Last week in this column, the piece I wrote when the first set of ministerial nominees was submitted to senate for screening was published. The tittle of the piece was ‘ Furor about the list’ I submitted that the president did as much as I expected in picking his first set of ministers and concluded that indeed the list was near perfect but for the multiplicity of lawyers who dominated it. The second list was also another show of the ‘learned’ people.
Far from the composition, which was again taken over by several other lawyers among others, the list was confronted with series of agitations from some states of the federation. In all the agitations the term incapable or not qualified was hardly there but the bulk of the anger stemmed from the shock that stakeholders and other partners in the change agenda had arising from the names the president and his men chose to nominate from some states and announcing them straight away.
I went through the list carefully and had a series of dialogue with a lot of aggrieved stakeholders in the polity and one thing that readily came to mind was that all the protestations were anchored on the manner the names of the nominees were selected and forwarded without any knowledge of those who indeed and in fact were part of the change making agenda and actualisation. The meaning of this is that the president hardly consulted with them, especially the governors and those known politicians who stood tooth and nail, while making the nomination and even after as a matter of information even to those who are principal in his political party, the APC.
Right at the beginning, President Buhari had made it clear that he was not ready to receive any nomination from any governor because he also was not in a position to nominate or suggest who their commissioners would be. Agreed and accepted even by the governors as that is part of the change that we desire to see in our government and I believe even the APC governors themselves were at home with that reality but the turn of events which in my view became unpleasant was that the governors equally got to know who the nominees from their states were the same time with lesser mortals in the polity like me.
I think that is not encouraging and not in the best interest of the smooth relationship between the centre and the units. Units that are very critical if the change that we all desire is achievable. The implicit meaning of this is that there is a weak rapport between the centre and the states, which in my view could be counterproductive if care is not taken to straighten and make smooth the line of communication between the critical levels and officers of government at the levels.
I doubt if from Sokoto to Adamawa there was anyone who believed that the nominees were not qualified but as well share the aspirations of foot soldiers who believe and rightfully too, that they deserve to get the plump rather than those the president chose. Again in the spirit of change, Nigerians could make do with the new strategy but it is not out place for the president or any of his principal handlers to pick a phone, place a call to the state governor and tell him that the president has made a choice from that state and I believe no matter how much such a governor may feel aggrieved, he will feel carried along and will respect the views of the president.
From the outrage, this wasn’t done and it came up as a political liability on the part of the executive federal state. The governors and those who feel they have laboured so much for the APC have every reason to be angry if they feel or believe that after the government is in place, they are not given the respect that they deserve.
There are two issues to thrash here. When the name of Zainab Ahmed was mentioned as part of the second list, everyone who knows what she is and her relationship with Nasir el-Rufai staked and I’m sure still willing to stake that Governor El-Rufai was responsible for her nomination. I too! A few days after however, I was reliably informed about the desperate efforts made by Governor El-Rufai to get President Buhari to remove the name of Zainab from the list but met a brick wall. Not because she is incapable. In fact, she has proven to be a star in the manner the affairs of Extractive Industry Initiative was conducted under her. Nasir told the president that there was no way anybody could be convinced that he was not behind the nomination.
Secondly, Senator Makarfi, a former governor of Kaduna State 1999 to 2007 told the story of how President Obasanjo in 2007 called to alert him before announcing his ministerial nominees even when Kaduna State had already sent in Nenadi Usman as the candidate to represent the state, that he wanted Nasir el-Rufai to do a specific assignment in his cabinet.
The import here is that even if Makarfi didn’t like Nasir to be in the Federal Executive Council, he felt honoured and carried along by the president and of course he didn’t have the political dexterity to oppose such a presidential honour. This is consultation and I think it is important in politics and especially governance.
Let me make it abundantly clear as a matter of conclusion that I am for change. Stood and fought for it at all risks so I doubt if there is anybody that can claim to have played more prominent role in either the bringing about of this government or support and loyalty to President Buhari. I may be different because I will venture to say my mind whenever I feel even if wrongly that, but convinced that either the president or his government are going the wrong way, I will say it loud and clear and will be pained the more if the president or his government fumble.
The message here is that there is the need for more openness from the centre. I do not want a situation where the units’ heads, especially of the APC stock, will feel or believe that the president does not want to work with them. That will be counterproductive and dangerous in the long-run.
There is the need for more consultations Mr. President and I’m honest about it.