Posted by News Express | 5 November 2015 | 3,115 times
We are back to where we started. Our takeoff point was President Muhammadu Buhari’s reluctance to appoint ministers. He did not and still does not need them to run his administration. He demonstrated this much when he declared in France that ministers are noisemakers. He said their mission in government is usually to represent the interest of their tiny constituencies and not to serve the fatherland. He told us that those who do the work in the ministries are civil servants who have the expertise to man various departments of government.
Many of us, obviously, were not listening when the president made this declaration. That was why its import was lost on most of us. We thought the president dropped a thoughtless or, at best, a careless statement. Little did we know that the man meant business. Now, we have woken up to the reality. And that reality is that Buhari does not need the ministers. He appointed them because we forced him to do so. He appointed them because the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) compels him to do so. Thus, in compliance with the letters, not spirit, of the constitution, and in order to appear civilian in our eyes, Buhari, albeit reluctantly, appointed ministers.
When he released the list of ministerial nominees after four months of anxious wait by Nigerians, it was a partial one. Nigerians could not understand why. They went to work again. They asked questions. They insinuated a lot of things. The president must have had a good laugh then. But he responded shortly afterwards. He gave us a complete list where every state of the federation was represented.
Then the screening of the ministers began. There was so much fanfare. The atmosphere was rife with speculations. Anxiety mounted. Who would be cleared? Who would not scale through the senate screening? To have a hang on this and probably be the first to know, many Nigerians made the live telecast of the exercise a full time job. They ensured that they missed none of the actions that took place in the Senate chambers. The screening, while it lasted, was quite momentous. Very entertaining. And Nigerians enjoyed all the side attractions that it provided.
When that ended, we witnessed another fanfare. The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, went visiting. The klieglights captured him and Buhari at a handover ceremony. Saraki returned to the president the list the way he sent it. Every name on it was confirmed. The screening produced no surprise. No upset. All the noise at the upper chamber of the National Assembly came to nought. The exercise turned out to be a ritual. Nigerians, in their characteristic complacency, moved on. They asked no further questions. All they wanted at that point was for the president to assign portfolios to the ministers. In the light of this expectation, they went on a speculation binge. Lists of ministers and their speculated portfolios began to fly around. Nigerians love such idle pastimes and they entertained us to no end with them.
But that was as far as it went. Buhari was not amused by the wild imaginations. He was not persuaded by our mindset. Thus, while we had, on our own, given the ministers the job we would like them to do, the president had a different mindset. He came out with a shocker – he will not assign portfolios to ministers. They will just be there as cabinet members. That was astounding. It swept many off their feet. And they have begun another round of debate over Buhari and the appointment of ministers. That is where we are now. But that takes us back to the beginning. It reminds us of the fact that the president never wanted to appoint ministers in the first place. But having been forced to do so, he will not assign portfolios to them because that will serve no purpose. He did not appoint them to serve. He appointed them to satisfy our yearnings and douse the agitations. That is the way it is. The president has said so. But we are, as always, free to entertain ourselves with whatever we think or feel. But Mr. President will be bothered by none of that. Emperors do not care a hoot about the preferences or choices of their subjects. And so does Buhari.
•This piece by Dr. Amanze Obi originally appeared in his column BROKEN TONGUES in today’s edition of Daily Sun. Amanze Obi can be reached via email@example.com
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