Mr. President’s Next FEC: Between Clientelism and Merit



By Mariam Mohammed


“After each war, comes the season of dividing the spoils. As it were, there is real hustling in the background as to who wants what, who gets what and ultimately, who divides the spoils. Let’s not pretend that politics is not about clientelism. In every clime, in every system, the fact does exist that people expect to be rewarded for their efforts in helping a party gain power. Overtime, we are much aware of how each party tends to use power as an opportunity to reward its supporters. And one such avenue is in appointments whether as ministers, board and commission members and or one position or the other.

It is for this reason that in far advanced democracies, unions and public sector workers are rewarded by the party to the left, while ‘the right introduces corporate welfare, such as the granting of tax breaks or defence contracts.’

Therefore, one can imagine that after the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC), at the federal level, not minding the legal challenge of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, of the APC’s electoral victory, the fact remains that chieftains of the ruling party of every hue and size are angling on how much they expect to get for their ‘efforts’. Did Alexander the Great and even before him, and has continued after him, not divide the spoils of his various victories to keep his war commanders happy?

But it is somewhat different in a democracy, no matter how provincial, of how much patronage government can give to individuals, groups and diverse interests if the core objective is national development. It is in this regard that it is becomes expedient to sound the alarm to President Muhammadu Buhari to carefully weigh the long term objective of his vision against the gathering hawks who are out to get reward for their exertions.

While arguments abound as to the proprietary or otherwise of the ‘spoils system’ there is little argument that it has subsisted through history.

According to political historians, the spoils system was widely used by President Thomas Jefferson, who believed that the policy of keeping rival Federalists out of government offices was germane. So it was that by 1840, it was the norm used in local, state and federal government. Predictably, the United States, failing to create a balance between dividing the spoils of office and merit, fell far behind other nations in civil service standards of ability and rectitude. In 1841, when William Henry Harrison became president, the practice had reached groaning proportions.

Why is it instructive that we interrogate the appointments of the next cabinet of President Buhari? If we are to go by our recent history especially as it has to do with the appointment of ministers and even members of boards and commissions, then there is need for this clarion call that while the president should be seen to want to give members of his party a foothold in his next administration, he should be decisive and act in the common interest on the country. After all, there is little room for any doubt as to his patriotic intentions and how much he agonises about its slow paced development.

One, Nigerians are hopeful that in the first month after being sworn in for second term, President Buhari will unveil over 90 percent of his appointees so that the needed acceleration will not only be maintained but further gained.

In reaching the decision as to those who should serve, the president needs to eschew absolute party loyalty, shun cabal tendencies and especially, be wary of lists from the ‘other room.’

For now, there are too many ‘other rooms’ some filial, some inherently provincial and ideologically twisted. It is these ones the president should turn his back on. The bright spot in the murky politicalscape is that there are individuals in the present set up that can assist the president in reaching decisions that will not turn out to be telling. One is Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. It is a given that he exudes brilliance and understands the need for the APC to indeed deliver on its Next Level Agenda after all when the president by 2023 bids good bye to the corridors of power, he, Osinbajo, still stands a chance to wear the president’s shoes in the whole arrangement of power shift.

So, Osinbajo needs to understand that he needs to be a moderating influence on the overbearing influence of the famed Aso Rock cabal and the overreach of the ‘other room.’

Also, time has shown that every crisis is both an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity for the APC-led federal government is to demonstrate that the majority of votes they garnered at the presidential polls count for something. And that something is to confound the naysayers wrong that indeed the mandate they have is to consolidate, positively, the Change Agenda.

These are by no means those with the right pedigree, there are a sprinklings of ministers and heads of commissions and agencies that have the right temperament that ought to be considered. If anything, the president owe Nigerians the duty to shun members of his close family that imagine that they know better than him in his appointments.

The president needs no reminding that Nigeria is in a race against time and he can, as he is already doing in his first time which has been validated by his victory at the polls, that there are Nigerians with abilities who abound everywhere who if offered the opportunity to serve will do so religiously without being beholden to one small tin god.

If the president looks the other way when lists from the ‘other room’ starts flying around, and capable persons are appointed to high places where policy is made, it is a brainer that the nation’s needs will be met. Will there be war within when this happens, certainly yes. But will the majority count their gains when merit trumps dividing the spoils; that is a certainty.

For now, let the drums beat and let the people dance unto NEXT LEVEL!

––Mariam Mohammed, Public Relations expert/media personality will be sharing her thoughts and insights on contemporary issues on ‘MUSINGs with Mariam’ every Saturday.

Pix: Buhari.jpg