By Emmanuel Okogba
President Muhammadu Buhari confessed last week that he is under tremendous pressure to appoint his cabinet and pleaded with National Assembly, NASS, officials who visited him at his Aso Rock lair for more time to do it. Rather than acquiescing, some unpatriotic Nigerians are grumbling and many questions concentrate my mind.
Why would anyone gripe over such an innocuous request? What is the fuss all about? Is it because our ever-considerate president asked for a little more time? Nigeria has all the time in the world. And the president knows that. A man of immense capacities, he can go the whole hog alone. Ministers will be a distraction. What if he says to hell with ministers, the same people he labelled noisemakers four years ago? And how prophetic he was!
Those stampeding Buhari don’t mean well. They are unpatriotic. In 2015, these same unpatriotic people stampeded him to appoint ministers only six months after assuming office when he was still on political honeymoon. The consequence was predictable. Buhari ended up with ministers, many of whom he never knew, foisted on him by the All Progressives Congress, APC, and individuals, for three and a half years. It must have been traumatic for him.
But it was quite unlike him. A man of steely resolve, how could he have allowed himself to be railroaded into that hasty decision? Thank goodness Buhari has vowed that: “This time around, I am going to be quite me, in the sense that I will pick people I personally know.” The only snag is that he does not know many people outside his comfort zone. And the few people he knows, he does not trust. So we may be in for a very long wait.
But, I ask again, why not? If our dear leader, Buhari, is asking for more time to recruit lieutenants he knows and have confidence in, then more time he gets. And busybodies like the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, who want to prove that they are the president’s doppelgänger should beware and stop dropping his name.
In any case, if it took Buhari six months in 2015 to pick ministers he did not know, it should go without saying that it may well take him much longer to pick at least 36 Nigerians that he knows and can trust from across the 36 states as dictated by the Constitution. Section 14(3) of the Constitution stipulates that: “The composition of the government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.”
Section 147(3) says that any ministerial appointment made by the president “shall be in conformity with the provisions of Section 14(3) – provided that in giving effect to the provisions aforesaid the President shall appoint at least one minister from each state, who shall be an indigene of such state.”
For a highly provincial leader like Buhari who knows and is mostly comfortable working with only people from his own neck of the woods, such a constitutional provision which ought to harness our diversity becomes an albatross. This is the crux of the matter.
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But how could the framers of the Constitution have been clairvoyant to know that there would be a time when Nigeria would have a president who will only know and trust people from his region? Therein lies Buhari’s dilemma. Leaders with his inclination and eccentricities were not factored into the Nigerian post-military leadership equation.
That said, if Buhari is asking for more time to pick his ministers, Nigerians should grant him that request. Why not? What do we even need the ministers for? To help Buhari run the government? A government that has already solved all of Nigeria’s problems?
Granted, Section 148(2) of the Constitution provides that the president shall hold regular meetings with the vice president and all the ministers of the government of the federation for the purposes of determining domestic and foreign policies of the government, to coordinate the activities of the president, vice president and ministers and lastly, to advise the president on policies and governmental affairs. But this president has proved that he alone can do this job.
And Nigerians are not appreciating him enough because a prophet has no honour in his own country. In Buhari, Nigerians have a leadership prodigy who has single-handedly taken the country to the next level. He is a genius, a man with the Midas touch, who has in only four years made Nigeria a country to be reckoned with globally.
Buhari has finished the job. In any case, isn’t the government running smoothly now without the ‘noise makers?’ Here is a man who promised Nigerians three things in 2015 – fight against corruption, rebuilding of the economy and security. On the three fronts, he has delivered.
Nigeria’s economy is in a fantastic shape with inflation rate at 11.22 per cent in June 2019, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS. Before Buhari it was single digit. That is progress in Buhariland. Foreign Direct Investments, FDIs, are pouring in, courtesy of Buhari’s genius and the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, is soaring. Nigeria’s Debt-to-GDP ratio is 16.1 per cent. In December 2008, it was 7.2 per cent.
With the country’s total debt profile at N24.387 trillion as at December 31, 2018, a 12.25 per cent (N2.66 trillion) jump from N21.725 trillion in 2017, we are grossly under borrowed, courtesy of Buhari’s economic wizardry.
Infrastructure is in fantastic shape, unemployment is at an all-time low and Nigerians are happy. All the talk about the country being the poverty capital of the world is hogwash and reports of rising suicide rates are the tantrums of unpatriotic people.
Corruption has been banished from the land courtesy of our president who is as straight as an arrow and Nigeria has become an Eldorado, heaven on earth.
Today, Nigeria has become the safest country in the world. Boko Haram has been defeated and all manner of miscreants are now hibernating in forests. They didn’t reckon with the fact that Buhari is a three-star general.
So, while unpatriotic Nigerians like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, and others cry wolf where there is none, patriotic citizens like Buhari himself and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo see only pockets of insecurity.
Is it not laughable that Anyaoku is claiming that: “Today, Nigeria is on the brink,” and preposterously asserting that: “For no objective observer, including those in the government, can deny that the current state of affairs in our country is extremely worrisome.”
Yet, the man who should know only sees isolated cases of insecurity? Who should we believe, Buhari or Anyaoku?
Is it true, as Anyaoku claims, that: “We see an unprecedented diminution of national unity; we see an unprecedented level of insecurity of life and property with kidnappings and killings of human beings occurring virtually every day in many parts of the country, including the seemingly unchecked violence by herdsmen which has spawned fractious controversies over the proposed Ruga policy by the Federal Government?”
Of course not! That is not the picture of Buhari’s country.
Anyaoku, a former diplomat, maybe talking of another country. Maybe Afghanistan or Syria, or Libya, or even Venezuela. Definitely not Nigeria. The country is cruising and the adept pilot, Buhari, can afford the luxury of an autopilot without constant ‘hands-on’ control.
He can afford to take his time. One year won’t be a bad idea. If it took him six months to appoint ministers in 2015 when things were really bad, why the hurry now that things are really good?
So, when the ‘wailing wailers’ and unpatriotic zealots grumble over Buhari’s plea for more time, I ask, why not?
Let the music play on. We are getting there.