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How Buhari Is Looking For Saints

Editor’s Note: Emmanuel Bello has described the probable reasons why President Muhammadu Buhari is still looking for his ministers. He narrates two tales of his epic search for the men and women, who would make or mar the Buhari’s records in office.
Story Highlights:
  • Spiritual way the president is going about ministers;
  • The tale about Buhari’s ministers;
  • APC governors make a list of five top people;
  • Ministers will be human beings with all their foibles;
  • These angels will finally unveiled in the “fullness of time.”
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of
(Today Newspaper) I don’t know about you but I have heard plenty chatters, concerning President Buhari’s near elusive search for ministers (read, angels).

Yes, they could only be angels, judging by the painstaking, almost spiritual way the president is going about it. Looking for saints in a country full of sinners was never going to be easy, anyway.
The first tale I heard was how one bright morning, President Buhari drew up a list of his best 19 Nigerians and showed his aides. The aides studied the list and started laughing. Half of the names on the ministerial list were either dead or down with old-age related illnesses, such as rheumatism and stroke. Obviously, Buhari didn’t have this information. While I haven’t independently verified the story, I won’t put it past this president. Anyone who exhumes the legendary Ahmed Joda and appoints him head of a transition committee is capable of anything.
The second story said the president directed the All Progressives Congress (APC) governors to make a list of five top people in their states who can be appointed into various positions. The excited men went home and drew up the list. After receiving their submission, Buhari perfunctorily asked: “Are you sure these are your best hands?” They all answered in the affirmative. After a few minutes of looking at the list again, the president repeated the question. The governors, almost bemused now, bawled out that the list was the best they could possibly cobble together.
The next thing the president did shocked them. He handed them the list and said “since these are the best hands you have got, why not use them in your individual states? Why bring them to Abuja when they could be more useful to you in your state? Please, keep them and ensure you use them to develop your states. If all APC states become symbols of good governance, the entire nation would be better for it. So, take them back to your states.”
Needless to say, the governors left in a huff. Now, this tale may well be fictional as I wasn’t there to verify, but it is being quipped that the president has said he would not get his ministers from the state governors.
If he won’t pick their team for them, why should they pick his? This makes sense but when you ponder where Buhari would get his ministers and Special Advisers, you are forced to think twice about this wisdom.
First, whether he likes it or not, for a certain spread and balance, his nominees would have to come from the states. It is as simple as that. And Buhari can’t know the states better than the governors.
Secondly, they would be human beings with all their foibles. But above all, they would be fellow Nigerians with all the traits of our countrymen and women. They would be Nigerians, who are adept in the game of eating a slice of the pie. They would be Nigerians, who know exactly how a minister ought to live the big life.
Believe me, there is a template already for how ministers should live, dating to the earliest period of our modern life. Have you forgotten the flamboyant Festus Okotieboh and other heroes past? There exists an unwritten manual on the number of cars, personal aides, and even accommodation the big men should have. I don’t know how the president plans to change all of that. A minister is a minister.
Or are we about to have a set of ministers who would live in our neighborhoods, dress like us, drive in the same traffic and, God forbid, even go to the same markets? If the president thinks that by delaying and praying deep into the night, he would eventually get a bunch of angels as his team, then he is in for a reality slap. Where is he going to find such men and women? It is like looking for the perfect spouse. There is no such creature.
And the president has another headache, as he plans to pick only 19 ministers from a country of 36 states and 170 million people. The question is what criteria is he going to use? Age, pedigree, credibility profile, competence, electoral value or his personal relationship with the fellows?
Maybe, that is why the framers of the nation’s constitution said the Federal Executive Council should consist of, at least, one nominee from the 36 states – a provision Buhari doesn’t like.
Those who defend the president say a minister each from the states would be too expensive in a time of austerity. But what do you do about this constitutional provision? Ignore it and get a tribe of lawyers, chasing you? Under the old dispensation, getting your ministers wasn’t such a big deal. The president would have been relaxed by now, allowing the governors to slug the matter out. And back at the states, it would have been a rat race as the governors and the henchmen spend hours, figuring out what names to send to the president.
In the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) state, for example, it would have just been a matter of zoning. So, if the governor and his deputy were from, say zone A and zone B, the next thing is for the minister to come from Zone C.
Balancing and a certain amount of fairness were the watchword of the PDP as far allocation of offices was concerned. Another crucial credential was the electoral value of the nominee. Even now, in most states, the governors would pick a team that would best deliver them the badly needed votes on re-election day. What of competence? Well, that is important too, but strategic positing of people for electoral success is the number one consideration.
In any case, most of the appointees at the state levels are, sometimes, professionals in various fields. A doctor, for instance, may grab the ministry of health as commissioner, while a financial expert heads the finance ministry. A lawyer in the team may end up becoming the Attorney General, while a reporter normally gets the information portfolio. The other appointments might just be reward for the victory (jobs for the boys). And there is nothing outlandish about this.
When people have laboured to usher in a government, they sure deserve a piece of the action, don’t you think? I hope the president knows all of these, as he continues his epic search for the men and women, who would make or mar his records in office. For the rest of us, we are excitedly waiting to see who these angels are when he finally unveils them in the “fullness of time.”
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