#TheList: Four Critical Questions for Ministerial Nominees
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#TheList: Four Critical Questions for Ministerial Nominees

Samuel Ogundipe

This week, Nigerians will finally breathe a sigh of relief when Senate President Bukola Saraki ultimately opens an historic envelope he received on behalf of the entire Senate amidst fanfare last week Wednesday.

The envelope, both the senator’s and the president’s offices claimed, contained a list of about 21 individuals whom President Muhammadu Buhari finally zeroed-in on during his quest for distinguished cabinet members.

For Nigerians and foreigners who have business interests in the country, it’s been a long wait, as Mr. Buhari has not only failed to form his cabinet since he assumed office on May 29, he has, in a similar vein, repeatedly warned Nigerians that he was not in a hurry to do so.

Senate hearings on the president’s nominees put the would-be ministers on notice. Sometimes, however, the senators’ vetting of some nominees can take preposterous dimensions.

More often than not, senators are disposed to the prosaic parlance of asking candidates to “bow and go.” The positive posture that the last general elections accorded Nigeria’s political system should proscribe this.

The Senate President agreed this much when he said all Nigerians would be proud of the outcome of the screening exercise.

For this to materialise, here are four random questions the senators must ask the nominees:

  • On November 11, 2011, former President Goodluck Jonathan said, “I can assure Nigerians and the global community that Boko Haram will soon be a thing of the past.” He reassured Nigerians of this throughout his tenure. At the time, the number of deaths blamed on Boko Haram was less than 2000, according to Infowars. Today, the sect has killed more than 12,000, over 1,500 of which happened under President Buhari’s leadership. The economic consequences of Boko Haram have been equally difficult to quantify. Buhari himself has made repeated promises that he will defeat Boko Haram by the end of 2015. Question: What do you think is the best approach to eliminating the barbaric sect?
  • This year is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, which began the slow, serpentine progress to our contemporary panoply of rights, including the rights of those accused of serious crimes.  From undue government interference in judicial process to extra-judicial killing and torture by the police, allegations of infringement on fundamental rights of Nigerians are ubiquitous across the country today. Another strange dimension that has become palpable in the nation’s judicial process is the new presumption of innocence which is now that an accused is guilty until disproved by the court. How do you ensure that the rights of Nigerians are protected and errant law enforcement agents who see torture as the only effective investigating mechanism receive condign punishment?
  • In February, CNBC reported that Nigeria is the number one investment destination in Africa. Last month, it emerged that the country has slipped to an alarming 5th place. JP Morgan also delisted Nigeria from its high-profile bond index. There are reports that manufacturers are laying off their staff at a worrisome rate. The Naira is performing at its worse pace in decades. What immediate actions would you recommend must be taken to not only mitigate this downward spiral but get our economy back on the right track?
  • Corruption in Nigeria has become so systemic over the years that some economists now suggest it should be monetised. Past and present public officials who are known to be corrupt have continued to pay lip service to the war against graft. Where do you stand in the raging debate about if corruption should be fought using state apparatuses or if government should, in Goodluck Jonathan’s belief, “separate the goat from the yam”?

Senate hearings on the president’s preferred nominees to drive his policy thrusts will be a distinctive Abuja entertainment, a donnybrook without the drama. They should be confirmed because presidents are accorded substantial deference in selecting cabinet members as they administer presidential policies and, unlike judicial appointments, they leave when their nominators do.

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