In 2015, Nigeria’s president, Mohammadu Buhari, appointed cabinet ministers 6 months after his inaugural. Before then, Mr Buhari said that ministers are an essentially needless set of people who waste money. He should know because he used to be one himself in 1977. He was named “Baba Go Slow” for the delay . And it looks like Mr Buhari is set to repeat the process. Only this time, he won’t have names thrust at him. Those he “didn’t know”,that is.
At a dinner for the “leadership” of Nigeria’s rubber stamp national assembly last night, Mr Buhari asked for more time to form a cabinet because he wants to know who he would be working with. And this sends shivers down the spines of those who have invested in the process. Those who lost elections and aimed to resurrect their public lives via a cabinet slot.
“Mr President said we should give him more time for him to compile the list of ministerial nominees”, Nigeria’s media quoted a source who wished to be unnamed.
Some politicians from the South need to be ministers more than they need Oxygen. In trying to please the president, they made enemies at home. And if they can’t go about with police escorts and body guards, they might not be able to go home again. Those will include Festus Keyamo, Rotimi Ameachi, Goodwill Akpabio and Chris Ngige.
Mr Buhari has grown a thick skin to these pressures because he doesn’t need their votes anymore. What’s more, he thinks they are the reason Atiku Abubakar has a case against him at the tribunal. After a most contentious elections that still seems to be in progress, most of them want to know their lots and “go on leave quietly ” .
But Mr Buhari has news for them.
“I’m very much aware about it; I’m under tremendous pressure on it. But the last cabinet which I headed, most of them, the majority of them I didn’t know them. I had to accept the names and recommendations from the party and other individuals.
“I worked with them for three and half years at least – meeting twice or two weeks in a month. So I know them.
“But, this time around I’m going to be quite me, me in the sense that I will pick people I personally know.”
Ahmad Lawan ,head of Nigeria’s Senate, struggled to handle his disappointment .Hours before the dinner he boasted to Nigerians that the list was ready. Responding to queries by the media ,Mr Lawan said that:
“Well, I came for a dinner and the process of receiving list is not at dinners. That is all I have to say about this.”
He also denied that he promised to take the list from the president: “I never did. Let me take this opportunity to correct that”
Nigerians really don’t take the current National Assembly seriously but they have reasons to worry about Buhari’s statement about being “me” in selecting ministers. When Mr Buhari becomes himself, those who will make the list will be those known to him ,as he said and those foisted by the shadows around him.
And you can say goodbye to competence and merit. The current composition of the heads of the military and the state oil company is a sore example.
Mr Buhari wouldn’t be going against the grain if he chose those he knew but in Nigeria, a balance of power is imperative and it written in its wobbly constitution that a minister has to come from each state in the country. And so, you’d have 36 ministers or more whether or not they are needed.
Those in the opposition don’t care but the APC will be ripped apart when a restrictive, tribal list comes out.
And the delay is hurting the progress of the country as it is currently being run by beaurocrats headed by loyal civil servants and who are not necessarily qualified.
The last time, Mr Buhari said, “I am aware that they call me Baba Go Slow, but I don’t care”. Now he will even care less because he won’t be running for election again. And who knows, when Mr Buhari says he wants to be “me” ,it could mean that the list is in limbo- permanently.