Cabinet reshuffle may be necessary but it should not be about creating jobs for the boys

Responding to mounting pressure from both the big wigs and the rank and file in the ruling all Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari said last week that he would soon expand the Federal Executive Council to accommodate more members to reward their loyalty and contributions to the 2015 presidential election that brought him to power. As part of the appeasement drive, boards of many parastatals dissolved about two years ago would also be constituted with party members given preference in their composition.

While such appeasement policy may have doused the tension that had preceded the APC National Executive Committee meeting, we must quickly reject the idea of expanding the cabinet just to accommodate party members because it represents a disappointing tendency towards opportunism and the usual inclination of the political leadership to sacrifice good governance principles at the altar of expediency.

Faced with a declining economy and the need to cut the cost of governance, the president had in 2015 decided to trim his cabinet from a crowd of 48 to 37 ministers even as the number of ministries were reduced. As he said at the time, he would probably have preferred a leaner cabinet were he not constrained by the 1999 Constitution as amended that compels him to appoint a minister from each state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory. That decision became more imperative as the economy lapsed into recession and government needed to conserve its resources for capital expenditure that would help it out of the woods and impact more positively on the generality of the people.

However, the leanness of the cabinet would appear not to have engendered any concrete advantage as the administration is widely perceived to have underperformed with many Nigerians urging the president to consider a review of his team and weed out the dead woods. Meanwhile, the underperformance of the cabinet might have been worsened by the failure of the administration to constitute the governing boards of a retinue of parastatals that are meant to guide the implementation of policies tailored to engender the much needed good governance.

Without a doubt, therefore, there were strong grounds for the president to rejig his cabinet and fill up vacant parastatal positions. Indeed, many policy analysts and social critics had canvassed this, contending that the administration needed to reboot if it wanted to acquire the capacity to fast-track the delivery of its basic programmes. But rather than harken to the general clamour for a better and more efficient administrative hands, the president has, once again, mismanaged the situation and frittered away an opportunity to regain the confidence of critics who often accuse him of political misjudgement.

Had the president’s reason for the proposed cabinet review and expansion been in tune with the public quest for better governance, he would have been commended. But, as he told the nation last week, he was making the move to appease his political associates who were organising an uprising against him. Regrettably, as we inch closer to the 2019 general elections and with the clear signal that the president wants to contest, the tendency for him to seek political correctness at the expense of good governance would increase.

While we concede President Buhari’s right to fight for his political survival, we disagree that it should be done at the expense of public good. The expansion of the cabinet will lead to the bloating of the executive arm of government and increase the cost of governance in an economy that is just emerging from recession. Besides, there is no assurance that the nation would derive any beneficial value from the exercise since it is motivated by politics of jobs for the boys, which often times leaves us with a situation where square pegs are put in round holes as scant attention is paid to merit.

We, therefore, advise the president to rethink his decision. While a cabinet reshuffle may be necessary, it can be done without bloating its size with political jobbers. Such an exercise should be done in the overall interest of all Nigerians.

The expansion of the cabinet will lead to the bloating of the executive arm of government and increase the cost of governance in an economy that is just emerging from recession