The FEC They Want
Nigerians advise President Goodluck Jonathan on the quality of persons he should appoint into the new Federal Executive Council, FEC
With the successful conduct of the 2011 presidential election and declaration of Goodluck Jonathan as winner, attention has now shifted to the composition of the impending cabinet. Who and who will make up the new cabinet and will they be able to rise up to the challenges of fixing the many problems besetting Nigeria? Already, many political jobbers and their godfathers, desperate to continue with the old culture, have begun the process of lobbying for political appointments. It was learnt that Jonathan has so far received no less than 300 nominations for consideration for appointment as ministers. But not a few Nigerians want the president to cast sentiment aside in his choice of who should occupy the top government positions. The president, they say, needs to be thorough as he begins the process of assessing and selecting those he thinks will assist him fulfill his electoral promises to the Nigerian people.
During his campaigns, Jonathan promised to, among others, reform the power sector, fix dilapidated roads, create jobs, improve the educational facilities and halt insecurity. The challenges are huge and daunting and this explains why many Nigerians have expressed their desire to see proven performers, including professionals and technocrats, appointed to leadership positions, people who could be trusted to make the difference in governance.
Boniface Chizea, a public policy analyst and financial consultant, said the kind of people Jonathan appoints as ministers and special advisers will determine the direction his government will take. Whether the cabinet will be made up of politicians and technocrats, what matters to Chizea is to have people of courage and integrity as members of one of the nation’s top decision making bodies. “We want people who can look the president in the face and tell him the truth. They must be people of proven record who have run an organisation properly,” Chizea said. He explained that certain ministries like agriculture, finance, education, health, power and mining should be headed by professionals who would bring their skills and experience to the table.
In this respect, Chizea wants Jonathan to emulate Olusegun Obasanjo who, during his time as president, appointed the likes of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili and Chukwuma Soludo as ministers and advisers. This view was reiterated by Emeka Ugwu-Oju, who is the president, South-East, South-South Professionals. He advised the president to take a cue from Obasanjo and appoint professionals into his cabinet. To achieve this and take Nigeria to the next level, Ugwu-Oju wants Jonathan to guard against being distracted by political godfathers and ethnic bigots. “He should choose patriotic Nigerians who will deliver. He should not allow governors to dictate to him, those who will constitute his cabinet since he does not dictate to them who they should appoint as commissioners,” Ugwu-Oju told Newswatch.
Simon Arabo, a newly elected member of the House of Representatives representing Kauru Federal Consituency, wants the president to elect capable hands to assist him run the affairs of the country. Such nominees, he advised, should be selected strictly on merit. Arabo further said that although it is not unlikely that Jonathan would be under pressure from those who supported his presidential ambition, he should know how to balance the political angle in order to meet the yearnings of the people.
Olatunji Shelle, secretary, People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Lagos State, wants Jonathan to appoint credible people with track records of achievement who had not been indicted of corruption, into the cabinet. The PDP secretary expects that the cabinet should be a mix of technocrats and politicians. He suggested that one’s ethnic background should not be a consideration for appointment. “The ethnic background of the person does not matter. What matters is for the person to be able to deliver,” he said. According to him, Jonathan is consulting widely and he’s hopeful he would be able to select the right candidates into the cabinet after May 29.
His view is not much different from that of Chudi Chukwuani, national chairman of the National Democratic Party, NDP. He believes that any responsible government should surround itself with people of high moral standing who are also knowledgeable about public life. “ Good people, not self centred ones who go there to loot resources,” he said.
Mohammed Tukur, the assistant secretary of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, also wants to see the new cabinet made up of good people. He believes that Jonathan should have no problems selecting the right team, given his experience garnered over the years. To Tukur, the challenge should not be limited to just appointing a technocrat. The civil service where corruption is a way of life should also be reformed.
Segun Olusola, Nigeria’s former ambassador to Ethiopia, said a technocrat is one who is able to deliver on his assignment. “University professors, teachers and pastors, the moment they are invited to serve Nigeria as ministers, they become technocrats.” He added that Nigeria has a pool of such talents to choose from and that it is left for the politicians to do the right thing. “We would like to appeal to politicians to advise the president right because the politicians know where these technocrats are.”
On how best to reward politicians who might feel they deserve to be appointed ministers, Olusola replied: “ If I were Mr. President I would put my ideas to my inner caucus of politicians, and say to them, thank you very much. We have co-operated and I have been elected. You have done very well. Gentlemen and ladies, now is the time to perform the role of running the country. These are my ideas, what are yours. Table the problems of Nigeria before them, these are the problems of Nigeria, how do you think we can solve them.” Such rubbing of minds might be helpful. In fact, Edwin Clark, an Ijaw leader and known supporter of Jonathan, believes that the president would best assemble a great team if he consults widely. “I think the President should make wide consultations throughout the country. He has a lot of good and credible people to consult.”
Such consultation, he said, will lead to the engagement of idealistic men and women who could be trusted to deliver on their assignment. That way, the President’s job would become less tasking and he would be able to deploy his time well, given the numerous tasks awaiting his attention in the various sectors.
“By employing technocrats, people who are competent, people with focus and foresight who have the interest of Nigeria at heart, people who will not allow themselves to be corrupt, the President will be only concerned with the responsibility of making general supervision,” and not be involved in the day to day running of the affairs of the ministries.
On the possibility of certain ministers in the current dispensation being retained, Clark said such a scenario is not unlikely. “The president has worked with them for more than a year, some of them for about two years. He knows them closely, so he will know those he will pick.” As far as he is concerned, Jonathan’s mandate cuts across region, tribe or religion, and so whatever decision the President will take should be in the overall interest of all Nigerians.
Perhaps, at no time have Nigerians been more concerned about the shape of things to come, with regards to the nation’s cabinet. There is a high level of expectation among the populace. Arabo said: “It is a good thing that people are beginning to express their minds on who they think should be appointed as minister or some other top government position.” The implication of this is that public office holders would feel the pressure to work for the people. And working hard to transform Nigeria is what Jonathan himself has severally promised. Days after emerging president, Jonathan announced his plan to set up an “all inclusive government.” That, in the view of Eddie Iroh, former director-general of Radio Nigeria, “is perhaps the best news to come out of post election Nigeria.” He believes that “such a government would kill several birds with one stone” and the “first is that it would enhance the process of healing and reconciliation that a divisive and bloody election compels; the second is that it would open up the administration to the best and brightest talents the nation can offer, irrespective of political leaning. Third, and above all, President Jonathan would be the first beneficiary of such a “coalition of the capable.” And if Jonathan succeeds as a result of it, Nigeria succeeds.”
Reported by Chris Ajaero, Tobs Agbaegbu, Anza Phillips, Emmanuel Uffot, Dike Onwuamaeze, Augustine Adah, Ishaya Ibrahim and Anayo Ezeugwu