Drop the Target

Of Ministers and Slots: A Legacy Of Cronyism, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú

The Gazette Staff

It is so sad that Buhari continues to disappoint and demystify himself each passing day. What an anticlimax for a man who touted integrity and and the anti-corruption struggle as the raison d’etre for his eligibility for the presidency. Before it is assumed to be normal, it is not. Appointing cronies and distributing patronage may be legal but it is unethical.

The political narrative preceeding the release of the ministers’ list was: “I will pick people I personally know”. The optics from that statement does not signal competence or capacity, it symbolises cronyism. Favouritism, cronyism and nepotism have been the signposts of Buhari’s government since 2015. As things are, his cronies and the impunity with which they operate will help shape Buhari’s lasting legacy as an epoch of insecurity, impoverisation, economic anxiety, and wanton impunity.

Since President Buhari and his team of ethnic champions have made cronyism a state policy, Senator Remi Tinubu was recorded to have channelled him, on the Senate floor, by openly canvassing for slots at the ministerial screening of Governor Babatunde Fashola. She said:

“My only addition is that during your first tenure, I remember I didn’t get any chance to give employment letter to my constituency.”

“So, when you get there this time, just remember Senators here that have people back home. My constituents are asking us for employment slots. So, I want you to put that in your agenda for next tenure.”

“We all need slot for employment for our constituents.” I felt so sorry for Nigeria and the direction the country is heading after reading what she said.

A leader sets the pace by example. Since independence, no Nigerian leader has demonstrated as much brazen cronyism and partiality towards friends and associates as Buhari has. No president has mainstreamed the old saying that: “It’s not what you know but who you know”, more than Buhari has. The tragedy is that he is proud of these.

For those who do not know, slots are positions in the public service given to those who may have helped elect the person who has the power of sharing such openings, as a form of patronage, without consideration for suitability or competence. Slots are classic examples of favouritism because beneficiaries get the positions, not because they are qualified or are doing the best job but because they belong to a favoured group. A leader sets the pace by example. Since independence, no Nigerian leader has demonstrated as much brazen cronyism and partiality towards friends and associates as Buhari has. No president has mainstreamed the old saying that: “It’s not what you know but who you know”, more than Buhari has. The tragedy is that he is proud of these.

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It is so sad that Buhari continues to disappoint and demystify himself each passing day. What an anticlimax for a man who touted integrity and and the anti-corruption struggle as the raison d’etre for his eligibility for the presidency. Before it is assumed to be normal, it is not. Appointing cronies and distributing patronage may be legal but it is unethical.

Artistotle once said:

“Equals should be treated equally and unequals unequally.”

Favouritism, cronyism, nepotism and the sharing of slots, as requested by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, are all unfair because they give undue advantage to those who may not be most qualified nor have the merit to justify being in the positions given.

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These unequal treatment and access undermine the common good. When someone is given a position based on connections or patronage, the person is more likely to perform poorly on the job. It is has been established that President Buhari values loyalty over competence. Well, when positions in government get filled by people whose only qualification for employment is their support for a party or candidate, it weakens morale in government service and public faith in the integrity of government.

As it was in his first coming in the 1980s, Buhari has embraced the economic model of a failed economic nationalism based on import substitution. People are increasingly impoverished under a regime of tiered exchange rates, in which favoured domestic importers and packaging industries enjoy protection in the form of regulatory barriers, subsidies and high tariffs.

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Meanwhile, while ministerial slots are auctioned off to the highest bidders and the few positions available in public service are parcelled out to cronies as reward for support, dark clouds are gathering. Nigeria’s structural problems are bubbling to the surface as they have never been. The political and economic realities of the last few years make the future look increasingly uncertain.

Economic inequality in Nigeria is one of the highest in the world, youth employment is sky bound, many are underemployed, the GDP per capita is in a nosedive, the current account deficit is unreasonably high, along with spiraling government indebtedness that is unsustainable. Instead of creating a forward-looking and long-term economic blueprint for sustainable growth, the demon of crony capitalism is what the government is feeding and nurturing.

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As it was in his first coming in the 1980s, Buhari has embraced the economic model of a failed economic nationalism based on import substitution. People are increasingly impoverished under a regime of tiered exchange rates, in which favoured domestic importers and packaging industries enjoy protection in the form of regulatory barriers, subsidies and high tariffs. Transnationals like Procter and Gamble have divested, leading to massive job losses, while favoured importers get better exchange rates to import goods. So far, the overall effect on the economy is cost increases that have crushed the growth of employment outside the protected sectors, while select interests gain the benefits. The Vuvuzelas are busy mouthing “no free money” on their way to economic extinction. Welcome to Buhari’s agenda of mass impoverisation.

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Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo

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