Critics of Buhari’s cabinet nominees
Ithink the image of President Muhammadu Buhari as a saintly man who wants a new way of doing things so that Nigeria can make some progress is creating some serious political problem for him. I therefore think that my friends his spokesmen, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, may have to wear thinking cap and design a new way of communicating Buhari to Nigerians so they can understand the constraints he is facing and will necessarily face in implementing his change agenda. Buhari is constrained by the Constitution; constrained by the political reality on ground and constrained by the way he came to power. He was elected and did not emerge through a revolutionary overthrow of an existing order.
For instance, Buhari wants to cut down on the cost of governance but the Constitution sees the appointment of ministers to serve the federation as, essentially, an invitation to ‘come and chop’ and so he must appoint 36 ministers against his wish; he wants good and competent men and women to help him run the system but he is not running a technocracy but a democracy; he is not averse to appointing many women and youth but it is the nature of electoral democracy that you must reward those who helped you to power. If you did not mobilise funds and other capital to form a company, you cannot expect, legitimately, to become a member of the board!
Let truth be told: what brought Buhari to power is not the change mantra he kept declaring during the electioneering campaign. Rather, what did the trick was the political astuteness and financial power of some ‘bag’ guys who came to his help.
For twelve years, Buhari kept relying on good, clean, idealistic but financially and politically poor supporters and followers to help him become an elected president and for the three attempts in which he relied on that kind of people, he could not make it. Seeing his plight and also on the basis of their own personal consideration, ‘unsaintly’ guys who are politically wise and financially strong, decided it was time to help this well- meaning but naïve man. They cast their lot for and with him, came to his corner, pushed his traditional disciples aside momentarily and assumed the commanding position. They deployed their money and political know-how and lo and behold, this thing that appeared elusive for twelve good years became a reality.
And now payback time has come and what is this I am hearing some persons say that Buhari should have gone for saints instead of saddling the nation with corrupt, recycled men? Where were these saints who could not plot Buhari’s victory for 12 years? These are incompetent saints if you ask me. A farmer cannot go and see trees and tree stumps all day long in the bush only to come home to see some animals with two hands walking on two legs hovering around his dinner table and he is expected to gladly invite them to partake of the good of the land. Are those complainants seriously expecting that Buhari should have picked as his prospective cabinet members noise-making activists, gender agenda and youth warriors and political idealists who play their politics by discussing in the comfort of their parlours, some of whom never even venture out to vote on election day, not to talk of even campaigning for a candidate of their choice? Do they want Buhari to commit political suicide?
The first law of political power is the preservation of that power. Whatever you have promised the people during election campaign cannot be fulfilled if you lack or are deprived of the platform to actualize those promise. You do not need to be a Machiavelli or Robert Greene, the author of Forty Two Laws of Power to know this elementary thing.
Even military coupists know this only too well. They usually reward those who helped conspired with them to overthrow the existing order. I personally believe that if the devil helps you to power, please acknowledge him with gratitude and compensate him for his efforts. Do not use his help to gain power and then turn around to say he is a devil!
Abacha was not as daft as many hold he was. When he came to power, he thought to himself that the first thing he needed to do to consolidate his power and guarantee stability was to bring on board with him the prominent political actors and activists of the time, hence his decision to form what he later described as a ‘cabinet of big names’. Who was who of that time that was not in NADECO, he conscripted into his government of national unity. About exactly a year later when he felt he had stabilized the polity and he was sufficiently confident of his hold on power, he sacked all those big guys and commenced his agenda of stealing the nation blind and to ensure that he began a vicious campaign of muffling all dissenting voices through assassination, imprisonment, scare-mongering, etc.
Buhari’s change cannot be revolutionary because it is taking place against the background of a deeply rotten democratic system. He has to move gingerly with his change or face certain grave political risks. I keep campaigning that for his own good and for the good of Nigeria, he should try as much as is humanly possible to carry along those who helped him to power. If it means his appearing like consorting with evil men and contradicting himself, he should do so. That is what political pragmatism means. It is also a leadership skill. You concede some grounds in order to succeed in the long run.
Power is such a delicate and intriguing thing. Those who are not wielding it and who see things from the relative safety of a spectator’s gallery, who never knew the full details of how you got there will not quite appreciate the way you look at things and at people. Let ‘saintly’ agitators and armchair activists not goad you into committing political suicide. If you fall, these same pundits will be the ones who will say that they said so.
From the little experience I have garnered watching other political leaders even in more organised polities, first cabinets by elected or appointed political leaders, are usually cabinets of political compensation to ensure political consolidation. It is the second term cabinet when you contend with less pressure that you form a cabinet of legacy. The seeming neglect of women and youth should offer them a chance for sober reflection. What did women contribute, beyond voting, to the making of Buhari? What did the disabled do and what did the youth? All of those constituencies had to vote anyway. Is there nothing called a patriotic, democratic duty any more in this land? Why do voters want to be compensated with ‘juicy appointments? Is Nigeria a stealing field? I would like to think that for exercising your franchise, the only compensation citizens should expect from an elected leader is good governance and not appointments.