As We Await Buhari's Cabinet...


Muhammad Al-Ghazali



In the dark clairvoyant days when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reigned supreme and was in fact the main -if not the only- business in town, today's discourse with its emphatic title, would have been considered unnecessary. All that one required to become a Minister or Head of any juicy federal government agency were the right connections and "investments" in the right places.


Back then, the first, and foremost criteria for eligibility, or prominence on the gravy train, was first and foremost the membership of the PDP, which prided itself as the biggest and best political party in Africa at one point in its painful evolution into ignominy. Along the way, a few so-called "technocrats" such as Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Olusegun Aganga, were invited to the party to give a semblance of credibility to the macabre dance in the Animal Farm the PDP went further to create in the place of an efficient cabinet.


Today, as we await President Muhammadu Buhari's first cabinet since his return as the democratically elected President of the country, it seems ages ago now since the PDP was the only game in town. Those who killed or even committed political suicide to join the party did so with their eyes wide open. They were like the children of Machiavelli. The end, for them, fully and unashamedly, justified the means.


And so there was no holding back even if they wanted to. They were overcome by avarice. Their quest for primitive accumulation had no limits. And all they need to satiate their greed was a party of like-minds and a leader who was not only criminally incompetent, he also reasoned, in one particular instance of depraved incredulity that will forever live in infamy in the annals of our political history, that stealing did not even qualify to be regarded as an act of corruption!

And so it was that Nigerians ended up with the sort of cabinets they deserved under the PDP partially on account of their legendary docility and primitive impulses. We allowed primordial sentiments to get the best of us when we should have interrogated the various acts of corruption perpetrated by Ministers and Chief Executives of federal agencies who, under normal circumstances, would never have qualified to be on the executive councils of motor parks.


Where our most vital ministries yearned for efficient technocrats, we populated them with yes-men, and incompetent buffoons, who, apart from being totally unqualified for their respective offices, were also out to re-coup their various "investments" in the party by way of their financial contributions.


Instead of the processionals they desired, the same Ministers, also contrived with the presidency to ensure that their cronies, and party thugs who contributed in the various forms to elevate the fortunes of the party were appointed to the Boards of federal agencies.


Under normal circumstances, the excesses of such Boards would have been curtailed by the oversight functions of the National Assembly, except for the fact that both the Senate and the House of Representatives were also dominated by members of the same PDP! What we had under President Goodluck Jonathan, in essence, was a government of thieves, by thieves and for thieves since we all shared collective responsibility on account of our primitive sense of civic responsibility.    


That explains why the recent imbroglio in the 8th National Assembly was entirely predictable. With notions of "juicy Committee" appointments still common-place among its members what is abundantly evident is that although membership of the Assembly may have drastically changed, the overall mentality of most of our elected representatives is very much the same.


But like I hinted early, we all must share in the blame of their collective betrayal of our mandates. Since the return of democracy in 1999, how many times have we had even the vaguest instances of citizens exercising their constitutional rights to recall elected members of the NASS on account of corruption or poor performance?


Under the watch of the 7th NASS, we had valuable state agencies in which the government had invested trillions of Naira sold for peanuts under questionable privatization schemes that mocked decency and transparency. In some well-documented instances, glorious opportunities for the most serious inquest into cases of brazen acts of impunity which result in the monumental theft of public assets and resources became avenues for horse-trading and extortion.   


This, then, provides a befitting backdrop to the anxiety that has gripped the nation as we anticipate the naming of President Buhari's cabinet next month. While the antic of members of the 8th NASS has given many observers cause for serious concern, the general pattern of the few appointments the President has made so far has been deeply revealing and comforting.


We saw from the appointment of the Service Chiefs that the president intends to constrict the very spaces sycophants have always exploited under our past leaders to our collective ruin. In place of sycophancy and "godfatherism", President Buhari chose to reward hard work and meritocracy.


We don't require a second glance at the rugged features of the current Chief of Army Staff Tukur Burutai to realize that the man oozes discipline and efficiency.  In a piece which appeared in yeterday's PM News in Lagos,  Ade Fayosokanmi  also recounted how, when a new Commandant of the Nigerian Army School of Signals, Apapa in Lagos resumed office, the students realized that their food rations had tripled and they were befuddled. When they inquired to know why their Commandant told them he didnít do anything spectacular other than to ensure that the money budgeted for the studentsí welfare was judiciously utilized for the purpose it was meant.


That Commander is the current Chief of Defence Staff, Major-General Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin. When many of his colleagues have mansions and other choice properties in different parts of the country, Olonishakin is reported to have only one bungalow at the Redemption Camp on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Under such a person, our soldiers pressed into service at various thereters at home and abroad, can go to sleep assured that their stipends will not be stolen by the their top brass as has been alleged repeatedly.


When we consider the appointments of the new National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, we also could glean excellent reward for intellect and resourcefulness, which offer additional clues as to the probable colour and content of President Buhari's cabinet.


In the past sixteen years under the PDP, Nigeria and its hapless citizens, a greater majority of who wither on the fringes of existence have taken unprecedented battering. If the quality of leadership of the NASS continue to cast doubts about their quality and capacity to make the decisive difference in their lives, a great deal will come to depend on the 35 or 36 odd men, and women, that Buhari finally assembles to drive his reforms.


President Buhari knows that appointments into his cabinet will give the clearest hint yet on the general direction of his silent revolution. He cannot afford to disappointment the very people who staked their lives for him. I am certain that his appointments  will be remarkably different from those experienced under the PDP.