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‘Despite the delay, Buhari should look beyond APC in appointing ministers’



Secretary-General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), Chief Willy Ezugwu, in this interview with ONYEDIKA AGBEDO says President Muhammadu Buhari’s delay in constituting his cabinet is hurting the polity.

There is apprehension in the polity over President Muhammadu Buhari’s delay in appointing his ministers. What is your take on the development given the 2015 experience when it took the president six months to constitute his cabinet?
You see, if you are contesting for an election to occupy the important position of chief executive officer of a state or the country as a whole, whether as an incumbent or not, you must have started putting down the names of people that will work with you either as ministers, director generals of government parastatals and what have you as a candidate. So, the moment you are declared winner, you announce your cabinet. These are people that campaigned with you; these are people that worked with you and it is assumed that you know them very well. This is what obtains in civilised countries and in democracies that are being practiced well.

But in this country, the reverse is the case and the trend started from 2015 as you rightly pointed out. The president spent almost 20 per cent of his tenure of office before he appointed ministers. It makes the whole thing to look as if the president does whatever he wants and that he can run the country without cabinet members or DGs of parastatals.

So, it is very unfortunate that the All Progressives Congress (APC) government has set the country so backward such that we don’t even know where to start from again. The country keeps going down in global rankings. In the list of poorest nations of the world, Nigeria came in as the worst. The country is also ranked very high in terms of insecurity and terrorism. We have not heard where the country is ranked as best in one thing or the other of late. Even in sports where we used to do very well, everything is being run down. So, I don’t know how far this party is taking us as a country.

How would you analyse the few steps the president has taken in the last one month that he was sworn in for a second term?
As far as I am concerned, I have not seen any step taken by the president or what they have been doing. I featured in a television programme recently where I advised the president, as the number one citizen and father of the nation, to look for credible people, including technocrats, that can run the government with him. The moment a presidential election is over and you emerge the winner, there is nothing like opposition with regards to that office. Every other countrymen and women are your constituents. We have intelligent Nigerians that have won laurels all over the world. So, why can’t Mr. President look outside his party and bring credible technocrats to come and help him organise things.

Presently, the APC has crisis in almost every state of the federation. In Bauchi State, they are fighting for the position of House of Assembly Speaker. In Edo State, the House of Assembly was factionalised right from the day of inauguration. In Zamfara State, they totally lost out through a Supreme Court judgment while in Kogi State, they are already quarrelling over who becomes the party’s governorship candidate in the November 16, 2019, election. The former national chairman of the party and the incumbent chairman are also quarreling almost on a daily basis on the pages of the newspaper. So, there is a lot of crisis within the party and Mr. President is watching. He could not use his position to call the warring party members to order. So, if the party cannot get it right among themselves and the president wants the people from the party to make up his cabinet, I’m sorry for the country.

It appears you want the president to form a government of national unity?
Of course yes. He should appoint about 60 per cent from his party and spread the rest. But I advise against appointing people into positions that they don’t understand where they are going. For instance, how can somebody study agriculture in the university and you will appoint him/her as Health minister? How can somebody study medicine and you will make the person Works minister? How can somebody study law and you appoint the person as Works minister? So, it will be better if the president nominates his ministerial appointees and tags each nominee with the ministry he/she will be heading so the National Assembly (NASS) would be able to ask them questions and then find out whether they are fit for the positions. There are lawyers, engineers, doctors and what have you in the NASS who should know.

So, this hide and seek game of not disclosing the ministry a ministerial nominee will be heading should be jettisoned. For proper screening of the appointees by the NASS, the president should disclose their portfolios.

Insecurity is the major problem of the country at the moment. How do you think this administration can curb it?
The truth is that we are not being sincere to the problem of insecurity. Gun running is all over the place. The past IGP ordered all the people in the Southeast and Southsouth to return their guns even if you are a hunter and they did. What was the result? Today, the place is so porous for herdsmen and terrorists to move in.

Now, look at the killings all over the country. Look at Zamfara State and even Katsina State where the president comes from. But instead of doing something tangible, the Army will say something today and deny it tomorrow. You also see one person going about with about 20 to 30 policemen as bodyguards, meanwhile they are saying that the country is short of policemen. Is his own life more important than the rest of Nigerians? How many people’s tax does he pay, that is even if he pays at all? So, these are the things that are going on in this country, which are very unfortunate.

If you don’t have enough security men on ground, what are you supposed to do? Even if you have enough but you don’t equip them how do you get the desired result? It’s just like when they talk about corruption in the police. If you don’t pay policemen very well, if you don’t equip them, if you don’t give them things that they are supposed to have as people who can die in the process of trying to save others, they will not be efficient.

So, the Federal Government should recruit more police personnel. There should also be state police at the same time. State police can penetrate the localities including bushes where these criminals are hiding and fish them out. You don’t fight insecurity with the kind of inefficient police system we have, where about 30 policemen are allocated to one person. The moment a new Inspector General of Police (IGP) assumes office, the next thing he does is to issue an order that policemen guarding an individual should be withdrawn. But the order is never executed. Which country allows that except Nigeria?

As a government official, if you feel that your life is very important to you, then you should know how to put things in order. It is not after you have messed up the country, then you say that every other person can go to hell because you have the money and the position to get policemen to guard you. But I am happy at times that whether they guard them or not, these hoodlums still find a way to attack them. People like us move freely because God is with us.

What immediate steps do you think the president should take to put the country on a god footing and succeed in his second term?
As stated earlier, if Mr President wants to get it right this time, in appointing his cabinet he should assign portfolios to the appointees before the NASS screening.

Secondly, there should be a kind of government of national unity in the country. The president should look for intelligent technocrats in the country and bring them into his government to move the country forward.

Also, what we have seen portrays the country as a banana republic. Under this administration, we have seen people who are due for retirement as civil servants get extension of service. What do you think of the junior officials who have been praying and working hard to get to the top of the ladder? By extending the service of an official who is due for retirement, you have sabotaged them; you have demoralised them and that is why most of them cannot work. What the government is supposed to do if someone performed very excellently as a civil servant is to employ him/her as a consultant when he/she retires if it feels that his/her services are still needed.

Today, they make a Commissioner of Police the IGP and retire very intelligent officers occupying the positions of DIGs and AIGs. Is that how things are supposed to be done?
So, the president should stop these abnormalities. He should sit up. He should be able to move the country forward with his ‘Mr Integrity’ tag. He should show us the integrity now.

People like us don’t talk again because there is a way you will talk and talk and it will look as if you hate anybody. Some of those you are even fighting for will also say you are talking because the government does not favour you. But I have no government to favour me. The moment the government provides the social amenities, all of us will enjoy it. What are the masses asking for? Portable water, stable power supply, accessible roads, quality healthcare system and good education.

So, there are a lot of things the president has to look at and address. We can’t just be answering the giant of Africa for nothing. He must show good leadership because leadership is the major problem of the country.

Imagine a zone like the Southeast. When they appoint judges they won’t be represented. In the Security Council you don’t see them. The only place they are represented because that one is a must is when they talk of ministerial appointments. Are they not part of the country any longer? So, it’s horrible. If we say this is one Nigeria, let it sincerely be one Nigeria.

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