President Muhammadu Buhari has been sworn in for his second and last term. This is his last chance to make a lasting impression on the country, a nation he has sought unsuccessfully thrice to rule under this democratic system until Nigerians voted for him in four years ago. This year they voted him again in spite of his age and relatively infirm health. He got a second chance, and not many people get it the way President Buhari got his. Also sworn in less than two weeks ago are 29 of the 36 governors across the federation.
Like President Buhari, 17 of the state governors were re-elected for another four years in office while the rest 12 are first timers or new entrants into the challenging turf of the nation’s leadership. The remaining seven are yet to complete their tenures. Already, these new leaders have spent more than a week in office without taking what may be considered any dramatic step or even making serious policy statements on the direction of their government so as to reassure the citizens that they are prepared for the daunting tasks ahead. Worse still, none of the leaders, whether at the state or federal level, has unveiled the members of their cabinet while awaiting the inauguration of the National Assembly and state legislatures to confirm the appointments.
Consequently, the enthusiasm and euphoria that greeted the president and governors’ inauguration are dampening because Nigerians are eager to see them match promises with actions. The result of this seeming foot-dragging is rising tension in polity and at the same time paralyzing the activities of government because the political leaders to give direction to the core civil service are not in place. The development has also given room to political jobbers, sycophants and even godfathers to be feasting on power hungry politicians and other Nigerians who are eyeing various offices in the two-tiers of government. Let’s take South Africa as an example, four days before the inauguration of the new administration in Nigeria, South African President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, on May 25 took his oath of office. 40 hours after, Ramaphosa announced a cabinet of over 50 members, half of them women and young people.
Unlike Nigeria, which held its presidential and governorship elections on February 23 and March 9 respectively, Ramaphosa was elected on May 8 and assumed office 17 days after. This newspaper is of the opinion that the situation in Nigeria is not entirely different from that of South Africa and, therefore, needs a similar approach. Nigeria is faced with worsening insecurity, the unemployment rate is alarming, and the economy is still not out of the woods. Therefore, we advise all the new leaders to move a little faster. They should put on their thinking caps because forming a cabinet does not require knowledge of rocket science. They should see the Ramaphosa case as a challenge.
If the president wants to be seen to be in a hurry to solve problems (and they are many) he could have appointed some of his ministers even before the expiration of the 8th Assembly. The president has yet to name his Secretary to the Government of the Federation. It may be that he has retained the one there, but he should have announced it. Ditto the Chief of Staff and some other State House and personal aides. The president should have announced their reappointment. It will not cost him anything. Never mind that some of these people should have been dropped, but if he still wants to work with them, then he should not treat Nigerians with contempt. He should have issued a statement to announce their reappointment immediately he was sworn in.
The president should have also sacked his service chiefs and announced new ones. They should have gone ahead to make further changes within the services. Till today, the president hasn’t acted. Ministers of finance, defence, internal affairs, foreign affairs and chief economic adviser should have been screened by the 8th Assembly. This is to show urgency and these officials should have been up and about. By this week, the rest of the ministers and key agencies of government should be appointed. This kind of action will breed enthusiasm and restore a lot of confidence in the masses.
The lethargy of Buhari is killing. Getting people to work with is not rocket science. Both those who worked for the president’s election and neutrals with skills abound. These Nigerians and other stakeholders can be drafted to form a new team. In line with his promise to run an inclusive government this time round, we urge the president as well as the governors to go beyond party membership and loyalty in constituting their cabinets. The president, in particular, ought to use it as an opportunity to fulfill his promise to engage more women and youths in his administration.