President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministers may come in two months at the earliest as the new administration seeks to come to grips with what its officials claim as the rot it inherited.
Insiders in the government claim that this is due to the acute state of affairs of government finances and resources. Consequently, President Buhari would in the next few days, take very painful decisions akin to “pulling off the tooth” of a man without painkillers.
A source close to the President, who made these known to reporters at the weekend, spoke in reference to assertions of the President’s slow take-off as reflected in the failure to appoint key actors of government. The source dismissed suggestions that the activities of government had been crippled on account of the failure to appoint ministers as a blackmail by politicians keen to get into the pie.
Noting what he referred to as a clearly putrid inheritance, the source said Buhari was very determined not to build his government on a “very rotten foundation.”
“You cannot even begin to imagine the situation we have met on ground,” the source who has unfettered access to the President and is one of those presently working with him behind the scenes said.
“Almost everything is in a state of decay. There is absolutely no way the new government can hope to achieve anything long-lasting without first building a new foundation.”
Giving an indication of the likelihood of the President taking some very hard decisions to salvage the country, the source who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity said:
“President Buhari’s plan of action will be likened to that of a doctor who first has to break a poorly set bone afresh, before resetting it to allow for smooth and proper growth.”
Responding to criticism that the President failed to make good use of the period after the election and even one month after his inauguration to put shape to his government, the source said it would be difficult to appoint personnel to offices that no one for now knows would exist or be scrapped.
The President has to prune the number of ministries.
“The president plans to cut down the number of ministries and parastatals. He wants to cut down the cost of running government. He wants to make sure that all the loopholes that enable corruption to thrive are blocked. All these are procedures that require time and careful planning. You cannot do it in a rush.”
The source noted that the President could not have initiated the reforms without recourse to the Ahmed Joda report which he received only on June 12, 2015.
“Remember that he has to make sure that all these are done without any job losses or mass retrenchments,” he said. “All this is not a day’s or one-month job.”
Rebuffing suggestions that the activities of government have been grounded by the failure to appoint ministers, the close associate of the President described it as an act of blackmail from politicians including those from the President’s All Progressives Congress (APC), who want to be fast-tracked into government.
“All these reports and agitations are being fuelled by politicians who want to put pressure on the President,” he said. “They have tried doing it other ways and those haven’t worked. Now, they are trying to use the media. They only want their cronies appointed to ministerial posts anyhow, and they are fuelling the agitation through newspapers.”
The source also noted the crisis in the National Assembly and the adjournment of the Senate till July 21 as another reason why ministers may not be appointed in the next few weeks.
“Look at how they are fighting among themselves. The Senate has now adjourned till July 21. That means no one to scrutinise or approve any ministerial list until the end of July,” he said.
Tasked on the statement by the President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki that the Senate would reconvene to screen ministerial nominees whenever called upon, the source gave the inclination that the President would soon intervene in the crisis that has split the APC caucus in the two chambers of the National Assembly.
“The President wants to walk his talk on stable politics and, being a leader for all, he has a plan for the National Assembly.”
Asked to react to the assertions, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Public Affairs, Mallam Garba Shehu said the account of the President not being in a hurry to appoint ministers until he was set was very correct.