Almost one hundred days after winning elections, governors in the 29 states where elections were held in March are yet to appoint commissioners who would make up, not just the states’ executive council, but also form the think tank for the development of the states’ economy and well being of their people.
This strange and ugly state of affairs is, increasingly, becoming a source of worry to many Nigerians and investors. Concerns are mounting because it seems the governors are imitating President Muhammadu Buhari who has not constituted his cabinet, despite daunting challenges that deserve urgent attention.
Although the delay in appointing ministers after he won election in 2015 has been blamed for the alleged lack-lustre performance of the administration in the first tenure, it appears that no lesson was learnt from the losses incurred by that mistake. It is now over four months after winning the presidential election and the Presidency seems to be dawdling on the critical matter.
Nigeria has been accused of always taking delight in pushing itself into the theatre of the absurd, lagging its peers and dragging its growth. Recall that despite having to waste six months before constituting his cabinet, the constituents of the cabinet were not all that fantastic, evoking the question, “Is it all that have taken the President ages to put together?”
Having delayed before, many Nigerians appeared to have accepted it as his style. But the main concern is that it is impacting negatively on the country in all fronts.
Available records show that Australia had election on May 18, won by Scott Morrison, and on May 26, three days before inauguration, he announced his cabinet that was sworn in on May 29. Narendra Modi of India was sworn in on May 30 and, on May 31, he formed his cabinet, just one day after.
Similarly, South Africa had its election on May 8, 2019; inauguration took place on May 25 and on May 29, just four days after, Cyril Ramaphosa, the new president, formed his cabinet. Senegal is a very small African country that had election on February 24. MackySall who won the election was inaugurated on Tuesday, April 2, and the following Monday, May 8, he set up his cabinet.
But in Nigeria, which had its general election on February 23, 2019; there are no ministers yet.
As bad as this is; as deep as it claws into the economy and as frustrating as it looks to potential investors, local and foreign, who are waiting for clarity and policy direction of government, the state governors are all following suit, only differing by the skeletal appointments of aides who, on comparative analysis, are inconsequential for effective governance. Their jobs begin and end at issuing of press statements and running around the corridors of power.
The commissioners that would help the governors to execute their policies in their various states are not in sight.That the delay cuts across all states of the federation including those of the opposition parties and even returning governors, makes matters worse, begging the question as to where the fangs and corrective disposition that define the opposition in a democracy are.
“What is happening in Nigeria beats the imagination. Why is it that no state governor is setting up his cabinet including those who had been around; I mean the governors who have come back for their second term? Why are the governors produced by the opposition parties not setting example, if anything, to spite the ruling party?” queried Emmanuel Okechukwu, a political commentator.
Okechukwu observed that in a normal democracy, the opposition formed what, according to him, is called shadow government which mirrors all the wrongs of the ruling party by always doing that which is right and in tune with democratic norms.
He described Nigeria as a country where anything goes, saying, “The opposition is as good as dead because they are populated by political jobbers who are ready and willing to accept compromises as reflected in the contraption called ‘Forum of Presidential Candidates’ who gathered recently to support the Independent National Electoral Commission at the electoral tribunal.
“The governors should realise that their continued delay in appointing their commissioners have far-reaching negative implications for the growth of their economy and the welfare of their people. They may seem to be gaining it now by saving the salaries and bogus allowances of the commissioners and their aides, but the action in itself will be counter-productive in the long run.”
Thompson Ekezie, a public affairs analyst, who spoke with BDSUNDAY, described the governors as birds of a feather, and a people united in a single cause- self-aggrandisement.
“Whether they are of the PDP or APC, they are same of a kid. They are birds of a feather. They are united in one single mission of appropriating the commonwealth. If it were not so, why would the governors elected on the PDP platforms not showing a good example? Why would them be busy appointing aides when they should have drawn their cabinet list as soon as they were declared winners of the election? It only goes to show that the political class, irrespective of party affiliation have same mindset, mission and pay lip-service to love of country and the masses,” Ekezie said.
In what seems a defence for governors, a former chief press secretary to a governor told BDSUNDAY on condition of anonymity that constituting a cabinet is something that cannot be done at whim.
“It is very easy to criticise and point finger when one is not at the centre of a game. If you are watching a football match from the sideline, you are likely to see many scoring chances which the players on the pitch are not seeing. I can tell you that it is one of the most trying moments of governors and gives them a serious headache.
You see, there are lots of consultations that go into appointment of ministers or commissioners. It goes beyond announcing names. The wheeling and dealing that go on, and all that. You know, it is a time to share goodies and a lot of things come into consideration. This is politics, not religion. A lot of caution goes into the decision. I am not speaking in defence of anybody, I am just telling you how these things work, because I have been there,” the former CPS said.