BEFORE forwarding the list of ministerial nominees to the National Assembly for screening last week, President Muhammadu Buhari had put observers in suspense. Nigerians expected the likelihood of a go-getting team since the president had waited for two months to compile it. But when the list finally arrived at the Senate, it was an unprecedented anti-climax. Apart from being riddled with tired and enervated hands, the list bore no semblance to the Nigerian reality in the slightest bit. In 2015 while compiling a similar list, President Buhari had alluded to the parlous state of the economy in raising a slim team of 36 for his first Executive Council. In his second term, however, he has made a list of 43 persons without having seen any improvement in the Nigerian economy. Nothing can be more scandalous.
For instance, in 2015, the economy grew between five and six per cent and government spending on debt servicing was less than 60 per cent of the budget. But now that economic indicators are down and government spending on debt servicing exceeds 60 per cent of the budget, the president has come up with a bloated team of 43 Executive Council members. Worse still, in composing the team, the president has dealt very unfairly with two critical demographics, namely women and youths. During their campaigns, both the president and his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, promised that the Beijing affirmative action would be implemented and that women would be given the recommended 35 per cent of appointments into appointive offices. But as it turned out, only seven women made it into the list, in sharp contrast with the trend elsewhere in the world, like Rwanda for example, where women have almost reached the ultimate prominence in politics.
Despite the fanfare which attended the signing of the Not Too Young To Rule bill, the list that was presented to the Senate pointedly ignored the youths. Not one of the nominees is a youth: the youngest of them is 44. The list must therefore have been a downer to the expectant public. Those who hoped for an improvement in the leadership of President Buhari must have been deflated by his curious choices of familiar faces and known lacklustre performers in public office. Many of them are recycled politicians who have not done well in their previous positions. This is distressing, if only because there is a preponderance of agile and talented young people inside and outside the shores of Nigeria who could have been brought in to change the narrative of development in this country.
Rather than innovate with the list of ministerial nominees, President Buhari simply shoved Nigeria back to dark times with his curious endorsement of expired hands whose various dreadful deeds the country is still haemorrhaging from. It is certainly difficult if not impossible to expect any kind of improvement in the country with this dreary and dolorous collective.
Why did it take all of five months for President Buhari to assemble these nominees for screening by the Senate? What new things can this team possibly offer Nigerians? The president has again clearly betrayed ignorance of the urgency of the Nigerian dilemma, particularly in terms of development. If Nigeria is truly hungry for development and must exit the doldrums in which it is currently mired, the team assembled by the president must be queried. It is not fit for purpose. Besides, the Senate’s consistent attitude of “please take a bow and go” has not been helpful. It is easy to see the weary despondency in the people who have been disappointed by the quality of the president’s choices. Just last week, the United Kingdom had a change of guards, but the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, put his team together within a few hours. The same can be said of South Africa which at least shares the same continent with Nigeria.
The list of nominees for the Executive Council put together by the president is a compensatory one. It is more in the direction of patronage than aspiration to make life better for the Nigerian people. During the June 12 celebrations, the president spoke of his desire to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty “in the next 10 years.” But with the team put forward now, that desire must be dispensed with forthwith.