We are all aware of the Biblical account of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. One aspect of this movement, which signifies change in trajectory of the emergence of the Hebrew nation is the crossing of the red sea. Accounts from the bible, the revered Jewish historian, Josephus Flavius and other authorities like Layard, Justin Martyr etc suggest that the children of Israel were hemmed in by the red sea in front of them, on both sides were swamps and behind them was a furiously charging Egyptian army under the command of Pharaoh himself. Faced with a difficult option, Moses communed with heaven and declared to the Jews to “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord”. True to this prophetic declaration, salvation indeed came from heaven for the Jews. What this signifies is that whenever a nation is at crossroads, there is need for introspection and spiritual communion with the forces of heaven to provide a solution. At such point of spiritual communion, the people wait patiently with expectation, hoping that the end point would be worth the wait.
Such was the mindset and expectation of Nigerians when the president declared that he was going to take his time to get his ministers; more so when PMB had assured us that no corrupt politician would make it into his ministerial list. With such pious declaration, Nigerians- Christians, Muslims and traditional worshippers- prayed fervently for the angels of God to guide the president aright. We hoped that after such a long wait, Nigerians would see the emergence of angelic human beings as ministers. After four months of waiting expectantly, the president unveiled his “angels” of change. Millions of Nigerians dismissed the list as the crazy imagination of overzealous journalists. But to the consternation of the people, the president owned up that list as the authentic list of his ministerial nominees. Our people were awed by this act of treachery and deceit. The names on the ministerial list were names that Nigerians are familiar with. A few days after the submission of the list to the senate the president suddenly realized that most of the nominees were far past their prime and intellectually dead. He made some minor adjustments and resubmitted.
However, the fundamental question is: was the long wait for the president’s ministerial nominees worth it? Why and how did Mr. President pack the ministerial bus with dead woods? Is it that he did not consult widely or that he was not aware of the true health status of some of his nominees or even unaware that some of them had died? Or could it be that president Buhari deliberately packed the bus merely to serve some narrow political interest? Too many questions to ask but little answers to give.
For instance, I also noticed that featuring prominently on the list are some ex-governors most of who had ruled their states for upwards of eight years. We also know that most of these ex-governors superintended over states that could not pay workers salaries and provide basic social amenities for their people, for which the federal government a few months ago doled out bailout funds. Much as I do not doubt, the ability of these ex-governors to serve as ministers, I am worried on the dangers of elite circulation in power. For instance, having served your state for eight or even four years as executive governor, one expects such person to go on a retreat to introspect and get refreshed; use the benefit of hindsight to judge his own performance in power and explore ways of improving society. Thus refreshed, the person is better equipped to continue in the service of fatherland.
I understand that most of these former governors in the president’s list of ministers did a lot to enthrone the president in office. The president has a moral duty to show them appreciation. There is nothing wrong with that if such show of appreciation does not compromise public good. But where such gestures are perceived as a deficit to social governance, we have a duty to complain. There are several ways appreciation could be shown without endangering public thrust. That process has not been followed in this instance.
President Buhari and his APC must not lose sight of the circumstances that brought them to power in the first place. The APC was manifestly successful in demonizing the PDP and it promoters as harbingers and vessels of corruption; of supervising the rot in the country and incapable of containing the Boko Haram insurgency. Soaking the political terrain with this, the APC promised “change”.
“Change” for the avoidance of doubt, is one word that drips with hope and expectation. Nigerians expected a dramatic departure from the “PDP ways of doing things” to a structure that truly protects the rights of the people, afford them life-opportunities and sustain social justice. The APC, since its assumption of power last May, has demonstrated its naivety in political leadership; it has demonstrated that there is no fundamental difference between it and the PDP it did so much to discredit; that the difference between it and PDP is the difference between six and half a dozen. The APC has left no one in doubt of its inability to drive the change ideology; that its understanding of change is merely the change of signatories to Nigeria’s account so that the looting of the treasury will continue by other means- more sophisticated than what we know.
The Buhari ministerial list is a testimony to this assertion. The belated substitution of certain names on the list with so called virgin faces does not retract from the fact that this administration is rudderless, and the Nigerian state, like ship in the tempestuous sea, is at the risk of capsizing. But we can avert this tragedy; save ourselves the pain of this collective immolation and re-engineer a truly Nigerian state predicated on agreed terms by the various ethnic nationalities. I know that between 2005 and 2014, two crucial conferences on the political restructuring of this country have been held and far-reaching recommendations made. Let nobody think that dumping those recommendations would be a novelty. Nigerian’s fate and future lies in those recommendations. Implementing them will save us this circus show of ministerial appointments and replacements. In implementing those recommendations, we can like Moses look heavenwards and declare to our people “stand still and see the salvation of Nigeria.
Dr. Arthur A. Nwankwo, Chancellor Eastern Mandate Union