By Alabi Williams
President Muhammadu Buhari’s latest lamentation with regard to his inability to put together a federal cabinet appears to be another of All Progressives Congress (APC’s) wooly excuses that should not be allowed to pass without interrogation. PMB confessed he is not finding it easy to get persons of integrity to join his government, to quickly deliver on his promise of better life for Nigerians. That seems to be an exaggeration, because many will agree that Nigeria has not become so irredeemable that you cannot find, at least 100 men and women of good standing, just like the President.
PMB said he would not make compromised citizens and ‘hostages’ ministers. He said; “it is taking so much time (to appoint ministers), because a number of knowledgeable people have been compromised. They have been compromised by people who will like to depend on them to damage our economy and security; a lot of them have been compromised.
“The worst thing that I think can happen is to get a compromised person to be in charge of institutions. There is no way he could be efficient or patriotic. Somebody behind the scene will be manipulating him at the expense of the nation.”
But the same President argued in an article posted in the Washington Post ahead of his visit to the U.S that he would name a cabinet in September after putting new rules of conduct and good governance in place. He sounded very categorical, that he was taking his time, just like the U.S President Barrack Obama did when he first got into office. He said it took Obama several months to select his team. Of course, that assertion is not true, and those who have the facts have said so.
The APC, as it were, is giving too many excuses just to cleverly trade away the fact that the problem of its slow take off is self-imposed. And if matters are not properly handled, Buhari and his party would leave Nigerians with the impression that he is the only good man around and that all other Nigerians are corrupt and have no integrity. Then the excuse would continue to be that the rot left behind by the previous regime is too gigantic to surmount. So, shall we remain stagnant because the last administration blundered; didn’t we see the rot, which was why we made all those promises?
Just last week, the Jagaban Borgu, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, told Nigerians that Buhari deserves 100 days of honey moon, because the change APC promised cannot be achieved by a magic wand. But during the campaigns, the same Asiwaju likened the situation in Nigeria to that when French statesman Charles de Gaulle, British statesman Winston Churchill and American statesman Franklin Roosevelt rose to confront serious challenges in their countries at very difficult war times. He said Buhari was the man Nigeria needed. Good marketing. But Asiwaju did not tell Nigerians then that those heroes of his pleaded for 100 days of honey moon before they hit the ground running in their respective countries. People Deceiving Pikin?
In case the APC does not realise, the party is the President’s number one headache and the reason why he cannot shuffle the cards easily to select the aces and form a winning team. Buhari is not afraid of hostages anywhere else outside his ruling party. And in case PMB does not know, he could look outside the party and get men of character and good conscience to start with, like the man in Kaduna, el Rufai, is attempting. Rufai’s list of commissioners sent to the Kaduna Assembly last week is a model team of young professionals, who can be said not to be ‘hostages’. But that is a matter for another day. What we need to do is to place culpability where it belongs, so that the APC does not continue to abdicate.
IT is not as if President Buhari did not know that corruption had become part and parcel of Nigeria since, say the First Republic, to put some time frame to it. In a more general sense, some would say corruption had been part and parcel of mankind since creation. It was corruption, for instance, that made man to disobey the instructions God laid down regarding the ‘tree in the centre of the Garden.’
Therefore, it is not as if Buhari did not know that between 1979 and 1983, after the military had left the stage for a democratically elected civilian regime, that corruption nearly became liberalised, until the soldiers returned on the pretext of wanting to cleanse the system. Buhari was the leader of that junta and Nigerians were deeply grateful that they came. The majority of Nigerians love regimes that mean well for the people and they are ready to stand by them. But that effort did not last because some of Buhari’s friends in the military disclaimed his puritanism and forced him to take a long and frustrating holiday.
While Buhari was away, corruption spiraled, as his military colleagues took it beyond the compression of ‘bloody’ civilians, until 1999. Under the military, public utilities like NEPA, Airways, Shipping Line, were grounded one after the other. By 1999, what the military left behind were carcasses of institutions that were once vibrant and profitable.
From 1999, till now, corruption has assumed a new definition. It is mindboggling. Nigerians know this and they expect Buhari to know too and not for him to be perplexed. He was not elected to come and explain his dilemma, but to do as he promised during campaigns.
Going by his assertion that he cannot find men of integrity to work with, we offer our sympathy that he is a member of the APC. But he has to live with it. It is the responsibility of the party that has formed government to assist the president to headhunt good men with whom to work with and deliver the party programmes. Nigerians do not expect Buhari to go to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to shop for men and women of good capacity, character and competence. That is not the democratic tradition we operate. The buck, usually, stops with the ruling party to nominate persons to serve in the federal cabinet, and if after two months the President is still lamenting that there are no good men in his party, then, it is most unfortunate for Nigeria.
But we encourage him to search diligently. We know that the APC, as a pack, does not represent the very best of Nigeria. We agree that there are godfathers in the party, who invested heavily, in the hope that choice ministries would be allotted to them and their protégés. Those are the ‘hostages’ Buhari is afraid of. We agree with him that the legacy parties that formed the APC have been operating since 1999, and many of their members have been compromised. We know very well that the PDP alone did not ruin Nigeria. We know that many members of the APC joined from the PDP and cannot become saints overnight. But shall we remain confounded by the humongous and virulent nature of corruption and refuse to move forward?
Since members of the APC lack the courage to assure Mr. President that there are men of integrity within its fold, I want to take the risk to do affidavit on their behalf, some of them. I know some former APC governors who performed brilliantly, within limits of available resources. They have a good idea of democracy and can connect it with development. Given a more pro-people leadership at the centre, these men can do even better. In other words, there are dependable people in the APC who can fit into the expectations of our new Nigeria and those of our international partners. Nigerians are fair-minded; they know the APC did not drop from heaven and will not expect hyperbolic performance. But, there are minimums below which many APC members cannot fall in terms of integrity. Some are damn good, with fine consciences, but are no saints. Many Nigerians were not so ambitious to think Buhari would not have issues with the APC leadership on his anti-corruption mantra, but not to the extent that he cannot get 20 good men to start with.
If Buhari continues to lament and paint Nigerians in very unsavoury and exaggerated terms before the international community, he inadvertently puts his integrity on line too. After all, he knew the profiles of the leaders and financiers of the APC before he agreed to partner with them. He knew that without those huge resources, largely unaudited, it would be difficult to form a mega party, solid and rich enough to battle the PDP. If Buhari did not question the integrity of members of his party at formation, he cannot now claim that some people have been compromised beyond redemption. Buhari cannot singlehandedly micromanage Nigeria. Let him set the rules, Nigerians will support him.
- This Best Outside Opinion was written by Alabi Williams/Guardian