With President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in the February 23, 2019, presidential election announced by INEC, attention has now shifted to who gets what in the next government.
Interestingly, President Buhari has pledged that he would run an inclusive government in his second term, which begins on May 29 this year. The President, who stated this shortly after receiving his Certificate of Return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja, last Wednesday, said the outcome of the election was victory for the country, adding that the next administration would run an open and all inclusive government where all parties would be duly engaged.
“I, therefore, want to assure that we will continue to engage all parties that have the best interest of Nigerians at heart. Our government will remain inclusive and our doors will remain open. That is the way to build the country of our dream; safe, secure, prosperous, and free of impunity and primitive accumulation by those entrusted with public offices,” Buhari said.
The president’s pledge was probably necessitated by allegations of nepotism and lopsided appointments that bogged his first term. He has been severally accused of filling top government positions with his northern kinsmen without recourse to the Federal Character Principle enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution and the ethnic composition of the country.
Although his handlers have repeatedly denied the allegation as unfounded, the opposition he faced towards his re-election, especially in the southern parts of the country could be traced to the issue.
It, therefore, seems the president has decided to listen to the yearnings of those sections of the country that felt sidelined in his first term by promising to run an inclusive government. So, what shape should his next government take?
Secretary-General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), Chief Willy Ezugwu, told Sunday Sun in an interview that Buhari must first of all see himself as the father of the nation. His words: “As far as I am concerned, I have said it times without number that the moment you have won election as President, governor, federal or state legislator, or local council chairman, the right thing to do is that you have to forget about who voted for you and who did not. You have to unite everybody; that is the only way God can hear your prayers. That is the only way God can help you to move the country forward. So, the president as the father of the nation should show Nigerians that those things people are accusing him of such as marginalisation of a section of the country and plotting to Islamise Nigeria are totally unfounded. Let him show sincerity of governance.
“If he is serious that he wants to run an inclusive government, all the positions have to be shared equally according to the zones. If he wants to move Nigeria forward now, let him forget about whether someone is a member of APC, PDP, APGA or what have you and look for real intelligent people that can move the country forward. That’s how he would be able to assemble economic eggheads that can move the country forward. He should use this his second term to do Nigeria proud.”
An elder statesman, who preferred anonymity, also told Sunday Sun that if the president and his party truly want to give the next government a national outlook, they would have to extensively reshuffle the current composition of the government.
He said: “Given the geographical spread of the votes he garnered this time around, every zone in the country deserves an equitable representation in the incoming administration. For instance, in 2015, he got 198,248 votes in the five Southeast states, but this year, he got 403,242 out of the 2, 096, 453 votes cast in the region. Now, the president is from the North West. The Vice President is from Southwest. To compensate the zone for still pitching their tent with him in spite of the opposition that came from groups like Afenifere, the Southwest zone should in addition to the VP position take Speaker of the House of Representatives. For the Northeast, they already have the Chief of Staff, National Security Adviser (NSA), the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) positions and, therefore, should be considered for the position of Deputy Senate President. Also, the Southeast whose voting pattern has improved and now has many senators from APC should produce the Senate President. I say this because the APC cannot give the excuse it gave in 2015 that it has no senators from the Southeast. The party can now boast of prominent senators from the zone coming to the Red Chamber. So, the Southeast deserves to be given their prime of place in the next government. Also the North Central should produce the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives to pacify the zone while the South-South should produce the Leader of the Senate since it is already holding the position of party chairman. The point, however, is that the way these positions are shared will determine the level of sincerity the president attaches to the pledge he has made to Nigerians.”
Meanwhile, it is now public knowledge that the jostling for ministerial and other appointments have started in earnest following a hint, last Thursday, by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, that Buhari might dissolve his cabinet before his May 29 terminal date. Thus, the days, weeks and months ahead will be characterised by a lot of political subterfuge and horse-trading.
But all eyes will be on the president to see whether he would take his integrity a notch higher by fulfilling his pledge of running an inclusive government this time around.