Buhari’s Ministers: Saints, Sinners And Noise-makers
THE unnecessary drama and suspense is all over. I can now settle down and lick my wounds. I had believed that as a saint, my name would be there ‘when the roll is called up yonder’. But my name was conspicuously missing in action; I was not even mentioned in the several fake lists! I have cancelled all my anticipatory appointments (like SSA on stomach infrastructure) and discontinued with the ministerial carriage I had acquired. I have put the whole episode behind me while waiting for the next political season. I am now in a mood to examine the long wait, the list, and the entire confirmation process.
When someone dies in Igboukwu and the funeral is immediate, we ‘manage’ whatever ‘level’ at which the funeral is pitched. However, if the funeral is postponed, our expectations would rise and we would anticipate a higher ‘level’ affair. From that perspective, PMB’s (President Muhammadu Buhari) ministerial outing was disappointing; the list could have been unveiled on May 29, 2015! In addition to the petroleum ministry, he should also have taken over civil service, works, health and education, which are now all on life support. But the key question is: are these the saints who are to come or shall we wait for another (Mt 11:3)? If these are all saints, then who are the sinners?
The various justifications for the delayed constitution of his cabinet are neither here nor there. Obama was a teenager when earlier PMB ruled Nigeria and it should be unfortunate if he really decided to learn from Obama. In any case, the claim has been punctured. Secondly, for somebody who sought this presidency for 16 straight years, a handover note should not have adversely affected this process. Furthermore, this delay did not yield any better outcome; it signals unpreparedness, lack of political sagacity (remember Okadigbo?) and poor horse-trading skills. Also, the consultations were not fruitful because APC stakeholders protested loudly over the list. The delay may also be a part of his infamous body language, but I am amazed that whenever he is abroad, he speaks too much of the normal language.
As a Catholic, I believe that saints are people who lived extraordinarily righteous lives on earth. But all have sinned (Rom 3:2) and whoever denies his sinfulness is a liar (I John 1:8). In effect, we are all sinners: those searching, those screening, those screened and those who walked out! After all, there is not much difference between senators and sinators! So, it was a shadow-chasing Ultimate Search for saints!
Anyway, let me not judge, so as not to be judged. But how can we be talking about saints when one of the most decent among them was accused of ‘stealing more than the one they call a thief’ or when another paid a tax of N50000 on N60m income evidenced by questionable tax clearance certificates? Well, let’s leave the matter of sainthood to the anointer and the anointed. But if PMB had not announced that he was looking for saints, I would not have had problems with the list. This is another incident of communication of what one cannot or will not be able to deliver, thereby raising public expectations unnecessarily.
The declaration that they are noisemakers shows his disdain for the ministers. But this appellation is less contentious because some of them are actually noise-makers. Lai Mohammed is a full-time noise-maker while Amaechi is an indirect noise-maker who generates noise anywhere he goes, as evidenced by the noise emanating from his confirmation, his tenure at the NGF, or his war with the NJC or Rivers legislature. Will ministers add value? It depends on whether PMB wants them to add value. By the way, why should he appoint ministers if civil servants could do the job, and with less noise?
The ministerial fiasco has created avoidable reputational damage/brand erosion for PMB. I perceive PMB as disciplined and austere, but he is not a saint. He promised change and a clean break from the iniquitous past. His presidency is built on change and anti-corruption. We have been told repeatedly that PDP ruined Nigeria. Why then is PMB hobnobbing with the shining lights of PDP, including one of its former chairmen?
We now come to the issue of people over-laden with baggage. The most prominent of these is Amaechi who had ‘never taken a bribe’ but whom the vengeful Wike had accused of monumental corruption. Why wouldn’t PMB allow him to be judicially sanctified before anointing him, especially when Amaechi had taken the matter to court? During Abacha’s era, one of his friends was alleged to be corrupt. Major Al-Mustapha advised that ‘the Villa should severe all contacts with the Chief pending when he is cleared. We should not be seen dealing with a character of this nature’ (Kukah: Witness to justice; p164). If a military despot distanced himself from a friend over allegations of corruption, why is it difficult for a born again PMB?
Looking at the entire process, nothing has changed: same people, washy screening, horse-trading, and influence of godfathers (though to a less extent) as before. The recycling is not justifiable unless we agree with Tunde Bakare that he might have made do with what is available. Probably, we have now hired butchers because we couldn’t find surgeons!
Indeed, there were no surprises both with the list and the screening process in the ‘hollowed chamber’. It is another come-and- chop affair and settlement of IOUs to political investors. The defense by APCians that PDP acted similarly is asinine because they have come to change, not to sustain. And when one recalls the emergence of baggage-ridden candidates in Bayelsa and Kogi States, this becomes more worrisome.
So, what happened? I tend to agree with Sonala Olumhense that PMB is mellowing down, and with Femi Aribisala that PMB got his fingers burnt in his bid to dine with political ‘devils’ whom he had hitherto despised. PMB came on board on the basis of a given reputation. It will be unfortunate if this is destroyed at this stage and age. It is over for now, but both the president and the party will bear the consequential moral burden. Saraki, who is fighting for his life and his colleagues are guilty of sacrificing national interest on the altar of political expediency; they did not do the proper thing.
But there is one good news: our association, Academics Against Moral Impunity and Immunity (AAMII), has adopted the most outstanding of them, Saint Amaechi, to be its patron Saint.
Meanwhile, let the saints go to work; there is much to be done and they are already six months behind. Nigerians are very forgiving and have short attention span. The whole noise will soon ebb, especially, if the ministers perform or pretend to perform. Furthermore, a comprehensive re-orientation programme should be arranged for Lai Mohammed before he talks us into trouble!
It is well with Nigeria.
Muo is of the Department of Business Administration, OOU, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State