Min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees: For­ward to the past?

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

Not many Nige­ri­ans were ex­cited by the list of min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees sub­mit­ted by Pres­i­dent Buhari, es­pe­cially the first batch. Given the time it took the Pres­i­dent to un­veil the nom­i­nees – over four months af­ter his in­au­gu­ra­tion – peo­ple were ex­pect­ing to be sur­prised, if not wowed, with the list of ‘saints’ the Pres­i­dent gave the im­pres­sion he was search­ing for in the sup­pos­edly land of sin­ners.

The good thing is that the un­veil­ing of the min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees gives hope that at last a Fed­eral Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil will be con­sti­tuted and with that the ar­tic­u­la­tion of what a pol­icy di­rec­tion for the coun­try. Un­til now, the gov­ern­ment ap­pears to be run on Pres­i­dent Buhari’s ‘body lan­guage’ and its one-story nar­ra­tive: to fight cor­rup­tion to a stand­still.

Buhari’s min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees also trig­gered an in­ter­est­ing de­bate on the pol­i­tics of gen­er­a­tion shift. With the av­er­age age of the nom­i­nees be­ing about 61, many com­men­ta­tors de­rided many of the nom­i­nees as ‘ana­logue’, ‘dead­woods’ or peo­ple ‘ex­humed from the ar­chives’. I dis­agree with this line of ar­gu­ment.

The idea of power shift to the younger gen­er­a­tion moved up the agenda of po­lit­i­cal dis­course in 2010 when for­mer mil­i­tary Pres­i­dent Ibrahim Ba­bangida, at the age of 69, in­di­cated in­ter­est in be­ing the PDP’s flag bearer in the 2011 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. When some peo­ple crit­i­cised him for be­ing too old for the job the for­mer mil­i­tary pres­i­dent re­port­edly claimed that Nige­rian youths were in­ca­pable of giv­ing the coun­try a qual­i­ta­tive lead­er­ship. Though the Mina Gen­eral later claimed he was quoted out of con­text, the is­sue of the ‘pol­i­tics of gen­er­a­tion shift’ which his re­mark raised was not con­clu­sively in­ter­ro­gated.

First the pol­i­tics of gen­er­a­tion shift is of­ten based on a wrong no­tion of a lin­ear pro­gres­sion from one gen­er­a­tion to another. The truth is that ev­ery gen­er­a­tion em­bod­ies some­thing from the pre­ced­ing gen­er­a­tion, some­thing it wishes to do dif­fer­ently from its fore­bears and also some nos­tal­gia for some val­ues it wishes it could re­cap­ture from the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion. In this sense, Wole Soyinka was prob­a­bly too hard on his gen­er­a­tion when he de­clared in the mid-1980s that he be­longed to a ‘wasted gen­er­a­tion’.

Sec­ond, ‘gen­er­a­tion shift’ is not a form of re­lay race be­tween the old and the young, in which the old, out of ex­haus­tion or im­pend­ing ex­haus­tion have to pass on the ba­ton to the younger and pre­sum­ably more dy­namic run­ners. In re­al­ity, ‘gen­er­a­tion gap’ of­ten denotes the dom­i­nant ideas and ways of do­ing things of an era, and sub­scribers to such new ways could be both the old and young even though cer­tain age groups tend to be more closely al­lied with cer­tain trends. A good ex­am­ple here is the net­work­ing web­sites like Face­book, which ini­tially was a fad for the young but has since been em­braced also by the not so young. In this sense it may be nec­es­sary to make a dis­tinc­tion be­tween ‘old young peo­ple’ (peo­ple who may be rel­a­tively old in age but con­tinue to feel young in their minds and who con­stantly ally them­selves with mod­ern trends and pro­gres­sive ideas) and ‘young old peo­ple’ (young peo­ple who are re­sis­tant to change).

Third, the pol­i­tics of gen­er­a­tion shift could be a dou­ble edged sword for young peo­ple (i.e. peo­ple un­der 50). Since young peo­ple ap­pear to be tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity at a much ear­lier age than their fore­bears across the world, in­clud­ing in our coun­try, it could be ar­gued that youth is no longer the fu­ture but the present. This means that young peo­ple are on the spot – just like their el­ders – and should share re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the prob­lems of the cur­rent era. In fact most of Nige­ria’s lead­ers – Pres­i­dents and gover­nors- fall within the young cat­e­gory of age: Tafawa Balewa was 48 years old when he be­came Prime Min­is­ter of the coun­try; Ironsi suc­ceeded him at the age of 42, Gowon took over from Ironsi at the age of 32, Mur­tala Muhammed suc­ceeded him at the age of 37 while Obasanjo, in his first com­ing was only 39 years. Shehu Sha­gari, who be­came a Fed­eral Min­is­ter at the age of 25, be­came pres­i­dent of the coun­try at the age of 54. Muham­madu Buhari was mil­i­tary Head of State at 41, Ba­bangida at 44, Ernest Shoneka at 57, Abacha at 50, Ab­dul­salami at 56, Obasanjo’s Sec­ond Com­ing was at 62, Umaru Yar’adua suc­ceeded him at 56, while Jonathan was 53 when he suc­ceeded Yar’adua.

