Ensuring competency in political appointments

The 2023 general elections have come and gone. Candidates from different political parties have contested and some that eventually emerged victorious are now the only hopes for the citizens. After that, one of the vital factors for the success or failure of an administration is mostly determined by the set of people that surround leaders. The cabinets usually range from ministers and heads of agencies at the federal level, commissioners and advisers to governors at state levels as well as members of local councils at local government levels.

Indubitably, appointees are like the eyes of leaders with which they see where, how, and what to do. Appointing quacks or unqualified personnel is like giving a farmer tools to conduct surgery. However, those in the cabinets are usually appointed whereas some appointments are based on track records of professional contributions. Others get there because of their loyalty while others make it there due to financial support during campaigns. Administering the affairs of a ministry, agency, or department of government requires people that have vast experiences, bureaucratic skills, the ability to work under pressure, etc.

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But I must say that political godfatherism is what has been dragging Nigeria back. Elite of influence invests huge amounts before the election which comes along with conditions.  Some of the conditions include giving them free will to appoint whoever they like in some offices, channeling specific funds to them on a monthly or annual basis, or corruption charges on them will be dropped when the sponsored candidate wins an election. These and more are what lead to the emergence of heartless leaders who mostly use idle youths as thugs while sending their wards abroad to some of the best institutions that money can afford.

I ascribe the extremely high rates of poverty and unemployment in Nigeria today to the inability of our leaders to appoint square pegs in square holes.  The people they employ or give appointments are usually incompetent individuals who specialise in diverting public funds to be used for tackling issues of poverty or implementing projects. Some of these leaders commercialise government jobs to the extent that only those with deep pockets and who have strong political ties get appointments. Most of the time if they do not get what they want, they are wont to cause unrest in their immediate communities.

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There is evidence to indicate that after approval for the construction and provision of social amenities such as roads, schools and hospitals, they give less priority to follow-up visits to these projects to carry out performance checks on the projects. This is because some of these contracts were given to bogus contractors who carry out the construction with substandard materials, even when contractors are found obviously guilty of using substandard materials. It is usually the ‘Who You Know or Who Knows You’ syndrome that takes precedence over quality and competence.

Nigeria as the epicenter for Africa’s democracy should be a frontier in respect. Our leaders need to be wary of who they carry along as cabinet members. There are many incompetent people lurking around like competent people, and therefore, it is necessary to carry out due diligence on these people before they are approved to man sensitive positions in governance. There is a need for electoral bodies to assent to laws that would allow independent candidacy as it is done in developed countries. This would help in putting an end to the politics of godfatherism and barricade leaders from the elite and their unjustifiable interferences.

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In conclusion, leaders at all levels should arrange for some kind of ombudsmen to look into how public officials run the affairs of their various public offices. Doing this would assist in identifying half-hearted officials.  We recommend the outright sack of those shirking their duties. The President, governors and chairmen of local governments should never just let go of cabinet members that are using youths as thugs; they should be made to face the full wrath of the law.

  • Usman Massallachi writes from Gombe State, Nigeria

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