By Kunle Sanyaolu
The presidency deserves the bashing it has been receiving over the appointment of nine dead persons to the boards of various government agencies and parastatals, notwithstanding the long, tortuous explanation Mallam Garba Shehu presented to defend government.
Nigerians are less interested in the processes adopted to fill vacancies in governing boards of government departments, but more in who are actually appointed, their qualification and their performance index. These are the minimum requirements expected of such government appointees.
In the present instance however, the nine dead persons have none of the requirements simply because they (the personnel) do not exist, having ceased to exist, sometimes for more than a year. That they can be named as appointees is a demonstration that something is amiss in the machinery of government that constitutes a clog and stagnation in the running of its affairs. Sadly, this stagnation usually translates into poverty and misery for the average Nigerian.
The federal government released on Friday a list of 1,467 people slated as heads or members of governing boards of government agencies. This action ordinarily should have earned government some belated applause, as there are concerns already about the delay in appointing the boards, and the problems thereby occasioned. Some of the agencies have been running on auto pilot for more than two years since the advent of the present government, often at the dictatorial whims of the most senior officer; and without checks and balances.
Nigerians might not have been so upstaged perhaps if the mistake involved only one dead appointee; but nine is unpardonable. One of the dead persons, former Senator Francis Okpozo who died in December 2016 at the ripe age of 81 years, was actually a member of the Board of Trustees of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC). Appointing such a man as chairman of the Board of the Nigerian Press Council is suggestive that the party does not keep tabs even on its most senior members.
Expectedly, presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, tried to justify the scandal by saying that there was nothing controversial in the list as it was authentic at the time of its compilation; and that it became stale when some governors raised objection to the list because they were denied of inputs. This was under the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Lawal Babachir.
Besides, Shehu explained, President Muhammadu Buhari’s illness and medical vacation for several months precluded government from acting on the issue until recently when the president directed that the list be released.
According to the presidency, the list was subsequently released by the current SGF simplicita, based on the workings of his predecessor. Shehu added that anyone could make mistakes, and this is a mistake that would be promptly rectified. Granted that it is human to err, it should have occurred to somebody in the presidency that having exercised patience for more than two years for the list, Nigerians deserve to be given a clean list devoid of the grave discrepancy inherent in the list released.
Questions that necessarily arise from Shehu’s explanation include whether it should take government two sordid years to sort out appointments of agencies’ board members. Is that a norm with the present government? What negative impact has it on governance? Where is the due diligence in the conduct of government affairs when the presidency cannot seem to implement seamlessly, an otherwise simple task of appointing board members? How long then will government require to perform more fundamental assignments? Is this the reason why real development has almost become a mirage in the country?
The failure of the presidency to confirm the status of is appointees nominated two years ago is a serious blow to its perceived efficiency and integrity.
Contrary to Shehu’s view that the controversy is a storm in a teacup, this is one matter over which someone should be punished and seen to be so punished. That will serve as deterrence to other prospective careless public officials who feel that government business is no big deal. Such a punishment will also mitigate the disappointment of Nigerians on a government they see as a source of hope and change for an improvement in their lives.