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Political Appointments And A Case For The Politicians



Can We Have 'No Victor, No Vanquished'?

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

The most anticipated events from the two levels of government at Federal and State now are nominations of political appointees. Constitutionally, the president of Nigeria is expected to appoint ministers that will form the Federal Executive Council (FEC), who will oversee the running of government daily. The law requires that each state must be represented by producing a minister, at the minimum. There are other political appointments which are personal to the president, like his Personal Assistant (PA), Special Adviser (SA), Chief of Staff (COS), and so on.

Apart from these, there are thousands of other positions that are required to be filled under the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA). The boards of these government agencies, parastatals, institutions and government-owned companies, with exception of a few, were recently dissolved by President Tinubu and will have to be constituted to make them run effectively and efficiently, in delivering their mandates, in line with the vision and mission of the president, carved in the “Renewed Hope” campaign mantra.

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Similar things happen at the state level. Elections happened in 28 states in the last general elections while off-season elections will take place in the remaining 8 states. There are 10 governors who returned for their second term and 18 newly elected. The governors, just like the president, are required to constitute their cabinets by appointing Commissioners, who will form the State Executive Council (SEC). They are the ones to oversee the duties of government in various Ministries. They also appoint other personal staff, constitute boards of state government agencies, parastatals, institutions and government-owned companies.

At a time like this, Nigerians always have expectations and opinions as to who and who their elected president or governors should appoint into various positions. The discussion always centred on whether the political appointees should be politicians or technocrats. By this division, the prospective appointees are classified in accordance with where they are coming from.

There are people who actively participate in politics. They belong to different political parties as card carrying members. They participate in the parties’ activities from ward level upward. Many of them are full-time politicians, especially those in public offices. Many have their private vocations as employees, business owners and so on. They only get involved in politics on the side.

On the other hand, a technocrat, according to the dictionary, can be defined as “a member of a technically skilled elite”. In Nigerian context, these are people we considered to be apolitical but in corporate world. They are in private sector working as employees or as private business owners, home and abroad, especially those who are in multinational organisations around the world. They are believed to be very competent to have occupied such high-profile positions.

So, when it comes to who to be saddled with the responsibilities of running the country as appointees, many Nigerians, who are not in politics, are quick to call for the appointment of the technocrats, sometimes, at the detriment or disadvantage of the politicians. But, should it be so? Will that be fair and just? To be sincere, I was guilty of same all these years. I reasoned just like everyone else. I was driven by the desperation to get things done with the work ethics and attitude of people in private sector. I believe technocrats, who run private businesses that take no nonsense, if the same mindset and attitude can be brought to public service, will make a lot of difference, and Nigeria will be better for it. This is actually valid. However, “oun t’owa leyin Òffà, o ju Òjé lo”. There is more to being in political office than competence.

Since the coming of the fourth republic in 1999, I have never been as involved and paid as much attention to our national politics as I did this time around since 2022 to 2023 general elections. I have always been interested in political activities in the country as I reckoned early that nothing can work when the politics of any country is wrong. Even if you are in private sector as I have been, your life is impacted one way or another by whatever is happening in public sector, influenced by politics. So, one cannot be insulated from it. So, I follow political events all these years.

However, as we approached another election year in 2022, with politicians throwing their hats in the ring, I paid closer look and more attention to political developments. This was more important, especially since we were having another transition from a sitting president to another one, who would be newly elected. With what Nigeria and Nigerians went through in the last eight years, only those who were benefitting from the troubles that we had to bear, that would have been less concerned. That reflected in how large number of Nigerians became very active, politically. Some joined various parties. Many contested. Many presented candidates and sponsored them.

Massive numbers throw their supports for one candidate or another, campaigned vigorously for their candidates and mobilised votes for them on election days. Many won, many lost. All that are in the past now. Different tribunals are hearing cases of various candidates and parties who lost and decided to challenge the victories of the winners. Therefore, my case was not an exception. Although, as a public commentator, who writes a weekly column, I had to do more than the ordinary man on the street. While I am not a politician, I got to learn so much about what went down behind the curtains. Sincerely, “no be moinmoin”.

It is now that a government is being formed that people think anyone should be appointed, just because he or she is a ‘technocrat’, that’s ludicrous! With what I saw and learnt all through the electoral journey, from before the primaries, to the party primaries, throughout the campaigns and the the general elections, politicians deserve their places in any government they helped bring to power, if we have to be fair. It is like the saying that “a laborer deserves his wage”.

Firstly, Nigerians need to define what they want in governance and from their leaders. We can’t eat our cake and keep it. Do we want good governance and leaders who we can hold to account, or ready to accept whatever we get from leaders who do as they wish, with little or no accountability? This will be determined by the actions, behaviours and attitude of the citizens to aspiring people to political offices. How do we treat them as a people?

Mere showing of interest to contest for any political post in Nigeria today, such a person automatically becomes ‘ATM’ for the people. From party leaders to members. From community leaders to the ordinary people. Every financial problem of each one in these categories becomes that of the aspirant. They are burdened to death, literally. Everyone begins to demand money from them for one reason or another. Such expenditure continues, despite that there is no guarantee for anything. These are about aspirants and those who eventually become candidates who contest.

