Finally, "Baba" got going. But what next?

Author:Siollun, Max
Position::Feature: NIGERIA - Muhammadu Buhari

Defeated in three previous elections, many expected Nigeria's new President Muhammadu Buhari to be eager to make up for lost time. But it took him nearly six months to finally appoint his Cabinet, which he did last month. Max Siollun examines Buhari's first few months and what is next for the new government.

Many Nigerians expected Muhammadu Buhari, elected on a "change" platform earlier this year, to appoint a cabinet of trailblazing reformers. Instead, Nigerians waited nearly six months from Buhari's swearing-in to that of his ministers, earning him the nickname "Baba Go Slow" (loosely translated as "the slow moving father").

One cause of this delay is the complexity of Nigerian political horse-trading. Selecting ministers in Nigeria is not as easy as writing down the names of the best-qualified people on a piece of paper. It's more like a Rubik's cube.

The constitution requires the president to appoint at least one minister from each of the country's 36 states. Also, governors and other major power-brokers in states often feel it is their right to appoint the minister from "their" state. To cause additional complications, many states have internal systems of zoning where informal rules state that the governor, the speaker of the state house of assembly and the minister must be from different regions or ethnolinguistic groups in the state. Buhari has also had to deal with one additional factor--his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), is a coalition made up of different parties and interests. The president had to either balance these competing interests in his party or partly neutralise them.

The 36 ministers can be divided into three broad categories. First, are the veterans of Nigerian politics such as Audu Ogbeh, who served as communications and later steel minister in the government Buhari overthrew in his 1983 coup. Secondly, are those close to APC leaders. Thirdly, are technocrats from outside Nigeria's core political sphere.

Getting going

Even without ministers, Buhari has been able to focus on anticorruption measures and has acted decisively in the security sector. In July, he dismissed and replaced the national security adviser, the chief of defence staff, and the heads of the army, navy, and air force, in one fell swoop.

However, Buhari's appointments may have unintended negative consequences. Buhari's new National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (retd.), has already dismissed Dr Fatima Akilu, a...

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