The appointment of ministers to serve in President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term has progressed with heightened public concern over the spate of fits and starts that accompanied the exercise. First was the avoidable five-week delay in sending the list of nominees to the Senate for screening. With the caliber of individuals nominated for the top jobs, of the delay was unfounded. Secondly, there was the circus-like screening exercise by the Senate in a manner that raised a welter of questions.
Third was the instruction by The Presidency to the already screened ministers-designate to submit updates on their already screened credentials to the Office of the Secretary to theGovernment of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha. The latest in the process was the notification from the SGF that the ministers-designate would be sworn into office on Friday August 21, 2019 after an orientation retreat for them on August 15 and August16, 2019.
Perhaps, one of the most significant features associated with the appointment of ministers for Buhari’s second term remains the failure of the exercise to match public expectations.Among two expectationswasan elaborate andextensive Senate screening exercise. The public expected a thorough screening exercise that would have given the candidates the opportunity to explain to Nigerians how they would carry out their responsibilities as ministers. The second wasthe failure of The Presidency to assign portfolios to each nominee before the screening.
As is obvious,if portfolios had been assigned it would have facilitated specificity during the screening exercise as Senators would have been able to properly scrutinize the capacity of each nominee and determine their suitability asministers.The implication of the low-quality screening is that Nigerians will, once more, be saddled witha Federal Executive Council (FEC) populated by individuals whomay be posted to terrains that may be strange to them.
Beyond the foregoing is the question of the rather compromised antecedents of some of the nominees. Among the nominees are 13 former ministers from the first term of the President.Some of them hardly paraded impressive records of service during their first outing. Others are individuals who have criminal proceedings against them before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Consequently, the circumstances under which such compromised individuals, who should be having their day in the law courts, are now elevated to superintend over government businesses, remains a most unfortunate outcome in the course of promoting good governance. Some of them may discover that their roles as minister could be in conflict with their personal interests.
Hence, while The Presidencymay be upbeat about the advent of the second term ministers, the general public is hard put to share such a mood. Putting it more succinctly, a cross-section of the public is not impressed by this new list. They hold the impression that the recruitment process that produced the ministers-designate was faulty and not in line with Buhari’s crusade for accountability and transparency. For the administration to commence its second term on this note is an anti-climax of no small measure.
However, all hope of redemption is not lost as it can always cite the alibi of the Constitutional provision that an accused Nigerian remains innocent until proved guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. That means whatever criminal proceedings againstsome of the ministers-designate should not be discontinued. The course of justice should be allowed to run to its logical conclusion.
We urge the newly appointed ministers to put in their best, whether or not they are assigned to juicy ministries. The country is at the crossroads, facing multiple problems of insecurity, unemployment, poverty, economic downturn, and general disillusionment among the populace. Each of the 43 ministries has enormous contributions to make to liberate the country from its many predicaments. Rather than seek personal gains, the ministers-designate should embrace sacrifices necessary for the general good of the country.