Since he was elected in March, President Muhammadu Buhari has been working hard to choose those he would work with to deliver his campaign promises, at least, in the next four years.
The task of choosing ministers is never an easy one in Nigeria or in any other parts of the world for political and technical reasons.
Considering that Buhari was elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, he is duty-bound to protect the interest of the party that got him to power at all times. This is because he has become the leader of the party. He must deal with crises that may arise from within the party. His choice must also take into consideration the fact that there will be elections in the next four years.
In choosing ministers who are, more often than not, party members, the President must identify potential conflict that his appointments may cause so that that party’s unity is preserved ahead of the next general elections. In doing this, the President should look out for persons with a history of party loyalty. In Nigerian politics, people with long years of party loyalty are rare. Since the President is the leader of the party, he must defend the party ideology and manifestoes, by appointing party men and women into his cabinet for the formulation of policies, guidance and implementations.
The second factor the President must consider is that apart from being just the party leader, he is the father of the nation. In some cases, he may want to look outside the party for some appointments when it appears no party member is thoroughly suited for a particular portfolio. He can find loyal technocrats to head ministries like Finance, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Education, and Science and Technology that must not be left for ‘professional politicians’.
The 1999 Constitution contains a provision known as the Federal Character principle, under Section 14(3) which states, “…to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from few states or a few ethnic or other groups in government or in any of its agencies”. This simply means that he must appoint ministers for at least two-thirds of the 36 states of the federation. This is to ensure that all ethnic groups are fully represented in the administration.
Apart from the constitutional provision, appointing people from different geopolitical zones of the country is just another votes-winning strategy the President may want to employ. It cannot be assumed that the party or the President will not be interested in consolidating on covering more areas or zones in the next election. The administration must be able to at least have a fair representation across the country.
There are certain instances when the President appoints some cabinet members due to special needs. For example, the Ministry of Niger Delta, is to be headed by a person from the Niger Delta by the law that created that ministry. The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation must be occupied by a professional lawyer. The Minister of Women Affairs cannot be a male. The President must look for persons with these qualifications to occupy these positions.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the choice of the President’s cabinet will in no small ways make or mar the lives of Nigerians at least in the next four years. This is why the President must display deliberate wisdom in his choice of his cabinet this month as he promised some days ago in Ghana.