President Muhammadu Buhari did not surprise a few of us last Wednesday when he failed to deliver an inauguration speech as envisaged. It indeed would have been a rude surprise if, at that occasion, the president inspired hope and allayed the fears of Nigerians, many already battered by poverty and brutalised by insecurity. The big consolation is that Nigerians were not treated to the “next level” of (un)presidential boo-boos!
For those of us who have always criticized the president in the area of empathy, it was a delight watching Mr Buhari deliver no speech. Those who envisaged an Obama-like speech apparently do not understand the favour the president did Nigerians by strategically keeping the speech, according to grapevine sources, inside that bag he had clutched firmly to his side. Pray, how else does a president show empathy except by firmly refusing to unleash oratory mayhem on innocent citizens already gasping for air under the crushing effect of governance-induced mayhem?
Yet a few days before the inauguration day, the president had given us an idea of the exact shape the ‘next level’ government would take. In a carefully choreographed ‘interview’ with NTA’s Adamu Sambo, the president told us without really telling us who he is: a suffering Nigerian. And when a recalcitrant Sambo asked him, “Who is President Buhari?,” the president took him on a long but aimless journey through Nigeria’s coups and counter-coups—-which he, in his epic manner, put as “Ku, Katanku”!
The lifelessness of that interview notwithstanding, there was a major takeaway: Mr Buhari would retain some of his ministers. For those who have peddled that silly idea that this is Nigeria’s worst set of ministers since 1999, that may be bad news.
But for some of us impressed with the immense works being done by this group of selfless Nigerians, the news sounds refreshing and scary: refreshing because the president appreciates the indispensability of this set of ministers; scary because the ministers have done so well that, in saner climes, they would all be retained without questioning. So, unlike what Mr Buhari thinks, a case must be made for the need to retain not just some but all of them—–I mean ALL, but one.
First off: In his interview with Sambo, Mr Buhari did not give reasons why he would return (some of) the ministers but anyone who has studied the president so well in the last four years would understand the reasons. The president is a very keen observer and builder of talents; he sees awesome talents in places where others with no foresight see incompetence and cluelessness. That perhaps explains why each of his ministers who left did so on their own terms; he never sacked them. Even when they consider themselves failures, Mr Buhari still saw success. What a visionary leader!
But, more importantly, there are numerous reasons why all of the ministers MUST be returned.
Let’s take, for instance, the case of Ogbonnaya Onu, the minister of science, pencil and technology. The man has a huge dream and indeed promised to put Nigeria on the world map via a ground-breaking invention: pencil. Four years afterwards, due to logistic concerns, Mr Onu has not delivered on his promise. But his dream remains alive and kicking, fellow Nigerians. Would it now not amount to snuffing life out of a beautiful dream if he is not allowed to spend another four years and shock the world with this game-changing invention called pencil? I’m convinced Mr Buhari is no dream killer; he would retain Mr Onu and allow Nigeria’s pencil dream flourish.
If any minister’s return should not be questioned at all, that person is the long-suffering Adebayo Shittu. Having been schemed out of the governorship race in Oyo, how would anyone with a conscience “communicate” to the minister that he would be relieved of his job? By email—-which an aide once alleged that he does not even know how to operate? Or by traditional means like Aroko, which he may perhaps prefer? It’s near-impossible.
Lai Mohammed, the cicero of Oro, is one minister we can’t afford to lose too. At least if others do not want him, I am very sure Nigerian journalists would love to have him again, especially those in the field of fact-checking and fake news verification. To ease Lai out is to throw fact-checkers and fake news/half-truths verifiers out of job. Mr Buhari is a provider of employment; he would not do that.
The one other minister every Nigerian would really, really love to see again is the agric minister, Audu Ogbeh. Mr Ogbeh has in recent time shared from Lai Mohammed’s inspiration. But he has equally promised us so much, things we can’t afford not to witness.
Aside from the desire to ensure that rice pyramids across the world are brought down due to the impact of Nigeria’s never-seen-before rice revolution, he has also taken a very tough battle to the homes of Pizza lovers—–especially those who import it from London. This battle with London-chauffered pizza and its importers is one we would love to see the minister win because of its strategic impact on Nigeria’s fluctuating naira, our foreign reserves, the sovereign wealth fund and the balance in our ECA accounts.
Babatunde Fashola’s return is non-negotiable: Mr Buhari loves and trusts him, like a certain Tunde before him. And no amount of paid-for darkness (literal and figurative) could darken the light of love between the duo. Having performed so well, he may get two additional ministries, even. Ditto Rotimi Amaechi, the minister for railway—-no, transport.
Chris Ngige once promised to organise a programme where Nigerians would be exposed to how Mr Buhari actually laughs and shares jokes and raises legs. More than his (mis)management of labour disputes, that is one major reason why he should be returned. Ditto his doctor-colleague, Isaac Adewole, who once advised doctors to go practice carpentry but did not show how. It would be beautiful giving these folks another chance, allowing them to articulate their points better and providing support for them to organise these two highly anticipated programmes: “How President Buhari does ‘gbese’ (raises legs)” and “How doctors can diversify their economies into carpentry and vulcanizing”. It’s one huge debt they both owe Nigerians.
More than anyone else, Solomon Dalung is a huge asset to this government. A veritable source of comic relief in moments of tension, his return is self-evidently justifiable. Let no one talk about the controversial IAAF fund and how it was SPENT. That money was properly spent and Mr Buhari himself knows this. No more, no less.
Abubakar Malami, Abdulrahman Dambazau, Zainab Ahmed and Adamu Adamu would return; regional affinity is thicker than, er, competence. And this has nothing to do with a former president’s recent unusual coinage, really. Udoma Udoma, Ibe Kachikwu and Okechukwu Enelamah have strategically stayed out of major controversies. They have got decent table manners and should return.
Hadi Sirika has an inconclusive plan to make NigeriaAir give British Airways a good run for its money. It matters not if the strategy, plan and infrastructure on the ground may not compete well if placed against that of Iyare Motors or Ekeledilichukwu’s. He must be returned.
Meanwhile, President Buhari must never, never retain the minister for petroleum. Clearly, President Buhari’s policy of hard work and service delivery appear radically contrasting to this particular minister’s do-nothing posture. For four years, he has consistently remained taciturn and aloof. Without being sacked by the president. And because this minister wields so much power, his demystification may be all that is needed to have a decent cabinet. It would be heart-warming to see the president summon the courage to sack this particular minister.
Anthony Onwuka, Heineken Loikpoibiri, Omole Daramola, Ibrahim Jubril and other ministers have done nothing in a way that remains enviable. I remember they are still ministers now only because I googled the phrase “Buhari Cabinet”. But I know Mr Buhari loves quiet people—-folks otherwise known as “people of integrity”. In the Buhari school of integrity, myth is key and competence is an addendum. These guys are good examples of such people and would be retained too: for staying off the news, off service, and, ultimately, doing practically nothing. For God and country.
Oladeinde tweets via @Ola_deinde