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From IBB’s little niche
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan has sworn in most of his ministers. As an indication that he is in a hurry to start off his new administration, he performed the first swearing-in ceremony on a Saturday, barely 48 hours after the first batch of nominees was screened and cleared by the Senate. He could have waited for all the 42 nominees to be approved before performing the swearing-in. But he correctly judged the mood of Nigerians who are itching for concrete movements from an administration that they have come to place so much confidence in its potential to engender a new lease of life. It may be safe to say now that gradually, the administration is taking shape, after what must have been a tortuous time for the president over how best to select members of his cabinet.
For many Nigerians, the process of selecting the ministerial nominees has been painfully slow. However, the delay is not unexpected, given the peculiarity of Nigeria’s political situation with various centripetal and centrifugal forces exerting different demands. It would have been a manifestation of high degree insensitivity, if Jonathan had completely ignored them. It would also have been contrary to reason for him to have sat back alone in his office and draw up the list, even if the buck stops on his table.
Expectedly, the period between his election and the submission of the nominees to the National Assembly was for consultation and it apparently provided the various interest groups with the necessary opportunity to make their inputs, even though they obviously could not all have been satisfied. It is virtually over now; he can now give vent to his much-touted “hitting the ground running.”
Not surprisingly though, the manner of the composition of the cabinet and Jonathan’s style of leadership have drawn reactions from various Nigerians, including former military dictator, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Even though IBB’s outburst on the president recently was not specifically on the ministerial appointments as it dwelt more on the brief arrest of former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the nuances of his language betrayed the emotions of somebody seething for being left out in the evolution of the new Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led federal administration.
Apart from suggesting that Jonathan has no mind of his own, IBB also sulked about “a whole body of people out there who are not happy with happenings in the country,” and Jonathan’s duty “to reach out to them and make his mission understandable to the common man on the street so that they can buy into his government.”
He alleged that Jonathan pandered to the desires of his “aides” or “sycophants” and ordered the arrest of el-Rufai. IBB obviously realised that he could be tasked on the sudden public display of emotions, when his status accords him unrestricted access to Jonathan and therefore sought to rationalise by claiming that he did it to give Nigerians the opportunity to appreciate the challenges the president was facing. But his action looks more like an attempt to bring the president to public ridicule.
The former leader may be entitled to his opinion, which should necessarily be valuable to anyone at the helms of the nation’s affairs. But there is a question mark on his sincerity. Since his failure to clinch the PDP’s presidential ticket, it would appear that the former soldier has conscripted himself into the opposition fold and now sees wrong in every step taken by the PDP government. Who in this country will forget how IBB treated dissent in his time? This is not to take anything away from the former leader. But IBB has now settled in his comfortable little niche, forgetting the massive political corruption that marked his incipient authoritarianism.
As a person familiar with the workings of security agencies, IBB may need to ask himself whether it is necessary for security agents to invite and question somebody over that person’s reckless claims that may have grave implications on the peace and security of the country. He may also wish to remind himself whether it was every arrest relating to state security that he approved as president before it was carried out.
Above all, he should remember that even though he is a latter day democrat, no matter his effort, history will record him as a former military dictator.