By S. Okey Mbonu
The wait is finally over, The Nigerian president has submitted his list of cabinet appointees to the country’s Senate, for confirmation hearings. We gather that confirmation hearings in Nigeria are typically a shoo-in affair, because no political appointee has ever been disapproved by the Nigerian Senate. Further, in this particular case, the leadership of the Senate is itself embroiled in an ethical and corruption imbroglio, with the Senate President awaiting his day in court, over declaration of assets charges. However, we shall address these corruption issues in a subsequent release.
Re-Circling More of the Same
In a country of 180 million, with perhaps another 10 million dispersed in far-flung corners of the globe, from the America’s, to Europe, to Asia, and to other parts of Africa; Nigeria has quality human resources. Though Nigeria has highly competent persons who have not been stained by political corruption inside Nigeria; however, North America, Europe and South Africa also hold some of Nigeria’s finest.
Nigerian professionals and technical whiz-kids hold the fort down in many human endeavors in North America, Europe and South Africa. The US Diaspora tops the ranks, because they have penetrated myriad areas of the US polity, from scientific research, to medical research; from legal professionals, to policy-makers, academics, and public administrators; to successful businessmen and women.
The list of these 21 nominees does not bring the needed punch that 21st Century Nigerians were looking for. Nevertheless, we can spot a few candidates with the potential to perform well, per Mr. Buhari’s change mantra. However, we will be fair to all these men and women, by giving them a chance to prove their mettle after their confirmation. But we dare say that Mr. Buhari should wield a big stick over his ministers for the following reasons:
We perceive that some of these appointees are political friends of the president. However, given Nigeria’s dire state of affairs today, each of these ministers must sign an “appointment” and a “resignation” letter. They should be ready to walk away without rancor, where they have being proven incompetent, or compromised, in their roles as public servants. The president needs to look these people in the eyeballs, and deliver an unflinching message, per President Buhari and Nigeria’s expectations of them in this era.
It really should be obvious to the new ministers that the era of “plunder” is gone. In-fact, there won’t be much to plunder. The new economic success of Nigeria will arise more through internal productivity than through the sale of oil and related resources.
The 36 states will become the new laboratories for tinkering with models of economic prosperity. Some states will blaze past national living standards, based on internal planning, whether they have oil and other natural resources or not. Other states will continue to go to Abuja to beg for bread, and for loans to pay staff salaries.
States that refuse to plan robustly, may breed the insurgents and militants of tomorrow. Those states should not blame the federal government. Some states in the US have zero natural resources, yet they are as competitive as states with massive oil deposits. Anyone in doubt should go check how Las Vegas transformed the economy of Nevada—a state with no natural resources to mine or sell. Everything can be accomplished with ideas for internal revenues—Tourism for example has not been explored fully in Nigeria.
Many of the would-be ministers have previously occupied positions of public trust, which have apparently enabled them to leave office as very wealthy persons; even if that meant decimating the lives of ordinary Nigerians in their domain. Many for example, failed to pay state workers their wages in due time, while pocketing hundreds of millions in “security vote”, and jetting around Nigeria and the world, in private or chartered airplanes. In Nigeria, we have seen that greed knows no bounds; this is as true in the north as it is true in the south. We’ve seen depraved heart greed among many Nigerian leaders.
Former Governors, some of who’s states were beneficiaries of robust internal revenues, and who in-spite of their state’s huge internal revenues, plunged their states into trillion naira debts, while approving very significant benefits package for themselves, should be watched very carefully, as greed knows no bounds in Nigeria.
Former Governors who may be facing trial for allegedly misappropriating billions from their states coffers need to be watched closely; as the world is watching as well.
Persons who demonstrate incompetence, or an avowed penchant for greed, pursuant to various factors, may require sharp competent and technically proficient backup appointees to help them deliver. Nigeria needs persons with 21sth Century credentials, garnered from Nigeria and beyond, to assist in setting new standards in Nigeria.
Mr. President must be ready to exercise his oversight powers diligently. He must be ready to fire persons for breaches of public trust. He must lead this nation from the front. We wish him luck.
(Mbonu is Executive Director of Washington-based Nigerian-American Leadership Council)