How Much Can Muhammadu Buhari’s Latest Cabinet Deliver?

By Raymond Nkannebe

Few weks ago when President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial list filtered, Nigerians were unflattered about it. Having taking some six months before nominating members of his executive team in his first term, not a few had expected that “Baba Go Slow” as some people like to call him, would hasten things up this term. But that did not happen. Between his victory at the 2019 presidential election and the announcement of his current batch of ministers, it took some 3 months. And when the names were subsequently announced, there was nothing to justify the prolonged wait as it was peopled with members of his party many of whom had worked in diverse capacities to ensure his re-election.  Not only did pundits describe it as a compensation document, that was what it represented in letters and spirit.

But that was not all. After undergoing a mock-screening by the National Assembly where many of the ministerial designates did as much as take a bow and go on flimsy considerations by a parliament that was meant to be more stringent in the screening process being that these nominees had no portfolio to their names, it will take another three weeks before the President would officially decorate these ministerial nominees with portfolios. That happened last week Wednesday. And as many persons had suspected, it was an exercise in square pegs in round holes. Save for some few ministries who it could be argued got the right hands for the job regard being had to their antecedents as it relates to the core mandates of the ministry, the story in many other ministries was nothing to write home about.
Former Osun State governor and incumbent minister for interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola whether in a Freudian slip or moment of verbal incontinence put the issue beyond contradiction. “I do not have any knowledge of the ministry or how it works. All I know of it is what I have read in the papers”, he told Press men at his maiden visit to the ministry. That was a man who is meant to oversee the internal security architecture of the country at a time of intractable internal security challenges.

This state of affairs proves beyond reasonable doubt that President Muhammadu Buhari having failed in his phantom Change Agenda in his first coming as a democratically elected president of Nigeria, is not prepared to make amends even if with a pretentious attempt at a “Next Level” which it must be submitted however lacks any logical foundation having not brought Nigeria to any appreciable “level” in the first time worthy of any elevation to a next level. 
Despite the sheer Goodwill of a second term in power, assuming we pretend that his “victory” is not the subject of adjudicatory inquisition, president Muhammadu Buhari is unfazed in his prioritisation of the politics of governance as against meeting the minimum expectations of millions of Nigerians for whom living in Nigeria has become a Hobbesian nightmare.

Take the case of the Ministry of Petroleum resources. Having retained its superintendence to himself in his first coming without a marked socioeconomic impetus to the larger growth of the economy, there is yet no justification for the decision to retain lordship over the Ministry in the current dispensation as the portfolio-list bore out. 

But even more worrisome is the decision to edge off former minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu- one of the few technocrats that made up his first cabinet, and the preference of former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva as the junior minister of the very instructive ministry to the extent that a large chunk of Nigeria’s Forex comes from proceeds of Crude.
Nothing else can explain away this than the preference of politics over governance. Not being a political powerhouse as it were in home state of Delta, Ibe Kachikwu must have been sacrificed to pave the way for a serial political wheeler dealer and more so, as the forthcoming Bayelsa gubernatorial polls continue to gather storm. Unsurprisingly, Timipre Sylva has suddenly shelved his gubernatorial ambition. He is now expected to deploy his political machinery in the state to secure victory by all means for the opposition APC in the state. And while chewing with that, we recall that it was Kachikwu who instructively blew the whistle late 2017 over some dubious Crude Oil Term Contracts worth over $25 Billion. As I write, no one has been taken in for interrogation, talk less of facing prosecution over the allegations under an administration that has elevated the fight against corruption to a political sing song. No one knows whether the bundling of Kachikwu, a Petroleum sector expert of the first rank, is facing punishment for not “tagging along” with the festival of sleaze perpetuated in the Petroleum sector which we must not forget was, and still remains under the headmanship of President Muhammadu Buhari.

It is conceded that the power to appoint ministers as guaranteed by section 147 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is at the pleasure of the Commander in Chief, yet there is nothing that says such discretion should not be exercised with the highest sense of responsibility to ensure the delivery of the fundamental principles and objectives of the Nigerian state, as canonized under Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution even if they are non justiciable. And there is no gain saying the fact that the assemblage of the right team, will be a major factor in the attainment of the well considered objectives of the Nigerian State which has remained a mirage in many respects for many Nigerians. At a time when it could be contested that this sense responsibility is most needed given the current state of the nation, Muhammadu Buhari appears to make a bad situation worse.

Save for the most ardent of “Buharists”, no objective observer of events in the polity will look at that list and not cringe in disbelief. It is one hell of a compensationary document that scoffs at Nigerians and makes a mockery of the exercise of executive discretion.  It represents a disturbing manifestation of the triumph of politics over governance and the elevation of mediocrity over meritocracy. And like the proverbial Nazareth, I dare say that nothing good can come from it. Certainly not a “Next Level”, or any level for that matter.

The Corollary of it all is that Nigerians are in for another round of misgovernance as authored by Muhammadu Buhari. All over the country, the singular narrative is that “things are hard”. But if things were meant to get better with the configuration of the latest cabinet, then I’m afraid that that hope is dead on arrival.

What remains is to congratulate the new ministers including the “old boys” in the house. They have a huge privilege that comes with an equal dose of responsibility to impact on the lives and livelihood of many Nigerians in all facets of our national life within the domain of the duties they have been saddled with. It is a public trust that must not be taken for granted. I want to believe that the dark pall of national condemnation that has characterised their appointments should be a challenge to them to prove critics and naysayers wrong and justify the confidence reposed in them by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Time will tell.

Nkannebe, a lawyer is of Synergy Attornies

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