President Muhammadu Buhari.  Photo credit: Yahoo News

Buhari: As Nigerians Eagerly Await His Cabinet Names

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday submitted his cabinet names to the Senate president, Senator Bukola Saraki. As Nigerians eagerly and anxiously wait for Senator Saraki to reveal the names, at least we already know one of his ministers. President Buhari himself! To the initiated that is no surprise. None of the current stock of politician at the present appears to have the ‘integrity capital’ Buhari has and as such has to be there in the cabinet.

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However, there are some implications of such self-appointment as Minister of Petroleum Resources even though it is a good and wise move. It is a “Cabinet of One” for now. Buhari is the man credited with creating the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) besides being Federal Commissioner for Petroleum resources both in 1970s under Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo. He was also largely responsible for the nationalisation of the sector and is said to be disgusted how that turned mostly due to corruption. Buhari is “back home” with oil sector.

The President knows the oil sector inside out. Maybe that is why his synergy with the new Managing Director of NNPC, Ibe Kachikwu, is working out well. One hopes Buhari would clean-up the sector and not stick to policy of bombing illegal oil sector operators and that refineries are not privatised, which would lose the government control of this vital national sector.

There is no doubt that as Minister of Petroleum the responsibility of oil sector will lie fully under Buhari’s control. Any successes or failures found will lead directly back to the President. It is not as easy or privileged as it seems if we factor in the anti-corruption requirement. There are many players in the oil sector that would want to sabotage his transparency policies, but evidently Buhari seems to be the best man to fight any backlash encountered.

A few former heads of state have doubled as minister. It is often a reaction to the existence and evidence of hyper-corruption (say, in the oil sector) and an attempt to prevent or reduce incidences of further corruption. There may be other reasons though.

As Nigerians Eagerly Await Buhari’s Cabinet Names

One and half decades ago, President Olusegun Obasanjo doubled as Minister of Petroleum Resources after incidences such as the rapacious and corrupt antics of Dan Etete, an ex-minister of Petroleum, became public news. The recent allegations made against the immediate past Minister of Petroleum, Deziani Alison-Madueke that $700 million was found in her residence would make any President with an anti-corruption agenda cautious.

Some may question the length of time it took Buhari to appoint himself and others to his ministerial cabinet. It would certainly be challenging to find new candidates for petroleum minister that will not repeat the antics of Nigeria’s long list of hyper-corrupt individuals that have occupied the position. To give Buhari the benefit of the doubt, he may have searched well for an upright moral minister to do the job and ended up with picking himself.

Though it could be considered petty, it is of reasonable significance in the polity that Buhari will be minister while a minister of state will handle the day-day affairs of the ministry is reminiscent of a time when it was widely believed that a Northerner must be “at the top” while a Southerner would do all the hard work as a subordinate. Is the Minister of State going to be a Southerner?

It would also be quite offensive to Southerners that the names submitted initially for clearance as prospective ministers were all from the South except one, only to see that Buhari has appointed a majority of Northerners to his cabinet. That would also revive echoes of Northern rule in Nigeria. This line of thinking has become pervasive in Nigeria and cries of “federal character” have been simmering eagerly waiting for the opportunity for “a boil over.”

It would be interesting now that Buhari is ready to staff his cabinet with ministers, the country would start to perform far better than it is already doing which millions of Nigerians think is good work so far. Buhari’s opponents and critics will have a field-day if such better governance performance does not materialise even by mid-term. Serving in the cabinet may be more of curse than a privilege, purely due to the expectations placed upon Buhari’s administration.

The time has come for a national executive, complete with a ministerial cabinet, to lead Nigeria from the front into a new era in its history.

We are watching!

  • Dr. Nane is an errant scholar and economist. Follow him on twitter: @Grimot

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