At the state level most of the gover­nors came to of­fice while un­der 50. Sta­tis­ti­cally there­fore when we talk of ‘gen­er­a­tion shift’, it is dif­fi­cult to know, whether we should be ar­gu­ing for a shift from the un­der-50s to the over 50s or vice versa, or which of the gen­er­a­tions should be blamed for what we now call the ‘cur­rent mess’. Suf­fice it to add that in the USA, Don­ald Trump who is the front run­ner for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion is 69. Hi­lary Clin­ton, the front run­ner for the Demo­cratic Party ticket is 67 while her clos­est ri­val in the polls, Bernie San­ders, is 74. The Vice Pres­i­dent, Joe Bi­den, who is be­ing urged to throw his hat into the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion field, is 74.

The point is that a more ra­tio­nal ap­proach to the pol­i­tics of gen­er­a­tion shift will be to find the right bal­ance be­tween the ex­pe­ri­ence and ma­tu­rity that of­ten come with age and the vigour and ide­al­ism that are usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with the youth. It will also be nec­es­sary to sep­a­rate the ideas needed to take the coun­try to the next level from those pur­vey­ing such ideas. All over the world chrono­log­i­cal age is not what it used to be – peo­ple not only live longer but also health­ier. In the pol­i­tics of gen­er­a­tion shift, both those over 50 and those un­der 50 could make strong claims for be­ing marginal­ized and why the other should con­cede the moral right to rule.

While I be­lieve the fo­cus on the age of the pres­i­dent’s min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees is mis­placed, I also be­lieve the Pres­i­dent’s fail­ure to wow us with ‘saints’ as his nom­i­nees – as he made us be­lieve he would – will in­evitably af­fect the per­cep­tion of the whole fight against cor­rup­tion. It may also force him to re­think his one-story nar­ra­tive. From Ngige who ben­e­fit­ted from a stolen man­date in Anam­bra state to for­mer gover­nors Amaechi and Fashola who have been ac­cused of cor­rup­tion, sev­eral of the nom­i­nees in the cab­i­net may not be able to pass the in­tegrity test. The Pres­i­dent had ear­lier de­clared that he would not have any­thing to do with any­one ‘tainted’ with cor­rup­tion.

Since most of the nom­i­nees can be ef­fec­tively mar­keted on the ba­sis of their com­pe­tence - rather than their ‘in­cor­rupt­ibil­ity’, the pres­i­dent is chal­lenged to find a broader nar­ra­tive within which his fight against cor­rup­tion will be sub­sumed. Cer­tainly the mantra can­not be ‘change’ – as some APC ap­pa­ratchiks er­ro­neously keep mouthing. ‘Change’ is usu­ally a slo­gan of the op­po­si­tion party seek­ing to de­throne the party in power. APC is now the rul­ing, not the op­po­si­tion party.

The Pres­i­dent’s anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign has made sev­eral false starts – dec­la­ra­tion that it would be lim­ited to the Jonathan ad­min­is­tra­tion (mak­ing it vul­ner­a­ble to charges of selec­tiv­ity), not com­ing up with a clear op­er­a­tional def­i­ni­tion of what it means by ‘cor­rup­tion’, not de­vel­op­ing a frame­work for the fight other than to make ‘probe; the new mantra and more se­ri­ously be­liev­ing that cor­rup­tion, rather than the cri­sis in the coun­try’s na­tion build­ing is the fun­da­men­tal prob­lem fac­ing the coun­try.

It is of course un­der­stand­able that in se­lect­ing the min­is­te­rial nom­i­nees, the Pres­i­dent faced the Devil’s Al­ter­na­tive. There are peo­ple like for­mer Gover­nors Amaechi and Fashola who made huge sac­ri­fices that con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to Buhari’s vic­tory. If Buhari did not get them into his cab­i­net, he will be ac­cused of ‘use and dump’. On the other hand, their in­clu­sion when there are al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion against them raises its own ques­tions. For in­stance, if the Pres­i­dent rightly ar­gues that both Amaechi and Fashola have not been con­victed by any court of law, then he is also sig­nalling that the coun­try should ex­tend the same ben­e­fit of the doubt to the likes of Diezani Ali­son-Madueke and Saraki, who though ac­cused of wrong­do­ing, are yet to be con­victed by any court of law. If pres­i­dent sug­gests that he in­cluded them be­cause he be­lieved that they are vic­tims of smear cam­paign or pol­i­tics - then oth­ers sim­i­larly ac­cused of cor­rup­tion or wrong do­ing could also blame their tra­vails on pol­i­tics and smear cam­paign.

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