Thursday, 1 October 2015

Buhari’s New Ministers: The Cleanest Among Our Politicians

Buhari’s New Ministers: The Cleanest Among Our Politicians

Buhari’s cabinet: Cleanest dirty shirts in the laundry? (1)
In a bid to ensure that Nigeria is in safe and secure hands for socio-economic and political regeneration promised during his campaign, President Muhammadu Buhari has spent the better part of four months into his new administration scurrying around the country for Nigerians, incorruptible and professionally competent, to serve in his cabinet.

For a country located at the bottom of the Transparency International, global corruption perception rating index, finding 36 good men and women to fit the lofty expectations of the President in consonance with his high integrity persona is akin to identifying the cleanest dirty shirts in the laundry.

Although the task is as arduous as seeking for a needle in a hay stack, it would appear that Buhari
may be on target to accomplishing his mission as he prepares to roll out the list of the change agents that l would like to refer to as his economic “husband men” anytime from now.

Already, security agencies have put the potential candidates in the crucible and quite a number of names floating around in the main stream and social media seem to have passed the litmus test.

In a country where people are judged based on ethnic bias and religious inclination rather than from the prism of their character and content, the President, the All Progressives Congress and indeed Nigerians should brace themselves for the flurry of criticisms that would trail the official release of the names of the “few good men” to the National Assembly for scrutiny and approval as ministers.

One way of vitiating the associated agony and stress is for Buhari to take solace in the wise counsel of the philosopher, John Adams, that, “Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organisations of haters”.

The quote above underscores the fact that political hate is not peculiar to Nigeria.

While the aphorism that one can never be prepared enough holds true in almost all instances, a counter strategy against the aforementioned onslaught of ethnic jingoists and religious bigots that would seize the media space to literarily slay the President as soon as the list is released, may not be a media management masterstroke. But suffice it to say that the initiative would evince similar benefits realisable when measures are put in place to mitigate an anticipatory response to an uncommon policy.

By that l mean that President Buhari’s spokesmen and the APC’s reputation managers should proactively hedge against any backlash by preparing upfront, information underpinning the principles behind the choice of the candidates and the values they are bringing to the table.

As image and crisis managers would agree, the efficacy of pre-emptive actions is undeniable and one way of justifying the appointments is by engaging their principal, rigorously in dialogues that would elicit reasons for his choice of the candidates for the cabinet positions-professionally, ethnically and religiously. In a highly polarised country where divisive factors such as the tongue, tribe and worship pattern of candidates were freely used as commodity, currency and fuel during campaigns for the general election, appointments into public offices have assumed an equally combustible dimension, so one can never be too careful.

For instance, two of the recent appointments made by President Buhari that generated the most public opprobrium are the military service chiefs and his choice of the Secretary of Government of the Federation and the Chief of Staff. While the appointment of his Chief of Staff and the SGF were later explained, he chose people he can trust having worked with the appointees over the years which was deemed treasonable, his explanation that professionalism was purely the criterion applied in choosing the top brass of the three arms of the armed forces- Army, Navy and Air force- has been received with scepticism. Dissenters believe that it is unlikely that in the entire armed forces of Nigeria, no South-East or South-South candidates were qualified enough to fit the bill.

Against the foregoing background, it would be deft if detailed professional competence and political balancing factors that came into play in selecting the proposed cabinet members are availed members of the public to enable them judge for themselves, the rigour invested in the exercise by Mr. President and how altruistic his intentions are.

The idea that the National Assembly should also be furnished with the proposed portfolio of the list of nominees being sent for clearance( recently canvassed in an editorial by a newspaper) should also be given due consideration as such facts could serve as public enlightenment that could take the wind off the sail of critics or those who may have some axe to grind.

As we all know, putting a round peg in a round hole can hardly attract sustainable criticism and fundamentally, facts are antidotes to rumour mongering.

Expectedly, there would be the tendency for some hawkish advisers to contend that Mr. President does not owe Nigerians such a detailed explanation, but such people would be misguiding him because the ultimate objective of any good politician is to carry the populace along in his policies and programmes. In my experience from studying politicians over the years from Winston Churchill’s (1940-45 and 1951-55) war time exploits in Great Britain encapsulated in his “Battle of Britain” speech to the parliament before the war against Germany; Franklin Delano Roosevelt, (1933-45) “New Deal” to Americans during the Great Depression and Deng Xiaoping’s (1978-92) introduction of “Four Modernisations” in China after the Cultural Revolution, nothing engages the mind of a great politician and leader more than how to get his voting stakeholders to buy into his programmes and policies.

To achieve that objective, a lot of what is today referred to as Emotional Intelligence had to be invested.

Emotional Intelligence being the ability to recognise one’s own and other people’s emotions is the skill required to better understand, empathise and negotiate with others.

Churchill relied on it in Great Britain, when he made the famous speech to parliament that Brits should prepare for “the battle of Britain” that enabled the country hold out against Germany and thus led them out from the brink of defeat to victory; Roosevelt deployed it in the USA when he re-established hope during the Great Depression through his pursuit of the three Rs policy of Relief, Recovery and Reforms conveyed in the New Deal and Xiaoping adopted it in China when after the calamitous Cultural Revolution, he had to deftly negotiate with the communist party leadership to allow a bit of openness in order to introduce the “Beijing Spring” that allowed criticism of government and enabled him pursue the policy of “ Four Modernisations” which entailed the opening up Chinese economy to foreign investments in the economy, agriculture, scientific and technological development and national defence.

Now, Buhari had mentioned in his Chatham House presentation last February that one event that significantly inspired his change of ideology from autocracy to democratic system of governance is the fall of the Soviet Union. So, l assume that he has abiding interest in the history of how nations leap forward or collapse. That’s why l choose England, the US and China as references in my analogy as models for success.

To be concluded