Nigerians had until September 30th waited patiently and in several cases impatiently for the release of the list of those who will be ministers in the government of Muhammadu Buhari. Many reasons are of course responsible for the restlessness. Some were out of genuine patriotic zeal so that the government fulfills the constitutional requirement of taking off with every state in the federation represented at the federal executive council, others were expecting and hopeful of either making it on the list or someone close or preferred is appointed and to many others, to see the kind of ‘Angels’ as they call it that will make up the list.
Another very important reason for the agitation also is the fact that in the past, once one was appointed, it became transition from poverty to affluence through ill-gotten wealth. We have seen of course several people who found it difficult to eat lunch appointed ministers and at the end of the day they became rich even if on temporary basis. Nigerians are full of expectations of wanting to belong to corridors of power because it has proven for a long while to be the shortcut to economic emancipation by any means.
Will you blame Nigerians when the system has been badly corrupted to the extent that appointment into government positions is categorised as lucrative and otherwise? Every supporter whose candidate is amongst the nominees is praying that his or her own is posted to a lucrative ministry. Nobody wants to go to ministry of culture or science and technology. Everyone wants petroleum, finance, FCTA, transport or other such areas that billions of naira are appropriated and managed annually. This has unfortunately led to the categorisation of ministries as ‘A’ and ‘B’ ministries. What this simply defines is how low service has sunk and how porous our integrity has become.
The meaning is that Nigeria is in crisis and the need to change those attitudes is crucial if the change that we desire is achievable. Ministers must be held accountable by ensuring that they are out of the realm of corruption. The attraction that compel people to struggle to occupy certain positions in government must be reassessed and addressed in order to rejuvenate the criticality of service to the nation rather than self which has formed the carnal of government service in Nigeria.
Order and procedure must be reintroduced and strictly adhered to in order to trim the wings of impunity, which is at the centre of most of Nigeria’s socio-economic and political quagmires. Due diligence and strict adherence to rules of service must dictate the activities of those political appointees and the bureaucrats and technocrats that they are to work with. This, in the view of this piece has the capacity to re-direct the people and essence of service from this centrifugal posturing to service in the name of the people.
Unfortunately, even our cultural values have been badly corrupted by the situational realities in the country. We have internalised expectations as the rule and relegated order to the background. Hardly is there any Nigerian culture that protects and appreciates corruption but today, in our various languages we have secured corruption with otherwise very reasonable terminologies that in the ordinary were meant only for good virtues.
In Hausa when someone is in a ‘lucrative’ office and he or she is making illegal accumulation, the term in common discuss is ‘Alheri.’ He or she gets a lot of “Alheri’ forgetting totally that there is a wide gap between legality and illegality, honesty and corruption. I do believe that unconsciously also in other languages, likely there are corresponding terminologies that seek to bless the forbidden.
Now that the ministerial list is before the senate, complaints are received as expected. Some out of genuine political patriotism of expecting that ‘Angels’ are only in those that are unknown and not those that have been in the public space for some time. In fact, an extreme view on this is that which seeks to lump all politicians or and people who have served previously in any government as unfit to be in this administration.
I want to humbly suggest that such thinking is flawed and does not rely in the context of reality. There are honest people in every sphere. Just as we have rogues within the political class so they do exist in the academia and other professional groups. What is important is for the society to try to be above board in the sentimentalisation of crucial national debates and issues.
People have asked if given all the time it took to send the first batch of the nominees to the Senate, the caliber of people contained there-in justifies the delay. I initially thought along that line too, but my skepticism was addressed by the president in his independence anniversary speech where he attributed the delay to stock-taking so that the government gets to know where it is coming from, where it is and how to move the nation forward. I think this explanation sounds plausible and is in order.
I see a cream of Nigerians representing virtually all spheres and spectres of the society. Talking about the old, you have Chief Audu Ogbe and Ogbonnaya Onu, very distinguished politicians that have remained steadfast in the midst of political confusion where people kept changing camps for political and economic adventurism. I see professionals like Sulaiman Adamu and others that have made tremendous marks on the landscape of their respective professions. I see politicians that got this government in. People like Chris Ngige who like Dr. Onu was an island in the east, where the APC was seen as a sin to belong to. So also is Rotimi Ameachi, a very amiable young man that has grown as a cactus in politics. Fashola can make Abuja, works or the power sector take a new meaning and dimension.
The finesse of Kayode Fayemi makes him a perfect foreign affairs minister given his background and exposure within the new actor in global socio-political economy, ‘the civil society movement.’ General Dambazau, every inch a soldier turned academic and politician can serve as the missing link in the military-civilian relationship. As a member of the presidential committee that reviewed the national defence policy, I have seen the gap in the subsector and why for instance it was difficult to confront daunting national security challenges. I believe Dambazau has the capacity to turn things around. Virtually everyone on that list is cute.
Solomon Dalong belongs to the category of Nigerians who believe that yes, we are different but we must emphasise on those areas of similarities if we have to make progress since we are together not by our individual choices but providence. Jummai Alhassan has proven to all and sundry that Nigerian women can be stronger than men. She is a fine choice. Senator Udoma Udo Udoma is another person I have tremendous respect for. I have related closely with the National Assembly for over 12 of the 16 years of civil rule. It appears like some representatives and senators of Akwa Ibom extraction are admirable when it comes to integrity quotient. I have seen Udoma and Ita Enang. I think they rank very high as far as integrity is concerned amongst the legislators.
My only problem with the list is that it contains too many lawyers! A lot of English will likely be spoken but I hope that will translate to action and changing Nigeria for the better. In summary, I am of the view that it is good list.