President-elect Muhammadu Buhari at the weekend said only credible, patriotic and knowledgeable Nigerians would make up the transition committee, as part of the first steps to chart an entirely new path for the country.
Screening of members of the transition committee, which will meet with a similar committee from the presidency on the handover from the Goodluck Jonathan administration to the incoming Buhari-led government,
THISDAY learnt, is being handled by, among others, Pastor Tunde Bakare, who was Buhari’s running mate in the 2011 presidential election.
After the screening process, Buhari, it was also gathered, would personally interview each of the members of the committee, as there is the major likelihood that a few of them would be elevated to ministerial posts in his federal cabinet when he takes over as president.
Buhari also assured members of the other political parties, who have been defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC) of justice in the party, regardless of the misgivings about their former parties.
Speaking with reporters at his country home in Daura, Katsina State, shortly after casting his ballot in the governorship and House of Assembly elections, Buhari said Nigeria’s problem has been one of lack of accountability and a terrible budgetary system, which has resulted in the death of institutions.
Buhari, who is averse to an unduly large transition committee to prevent members from capitalising on it to influence the choice of ministers either for themselves or those they want to be ministers, maintained that round pegs would be put in round holes.
“My hope as well as my idea is to get knowledgeable and experienced technocrats that are really patriotic to study the handover notes by ministries and make recommendations.
“I want them to be completely detached people who are patriotic Nigerians, who are knowledgeable and experienced.
“If we get majority of politicians involved, it will lead to rows and we may end up with inconclusive recommendations, which are not very helpful in our condition.
“When I get it ready and before it is published, I will show it to the leadership of my party and the terms of reference, as well as the time limit and the result of their work.
“We will quickly study the recommendations before the inauguration so that before we are sworn in, we get into action,” he said.
On the state of the nation, Buhari said: “It is a difficult time for Nigerians as you all know. I have said it in the past that in the last 16 years, Nigeria has never realised the amount of revenue it received. A barrel of crude oil rose to about $140 and has crashed to about $50 now.
“During the 16 years, we knew some big companies that employed a lot of Nigerians and gave them training facilities like the Nigeria Airways and the Nigeria Shipping Line.
“Even the Nigerian Railways is managing to be on paper with some refurbished engines moving from Lagos to Ibadan and a few other places. But if you go to their stations all over the country, you will realise that they are in a terrible shape.
“The important thing in a country with a huge population of youths, with more than 60 per cent of them under the age of 30 who are unemployed, is that you need these institutions to give jobs and training to Nigerians.
“It is very disappointing that the PDP government virtually failed to use those resources to make sure that the economy continues to grow in a sustainable way.
“I think the worst thing is the lack of accountability and the terrible budgetary system. Imagine that over 90 per cent of Nigeria’s budget is spent on recurrent spending.
“How can you sustain development in a developing country like Nigeria with only about 10 per cent of your income going to capital spending? Things just have to change.”
On the gale of defections in the aftermath of the presidential election, Buhari said: “I think that this is mainly a question meant for the party. I wish Chief John Oyegun was here to answer you, because we have a system.
“Just because I was the presidential candidate and now president-elect, I don’t think that the system has allowed me to usurp the power of the party executives.
“But certainly, in a multi-party democratic system, fundamentally, it is the number that matters for the people. But for the party, what matters is the ability to manage the number so that the majority will have its way, so that there will be justice.
“No matter what the remnants from the PDP by May 29, I assure you or I assure them through you that there will be justice in APC.”
Addressing some of the issues that attended the outcome of the just concluded governorship and House of Assembly elections, Buhari specifically complained about a few unsavoury developments in some parts of the country like in Rivers State but asked that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) be allowed to give its comprehensive report first.
“I personally want to be legal about this so that people will appreciate that we believe in a system. What we need to do is to modify the system according to the law if we don’t like it, and that no one should come out and do to the system whatever he likes. I have a lot of respect for the governor of Rivers State (Chibuike Amaechi) for his courage.
“It has been a long time and as you all know, at a certain time, the former Commissioner of Police virtually hijacked the state and the governor was virtually sentenced to the streets fighting thugs without law enforcement agents to survive as a governor, while the constitution made it very clear to all of us that the governor is the chief security officer of the state.
“So a lot of unconstitutional and lawless acts of the PDP are on record and we intend to make the PDP understand it and make sure that according to law, those who are responsible for that are taken to the courts and properly charged.
“We are in this system because we believe in it and we want it to be stabilised because it is better for our country,” he said.