As one with absolutely no expectations of any form of improvement on his first term records, President Buhari’s latest cabinet misadventure was long foretold among many other expected assaults on the concept of good governance. Coming nearly two months after his inauguration, following immense pressure from supporters and opponents, President Buhari’s unimpressive list of recycled politician technocrats did not come as a surprise. I am not surprised that no youth was considered worthy enough to have a seat in the federal executive council [not even the minister of youth affairs]. I am also not surprised that only 7 out of 43, which approximates to 15 per cent of nominees are women. Am I also surprised the North West geo-political zone of origin of President Buhari has two additional nominees whereas the five other geopolitical zones have only one each? No. For a man who places high premium on personal loyalty and equates it to patriotism to the state, I am not surprised that President Buhari’s proposed cabinet is exclusively made of loyal partisans.
However, for those who have high expectations hence disappointed it should have dawned on them that this latest development is indicative of an administration that is incapable of stirring the ship of the Nigerian state in the right direction of the- more than ever before- needed sustainable socio-economic development. By proposing perhaps the worst cabinet since the 4 th republic, President Buhari appears determined to reinforce the failure that was his first term as well as compound the governance problem of the Nigerian state for another four years. For a country that is embroiled in insecurity, poverty and corruption, President Buhari’s ministerial nominees are clearly not fit for the purpose of tackling these fundamental problems. Scanning through the names of nominees, none inspires renewed hope of socio-economic resuscitation of the Nigerian state. Any consideration of possibilities of improvements in education, health care, agriculture, housing, public infrastructure and transportation is dashed as none of these nominees portends any such. Similarly, issues of economy, foreign policy, defence and internal security are not likely to improve at the required pace as most of these nominees have been integral parts of the leadership rot of the past. By proposing a cabinet, which smacks of compensation for gladiators in the great political heist that was the 2019 general elections, President Buhari has deepened the patronage -at the expense of public treasury- reward system for political participation.
President Buhari’s cabinet is a reflection of the unfortunate degeneration of Nigeria’s political process to a criminal franchise of power purchase, through vote buying for self service through state capture within the corrupt framework of an elaborate patronage system, which throws up dealers in electoral heist as leaders. This level of decadence in the polity has resulted in a clear detachment of the business of government from the needs of mass of the generality of the governed. As profiteers of public treasury, dealers as leaders will always deploy the devious ingenuity of cleverly disguising corrupt self-enrichment schemes as good governance policies and programs in the best interest of the public. This has inevitably resulted into a dysfunctional governance system that takes care of a privileged -to be in government -few and cares less about the underprivileged -outside of government- majority.
With a poor non inclusive governance structure that has rendered the productive economic base comatose leaving politics as the only thriving industry, the rat race for power grab has intensified to a level of mortal combat as every political gladiator tries to wriggle into any available space in government in order to secure a slice of the national cake.
As a self-professed man of integrity, President Buhari who was largely expected to make a radical departure from this retrogressive path of state patronage as a reward for political participation has so far not only failed to do so but is set to consolidate the ravaging scourge. If only President Buhari appreciates the reality that Nigeria’s elaborate state patronage system of reward for political participation has stolen its collective development then he will realize his proposed cabinet is a recipe for increased insecurity, poverty and acute corruption. President Buhari has proved beyond reasonable doubt he is not any different from his predecessors he loves to blame with passion. What some people mistake for change is that whereas past PDP leaders were honest about their dishonesty APC’s President Buhari is dishonest about his honesty. To further underscore his dishonest integrity, President Buhari has a penchant for preaching what he does not practice just as he surrounds himself with corruption tainted individuals that are part of the past he delights in blaming for his present failures while also manifesting an incredible stamina to condone their administrative malfeasance. If former President Goodluck Jonathan was accused of democratizing corruption, then President Buhari can be said to have normalized corruption.
Putting politics ahead of governance at a time that is perhaps Nigeria’s most trying in recent history, by proposing an incompetent cabinet whose only qualification is partisan loyalty in the advancement of his personal political interest has far reaching negative consequences for Nigeria and Nigerians in the next four years. As products of the corrupt and inept political establishment, this cabinet is certainly going to maintain the status quo of skewing government businesses to personal aggrandizement in furtherance of their political financial war chest rendering that real task of governance inertia.
Having invested illicit funds obtained from systematic state capture since the return of civil democratic rule in 1999 in procuring victory for the ruling APC in the 2019 elections, entrusting the leadership of government businesses on dealers of in electoral heist is only an invitation to recoup their investment in terms of naira and kobo. There will be a continuous depletion of Nigeria’s national cake by a political leadership that thrives in financial debauchery without any effort to increase its size by baking fresh ones.
For a country that is grappling with revenue crunch to such an extent that it can barely adequately cater for its over 200 million people to be burdened by a gluttonous consumption political leadership portends a worsening of socio-economic condition of majority of Nigerians. President Buhari’s proposed cabinet is a recipe for increased corruption induced general insecurity, poverty and misery arising from continuous economic mismanagement. The elaborate state patronage system of reward for political participation has become unsustainable as the ranks of internally displaced politicians has crowded a polity with far less government jobs. The increase in number of ministers from 36 to 43 at a time when it is more sensible to downsize government in order to conserve scarce resources for more productive ventures is a reflection of the current administration’s cluelessness about how to balance patronage and governance.
Looking at forlorn faces of the mass of the rural poor that invested enormous emotional and physical support for President Buhari’s re-election bid, the most sustainable reward for their political participation is not state patronage of a privileged few but by an integrated strategy for inclusive socio-economic development of the Nigerian state delivered through the instrument of a good governance structure. This proposed cabinet is inherently incapable of delivering good governance.
Majeed Dahiru is a columnist and can be reached on [email protected]