funny characters into his cabinet without a thorough fit- and-proper test, he should just forget about “change”. We would return to the very thing we are trying to run away from — that system of patronage at the expense of Nigeria’s development.
The time has come for us to put our best feet forward. The cabinet must be dominated by bright minds who must understand the technocratic and political skills needed to deliver reform.

If Buhari gets that right, it has the potential of ballooning his goodwill and sending a clear message to 170 million Nigerians that, indeed, something is about to happen.
Let us therefore Pray for GMB to succeed.

Change is possible!


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