The guidance of wise men
Everyday things are getting more interesting at the top while below, life for the majority of citizens gets harder and prospects more bleak. Despite the fact that elections are long since over, politics rather than economics still takes centre stage. The latest episode in the political drama of the 8th Senate commences this week with the screening of potential ministers.
Former member of the House of Representatives, Honourable Patrick Obahiagbon of Edo State, renowned for his loquaciousness reportedly said the list of nominees President Muhammed Buhari (PMB) forwarded to the Senate is a, “miasma of a… haemorrhaging plutocracy…with all the termagant ossifying proclivities of a kakistocracy!” Putting it simply and sensibly he is less than impressed.
It’s also been reported that “National Leader” of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu isn’t happy. According to reports he wasn’t consulted on the choice of nominees from the South-West. However he appears to be busy taking issue with the Senate President rather than worrying about ministers.
Although many APC supporters are upset that the list contains no young people, not enough women and also the names of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) stalwarts, there is no gainsaying that it’s the prerogative of the President to send nominees to the Senate, and the constitutional job of the Senate to carry out screening.
While there is quite evidently a need to thoroughly screen nominees, a rancorous process will benefit no one and neither appease nor reassure Nigerians. There is an urgent need to get the confirmations over and done with because citizens are anxiously awaiting the change they voted for. Senators must place the national interest over and above their personal and political interests, and ensure that the screening doesn’t turn into a cheap show for the gallery. Even before the exercise has commenced issues are being raised and petitions forwarded.
Many Senators are saying that PMB must be screened if he wants to be Petroleum Minister. There are even rumours that the incomplete list will be rejected on the grounds that the Constitution provides for a minister from each of the thirty-six states of the federation and doesn’t support appointing ministers by batches. Senator Godswill Akpabio the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State gave an insight into the mind-set of today’s politicians when he complained on the floor of the Senate that the “juicy ministries” would be taken up before the next batch of names is received.
Doubtless he knows what he is talking about having enjoyed the “juicy” office of State Governor for eight years. Senators have been asked to reject the nomination of Amina Mohammed as minister from Kaduna State. According to them the former Special assistant on Millennium development goals hails from Gombe State.
Meanwhile the Rivers State government has indicted former Governor Rotimi Amaechi and instructed the Senators form the State to oppose his nomination. Amaechi claims he is being witch- hunted and he is right. When people are being witch-hunted it doesn’t mean they are innocent, it just means that justice is being used for ulterior motives. Be that as it may the question still remains that PMB said he waited so long because he wanted honest people, has he got them now?
Senate President Bukola Saraki says Senators would put Nigeria first and do a “thorough job”, According to him it will not be “business as usual” (whatever that means) and the screening would be done by the book, according to the letter of the law and with a level of seriousness to ensure that nominees are fit enough to be Ministers particularly at this time. Rulers generally hate it when others assert themselves against their wishes, but PMB should be prepared for some names not to scale through.
While the process will be seen as defective if corrupt nominees are approved simply in order to please “oga at the top”, if all nominees with challenges capable of creating an image crisis for the government are dropped, it will be difficult to find replacements amongst former office holders. The question of weeding out “bad eggs” isn’t supposed to arise. Inexplicably the relevant background checks were not done before names were forwarded to the Senate.
Reports have it that the Department of State Security (DSS) subsequently invited all 21 nominees for security checks which include scrutiny of educational qualifications, and checks for any past prosecutions. It beggars belief that with the inordinate delay in announcing names all this could not have been done earlier. It will be recalled that the issue of fake certificates, suspect educational qualifications and bloated CV’s isn’t uncommon amongst ministers.
The Masters’ Degree of a former Minister of Aviation who is now a serving Senator allegedly came from an educational establishment which never awarded post-graduate qualifications, while her first degree came from an American College which no longer exists because it was closed down due to lack of accreditation! Expecting such people to screen others is ironic. Indeed there is nothing in the antecedents of the majority of Senators to indicate that they have the moral right to question anyone’s patriotism or competence.
Definitely we should expect underthe-table manoeuvres before the process is completed. The convention that two senators from the state must approve the nomination is quite silly and uncalled for. In guiding the 8th Senate through the murky waters ahead the Senate President should be well advised to keep in mind the immortal words the legendary French leader Napoleon Bonaparte who said “rules are made for the guidance of wise men and the strict obedience of fools!”
Senate President Bukola Saraki