OPINION: Ministerial Screening: Culture Of Taking Bows, Rubber Stamping Old Horses, By Henry Iheanacho

Ministers are the expert drivers of ministries and ministries are the vehicles that move socio-economic as well as infrastructural development. In-other to hit the ground running, a focused leader with a vision to transform should announce his or her ministers’ immediately after being sworn in.

President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected on February 23, 2019, and was inaugurated on May 29, 2019. He sent the names of his ministers to the Senate on July 23, 2019.

In case anyone is still wondering, February 23 to July 23 is 150 days, aside from wondering if the president has a liking for the number 23, Buhari waited 5 months after his re-election and 55 days after his inauguration before announcing his cabinet, his reason being that he needed to appoint people he knows and that can work with him; “The last cabinet which I had, most of them, a majority of them I didn’t know. I had to accept their names and recommendation from the party.”

Let us give the president some benefit of the doubt and agree that he spent 21 weeks assembling his cabinet because he wanted to appoint people he’s familiar with.

In that light, here are the ministerial nominees in no particular order;
Dr. Ikechukwu Ogah (Abia State) and Mohammed Musa Bello (Adamawa State)
Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom State) and Chris Ngige (Anambra State)
Sharon Ikeazor (Anambra State) and Adamu Adamu (Bauchi State)
Ambassador Maryam Katagun (Bauchi State) and Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa State)
George Akume (Benue State) and Mustapha Baba Shehuri (Borno State)
Goddy Jedy Agba (Cross River State) and Festus Keyamo (Delta State)
Ogbonnaya Onu (Ebonyi State) and Osagie Ehanire (Edo State)
Clement Ike (Edo State) and Richard Adeniyi Adebayo (Ekiti State)
Geoffrey Onyeama (Enugu State) and Ali Isa Pantami (Gombe State)
Emeka Nwajiuba (Imo State) and Suleiman Adamu (Jigawa State)
Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna State) and Muhammad Mahmood (Kaduna State)
Sabo Nanono (Kano State) and Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi (Kano State)
Hadi Sirika (Katsina State) and Abubakar Malami (Kebbi State)
Ramatu Tijjani (Kogi State) and Lai Mohammed (Kwara State)
Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara State) and Babatunde Fashola (Lagos State)
Adeleke Mamora (Lagos State) and Mohammed H. Abdullahi (Nasarawa State)
Zubair Dada (Niger State) and Olamilekan Adegbite (Ogun State)
Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo State) and Rauf Aregbesola (Osun State)
Sunday Dare (Oyo State) and Paulen Talen (Plateau State)
Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers State) and Maigarai Dingyadi (Sokoto State)
Sale Mamman (Taraba State) and Abubakar D. Aliyu (Yobe State)
Sadiya Umar Faruk (Zamfara State)

Taking a closer look at the names, the first thought that comes to mind is, why are there many familiar names? Names like Babatunde Fashola, Godswill Akpabio, Geoffrey Onyeama, George Akume, Chris Ngige, Ogbonnaya Onu, Lai Muhammed, Hadi Sirika, Abubakar Malami, Timipre Sylva, Rotimi Amaechi, and Rauf Aregbesola, amongst others.

It should be worthy to note that the names aren’t familiar because they have long-standing records of excellent service but because they have been there for as long as Nigeria’s democratic polity has been in existence.

Senator George Akume for one has been in the senate since the time of former president Goodluck Jonathan, prior to that he served as governor of Benue for 8 years, ask him or his constituents what tangible and verifiable impact he has made in the life of those whom he represents and all would be left wanting for words, and this is a man that wants to be minister?

Senator Akpabio as a politician has been in successive governments, serving as a governor, senator and now a minister, my questions are; Is there no one he has mentored that can take his place? Is there nothing like retirement in politics? Are his works that magnificent that he cannot be replaced? These are pertinent questions that need answers.

Rauf Aregbesola was commissioner for works in Lagos, two-time governor of Osun State between 2010 to 2018. His tenure as governor was marred by the non-payment of salaries to civil servants and poor development indices. One wonders what he intends to bring to the table as a minister.

Should we talk about Ogbonnaya Onu or Chris Ngige?

Ngige was a governor in 2003; he became a senator in 2011, a minister in 2015 and now has been re-appointed to serve as a minister. His tenure as labor minister was marred by persistent labor dispute which resulted in strikes from the organized labor and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). He was also quoted as saying that Nigerian Doctors can travel abroad if they so desire as the nation has more than enough manpower in the health sector.

Ogbonnaya Onu was the first civilian governor of Abia state as far back as 1992. He was the minister of science and tech from 2015-2019 and Nigeria didn’t so much as “manufacture pencils” not to talk of technological advancements. So why are we bringing him back? Certain realities make one wonder if these choices are the best for Nigeria moving forward.

Going through the names, I didn’t see a single nominee that falls under the category of youth, so what was all that talk by President Buhari about having a youth-friendly cabinet? Also, only seven women made the 43 man list, a figure that is far below the 30% affirmative action.

After the senate had promised, “No nominee will be asked to ‘take a bow, it shocked me to hear “take a ‘bow and go’ rent the air” during the one-week screening process.

Rotimi Amaechi, Emeka Nwajiuba, Godswill Akpabio, Gbemisola Saraki, Hadi Sirika, George Akume, Olorunnimbe Mamora are some of the ministers that were accorded the take a bow and go privilege.

One would think that the senators should have not just drill the nominees but also go the extra mile to ask that Buhari send their portfolios so as to guide the screening process and ensure that square pegs are not put in round holes.

We all saw the catastrophe of displacement that happened in 2015 when individuals were put in charge of ministries that they were not fit for which led to the absence of landmark achievements by any of the ministers.

This culture of giving free passes to past lawmakers and allowing certain individuals to become ministers based on recognition is not healthy for the development of Nigeria. This culture of recycling the same old politicians that brought Nigeria to the disastrous state it is in is not healthy for the country’s future. This culture of not testing one’s competency for a position before giving them the rubber stamp is not representative of a country that seeks to grow.

The sooner our senate starts doing its job of not just lawmaking but truly representing the wishes of the people, the closer we’ll be to finding solutions to the challenges that bedevil the nation.

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