AFRICANGLOBE – President Muhammadu Buhari officially announced the appointments of only two aides so far since his inauguration in May 29 and also hinted that he was going to personally appoint people that will form his cabinet unlike the PDP style where state governors did the nominations.
The aides so far announced are his special adviser on media and publicity Mr Femi Adesina and senior special assistant on media and publicity Malam Garba Shehu. Mallam Shehu was the director of media and publicity of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaign organisation.
After the appointment of his spokespersons, many believed that other appointments would soon follow, but the president kept everyone guessing. Even when he sent a request to the National Assembly for the approval of 15 special advisers, many Nigerians thought other appointments were underway. But a source close to the president said Buhari was taking his time. “The president is just less than two weeks old in office. And those who know him will tell you that he is very meticulous. He is picking his aides and even the ministers that will work with him. There is no cause for alarm,” he said.
He said there was no basis for the hue and cry over aides. “The president is already working. He got approval for the advisers from the National Assembly and the National Assembly has not been inaugurated yet. So, very soon the appointments will be made.”
The president and his family have not yet relocated to the Presidential Villa. He still resides in his rented apartment in Asokoro and conducts business at the Defence House as he had been doing as president-elect. Only last week he met with the security chiefs for official interface. Those at the meeting included the Chief of Defence Staff Alex Badeh, Chief of Army Staff Kenneth Minimah, Chief of Air Staff Adesola Amosu, Chief of Naval Staff Usman Jibrin, National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki and the Inspector General of Police Solomon Arase. They held a marathon meeting that lasted from 12pm to 4pm.
Our reporter observed that the president is still using his long time aides. Apart from the spokespersons and the new State House Chief of Protocol (SCOP), all other positions are being managed by his long time aides. For instance, a former Kaduna State Governor, the retired Colonel Hameed Ali, is still serving as Buhari’s Chief of Staff, the position he had been occupying years ago.
Despite the presence of presidential guards, mobile police and secret service personnel, the president’s security superstructure is being managed by a former spy chief Abdullahi A. Maikano who has been Buhari’s chief security officer since Buhari joined politics in 2002.
Maikano had been providing the Buhari campaign train with protective details throughout 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. Even now, the former spy chief is the one “handling the security arrangement in the Presidential Villa ahead of the president’s relocation”, one of the sources said.
Though former army chief, General Abdulrahman Dambazau joined the Buhari campaign only in 2015, he is still the most visible military figure around the president. It is being speculated that he could emerge as the president’s National Security Adviser (NSA). There are still no official appointments for the positions of Principal Private Secretary (PPS), Chief of Staff (COS), and Deputy Chief of Staff, NSA, among others. Apart from the kitchen cabinet, other changes Nigerians are expecting are the replacements for the current service chiefs, as the tradition provides.
During his inaugural address, Buhari announced that the command and control centre would be relocated to Maiduguri and will remain there until Boko Haram is completely subdued. As part of the security overhaul, DSP Mu’azu Isa Abba was also last week appointed as Squadron Commander of the presidential escort in Abuja. Abba, who would be in charge of Mobile Police officers in the Presidential Villa, was decorated by the Inspector General of Police and his management team at the Force Headquarters on Tuesday.
On why Buhari didn’t move into the Presidential Villa, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said the president couldn’t move in because “some renovation was going on; the place is being cleaned up for his occupation.”
Garba said: “Contractors are working probably at their own pace. If I need to know or if you need to know this, probably we have to talk to someone. I am not saying he’s comfortable where he is at his rented house but he is operating from there at the moment, when the villa is ready he will move.”
A source said on Sunday that the President may make announcement of his aides as soon as he returns from the G7 summit in Germany. “The approval has been given and the president will announce his key aides after he returns from Germany mid next week,” he said.
Why Buhari Is Not Making Haste
Mr. Osita Okechukwu, a chieftain of the APC and governorship aspirant of the party in Enugu State, said the impatience of Nigerians over the president’s delay in announcing his team is not misplaced, but that they should give Buhari the benefit of the doubt as he has resolved to pick the best hands to run the affairs of the country.
Okechukwu said: “For some of us who work with President Buhari, our own concern basically is the quality of aides. I think it is the quality that is giving him the greatest headache. He is bothered about the quality because he is not the type who will appoint somebody today and then drop him the next day. He wouldn’t like that to happen.”
According to him, in trying to get the quality, Buhari was also looking at balancing geo-political zones, the ethnic and religious creeds, saying: “This is somebody who will want to balance such things. I think in few days’ time, some people will be in place. He has appointed the Chief Security Officer (CSO), who is a very principled officer of the Villa.”
Mr. Okechukwu illustrated further: “There are those who call themselves ex-ministers, if you ask them their record while they were ministers, they might not show anything tangible. But what they brandished around was that they were an ex-minister, ex-governor, ex-this and ex-that. But when you look backward and ask yourself, if these ministers and governors have done so well, why is Nigeria sliding into a failed state?
He said the contention today is that while some people say Nigeria is a failed state, some say no but that nobody can say Nigeria is healthy. “So, if those ex-governors and ex-ministers have done so well, why are we where we are? These are some of the issues President Buhari is looking into. Yes, you are this. You are that. You are a money man. You did this. Did they discover electricity? Are they the same people who looted us dry? So, these are issues that are confronting him on a daily basis”, he said.
Speaking on the situation in the South-East, Mr. Okechukwu said some of those who want to nominate people for Buhari in the zone were afraid to nominate quality people while others have said if they nominate independent-minded people then such people can’t be controlled.
“Why should we nominate him to President Buhari? That is the summary of the issue. We have come out with experience. If you do a critical analysis since 1999, their greatest fear is self-preservation. If you throw in a good man and he goes there to shine, then he might be preferred to you for other higher offices. Why don’t you throw in a mediocre? Do you know the canopy they hide under? The canopy they hide under is that some persons are not loyal. They are independent-minded. If you put them there, you won’t find them again.
“So, these are what President Buhari is also confronted with. Unlike others, he has been on the tough for a long time. He virtually knows everybody from every nook and cranny. Don’t forget that in our years in the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), there were those who sabotaged him. He went ahead to nominate them as if there were no yesterday. This is an old market. It’s not a new market. A lot of people want to say President Buhari we have given you the names, go ahead and announce it. The man is saying I have a social contract with the Nigerian people. I have a threshold. To fight corruption, as he said, you must start from in-house”, Okechukwu said.
By: Fidelis Mac-Leva, Nurudeen M. Abdallah, Muideen Olaniyi, Mudashir Ismail, Kano