As they say, “igi kan ko le dagbo se” (a tree does not make a forest). Aspirants will have many other politicians who are families, friends, colleagues and associates, who contribute financially, and otherwise to their aspirations, while campaigning at the party primary level to get the ticket. If the aspirant is fortunate to win the party ticket, then comes the second phase of massive financial expenditure, in addition to expending time and energy during campaigns. The stress involved in political campaigns are beyond the speeches and dancing seen on the podium on the campaign ground. Those efforts cost a lot of money. And who bear them? The candidate and their political associates. They invest heavily in all of these. It costs a lot to win an election in Nigeria. People spend their time, risk their lives, and everything, just to win. And majority of these people are politicians.

So, after they have done all that hard work and won the election, some people will now say they don’t deserve their rewards and should not be appointed? That the president or governor should go to the ‘moon’ to bring some ‘angels’ to form his government because they are ‘technocrats’? That does not make any sense.

Let me make my position clear. I am not against appointing technocrats into government, like I said earlier. It has been my advocacy as well, for years. And as a person too, that’s the category I will fall into as a private sector person who worked in corporate organisations for many years and who is running my personal business for years in the private sector. I am a ‘technocrat’ as well.

However, it is immoral to reap where one did not sow. Many so called technocrats cannot win a single polling unit, even if placed at their door step. It is that bad. In politics, it is all about votes. Votes win election that brings a government to power. So, if a person cannot win votes that will help bring a government to power, to which government does such person expect to be appointed?

My position on this issue is that, politicians should be well compensated for their roles, sacrifices and contributions to win the elections and bringing a person or government to office, while technocrats can be considered based on the discretion of the president or governor. However, being a politician does not mean you must be a mediocre. That is not the kind of politicians I advocate that they should be given appointments, but well qualified and competent ones.

The politician vs technocrat dichotomy is, sometimes, laughable. This is because, many people who are referred to as politicians today or who are in politics, were in private sector as employees and business owners before. Many of them were high-flying personalities in the corporate world before joining politics. Does joining politics suddenly remove those qualifications, capacities and competences from them? Not really.

How many ‘technocrats’ are more qualified and competent than Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, Engr. Seyi Makinde, Professor Babagana Zulum, Engr. Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso, and too numerous others to mention, who are all politicians today? Have being in politics made them less a ‘technocrat’? This is my point.

So, it is not a given that because you are in private sector and have not been involved in politics, make you a performer when appointed to political office. On the flip side, it is not automatic that once someone is a politician, they cannot perform in office. What is actually wrong is our public system. It is the system that, many times, constrains those who get to public offices from performing optimally. Many of such encumbrances are even in the constitution. Example of having to compulsorily appoint a minister from each state. That has constrained the FEC appointees to a minimum of 36. Nothing like wanting to run a leaner cabinet than that.

As I highlighted earlier too, the citizens, themselves, cause the challenges that politicians face when they get to offices. All these money they demanded from them before they could win the primaries, during general elections and later after they get to office, where did it come from? Who will pay them back? Of course, they will have to find ways of recouping their ‘investments’ first, before anything else, with ‘interest’ too.

Also, we all know the amount of pressure that we put on anyone who gets to office or given political appointment. They immediately become ‘public properties’. All kinds of demand, especially financial and patronages, are made of them. How do we expect them to meet up with such? From the same office, using their positions, ofcourse. So, we, as a people, have to make up our minds as to what type of government and leaders we want.

By the way, as presently constituted, to succeed in political office and make long lasting progress and achievements, there is need for good politics to be played behind it, that will stabilise the government and carry people, both within the party and outside, along. Everyone praises Lagos progress in the last 24 years. Fashola’s transformational strides were awesome. But, would it have been as easy without a political stabilising force behind him, having to step on many big toes as he bulldozed his way to infrastructural developments? The big “masquerade” quenching all the sprouting fires was Tinubu, his ‘godfather’. Same with Ambode and Sanwo-Olu. So, politics cannot be divorced from good governance. They complement each other.

There are very sensitive and critical positions that should never be traded for political patronage. The president and governors should headhunt for the best, anywhere in the world, to occupy such positions. They will form the core engine of the government and help leapfrog developments.

Also, the kind of leadership provided by the leader; the president or governor, have much to do will the results that the government will eventually deliver. If a lamb leads lions to war, they might be defeated if they rely on the attitude and direction of the lamb. Same way a lion can be victorous in a war it leads even if its foot soldiers are lambs. With a Tinubu as president of Nigeria, who himself was a ‘technocrat’, and his style of leadership seen from his antecedents, whether you are a politician or a technocrat, you must perform and deliver on your assigned responsibility. This will be a no-nonsense administration, hopefully.

As we await the nominees of the president and in various states, we can only hope for the best. Whether politicians or technocrats, their appointments should be all-inclusive, with women, youths and people with disabilities ably represented. We have well qualified and competent people among these groups. I also emphasised states because they are even more crucial to our development. Unfortunately, we pay less attention to what our governors do while will fixate all our minds on the Federal Government. We are not keeping our eyes on important balls. This should change. We wish President Tinubu, our governors and all our elected lawmakers, success, as they run the affairs of our country.

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

You can follow me on:
Twitter: @lateef_adewole
Facebook: Lateef Adewole
Email: [email protected]
Whatsapp: +2348179512401

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July 15, 2023.


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