By James Ibechi and Ejikeme Omenazu – LAGOS
SInce May 29, 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari took over the reins of governance, a lot of Nigerians have been wondering why he has not been able to forward the list of his ministerial nominees to the Senate for screening and approval. Since then, he has been running the nation with few hands, with the Permanent Secretaries holding sway in ministries.
So far, he has no ministers. He also does not have the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF)
A cross section of the populace feel that having been preparing himself for several years for this position, he should have had everything in his sleeves, even before the election. His party also, which had been so vitriolic in criticising the President Goodluck Jonathan administration as being clueless, has been under fire. People feel that it should have had a shadow cabinet in place far before the elections and as such after winning the election and mounting the saddle of governance, its president would have named his ministers in a matter of days.
But, the reverse has been the case. No one can easily say what direction the president is going in the appointment of his ministers, especially as he declared during his inauguration that he “belongs to everybody and belongs to nobody.”
Feelers have, however, indicated that unlike what happened in the past administrations, Buhari does not want to be dictated to by the state governors in the appointment of his cabinet, as he will not interfere in their appointment of their commissioners. As at now, no one is sure of the level of influence his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has over him in this regard.
However, an indication emerged from Buhari himself while he was in United States of America, that he would name his ministers in September, four clear months after his take-over.
Sources, however, indicate that seasoned politicians, administrators and technocrats have been flooding the APC national headquarters in Abuja and the Aso Rock Villa with their credentials and curriculum vitae. It is also gathered that efforts are being made by the president and his closest aides and few party top chieftains close to him to scrutinise the huge documents submitted by those who want to become ministers.
One of such people whose credentials are undergoing scrutiny at Aso Rock confided to this writer that it was not easy penetrating the seat of power, even by top party bigwigs. He said he had to pull some strings to enable him present his papers “to the relevant authorities at both the party and the State House”.
However, feelers have emerged that those aspiring to become ministers are not finding it easy, as it is like passing through a needle’s eye. It is being peddled that a long list of over 36 candidates the Presidency reportedly forwarded for security clearance could not pass the integrity tests as a lot of them are said to have skeletons in their cupboards. Thus, the nation has no choice but to wait until September for the lists of the ministerial nominees to be sent to the Senate for screening and clearance, hopefully.
But, the long wait for Buhari’s ministers has made a cross section of Nigerians to say that Mr. President is too slow in his actions. Such people wonder how possible it is for him to give Nigerians the “Change” he and his party promised them during the campaigns, which made the people to vote for him.
Chairman of the Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC) in the South West Nigeria, Amb. Ochi Emmanuel Ode, feels that the President should have done more than what has been achieved so far. He said: “President Muhammadu Buhari has been running for elections for the past 12 years. Having taken over since over two months, those things he has on his fingertips should have been on the table by now. This is why Nigerians are now saying that this is not the ‘Change’ they bargained and voted for.
A cleric and Public Affairs Commentator and President of Caring Heart Organisation, Apostle Tony O. Anthony, says that looking at how things seem to be going, “the APC is a coat of many colours and cannot be a better alternative to PDP. This is because there are a lot of PDP members in APC. APC is a conglomeration of several political parties, hence the difficulty for Buhari to take certain actions as fast as he should.”
He continues: “It is interesting that up till now APC has no manifesto they are pursuing, no agenda. Up till now President Muhammadu Buhari has no ministers. Up till now, he has no blueprint on how to solve the problems of Nigeria. All he is talking about is corruption.”
He however chips in: “All things being equal, President Muhammadu Buhari should offer the people of South East the position of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) for equity and fairness. Ogbonnaya Onu and Chris Ngige worked vigorously for the APC. They deserve ministerial appointments.
“President Buhari should not play politics of sectionalism if he wants his administration to stand. His cabinet should be all encompassing, involving all sections, if he wants to win the hearts of Nigerians. He is now the Nigerian President and not the President of the North, North West or North East.”
Another Public Affairs Commentator, Dr. Tunde Oyemade, does not also agree that Buhari is slow. He maintains that even if he is accused of being slow, “slow and steady wins the race. The old system has been corrupted over the years. He has to take his time to appoint technocrats and people who are seasoned in all areas of government enterprise. I know that God will guide him to choose the right people at the right time.”
Speaking on the issue, veteran journalist and Member of Buhari’s Presidential Media Group, Tunde Ozemoya Thompson, states that those making such assertions are trying to blackmail the president. According to him, “There is nothing Buhari does that they see as good. They have partisan hangover for PDP hostility and impatience towards Buhari.
“People say he has been slow because he has no plan. But, he wants to clear the civil service and ministries of corruption before his cabinet takes over. He wants to know the truth and how the nation’s money went. Buhari is more intelligent that people will admit. If he sets up a cabinet on unclean edifice, the foundation will be bad and cannot last. But, Jesus Christ said it is the foundation that is built on solid ground that can stand. That solid ground must have had mud and all dirt eliminated that the foundation can stand.”
However, there are some senses in what people from both sides of the divide are saying. While Nigerians feel that the promised ‘Change’ they voted for should come faster and that the appointment of ministers will help to hasten things, the president has to be careful in choosing those who will work for and with him, not to repeat the mistakes of the past when corruption was rife. Although Buhari seems to have hit the ground, he is not yet running as people think he should. But, as several people say, there is need for people to exercise patience and wait for Mr. President to do whatever he thinks best for the nation to move forward. Mr. President should walk the talk.