The monitor and the noise makers
In the public schools of 1970s and 80s in Northern Nigeria, it was particularly dreadful to have one’s name written among noise makers. Being pencilled down among noise makers was a justification for serious punishment, mostly beating, by teachers or seniors. Since we cherished our skin and dreaded having it cracked by whips, we had preferred a more merciful penalty of being asked to dig the tough ground or cut grass.
But lately, the term noise makers has been used differently by President Muhammadu Buhari who has appropriated it for his will-be Ministers. These past four months, during which he interacted with and received briefings from Permanent Secretaries, the President must have undoubtedly appreciated the enormity of the work being shouldered by civil servants. The President had merely sought to downplay the supervisory political role of ministers as he was conversant with the laborious “I am directed” work performed by civil servants.
Now that the long awaited list of noise makers has been compiled by the monitor and sent to the Senate, Nigerians are waiting to see what the upper chamber will do with it. I believe there are a few surprises in Buhari’s selection. Until now, many of us didn’t know much about Barrister Abubakar Chika Malami (SAN), Barrister Adebayo Shittu, Dr Osagie Ehanire, Dr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, Eng. Suleiman Adamu, Kemi Adeosun and Ibrahim Usman Jibril. Returnee minister, Dr Audu Ogbeh will be the dean of the new cabinet. Nonetheless, we are all agreed that as far as paper qualifications are concerned, these Nigerians are eminently qualified for ministerial positions. In terms of performance also, they are all competent as will be shortly demonstrated in the confirmation hearings.
Many of them also bring no excess baggage whatsoever. Abubakar Malami is an ideal ministerial candidate; he is a humble and hardworking lawyer with SAN title to boot, and a flourishing private practice. He is also young and energetic and not known for any controversy. His will be a delightful confirmation procedure. Besides, he has the full support of not just the three senators from Kebbi but the entire state.
I am sure Chief Audu Ogbeh will have zingers for those who may question his resolve to work with Buhari 33 years after he had served as Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s minister. I believe that Audu Ogbeh will be an agent of change, an opportunity that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) denied him. He may be old but Ogbeh is a democrat and is not given to inflammatory rhetoric; even when he was edged out of the PDP garrison politics, he had refused to use the phantom of Middle Belt identity, ethnicity or religion to threaten anyone. Citizen Ogbeh has always spoken about Nigeria, not North or South, Christianity or Islam. He has enthusiasm for farming and has a farm; he is simple, straight and sincere and can drive Buhari’s new policies for agricultural development.
Although it has taken Buhari a long time to select them, it is generally believed that Buhari’s ministers will be above board.
Firstly, no one will toy with the idea of seeking gratification from Buhari’s ministerial candidates. When President Olusegun Obasanjo nominated Malam Nasir elRufai as minister, we were regaled with accusations and counter accusations about how some named Senators approached him for financial inducement to aid his confirmation. No one will attempt this with Buhari’s nominees.
Secondly, none of Buhari’s ministers will dare hijack the job of a department or agency under his ministry that could lead to the avoidable death of our citizens, ala Abba Moron, Jonathan’s Minister of Interior, who commandeered the recruitment process of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and allegedly caused the death of about a dozen young Nigerians and then turned around to blame the devil. Buhari’s ministers know very well that whoever brings the devil to the cabinet will be doubly punished by the President and by God!
Buhari’s ministers also understand that they cannot buy bullet proof cars before or behind his back, like Stellah Oduah, and then cling to their seats while the citizens holler for their dismissal. Rather, when these types of scandals break out, a Buhari minister will himself, on his own volition, say his good bye. Those are scandals that Buhari will not tolerate; it’s doubtful if any of Buhari’s ministers will be indispensable like Diezani Alison-Madueke or Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of the notorious Jonathan cabinet. Every Buhari minister knows that he will quit if anything untoward happens in his ministry.
All of the ministers have a tough job ahead of them; the Ministers of Agriculture, Finance, Power, Mines and Defence must particularly be on their toes all the time because with the President’s determination to diversify the economy, cut down drastically on the number of the unemployed and restore security, those manning these ministries have to work round the clock.
It’s uncertain if the Senate can do anything other than confirming whoever Buhari nominated as minister. Of course, senators can grandstand in the media and eventually get to ask the nominees all the questions they wish to on the floor of their chamber, but they really have no choice other than to pass them all, including the controversial Chibuike Amaechi. There will be no excuse to stop anyone, not even on the strength of petitions, some of them maliciously filed to provoke filibusters.
The real price for noise making will be exacted by Buhari himself when he discovers a ministerial transgression or the inability of his chosen noise makers to meet set targets. At that time, Senators and Nigerians alike will only laugh at the noise makers.