Why I Want To See The Ministerial List
I’ve heard that people are wary of serving under President Buhari, mostly because they are worried about his anti-corruption reputation, his stance on declaration of assets, and similar other vices unheard of in a Nigerian president. Well, I am not one of those people.
Other than an exuberant stint as a student representative and executive member of the Law Society during my university days in the early 2000s, I have never held public office, and so my corruption index is squeaky clean. I think I bought the occasional suya and recharge card with some Law Society “logistics” money, but like I said: it was an “exuberant stint”.
Today, my material assets are even less boastful than student suya: I have a 2004 Honda Accord I rarely drive because of my unending bitterness with Lagos traffic; a rented flat in Lagos; a piece of land somewhere in Abeokuta; three bank accounts in Nigeria with two of them nearly-dormant; and lots of emotionally valuable, but otherwise financially unimportant, intellectual property. A very easy asset declaration. In fact, by the time I submit my asset declaration form, the Code of Conduct Bureau will probably toss it into a dustbin and charge me before the Tribunal for the criminal act of wasting their valuable time.
If these are the character traits that Buhari has been searching for in his ministers for the last five months, then I would certainly make a fine one. Based on this alone, I should be looking forward to my name on the ministerial list.
But, I doubt Buhari is going to nominate me (or any of my acquaintances) as a minister, so there’s really nothing to look forward to on the list as an ordinary Nigerian.
In fact, the life of the ordinary Nigerian is so far removed from interaction with the average minister that the appointment of ministers might as well be an event happening in Lebanon. We live in a country where an ordinary Nigerian cannot even share the road with a government minister—much less get into the same elevator or book a personal meeting. For the ordinary Nigerian, looking forward to ministers is like looking forward to new set of slave-drivers. Only those who are wired into the upper levels of the Nigerian system, or sure of the names of their friends, or are interested in APC power struggles may find the list useful on a personal level.
Nevertheless, our current socio-legal structure is built around the psychology, discretions and opinions of the President. And so, as a Nigerian who insists on good governance, the list is important for two main reasons: (i) it gives us a clue into President Buhari’s personal loyalties; and (ii) it gives us a hint on his policy direction. The second point is even more important when you consider that the President has a funny habit of keeping his policies close to his chest until he reveals it through some foreign media.
That aside, the ministerial list is not so much an issue. As previous administrations have taught us, the quality of the minsters is only as effective as the personality of the President himself.
No Nigerian Leader Ever Says “Sorry”
I understand that President Buhari gave a fine speech before the United Nations General Assembly. I also understand that he missed a chance to personally meet the Pope (which is not so important); and his delegates missed a high-level meeting on issues relating to Boko Haram (which is quite important).
But not every important situation has to degenerate into a political issue. Sometimes, it is just better to kill an issue by admitting to the existence of a problem, and promising to close the gaps that led to it. Yet, so far, the Buhari administration seems to have done a better job at admitting to issues caused by former administrations than to those caused by their own handiwork.
And so, in the case of the United Nations meeting, what should have been a simple statement of responsibility resulted in denials and blame games: from the statement that the meeting was unimportant to the statement that the Buhari government was not invited, to the blame-passing that it was internal sabotage by some Nigerian diplomats.
This sort of denial is probably tied to the psychological need for our governments and public officials to appear infallible, coupled with our own tendency as citizens to equate leaders with some sort of “Sai Baba” divinity.
The better response from the media team should have been: “We missed the meeting because of process gaps. These have been identified and will be fixed. Our apologies to the organisers for any inconvenience.”
I may be wrong, but no Nigerian leader ever says “Sorry” for their current mistakes.
I want President Buhari’s government to succeed as much as any Buhari loyalist. This is not because I love Buhari—I’m indifferent to his personality these days—but because I too have suffered enough as a Nigerian.
But success is not measured by the intensity of the “Sai Baba” voices. Instead, it starts with the ability of our government to admit faults in the system and reform them as necessary.
But, hey, that’s just my opinion.
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