Here is my radical suggestion: President-elect Muhammadu Buhari should pick the smartest people he can find for his cabinet. With the presidential election finally over, it is now time for President-elect Buhari to complete his most difficult challenge: select a cabinet that not only satisfies the demands of his APC colleagues, but also one that garners the approval of majority of Nigerians.
The purpose of a cabinet is to monitor various departments of Nigeria’s government without the president having to be involved in every aspect. The president’s main advisory body is his cabinet. Brilliance has never been the criterion in our presidential cabinet appointments. Instead, cabinet appointments have been based solely on rewarding friends and backers, and appeasing industry and interest groups.
With the economy in shambles and disdain for Nigerians increasing throughout the world, we have become concerned over whom Buhari will choose for his cabinet. We’re very interested to see who Buhari will surround himself with. This will make or break his presidency. We’ll like to know where the economy and general direction of the country is headed.
Buhari having little experience in civilian government, is expected to surround himself with very qualified individuals that can help rebuild Nigeria in all areas of governance. Inventing a lawless jungle ruled by mobs whose infrastructure is non-existent or decrepit, or damaged and in a desperate need of rebuild or repair, Nigerians look toward Buhari’s appointment of cabinet members as a sign of change.
Buhari should demonstrate the ability and the foresight to move this reluctant nation forward by avoiding appointing many retreads into his cabinet. Buhari doesn’t need a cabinet full of undisciplined prima donnas. Buhari should appoint people with greater weight of intellectual acumen and subject-specific knowledge of positions. This is necessary because of the depth of the problems we face as a nation. More importantly, to assist and guide the president in crucial decision-making process.
Buhari needs intellectually confident people with creative and engaging ideas, people who are inclined to pragmatism. In short, his cabinet should mirror a FDR-style brain-trust. And Buhari is going to need one. The issue starts with the treasury – where the best of the best should watch over our money. As the economy suffers daily and dearly, we look to Buhari’s pick of finance minister to be a very important one.
The choice of a finance minister is crucial to the economy to rebound. This is probably the most important post in Buhari’s new administration. We need a brilliant international economist who will handle problems of liquidity, solvency, and injection of capital into our shaky banking and financial institutions.
Many Nigerians have shown concern regarding the fact that residents of foreign countries view Nigerians with despise. As a result, we feel that Buhari’s pick of foreign minister is a very important one. In the foreign affairs department, Buhari would need someone who has a quick and supple mind, organizing prowess, understands all the issues, knows the leaders, and has a proven record as a diplomat.
One of the problems that a president faces, is how to get his staff to do what he wants them to do. They might have different priorities to the president once appointed to a position and no one would necessarily know what interest groups influence individuals in the Executive office. Therefore, the genius principle should also be applied to the lesser departments.
At a time of peril that we’re in, we need strong men and women as ministers that will combine four characteristics: trust, loyalty, stamina, and intellectual ability serving the president with candor and loyalty, over 18 hours a day for six or seven days a week, clarifying policies and political options in briefing papers where they distill conflicting opinions from numerous agencies across government within and without Abuja.
Qualities of the ministers should include people who possess high competence, sensitivity, empathy, compassion, kindness, honesty, great physical vigor and a passion for excellence. It must be a well-oiled, more confident executive machine with no daylight between gears.
Buhari should surround himself with people who can argue with him and question his assumptions. Better still, people whose temperaments differ from his. Abraham Lincoln came to power when the US was in peril. He had the intelligence, and the self-confidence to know he needed the best people who were leaders in their own right and who were very aware of their own strengths.
“The American Presidency will demand more than ringing manifestos issued from the rear of the battle,” warns President John F. Kennedy, “it will demand that the President place himself in the thick of the fight; that he care passionately about the fate of the people he leads …” Buhari will be off to a fantastic start with Kennedy’s advice.
Buhari should have the courage to appoint people who can serve as gladiators and engage in the great moral and political battles of our time that have dogged our nation for 54 years.
Will Buhari stack his cabinet with yes-men or women? With recycled sycophants, dead woods, political appendages, defective and disabled minds from previous administrations since independence in 1960?