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Ministerial nominees are not recycled – by Okoi Obono-Obla

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The rash of  criticisms that greeted the nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari of his ministerial  nominees in certain quarters chiefly  on the ground that they are old or they had held political offices previously is to my mind totally and completely misplaced and misconceived. 

Critics have come hard on President Buhari for nominating the distinguished Chief Audu Innocent Ogbe because they claim that he had been Minister under the government of the then President Shehu Shagari in 1983 more thirty two years ago. 

The critics sarcastically claim that it is un-becoming for Chief Audu Ogbe to be screened by Senate President, Dr. Olubukola Saraki whose father, late Dr. Olusola Saraki, had screened Chief Ogbe 32 years ago! 

Okoi Obono-OblaI believe such reasoning begs the germane issue of whether or not an experienced technocrat and politician such as Chief Ogbe should be denied the opportunity of bringing his wealth of knowledge and experience to bear at such a time as this in Nigeria where all hands must be on deck to salvage and redeem Nigeria. 

Those who do not know Chief Ogbe from close quarters can dismiss him as ‘old’ but for some of us who had been opportune to work closely with him know that he is as sharp as razor mentally and virile and fit as a fiddle, physically. 

The author, Okoi Obono-Obla

I worked with Chief Ogbe in the Joint Inter Party Merger Committee that negotiated the formation of the All Progressives Congress where we both where members in 2013 and found to my consternation how mentally vigorous and intellectual sound Chief Ogbe was. 

Indeed Chief Ogbe was one of the intellectual power houses of the Joint Inter Party Merger Committee that played a tremendous role in the formation of the APC. 

During the drafting of the manifesto of the APC Chief Ogbe who was the Chairman of the Manifesto Drafting Committee brought his intellectual ism and wealth of political and administrative experience to bear that contributed to the quality and content of the document? 

His technical knowhow and knowledge of how investment in agriculture can be used to expand the economy and create employment opportunities for the country’s teeming young population is a marvel! Chief Ogbe would surely be an asset to the Federal Executive Council; and a bridge between the old and younger generation in the Council.

Undoubtedly Chief Ogbe’s commitment, passion, patriotism and dedication to the development of the country is unimpeachable. I believe for President Buhari to bring a man of uncommon integrity as Chief Ogbe into his government that is on national rescue mission after sixteen years of locust is a welcome development. 

I recall the case of Andrei Andreyevich Gromyko who was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the defunct Soviet Union from the 1950s to the 1980s and nobody in that country argued that he was recycled. The argument by critics that the Ministerial Nominees are old or recycled politicians is not fair. 

Out of the 21 Nominees only about five or so are ex-Governors and ex-Senators! But when did someone being an ex-disqualify such a person from being appointed a Minister? The qualification for a ministerial appointment is spelt out in the Constitution just the same as for the President, Vice President and membership of the National Assembly.

 The Constitution did not say that old age or the holding of previous political office bars anybody from becoming President or Vice President or membership of the National Assembly. But I know the List of Ministerial Nominees also contain a lot of fresh hands and those who have never held political office. 

I know Barrister Abubakar Malami [SAN] has never held public office. He has never been a governor or senator. He is also young. 

I know Dr Osagie Ehanire has never held public office. He is a sound and successful medical practitioner in his own right! 

I know Barrister Adebayo Shittu. He is great lawyer who has been in legal practice for a long time although he had a brief stint as Attorney General of Oyo State. He cannot be tagged a recycled politician! He is a technocrat in his own right! 

I know Engineer Suleiman Adamu as a brilliant engineer of many years standing. He cannot under any stretch of the imagination be tagged as recycled politician or an old hand. He is young and a technocrat that will surely bring his wealth of experience in private engineering practice to whatever ministry is assigned to him. 

I know Senator Hadi Sarki has never held public office apart from his membership of the House of Representatives and Senate. He is a young man from whatever prism you look at him. He is a professional Pilot! 

I know that Ibrahim Jibrin is another sound technocrat that has a dazzling and brilliant career in the public services of the Federation and Nasarawa State. He is a fresh hand in any ratification.

I know Amina Mohammed is an international Civil Servant in her capacity as an adviser to the Secretary General of the United Nations Organisation. She is virile and mentally and intellectually sound and no fair minded person would dismiss her as an old hand or recycled politician! 

Are the critics suggesting that a young and vibrant man with a first brain and international exposure such as Dr. John Fayemi is not eligible to be appointed Minister because he is a former Governor?  We cannot afford to exclude a certain generation of political leaders from participation in governance on the lame excuse that they had consistently held public office! 

It would amount to breach of the Constitution to discriminate against certain class of people because they had held public office or on account of age! The young people cannot even argue that they are not carried along in the running of the affairs of the country. 

I even think young people dominate in the membership of the House of Representatives, State Assemblies and the Local Government system in the country. So it is preposterous for anybody to suggest that young people are marginalised in political governance of the country. 

I think every strata or segment of the population ought to be involved in the political governance of the country so any suggestion that previous political office holders or recycled people or old people should not be appointed is untenable. 

By now we should know that the determinant of leadership is not age but vision, foresight, integrity and commitment. Have we not seen that the leaders that transformed China from an economic backward and feudal outpost sixty years ago to an economic power house were recycled or old!

Okoi Obono-Obla


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