President Muhammadu Buhari’s nomination of immediate past service chiefs for non-career ambassadorial positions, seven days after they ‘resigned’ or were relieved of their appointments, is a clear indication that the President accepted their ‘resignation’ grudgingly. He had no intention to remove them but it would seem that the hue and cry for their removal became too loud within and outside the country. One thing we must concede to President Buhari is that he is not impulsive in his appointments. If we look back to 2015, we would remember that it took him over six months to announce a cabinet. It took such rigorous procedure, including security checks and other details, before he constituted his cabinet. Many of those who began with him are still in the cabinet six years down the line, and there is every likely hood that they would exit the office with him. The President is very stable when it comes to appointments. Except for Festus Keyamo, who moved from Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs to Labour in the same capacity as minister of state, Buhari has never removed or even changed any minister’s portfolio. He had fewer ministers in his first tenure when a minister like Babatunde Fashola had three ministeries as his beat, namely, Works, Housing and Power. In spite of comments that the portfolios were unwieldy, the President trudged on with it until his first tenure came to an end. In the second tenure, he enlarged the cabinet and brought such innovative additions as Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy. The cabinet is generally expanded, and it would seem the President hardly sees such appointments as political patronage. He probably looks more at the utilitarian value of such appointees rather than their political influence. The long and short of the matter is that President Buhari hardly removes appointees. That is commendable, given that it makes for continuity. His ministers do not work with the anxiety of instability. They don’t have their heart in their mouth in anticipation that the President could remove them any day he wakes from the wrong side of the bed. His ministers and other members of his cabinet can be certain that their ideas would find vent as contribution to the government.
Stability should not translate to illegality. Those who know have insisted that the continued stay of the former service chiefs borders on illegality. I do not have a handle on the legal points but those who agitated for their removal based their protest on two points; increased insecurity, especially the continued exploits of insurgents and the illegality of their continued stay. The President turned a deaf ear to those allegations, and his aides said it was his discretion to appoint or remove them whenever he pleased. Their exit finally came to be. But the President so loved them that he would not let them go into retirement. They were indispensable in the scheme of things. No one knows how these people have so impressed the President that they could also help cement external relations as ambassadors. Their perks of retirement had hardly been handed to the gallant officers before the President announced that he would allow them serve the nation again as ambassadors. It is a clear sign that they have so impressed the President that he wants them as part of his administration in other capacities. I have heard their defenders say that the President’s move would expose them to the diplomatic workings of other countries and allow them tell those countries the real security issues confronting Nigeria. That argument does not hold water. What new thing would they tell nations of the world about insecurity in Nigeria? What else would they say about Boko Haram insurgency, a security situation that precedes this administration? I see no other reason for the President’s reluctance to let them go. Only the President knows why he would not let them go. They are probably indispensable. If the law allowed him, the President would have kept them in office till he exits. The diplomatic appointments is his way of keeping them in his government, perhaps to show those who stampeded him to remove them that there are other ways of keeping them. I have deliberately refrained from naming names here because the matter is not about the individuals, as they should not turn down an offer to serve their nation in whatever capacity the President deems fit.
The President hardly takes people away from office. We have seen this show in the Inspector-General of Police, whose tenure has lapsed. The President has asked him to continue in office for three months. It rankles that the Minister of Police Affairs says the President needs the time to look for a replacement. When the current IGP assumed office as the 20th Inspector-General on January 15, 2019, his date of exit was already known. The reason that the President needs time for replacement is untenable. It is an extension of the President’s character of keeping appointees as long as possible. He had all the time to have activated the process of getting a replacement before the expiration of the tenure. The minister has indicted himself in that statement because it implies he did not remind that President that the Inspector-General’s tenure was due to lapse when it did, which was why the President did not look for a suitable replacement. Lawyers say he had run against the law in extending the IGP’s stay in office. One of them has gone to court and has sought for expedited action. We await the judge’s verdict on that matter. Since it is in court, no one can confidently say the President’s action is illegal. But the glaring fact is that the IGP’s tenure has been extended by three months. The President never hastens to make appointments, and when he does, he never also hastens to let them go even when their continued stay seems to impinge on the law.