The task before Buhari’s new cabinet

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, August 21, 2019, swore-in 43 new ministers and assigned portfolios to them.

He spent 54 days after his second term began to send a list of ministerial nominees to the Nigerian Senate for screening. This is a far better record than his first term, which began in May 2015. Then Nigerians had to wait six months before the list of ministerial portfolios and offices was announced. 

In 2015 the excuse for the lengthy delay was that the president needed time to make the selection. This was because he was seeking to appoint individuals untainted by the endemic corruption that has come to typify politics in Nigeria. Back then, Nigerians were open to giving the president a grace period.

The first cabinet was made up of individuals who were known more for being the president’s political bedfellows than for their technocratic qualifications or achievements. That in itself is not out of the ordinary in almost any political dispensation across the world. An easily agreeable cabinet makes for swifter and less contentious decision-making. 

This time around the Senate took just a few days to approve the list, the vast majority of the lawmakers served in Buhari’s previous cabinet.

Only 14 out of 43 were first-term cabinet members. The big change was that Buhari expanded his cabinet ministers from 36 to 43. 

Choosing a ministerial cabinet in Nigeria isn’t as simple as just selecting random individuals, even if they are the most qualified candidates. Nigeria has a complex political reality that has to be taken into consideration to fully appreciate the rationale that underlies the way governance looks within the country.

One factor that must be considered is Nigeria’s ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity. To ensure equal representation, the Nigerian constitution stipulates that each of the country’s 36 states must be represented in the cabinet. 

So, in choosing prospective ministers from each of the 36 states in the country, it could be argued that Buhari is simply following standard political precedent. It’s also clear that Buhari has again found it prudent to reward political allies with positions. In truth, this is normal practice in most countries. 

The gender imbalance of Buhari’s cabinet also serves to advance a common belief that his government is tone-deaf. The president was criticised during his first term for not appointing enough women ministers. Buhari made a promise to address this during his second term. But the opposite has happened. 

Buhari’s new cabinet is just like the previous one, even though many have argued that politics, especially in contemporary Nigeria, requires a heavy amount of pragmatism. 

It is instructive to stress that the snail speed approach that the current administration has adopted in managing the nation’s affairs should be jettisoned.

The nation’s security sector is in poor shape; abductions and terror attacks are becoming commonplace. There seems to be no end in sight to the Fulani herdsmen crisis. The economy is still being supported by foreign loans, and there have been grim prognostications from the likes of the International Monetary Fund.

In addition, the early criticisms of Buhari’s government for its lack of a coherent fiscal policy still stares us in the face. 

Nevertheless, it is gratifying to note that the ruling party, All Progressives Congress, APC, recognizes the fact that there is urgent task ahead of the Buhari's cabinet to lift Nigerians out of poverty. 

In a statement credited to APC national publicity secretary, Malam Lanre Issa-Onilu, said there was an urgent task ahead of the ministers to lift Nigerians out of poverty, secure lives and property as well as grow the economy. The party, however, urged the ministers to use their wealth of experience to lift Nigerians out of poverty 

The statement reads: “The party notes with utmost satisfaction the painstaking efforts the president made in picking the new ministers, their speedy screening and confirmation by the Senate in addition to the rigorous induction of the new appointees towards acquainting them to the onerous task of assisting the president fulfill his promises of repositioning the economy, ensuring security of lives and property and fighting corruption. 

“There are challenges to build on the foundations that have been laid in the last four years. To state a few, the APC-led government has an urgent task to lift Nigerians out of poverty, secure lives and property, grow our economy, build infrastructure, bring back discipline to our private and public conducts and mobilize Nigerians through personal examples towards evolving a Nigeria we all can be proud of." 

To us at The Abuja Inquirer, we align ourselves with the party's new disposition of tackling the numerous challenges facing us as a nation.

The new ministers should therefore settle down quickly and hit the ground running. We also call on the party to match action with words because there is no better way to go other than addressing these challenges.



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