“I am waiting for the newspapers to tell me the performance of my Ministers and whether I should make changes” – President Muhammadu Buhari, during his first year anniversary.
Did the president mean what he said in the above quote or was he simply being sarcastic? If he meant what he said, he will not be the first president to appreciate the importance of newspapers. Third president of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson, had this to say of the media: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter” Leaders who heed media advice and read the lips of newspapers, as it were, do so for their own good; those who do not, their good grief!
Rumours have been rife that Buhari would shake his Cabinet. The present Cabinet did not excite from the very beginning. It was a rehash of same old and discredited hands. Apart from the fact that it took the president an unnecessary long period to put the Cabinet together, the names he announced at the end of the day did not elicit hope or enthusiasm. Many with corruption allegations hanging around their necks like an albatross made the Cabinet. People without a pedigree of achievements and excellence completed the list. Nigerians knew from the word “go” that the Buhari Cabinet will not only under-achieve but also that it will enmesh him in needless controversies. There were too many square pegs in round holes. The Buhari Cabinet was short on people with name and integrity; so, it was clear to discerning Nigerians that we would go nowhere with it. The Cabinet, however, is not the only organ of the Buhari administration that needs a shake-up. The entire Buhari administration does!
Virtually every appointment made by the president fell below par. Nepotism, cronyism, provincialism, vindictiveness, sheer wickedness, and religious fundamentalist bigotry combined to deny the Buhari administration of quality brains and hands. As the president’s wife complained, many of those holding critical appointments in the administration knew nothing about the manifesto of the party that brought Buhari into office. Many of such people played no role in his campaign; according to Mrs. Aisha Buhari, they were just sitting at home folding their arms when cabals called on them and gave them juicy appointments. Any surprise, then, that such people – like the abrasive Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi state in his own special case – have not been able to fathom out what to do with power dropped on their laps on a platter, except to assault our sensibilities, ruin the system they found in place, and fritter our common patrimony! The president, if he is to help himself and take full advantage of the rumoured Cabinet reshuffle, must review all appointments, not only Ministerial appointments, so as to correct his mistakes. The appointments as they stand – Service chiefs and heads of security apparatuses and posts; personal staff of the president; Chief of Staff, SGF, heads of the MDAs – are so lop-sided in favour of the religion and region of the president. And these appointees going forward have carried on with similar biases in their various positions; the recent “restructuring” in the NNPC, headed by a Northern Muslim, readily comes to mind. The NNPC boss favoured the North/Muslims to the chagrin of the South/Christians. In fact, the Igbo were totally frozen out. If the polity is heated up today, it is principally as a result of the lop-sidedness of Buhari’s appointments and his reckless, provocative, and divisive statements. So, for a Cabinet reshuffle to be meaningful, it must encompass the whole gamut of all appointments made so far by the president. Anything contrary will be mere window-dressing. Those making the critical decisions that are making or marring this country at the moment are not Ministers but cabals and “kitchen Cabinet” members around the president, who are virtually all Muslims from the North. They must disband if any Cabinet reshuffle is to be meaningful.
But perhaps more important than a Cabinet shake-up is a Buhari shake-up itself! We need a shake-up in Buhari’s head and brains; his ideas, ideals, mindset, and orientation need total and comprehensive shake-up. It is Buhari’s mindset and orientation that have led him to the scandalous appointments he and his cronies have continued to make. His mindset led him to say he would favour those who voted for him 97% and discriminate against those who gave him only 5% of the vote. Judging with his appointments and the distribution of federal projects, that is what Buhari has done so far. Without a change in this mindset, it will not matter who is appointed as Ministers as they all will take instructions from Buhari as well as pander to his wishes and body language. Buhari’s body language must change for any meaningful and positive change to occur in the country. It is his body language that has encouraged and emboldened the wicked and brutal Fulani herdsmen, whose life patron the president is. Buhari’s archaic ideas ruined the economy when he insisted on pig-headed economic policies that sent an economy that was the biggest in Africa and one of the fastest growing in the world into a tail-spin. The result was recession, and then depression. It is Buhari’s mindset that has set the South-east and South-south on fire. The same mindset had set the country on fire in 2011. If no shake-up occurs in Buhari’s mindset, we may also have a repeat of the costly mistakes of 1967 – 1970 and needless blood-letting on our hands again.
More than a Ministerial shake-up, these are the more fundamental shake-ups needed at this point in time. Otherwise, any Cabinet reshuffle will amount at one and same time to deceit and charade. It will be an exercise in futility.
LAST WORD: Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Aisha Alhassan, deserves a medal for boldness, courage, and forthrightness. Taking after Aisha Buhari, it would appear the Aishas are fearless, conscionable, and forthright people, regardless whose ox is gored. Alhassan is damn right: Only an unconscionable person will not be tired and sick of the endless shenanigans of the Buhari administration.