Long wait for Buhari’s team
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari’s announcement of the appointments of new service chiefs and National Security adviser (NSA), the other day, has not offered much relief to Nigerians who have been waiting for him to name strategic officials who would work with him. The latest appointments, reassuring as they have been, came a little later than desired, especially in the light of the nation’s fight against insurgents and the fact that as a retired general, the military is a familiar terrain to the president and he was expected to have had no problem knowing those most suitable to help deliver on security to the nation.
Apart from these appointments, however, the president has not named the key members of his kitchen and regular cabinet nearly two months after he was sworn into office. This delay has, of course, exposed Buhari to the charge of unpreparedness for the presidency even though he had sought the office for 12 years before eventually getting it. Another danger of the on-going delay is seen in the shoddiness that has characterised the few appointments or removals he has made.
The president’s constant recourse to the quibble that there is the need for caution in the choice of his public officials so that the best would be chosen is hardly convincing anymore. Even if Buhari must delay the appointment of others, he is expected to have named some strategic members of his administration like the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), chief of staff, minister of finance, attorney general and foreign affairs minister.
It is also not acceptable for the president to argue that the delay has been due to a leadership crisis in the National Assembly. This is because before the tenure of the last National Assembly expired, the Senate gave the president an approval to appoint 15 special advisers. Of these offices, he has only succeeded in filling one, even in a manner that speaks more than a little presidential confusion.
The President needs to be reminded that the problems he has been voted into office to solve cannot wait for him while he dithers. Nigeria needs to move ahead and very fast too. In various spheres of national life, a sense of urgency is needed, if not one of desperation. There is a national economic crisis that has spawned bourgeoning unemployment, kidnapping, armed robbery and other forms of insecurity. On the list of the national challenges are also the Boko Haram insurgency, the energy crisis, and even the absence of a clear-cut foreign policy.
Owing to the absence of a team, there have been glaring mistakes even if in procedure. For instance, the announcement of the removal of Ita Ekpeyong as the Director General of the Department of State Service and his replacement by Lawal Musa Daura who had been retired from public service, should have been done by the SGF and not the head of civil service of the federation (HoS) as was the case. While the SGF ought to deal with political appointments, the HoS should normally be concerned with civil servants. The other day, he appointed governors to probe the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the questions arose: How much technical competence do these governors have to undertake such a gargantuan task? What would be the outcome of such a probe by governors who are too harried by the insolvency of their states?
Buhari needs appropriate appointees to deal decisively with these issues. Nigerians cannot afford to watch helplessly while he runs the country with permanent secretaries. In fact, the President needs to be told that the permanent secretaries, nay civil servants, are part of the problems of the country in so far as they have been weaned on the routine of government that does not guarantee productivity but rather breeds corruption.
The danger the president has unwittingly exposed himself to by his delay is that when he names his team as promised in September, there might be a suspicion that such appointees were imposed on him and that he has not chosen them based on their personal merit.
Buhari urgently needs the right people around him to effectively pilot the affairs of the nation and cannot settle on an ad hoc arrangement. Power abhors a vacuum. The absence of the right people around him would pave the way for a situation where those with crass selfish interest, those who have always been around governments and ruined them, would now be the ones advising him. For instance, who were the experts that articulated Nigeria’s foreign policy to Buhari as he visits the United States of America now? This is where a first-rate foreign minister would have proven very useful to the president. Just as he has named the service chiefs and the NSA, he also needs an economic team to fight inflation in the country and calm the markets.
When Nigeria successfully pulled through the presidential election, the country and her citizens regained so much respect on the international scene. This was because the successful election defied all expectations that the country would break up in 2015. Now, it is incumbent on Buhari to make the country work and sustain this international honour it has regained. Buhari must not lose this momentum to inertia.