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Ministerial Screening

Posted: Oct 13, 2015 at 12:17 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

As the screening of President Mohammadu Buhari’s ministerial nominees is underway in the Senate, expectations are high that the exercise will reflect the thoroughness which the present mood of the nation demands. This is the first time in Nigeria’s history that the issue of who becomes a minister is generating the level of profound public discourse the country is currently witnessing. People have raised the stakes in every issue of national interest because of their quest for a rebirth in the way critical matters are handled. The question of who becomes a member of Buhari’s cabinet has been a matter of conjecture since May 29 when the President took over the mantle of leadership and the time has come for all the nominees to be unveiled alongside their qualities.

Since the slogan of this administration is change, Nigerians do not expect this screening exercise to be business as usual. The question of asking a ministerial nominee to just appear before the Senate and take a bow must not arise; it is disrespectful to Nigerians who deserve to know their representatives inside-out. We have carefully noted that over the years, nominees have been given bland screening with a lot of assumptions. Some of them were screened from the point of their party loyalty, assumed popularity and general intelligence, such that their appearance before the senate became a mere formality. That should not happen this time if we truly desire different answers to burning national questions.

The first step towards ensuring thoroughness in the on-going exercise is to ensure that nominees are screened against their would-be portfolios. Conducting general evaluation of nominees’ credentials and past records is not a guarantee for effectiveness in office. This is why we call on the Senate to demand from the President the portfolios earmarked for all nominees so that they could be assessed accordingly. No one credential can answer all questions; although we agree that the President reserves the prerogative to choose who he works with as long as he follows the constitutional provision that guides his selection. Still, he needs to let the public know the ministry he proposes to give to each person. That will assist the Senate in embarking upon a thorough exercise that can justify a person’s nomination. The traditional practice of sending names to the Senate for screening without attaching their intended portfolios does not give the country the best in the end. It simply empowers the President to designate approved nominees to offices in accordance with his whims.

It is not surprising then that different sections of the country had in the past demanded juicy portfolios from the president for their people. That was myopic and indicative of negative societal values which only serve as national embarrassment. We condemn the practice vehemently and demand that it must not be permitted to continue. This time, the world is watching and it is heartwarming that Buhari has won remarkable goodwill for Nigeria presently. But the goodwill can subsist only if he works with the right ministers. The Senate therefore is culpable if wrong people are approved for ministerial posts. If the EFCC and ICPC can vouch for the nominees’ integrity, the Senate should be able to vouch for their level of intelligence in their areas of specialization. Nigeria wants the best now and not mediocres because the socio-economic situation of the country requires the services of geniuses to manage.

We observe that the ministerial list has taken so long to come into the open because the President wants people with clean hands in his cabinet. That is desirable even though it appears tantamount to looking for a living soul in the grave. What should be paramount is for the Senate to do a thorough job on the list at hand, and we advise all state Houses of Assembly to follow suit when screening people for positions of commissioners. This is the only way Nigeria can make meaningful progress.