The much awaited ministerial list was released and submitted to the Senate in the evening of July 22 , 2019. That was 2 months after the President began his second term and 5 months after he won re-election. There was disquiet in the polity as many doubted the constitutional and administrative capacity of the permanent secretaries to steer the ship of the nation in terms of taking decisions that are constitutionally and conventionally taken by the political heads. An example is the issue of the Shi’ites. The country needs an Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to give sound advice to the President. I doubt if the permanent secretary in the Justice Ministry can be trusted to make sound political judgement ( political yes,because it has gone beyond mere judicial decision as the President as refused to obey the court judgement to release the Shi’ite leader).
As the pressure mounted on the President, he said he was being careful not to make the same mistake he made in 2015 when he appointed unknown people nominated by party men. I wonder how the President hopes to know everyone in the APC in the 36 states of the federation and the 774 Local Governments! He was quoted as saying that “I’m going to be quite me; in the sense that I will pick people I know personally “. He was still studying the politicians in the APC when the Senate mounted pressure on him to submit his list before July 26 or wait till after their vacation in September. Maybe if the Senate had not mounted this pressure, we might by now still be groping in the dark about our ministers.
The incredulity that accompanied the release of the ” painstaking ” list was stentorian. Recycled politicians with corruption cases or those with perceptions of corruption, those who had failed or could not be distinguished in previous assignments , and those whose antecedents aren’t commensurate with the task to be given , found their way to the list. The list also revealed one mindset of the President. That is, the country is richer. If not, how would he in 2015 have 36 ministers and 4 years later, he is having 43? The Labour unions I’m sure have noted this and will use it against the government when agitations for wage increase or implementation start. More ministers beget more retinue of aides who get assistants equally , thereby fleecing the lean resources of the State.
Consider the legendary insipidity of the president to the swiftness of the new British PM, Boris Johnson. After defeating Jeremy Hunt in the race to the leadership of the Conservative Party, he was thereafter invited by the Queen to form the government. He was quoted as saying that ” Today, the campaign is over and the work begins “. Truly, he walked the talk because same day ,he named his cabinet minsters! Can you beat that meticulousness? The Brexit imbroglio is enough for him start his work in earnest as he has set September as the deadline to achieve Brexit whether or not Brussels accept his terms!
Juxtaposed with the lumbering manner our dear president handles sensitive matter of importance. His handling of matters bothering on national security, the 2.3 % yearly growth which the IMF regards as too meagre, inflation rate at 11.4% , the unemployment rate of 23.7% according to the National Bureau of Statistics, and the numerous challenges facing us today could be attributed to his tardiness. The President must have a change of attitude in his second term. He has gotten what seemed to be his holy grail and even got a recompense of a second term,now it is time to lay a solid legacy,except he is planning a third term!
The Senate screening ( bantering) has ‘creditably’ met expectations. Though no one expect a minister to be rejected as it has rarely happened since 1999, however , the number of “take a bow” is unprecedented. 7 nominees have enjoined this privilege ! Even Rotimi Ameachi ,a former state speaker was given the privilege. An action that Senator Danjuma Goje queried but was told by the suppliant Senate President, Ahmad Lawal that Ameachi would be the first former state legislator to be so privileged! These are bunch of jokers! It is not as if we had not practiced a parliamentary system where the Prime Minister was grilled by parliamentarians. If our lawmakers can’t remember this, at least they see how it happens in the US during Congressional screening of appointees. The fate of the President is not tied to any appointee, but here , the Senate President and his cabals see the fate of a nominee as intrinsically linked to the President’s. How do we move forward as a nation in this conundrum?
The only take away from the screening personally, was the resolve by Festus Keyamo to unbundle the Supreme Court. I think it will make the wheel of justice to spin faster. Not all cases should go to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is essentially more for the interpretation of the constitution and other grave issues, reason in some countries it is called the Constitutional Court. Imagine taking a piracy case to the Supreme Court! This is what happens in Nigeria and if Keyamo can do this if he got the Justice portfolio, that would be great.