In search of Buhari’s ‘Next Level’ cabinet

In search of Buhari’s ‘Next Level’ cabinet

In less than three weeks, President Muhammadu Buhari will be sworn in for a second term. The 1999 Constitution makes it mandatory for the President to appoint ministers who will assist in the administration of the country. Assistant Editor LEKE SALAUDEEN writes on public expectations about the proposed Federal Executive Council (FEC).

Nigerians want President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint as ministers men and women that have sound technical and economic background to drive the economy and take Nigeria to the “Next Level.”

They said the president should look for credible Nigerians outside his political party to be included in the new cabinet, so that the country can get the best from them and make democracy a worthwhile venture.

Appointment of ministers is critical to the success of any administration. The constitution makes the appointment mandatory. Section 147 (1-3) directs the President to appoint, at least, 36 ministers. It states: “There shall be such offices of ministers of the government of the federation as may be established by the President.”

Public Affairs commentator Malam Idris Abubakar cautioned the President against putting square pegs in the round holes in his second term if he wants to bequeath enduring legacies to the nation. He said it is unfortunate that the political class only source for credible hands for appointments within their political party. “It is wrong and this much should change,” he added.

Abubakar argued that there are many credible Nigerians that are doing well in their chosen fields in the opposition parties and outside the political arena. He said such people should be included in the new cabinet, so that the country can get the best from them and move forward.

He added: “President Buhari should make his new cabinet public on the first week of June, so that the Senate can confirm them within the second week of the month. He doesn’t have the luxury of time to delay appointment of ministers this time around. He should hit the ground running immediately after his inauguration on May 29, 2019.

“The expectation from his second term is very high. Nigerians are anxious to see him unfold his Next Level agenda. The second term will enable him to consolidate his achievements in power supply, which has improved from what the Buhari administration inherited from its predecessors. The feat achieved in local production of rice, making Nigeria to produce 90 per cent of its local needs, construction of railways and major highways across the country and the recovery of stolen funds from looters among other things.”

On whether Buhari should retain some of his minsters in the new cabinet, Abubakar said: “Why not? Performance is the yardstick in this regard. I won’t be surprised if the President decides to retain people like Babatunde Fashola, Audu Ogbeh and Rotimi Amaechi for their exemplary performance. Unless, the President is able to get better hands to take their positions, he should allow them to remain in office.”

But a lecturer at the Department of Political Science, Lagos State University (LASU), Dr Odion Akhaine, disagreed, saying the President should go for fresh hands with the capacity to deliver. To him, the present cabinet is a failure.

Akhaine said: “From ministers to service chiefs, it is a tale of failure. It is hard to point to any sector or ministry that has excelled. The President should go for fresh hands with capacity to deliver unhindered by the structures of party patrimony.

“There is no basis for reappointment of ministers, because foreign policy is in disarray. Power sector remained jinxed. Roads are in bad shape. Internal security is zero. Economy has remained monolithic and the value of the naira has not appreciated.”

The lecturer agreed that political appointments are first and foremost rewards for politicians. He advised President Buhari to strike a balance between politicians and technocrats in appointing people into political offices, and to break the fixation on ethnicity and make appointments that are truly national. He warned that anything to the contrary will deepen the prevailing national tragedy.

The political scientist suggested that the new cabinet should be gender sensitive and that young people should also make the list. He added: “But they should be some of the very best; not the Coca-cola generation with bare knowledge of the country’s history.”

In his view, civil rights activist, Comrade Mashood Erubami, said those to be appointed into the APC ‘Next Level cabinet’ should be really sound and ideologically vibrant, to help President Buhari’s administration to perform better and improve his past achievements. He said for the new cabinet to conform to the Next Level agenda, the President must be willing to involve the best from those that contested the presidency with him, who from their submissions at the political debates are considered by Nigerians as competent, honest and ready to use their brains to serve the people. This, he said, would make the new cabinet, board of agencies and departments all involving and participatory.

For a credible cabinet, Erubami made the following suggestions: “Anybody whose image has been tarnished in the public space should not make the list; no matter how well-connected or how close he is to the corridors of power. In addition, the Ministry of Petroleum must be occupied by an honest Nigerian from any of the oil-producing states. The ministry should no longer be headed by the President, because at the end of the day it will not be in the interest of the party, the APC.

“President Buhari must show more zeal in the actualisation of his mandate, by the choice of people that will make his new cabinet. He should be concerned with the characters and competencies of those who will help actualise the Next Level agenda. This is to show in concrete terms that he is not being used by any cabal, wherever they may be. He must be ready to show that he is really in charge doing positive things.

“The Next Level government of All Progressives Congress (APC) must be the actualisation of the quest to change the country’s moral decadence for better and not for the worst. It must be subjected to rigorous and sound selection underlined by equitable reasoning and courage to stabilise the party and government administration.

“The Buhari Next Level cabinet must for effective performance. It must represent real change, for the change mantra of the administration to be seen to be successful. Only few ministers from the old list, whose honesty, competence, commitment to people-centred service could be vouched for, should be part of the new cabinet.”

Similarly, the National Coordinator, No Alternative to Buhari-Osinbajo (NATBO), Mr Vincent Uba, is of view that the calibre of ministers appointed will determine the performance of the administration. He urged the President to be circumspect in selecting those that will part of his cabinet for his second term.

Uba said: “This suggestion has become necessary in view of the expectations of the populace that the Next Level slogan of the APC should not end up as a mere slogan, but a battle cry that will launch Nigeria into unprecedented higher level of security of lives and property, economic growth and development devoid of corruption.”

He advised President Buhari to retain the ministers who performed excellently in their ministries, while others should be replaced with better alternatives. His words: “Having made us proud by his landmark achievements within the last four years, Nigerians, on the February 23, 2019, gave President Muhammadu Buhari a mandate to continue with the good work. In the light of this, we wish to suggest to the President not to tinker with some of the ministers that have performed creditably well during the first term. The success achieved by this administration through the efforts of some ministries is self-evident, even to the most unyielding critics.”

Uba said the Ministry of Agriculture as one of those sectors where great successes have been recorded. He said the agricultural sector has witnessed a revolution that will soon make Nigeria self-sufficient in food production, especially in rice cultivation. He said the ability to easily source for fertilisers, because of the initiatives of the Buhari administration, is a big relief to farmers.

The national coordinator said the Buhari administration has done well in the area of power generation and distribution and in the provision of infrastructure. He said: “The Transportation Ministry is another one that has posted positive results for the administration. The railway revolution and maritime reforms should earn the minister in charge a re-appointment, to avoid a disruption of the already recognised good works that require continuity.”

But, Erubami wants the Power, Works and Housing Ministry to be unbundled. He said the merging of the ministries was an anomaly that is very antithetic to the genuine policy of reducing cost of governance. He said it was a serious mistake made from the beginning of the Buhari administration and that it has affected the delivery of the APC mandate.

He said: “This must be reversed when constituting a new team for the Next Level. Failure to rectify this mistake would be catastrophic for meaningful achievements of the Next Level agenda. The three ministries must be handled by three super, efficient, incorruptible technocrats for effective mandate deliveries and sustainable growths.”

For the Buhari administration to excel in its second term, the rights activist has the following suggestions: “President Buhari must begin to look inwards. He must make some changes in the country’s security architecture and strategise in the Presidency to bring back all reports of human right violations for necessary reconsideration and review for solutions. He should be better trusted by the legislators and supported by the judiciary in the process of assembling the crack team that will work with him. This should be mainly visionary technocrats who share the dream of good governance and can run government differently in the best interests of the people.

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