Three weeks after his second term inauguration, President Muhammadu Buhari has been unable to name the ministers that would drive his Next Level agenda, and this delay is already causing anxiety among Nigerians.
Those who spoke with Daily Independent at the weekend said they had expected the president to hit the ground running after his swearing in.
They expressed fears that the absence of ministers could stall governance in critical sectors and further damage the already bad economy.
After his inauguration in his first term on May 29, 2015, it took almost six months for President Buhari to constitute his cabinet. Foreign investors who were unsure of the direction of the government fled the country, leading to capital flight.
Buhari was criticised for taking so long to name his ministers at a time when the economy was severely hit by the fall in global oil prices.
The country was believed to be rudderless during the period the country operated without a Federal Executive Council in place and the economy was badly damaged during the period.
When eventually the list was made public in September 2015, there was a public outcry and disenchantment as President Buhari was seen to have come up with people some saw as square pegs in round holes and known faces of persons who were already being speculated for the positions.
While defending his choice, the president had said the delay in the appointment of ministers was partly due to the manner in which he took over power from former President Goodluck Jonathan and the need to reorganise government structures by his administration.
Speaking with Daily Independent, Chief Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said based on the various promises made during his inauguration, he expected the president to quickly come up with a strong cabinet that would help him drive his objectives.
“What I am looking at now is to watch out for the next few days to see the kinds of people that will be appointed to drive the ship of state and the president needs to do that urgently because expectations are high,” he said.
Peter Obi, vice-presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general elections, said leaders who were serious did not waste time to form their cabinets.
Speaking with journalists in Lagos at the weekend, Obi called on President Muhammadu Buhari to unveil his team as soon as possible.
Obi challenged Buhari to emulate President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, who announced his cabinet members three days after taking the oath of office, as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India who unveiled his team within the week of his inauguration.
“These are serious leaders who are ready to move their countries forward. Imagine forming their cabinets within one week of being sworn in.
“Can you compare them with what is happening here in our country? I have always said it, that for our country to move forward, it must change its current compass,” he said.
Obi also said Nigeria had so many bad role models masquerading as leaders, adding that the country was in a “total mess” because of leadership failure.
He accused Buhari’s administration of plunging Nigeria into a debt of over N11 trillion “despite having nothing to show” for its time in office.
Barrister Gani Taofik, the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State, said while the delay by the president in constituting his cabinet was worrisome, he was afraid the ministers who would be named would still be the same faces Nigerians had been seeing.
Gani Taofik said: “While I don’t understand why there is a delay, I don’t expect anything significant as majority of the out gone ministers will be retained. We all remember how former President Olusegun Obasanjo brought in technocrats who are not even PDP members into government.
“Now, the president is talking about lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in another 10 years when he will leave government in the next four years. Who is fooling who? President Buhari is fixed to APC, hence no committed minister will emerge.”
On his part, Babatunde Osinkolu, the Director-General of the Buhari/Osinbajo Campaign Organisation in Ekiti State in the last general elections, said he expected the president to quickly assemble his cabinet so as to consolidate the gains recorded by the government during the first term.
“The president must consolidate on these gains by making sure that he appoints the ministers as soon as possible.
“In the first term, it took the president almost six months to constitute his cabinet and this, in a way, constituted serious impediments and slowed down governance.
“So, we expect him to constitute his cabinet within one or one and half months, and then hit the ground running. He should also appoint the right people, I mean, putting square pegs in square holes.
“The president is also expected to bring in technocrats to help politicians in strategic positions to achieve the agenda of government and take the country to the next level.”
However, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), said on Monday that there was nothing for Nigerians to worry about over the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to constitute his cabinet almost three weeks after he was inaugurated for second term in office.
Speaking with Daily Independent, Sagay said there was no need to worry as the nation was still in the early days of the administration, especially as the National Assembly, which would screen the ministerial nominees, was inaugurated only last week.
He also advised the president to take his time and do diligent background checks on the nominees before forwarding their names for screening.
“What are Nigerians worrying about? Nigerians will always have something to worry about. When was the National Assembly inaugurated? That was just a week ago.
“So, there is nothing to worry about. It’s better to be thorough, make your enquiries, get all the recommendations, study reports about the ministerial nominee before selecting him and forwarding names.
“I think we are in very, very early days. There is nothing to worry about in the formation of the cabinet,” he said.