The public discussion, which was initially based on the qualities Buhari should consider before selecting members of his yet-to-be formed cabinet, shifted to the personalities whose names appeared on the ministerial list. The discussion centred majorly on the past activities of the personalities and the contribution they intend to make to the new administration in the face of the corruption allegation against some of them.
Buhari had delayed the selection of the would-be ministers to enable him to bring competent and committed people on board as well as make a right decision. The President had said that the would-be ministers would assist his administration to perform differently from the previous governments because Nigerians desired more than anything else.
And as a result, the citizens were expecting relative new set of team with clean records of integrity and competency in public or private services to make the list. The President himself confirmed the anxiety of Nigerians in his speech to mark the nation’s 55th independence anniversary. Buhari therefore dismissed the anxiety and said his administration received the handing over notes from the former government four days before he assumed office.
The action, the President said, necessitated his administration to approach governance methodically and properly. This was after he said the Joda Transition Committee submitted its report on the re-organisation of the Federal Government structure after studying the hand-over notes.
He said it would have been haphazard to announce ministers when the government had not finalised the number of ministries to optimally carry the burden of governance.
He had added that he was being careful to get better result which he said was the change his party, the All Progressives Congress, was all about. The change, according to the APC’s manifestoes tagged “Road map to a new Nigeria” involves the welfare of the common man, assurance of a great future for the youth and a decent and quality life for all, among others through a dispassionate fight against corruption and rigorous acceleration of economic growth.
It is believed that these lofty objectives can only be achieved with a forthright and committed team.
If the information circulated by the media were correct, however, as the envelope containing the names of the would-be ministers has yet to be opened by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the immediate past Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola; a former Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; a former Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and a former Anambra State Governor, Dr. Chris Ngige, were on the list.
Also on the list were a one-time Governor of Abia State, Ogbonaya Onu; a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Malami Abubakar; a former APC governorship candidate in Taraba State, Mrs. Aisha Alhassan and a former Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, among others.
But the names of the nominees jolted some opposition political parties and activists who expressed doubt in Buhari’s ability to provide the coveted change his party promised. They doubted the President’s commitment to the fight against corruption with the caliber of the people he intended to appoint as ministers. Their worry stemmed from the fact that many of the nominees have yet to clear their names of corruption charges filed against them.
The presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party in the last general elections, Chief Martin Onovo, said the list confirmed “the dangerous and unproductive dimension the citizens have seen in Buhuari’s government.”
Onovo said he was not disappointed by the list because he knew that the President would come out with the names of those who had corruption allegation against them.
He said if it took Buhari four months to search for his ministers and yet the President came out with those who had integrity and moral questions to answer, then the President was not sincere in his anti-corruption war.
Onovo expressed doubt that many of those who made the list were properly screened by security and anti-graft agencies to determine their competence and integrity before their names were sent to the senate.
He said, “Many of them are the names we have been hearing. Why did the President delay the appointment of the ministers when he knew that he would still nominate those whose records of public performance are in doubt?”
According to him, Nigerians should not expect any major change from Buhari because the President is only planning “to work with noise makers.”
Onovo said the President had already laid the foundation of failure for his own administration when he violated the constitution over the appointments he previously made.
He added that Buhari made the matter worse when he intended to appoint “brigade of corrupt people as ministers.”
He referred Buhari to the comment he made recently that ministers were not productive, but a bunch of noise makers.
Onovo, however, hinged his hope in the senate which he asked to properly screen the nominees.
He said, “My only advice is for the senate to do Nigerians a favour by painstakingly screening the nominees for integrity, competence and vision because a house cannot be built without foundation otherwise the house will collapse.
“The first foundation we need is political integrity followed by the rule of law, we cannot do without these two in a democracy.”
Once those things are in place, development is assured.”
Likewise, the Labour Party National Secretary, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, did not see any difference in the Buhari’s ministerial nominees and the former ministers who served under the defeated Peoples Democratic Party.
Ajulo said the list fell short of the expectation of many Nigerians because those whose names appeared on it and the President himself did not have anything to offer.
He backed his opinion with a claim that the President failed to submit the full list of the ministerial nominees to the senate as earlier promised. Ajulo said if Buhari could fail to present the full list on Wednesday to the senate as he had previously pledged, then the President’s commitment to governance was in serious doubt.
While declining to comment on the integrity of those whose names appeared on the ministerial list because they have yet to be officially announced by the senate, the LP national secretary flayed Buhari for violating the constitution by planning to make himself minister of petroleum.
Ajulo said, “Again, the President is making himself the minister of petroleum, which is a breach of the constitution. How does the legislature carry out its oversight functions on the ministry of petroleum when the President is the one heading?
“The constitution made it clear that the President cannot hold any executive office. The only person who the constitution allows to hold any executive office is the vice-president because the constitution says the President can assign any other executive office to him.”
He, however, said Buhari would have succeeded in deceiving Nigerians if the names of those reported to have submitted to the senate were eventually confirmed to be ministerial nominees.
“I don’t expect any change from the President because he had failed in many ways,” he said.
A rights activist and political analyst, Mr. Olawale Famurewa, like Ajulo, declined comment of the integrity of the ministerial nominees, but said he and many other Nigerians would be disappointed if Buhari failed to appoint people with clean records after many months of waiting.
He said, “There should be a difference between technocrats and suspected corrupt persons. If the change the President and his party promised is to recycle suspected corrupt persons and label them as technocrats, I am afraid Nigerians have yet to have a leader that is ready to serve them.
“Has the President asked some of the ministerial nominees who have corruption allegations against them to clear themselves of the mess? We have yet to know the yardsticks used by the President to select them.”
While asking the senate to ensure transparency in the screening of the ministerial nominees, Famurewa said, “There are petitions bordering on corruptions before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission against some of them. What has the President done about the petitions? Does the President want to prove that he was not aware of the petitions? How the senate handles the screening of the ministerial nominees will further determine the President’s serious disposition to the anti-corruption campaign.”
But a sociologist, Mr. Najeemdeen Haruna, said Buhari could not have made a better choice than the crop of those whose names were on the list.
He said the President must have studied and selected them among equally competent other citizens.
Haruna said though some of those whose names were said to have appeared on the list contributed to Buhari’s success in the last election, he expressed doubt that they were being compensated.
-FISAYO FALODI/Punch NGR