For the first time since the advent of our current democracy, power is changing hands from one set of leaders to another set who are not much different, except for their rallying persona, the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari. With this imminent change of power comes the opportunity to do things differently and get better results than we have gotten in the last 16 years. Buhari has given several indications that he would do things differently. One of the most recent of such is the rejection of ministerial list from governors elected on the platform of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). It was the usual practice in the last 16 years under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for governors of the ruling party or the most prominent PDP politician in a state not governed by the party to nominate those to be appointed as Ministers.
Each of the 36 states of the federation is expected to produce a minister, while a few extra slots are filled on the basis of geo-political zones or at the discretion of the President.
The major deficiency of this practice is that those who superintend over our Ministries and our civil service are usually cronies of the state governors or leading PDP politicians in states not governed by the party and often may not be the best candidates for those positions. But, politics is not for the good of all. While party politics has been described as the madness of many for the benefit of a few, politics at the national level is seen by some political scientists as the means of sharing national resources without resorting to violence. The PDP probably came up with this ‘formula’ of appointing Ministers to ensure some form of stability in the polity.
This was one of the practices that made PDP governors very powerful and major determinants of who gets what in the party, including its presidential ticket and ambassadorial positions. However, according to a report, APC governors, many of whom were once members of the PDP, were shocked last week Tuesday when an attempt by them to present a ministerial nominees list to Buhari, in line with existing tradition, was rejected by the President- elect. According to the report, the APC governors, led by Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State visited Buhari in Abuja to pledge loyalty and make demands some of which were placed on the table openly, while the request to drop the list of possible ministers came up for discussion behind the closed door.
Quoting sources close to the meeting between the governors and Buhari, the report claimed the President- elect rejected the proposal and declared that the Constitution does not mandate him to take a list of ministerial nominees from them. The APC governors got a second shocker when the president-elect also reportedly rejected the call for a bailout to enable them pay months of salaries owed civil servants. According to the report, Buhari flatly rejected the proposal, saying he was aware the Federal Government was not owing the states their allocations. Buhari further told the governors that those of them in their second terms could not complain about the state of government finances, as they had been collecting allocations from the Federal Government all along.
The following quotes, contained in the report and attributed to the source close to the meeting, summed up all that happened. “The governors practically went out of the visit with their tails between their legs. The general first threw aside the request that he grant bailout to the states. He told them that the governors going for second term in office cannot complain about the state of the economy, having collected all their allocations to date from the Federal Government. He ruled out the possibility of bailout.
“The General was also very unequivocal when he was told that the governors want to submit a ministerial list to him.
He clearly said he cannot go into that discussion. He insisted that the Constitution does not mandate him to collect such list from the governors and that the state chief executives should concentrate on sourcing good materials that would help them run the states adequately.” If the report is true, the implications of Buhari’s rejection of two ‘important’ requests from governors of his party, the APC, are two-fold.
One, he wants to do things differently, and perhaps get better results, and bring about positive changes in the lives of the ordinary people. The second implication is that his understanding of the forces at play in our kind of democracy is still a bit low. If Buhari keeps putting the interest of the populace over and above those of the bigwigs of his party, who rightly or wrongly believe they helped to get him to the position, he risks a revolt. His ability to manage the egos and govern the appetites of powerful forces within his party may largely determine his level of success. Something tells me he is too much rigid to be able to do these well.
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